Future Tense

Why Trump Is Missing From Google’s Annual “Year in Search” List

If you Googled this (especially in 2016), you’re not the only one.

Lila Thulin

On Wednesday, Google released its annual “Year in Search,” which tracks trending queries for the past year. But among the list of top memes, prominent people, and how-to questions for 2017, on both the global and United States lists, one normally inescapable topic was missing: Donald Trump. It’s nice to imagine a 2017 without Trump, but really: How did the 45th president not make it on Google’s list?

It’s a matter of relativity. According to a Google spokesperson, “ ‘Trending’ queries are the searches that had a high spike in traffic over a sustained period in 2017 as compared to 2016.” So it’s not that Trump disappeared off of the global search map; rather, Google explained, “While Trump was searched incredibly widely, it’s consistent from what we saw in 2016,” so he didn’t make it on the list. That’s because on the week of the presidential election, Trump’s Google searches spiked to an all-time high. He was the third among trending searches worldwide in 2016 and topped the list of trending people. (Hillary Clinton was second.)

This graph shows the relative number of searches in the U.S. for Donald Trump over the past decade.

Google Trends

Google Trends depicts the relative search volume worldwide for Donald Trump from the week of June 15, 2014, approximately a year before he announced his run for president, to the present.

Google Trends

The three peaks in the graph above correspond to the weeks (in chronological order) right after the Access Hollywood tape broke, of the election, and of his inauguration.

Some Trump-adjacent search terms did appear on Year in Search 2017. On the global list, first lady Melania Trump made the No. 7 spot of trending public figures, while 24-day national security adviser Michael Flynn was ninth. And in the customized results for the U.S., “Activations (protests)” was its own category (not so in 2016). “NFL National Anthem Protests” topped that list, while the Women’s March on Washington was ninth.

Google’s Year in Search 2017 top trending people globally.

Lila Thulin

Perhaps, for five glorious seconds, looking at the default listing of only the top five entries in each category for the global Year in Search 2017, you might have entered a relieving, Trump-free internet bubble. But then you’d switch tabs and our Trump-saturated news cycle would be back with a vengeance. Thanks, Google, for the oh-so-brief reprieve—it was nice while it lasted.