How searching has changed over the past decade

How we search and what we find

A lot is written about searching and algorithms and the whole weird world of SEO. And if you are involved in a digital marketing or SEO agency, most of the focus will understandably be related to SEO and algorithms relevant to your business.


But do you ever stop and wonder about searching in general? What are the most popular things that people search for, and the most common questions that Google is asked?


In this article we take a quick look about how the searching process and results have changed over the past decade, and what the most popular searches are at the moment.


Changes in searching over the past decade


There have been some massive changes over the past ten years about how people search and the effectiveness of those searches. 


Five of these are:

  • Mobile search

In 2013, only around 11% of all internet traffic was via mobile phones. Now it is heading towards 60%. This huge change is also reflected in searching, with an estimated 61% of all searches now done from mobile devices.

  • User intent

Over the past decade, Google’s algorithms have been continually adjusted to become better at answering queries. As part of this the focus of search engines has become increasingly on perceived user intent as well as the words of the search query entered. Search results take into account analysis of past searches and predictions on future searches as well as the current search itself.

  • Voice search

Over the past decade voice search has developed beyond all recognition. It is now used daily by over 50% of adults worldwide, with more than 1 billion voice searches being made every month. Voice search has been made much easier and more accessible by smart speakers such as Alexa and Google Nest.

  • Conversational search

Closely aligned to the growth of both user intent and voice search is the conversational nature of search queries. In the earlier days of search engines, search queries were limited to single key words rather than phrases or questions. But now the expectation is that users will search in a more natural and intuitive way, as if they were asking a question face to face.

  • Multimedia search

Another change over the past decade is that as well as text and voice, users are now able to search using other media too. Three examples of this are:

    • Image search

The Google app has the ability to provide information from an image that you upload, for example objects in the image, similar images or websites with the image or a similar image. 

    • Song search

Using the Google app you can sing 10-15 seconds of a melody into your mic and Google will identify the song. 

    • Multisearch

The Google app has a multi search option which enables users to add text to an image to search by image and text at the same time. For example, you may want to take a picture of a food dish and search for how to make it.

Search results over the past decade

But not only have there been changes to the ways that people search over the last decade, the results are presented differently too. 

Here’s a quick look at five of these:

  • Mobile results

Search results are usually different on mobile than on a desktop. And having mobile-friendly content increases Google rankings because it is much better for UX. Mobile content needs to be fast-loading and render well on a mobile screen. And in search rankings this will usually take preference over other content.

  • Local results

When a user searches on Google, Google will always estimate the general area that they are searching from and, depending on the nature of the query, will prioritise local results if applicable. Not only is this often helpful if you are trying to locate local resources, but it can serve as an additional security measure for your device, as any unusual locality activity could be detected by Google.

  • Targeted advertising

A searcher is now much more likely to see ads that are relevant to them when they search. A combination of user intent search algorithms, location and previous Google activity – such as sites visited, apps used, and previous searches – is likely to result in more targeted and helpful advertising rather than the blanket paid or banner ads from previous years.

  • Rich snippets and featured snippets

Search results will now often feature additional information called rich snippets or rich results. In addition to the name and URL of the website in the search results, the rich snippet also shows extra details about the site, such as ratings, images, and prices, which it pulls from structured data markup found in the site’s HTML. 

Search results normally also include featured snippets : an answer to a query that appears above the organic search results in position zero.

Both rich snippets and featured snippets can mean that the user sees the information they need just on the search results page itself, without having to navigate to the site itself.

  • Imagery and additional information

Even if the user enters a general search query, the results page will usually also show them links to images, videos, maps and shopping if they are judged to be relevant.

So there have been a lot of changes over the last decade to the ways people can search and the kind of information they are then presented with. But what are the most popular search queries from the last decade?

Search trends over the last decade

Up to date search trends, from a daily basis to any custom period of your choice from 2004 onwards, can be found on Google Trends

Let’s take a look at search trends over the last decade. 

The first table below shows top search queries for 2023 so far, compared with top search queries overall for the decade 2013-2023.

The second table shows what are known as rising searches. These fluctuations during the year, usually related to items in the current news. 

Top search queries 2023 and last decade

2023 to date 2013-2023
1 bbc bbc
2 news news
3 weather weather
4 amazon facebook
5 google you
6 football google
7 bbc news youtube
8 facebook bbc news
9 youtube amazon
10 sky ebay


Rising search queries 2023 and last decade

2023 to date 2013-2023
1 chat gpt coronavirus
2 nicola bulley universal credit
3 world cup wordle
4 bank holidays 2023 ps5
5 sparx universal credit login
6 evri google classroom
7 andrew tate 123movies
8 vinted shein
9 messi amazon prime
10 pound to inr deliveroo


It is interesting that despite all the changes to the way we search, the top search queries remain fairly static. On the other hand, a lot of social and cultural information can be gleaned from the rising search queries from both this year and the decade to date. 


We hope that this article has provided some interesting information about how searching and search results have changed over the past decade. 

We will return to this topic again soon to explore in more depth how your digital marketing or SEO agency can take advantage of some of these changes, so do check back in with us again here soon at Xcite Digital.