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The Three Kinds of Popular Keyword Searches on Bible Gateway

Our 2016 Year in Review lets you explore how 2016’s 1,000 most-popular keyword searches in English have changed in popularity over the past three years.

Using this tool, you can see for yourself the three kinds of searches that are popular on Bible Gateway: perennial searches, event-driven searches, and holiday-themed searches.

For example, here’s how searches for believe, a perennial search, look:

Searches for believe on Bible Gateway

Think of this diagram like a clock (a “year clock“), with January at the top and July at the bottom. Each colored line represents searches over the course of a year (blue for 2014, orange for 2015, and green for 2016). As you follow the lines clockwise around the chart, you can see that certain days have more searches for believe–the farther away the line is from the center of the circle, the more searches there were on that day.

The perennial search is consistently popular, with little variation throughout the year; seasons and world events don’t tend to affect how many people search for it. While the number of searches for believe varies a little during the year, it’s relatively stable: you can generally predict how many people will search for believe on a given day. Other perennial searches include child and blessing.

Compare searches for end times, an event-driven search:

Searches for end times on Bible Gateway

The event-driven search reflects current events. Searches for end times surge with particular kinds of news: in the above chart, we’ve labeled peaks of violence, disease outbreaks, and civil unrest. Event-driven searches make sense in retrospect but are not necessarily predictable beforehand. A perennial search can become an event-driven search when something newsworthy related to the search happens. For example, searches for noah, a largely perennial search, spiked in 2014 when the Noah movie released. Similarly, searches for storm increase when there’s large-scale inclement weather, most recently with Hurricane Matthew.

In contrast to the unpredictability of event-driven searches, the holiday-themed search is easy to anticipate. Every year, for example, you can count on searches for Mary increasing around Christmas and US Mother’s Day:

Searches for Mary on Bible Gateway

The holiday-themed search spikes around certain secular or religious holidays: searches for freedom jump around U.S. Independence Day on July 4, while resurrection becomes more popular around Easter. The spikes and specific searches are predictable every year for each holiday. Other holiday-themed searches include fool (April Fool’s Day) and remembrance (US Memorial Day and Veterans Day / Armistice Day / Remembrance Day).

Naturally, not every search fits neatly into one of these categories. For example, the search as for me and my house is popular around New Year’s Day and US Father’s Day but also jumped after the US Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision and the 2016 US presidential election. As for me and my house has become a hybrid of the holiday-themed and event-driven search types:

Searches for as for me and my house on Bible Gateway

Though there are exceptions, this three-part framework provides a way of understanding the patterns of popular searches on Bible Gateway; jump in and explore the data yourself.

Filed under 2016 in Review