Hand sanitizer? Home haircuts? Hope? What have you searched for online in the past year?

Last summer, we explored COVID-19 online search trends. One year after the start of the pandemic, we’ve probably all googled coronavirus-related terms, from symptoms to stimulus checks, but here we take a look at the lighter side of the nation’s search history. In a year like no other, what does what we searched for say about us?

Searching for answers

In our strange new world, we searched the internet for help and guidance. We asked how to do things we’d never done before, from “how to homeschool” to “how to make sourdough.” We asked “why?” more than ever before.1 Although, oddly, the “why?” we asked most was “why were chainsaws invented?” We’ll let you look up the answer!

Home comforts

Search trends show that in the past year we’ve spent more time than ever at home. At the beginning of the pandemic, we searched for “things to do at home,” especially if we had kids to entertain. With the extra time on our hands, we embraced making things, from banana bread to glitter slime, and kids made good use of their time – “pranks on parents” searches reached an all-time high!2

Home-baking took off, with sourdough bread the top recipe search of 2020 (although we’re over it now or we’re experts– by mid-March 2021, searches for ‘how to make sourdough’ had dropped 90 percent in a year). We also drank lots of whipped coffee – it was the second most searched-for recipe, and the third-highest “how to make” question after hand sanitizer and face masks.

Virtual reality bites

Searches involving the word “virtual” jumped 60 percent in a week in March 2020, and again over the summer break as we racked our brains for how to keep the kids from climbing the walls. While we dreamt of taking exotic vacations, we took virtual tours of the Pyramids and the Louvre. Those of us who did take a staycation searched for camping gear, RV rentals, and natural destinations like Yellowstone and Lake Tahoe.

Sports fans also went virtual, substituting stadiums for sofas, cheering on our  NBA favorites from afar or if we were lucky enough to get a cardboard cutout of ourself  courtside seats. Meanwhile the Kentucky Derby was a bigger “virtual” search than virtual learning! Even fashionistas went virtual: the most searched-for fashion show of 2020 was not in Paris or Milan but in Fortnite Live.

Going online

Shuttered shops due to lockdown meant that we did more of our shopping online than ever before – and we all seemed to do it at once because searches for “who has” + “in stock” went up an incredible 8,000 percent from 2019.3  How many of those searches were for toilet paper, we’d rather not say.

Letting our hair down

With hairdressers closed in some states, we sported new looks – and longer locks. Many of us must have taken matters into our own hands because the year’s top beauty “how to” search was “how to cut men’s hair at home.”4

Friends reunited

We could shop from home, but real world restrictions meant our relationships - whether with co-workers, friends or family – also had to go online, so we searched for new ways to connect. Searches related to the term “with friends online” multiplied by 10 times in one week last March, and tripled from 2019. A year later, the same search - including related phrases like “watch party” - is still more than double from pre-pandemic days.

Searching for hope

While going online sometimes seemed safer than going out, and home has been a haven (except for when our kids are pulling pranks on us), it doesn’t mean we’re hunkering down and closing off from the wider world. Search trends show we’re becoming both community-minded and collectively conscious.5 They show that we care, and we believe we can make a difference. Searches for “how to support local businesses” were 20 times greater than the year before. The top “I want to be’ search in the past year was “a nurse.” We searched “how to help” more than ever.6 “How to be an ally” was searched more than “how to be an influencer.” Such trends give us hope for the future.

Searching for life insurance

Here at New York Life, we might not be able to tell you how to color your hair at home, but if you’re searching for life insurance assistance, whether you’re planning to retire or grow your family, we’re here to help. In a year’s time, hopefully our searches will reveal a brighter future for us all.


*If not referenced specifically, search volume data sourced from Google Trends (US)



12020: The year the world asked "why?" Google News Lab. Dec 9, 2020. Accessed 24 March, 2021. https://blog.google/products/search/2020-year-in-search/

2Year in Search 2020. About Google. Accessed 24 March, 2021.


3 Think With Google. 2020 Trends from Google’s Year in Search. Dec 2020. Accessed 24 March, 2021.


4 Google Trends. Year in Search 2020. Accessed 24 March, 2021. https://trends.google.com/trends/yis/2020/US/

Think With Google. 4 COVID-era trends that will have a lasting impact on the products and experiences people want. March 2021. Accessed 24 March, 2021.


2020: The year the world asked "why?" Google News Lab. Dec 9, 2020. Accessed 24 March, 2021. https://blog.google/products/search/2020-year-in-search/

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Media contact
Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-6955

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