Google is never keen on giving much away, and when it comes to how many search queries it processes, it’s no different.
Last year the search giant finally announced an updated figure after sticking by 1.2 trillion per year between 2012 and 2015, but it was a vague one, only going as far as to say that it was ‘trillions’.
Considering the use of the plural it’s fair to say that the number is going to be at least 2 trillion, while the company might not have been so coy had the number reached over 10 trillion since their last announcement, so a ballpark figure of 2 trillion seems reasonable.
How does this compare with previous years?
Despite some claims to the contrary on third-party websites, there is no concrete data for how Google searches have grown over time.
As they will only release search statistics sporadically, there is no way to identify a trend without a bit of guesswork.
Note, all of the figures below are approximations.
1999 - 1 billion searches per year, based on figures in John Battelle’s book ‘The Search’, which stated 3 million searches per day.
2000 - 14 billion searches per year, representing massive year-on-year growth. This figure was reached by combining the average daily searches for the first half of the year (18 million) and the second half (60 million). These figures were again reported by Battelle.
2001-03 - In excess of 55 billion based on Google’s Zeitgeist (the company’s end of year report) in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
2004-09 - Between 73 and 365 billion searches per year. The data for these years is sketchy as, although Google announced daily searches of 200 million back in 2004, they would only go as far as to say ‘billions’ in 2005 and 2007, while saying nothing at all in 2006 and 2008. However, in a 2009 blog post they claimed to be handling more than 1 billion searches per day.
2010-11 - Radio silence. During this two-year period Google didn’t provide any updated data.
2012-15 - 1.2 trillion per year, based on a figure of 100 billion searches per month released during a press briefing on search in 2012. The figure of 3 billion per day was announced in 2015 (which is essentially the same as 100 billion per month), so it’s safe to say it was around this level for the entirety of this period.
2016 - At least 2 trillion searches per year based on the latest announcement. That means that, over the last 17 years, Google search has grown a staggering 200,000%
Breaking it down
If we take that 2 trillion figure and break it down it’s clear that the world’s largest search engine is handling an incredible number of searches on a daily, even hourly basis.
If there are at least 2 trillion searches per year, that means there are:
167 billion per month;
5.5 billion per day;
228 million per hour;
3.8 million per minute; and
63,000 per second.
Those numbers are a little hard to comprehend but, if like most people, you read at a rate of about three words per second, between the time you started reading this article and finish this sentence there will have been 11.3 million Google searches worldwide.
And remember, those figures come with the suffix of ‘at least’.
Although searches on desktop have been gradually falling, it’s on mobile devices where Google’s continued growth has come from. As more and more people become connected, wherever they are in the world, it’s likely that this figure is going to continue to rise for years to come.