Can you quantify greatness? Can a major brand crown someone as a superlative and actually back it up with data?
During Sunday’s Grammy Awards, Google potently showed that it’s up to the challenge.
In an ad announcing a Black History Month project called “The Most Searched,” Google raised the curtain on some of its search data—dating back 15 years—to show how many African Americans have dominated public fascination, admiration and curiosity on the modern internet.
On an accompanying website, Google explains the methodology behind the project and offers links to help visitors learn more about the people and movements featured in the ad, along with several that weren’t.
The title of “most searched” was given to each person, group or cause that had been searched for more often than any other in the category, per Google Trends, since Jan. 1, 2004, which Google says is the farthest back its U.S. search data can go.
Oprah Winfrey, for example, was the most searched talk show host name over the 15-year period analyzed by Google, though admittedly her search volume dropped off notably after she ended The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011:
The ad kicks off by highlighting that Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella appearance was the most searched performance in Google history, and her song “Countdown” then provides the soundtrack to the rest of the spot.
While Prince is shown in the ad as “most searched guitar solo,” Google’s website for the project explains that the honor is not for any one song, but rather that Prince’s guitar solos have been searched more than those of any other artist.
The Civil Rights movement is widely represented across the project’s findings, with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the Greensboro Sit-in, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Malcolm X’s biography all being ranked as top searches.
While many of the project’s other featured names, such as LeBron James, Misty Copeland, John Legend and RuPaul, are cultural icons of recent years, “The Most Searched” also honors Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures fame as the most searched NASA mathematician. In addition, Google notes that “U.S. search interest for ‘women in STEM’ has also increased 2,300% in the past decade.”
On the project site, Google reiterates its $25 million pledge, announced in 2018, to help create career opportunities for black and Latino students. This includes a $3 million grant to the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, known as ACT-SO.
“Growing up, I saw firsthand how the NAACP ACT-SO program inspired young Black talent to believe in and showcase their brilliance,” said Justin Steele, director of Google.org, on the site. “We know that 65% of students will work in careers that don’t even exist today, so programs like ACT-SO that are preparing, recognizing, and rewarding African American students are important to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be innovators and culture makers.”