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Michael Jackson tops Google, Yahoo search in 2009

That No. 1 ranking should come as no surprise. Web traffic surged on word of the singer's death in June--so much that Google initially suspected an attack.

The death of Michael Jackson in June launched a frenzy of Web activity and propelled the late pop star to the top of the search charts for 2009.

That's the word from Google, Yahoo, and Bing, all of which have revealed their popular search terms for the past year.

It's not too shocking to see Jackson leading the searches for the year. Following the pop star's death in June, Akamai found that worldwide Web traffic had surged 11 percent over normal levels. Even Google--which in the initial going thought the Jackson-related traffic was an attack of some sort--was briefly sent staggering.

Google Michael Jackson chart
Searches for Michael Jackson songs spiked in late June when news broke about the pop star's death. Google

According to Google's Zeitgeist findings, "Michael Jackson" was the "fastest rising" worldwide search term of 2009. In the U.S., "Michael Jackson" placed second behind "Twitter." Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience, in a blog post also pointed to an up-and-coming music sensation:

As millions of fans said goodbye to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson led the list of our top 10 fastest rising queries across the globe. And a new star was born, too--quirky pop singer Lady Gaga became a search sensation the world over. In addition to appearing on many regional fastest-rising search term lists, from the Czech Republic to Switzerland and Kenya to the United Kingdom, Lady Gaga also landed in the #9 spot on the global fastest rising list.

On the social side, Google monitored whose Twitter accounts were the most searched for. According to the company, Miley Cyrus' Twitter account was the most sought after, followed by those of Lance Armstrong and Taylor Swift. Khloe Kardashian's marriage to basketball player Lamar Odom was the most-Googled wedding of the year.

"Michael Jackson" was the top Yahoo search term for the year. He was followed by a who's who (and a what's what) of the U.S. entertainment scene. "Twilight" was the second most-popular search term, followed by wrestling organization "WWE," starlet "Megan Fox," singer "Britney Spears," and manga series "Naruto." Filling out the top 10 were "American Idol," "Kim Kardashian," "Nascar," and "Runescape."

Microsoft's Bing, which debuted in late May, had similar results. Once again, "Michael Jackson" was the top "trending topic," followed by "Twitter" and "swine flu." "Stock market" and "Farrah Fawcett" rounded out Bing's top five.

Of course, 2009 was also marked by continued concern over the state of the economy. According to Yahoo, "coupons," "unemployment," and "stimulus plan" were the most-numerous queries related to the economy. By contrast, Google's most-searched economy-related terms were "crisis," "cash for clunkers," and "Iceland."

Google also followed queries related to celebrity deaths in 2009. Users searched for "Michael Jackson" the most, followed by "Billy Mays" and "Steve McNair." Yahoo's data revealed that Michael Jackson's death was the most-searched term, but unlike Google's data, the pop star was followed by "Farrah Fawcett" and "Patrick Swayze."

See also:
• Google Zeitgeist 2009
• Yahoo Year in Review 2009
• Top Bing searches in 2009