Google Insights Search: Who is Wearing What, Analytics Disclose 2011 Costumes

Photo credit: Gina Smith



A cool little story. Source: PM Digital Research

As Halloween creeps nearer, costume search data provides an informative (and fun) way to take the temperature on what is hot vs. what has cooled off a bit since last All Hallows’ Eve. And the verdict for 2011? It appears there will be fewer plunging necklines, hair bumps and spray tans this Halloween – but there may be a growing flock of twisted or irate birds.

Per Google Insights for Search, costume searches related to Rovio’s popular game Angry Birds are among Google’s “Rising Searches” this season. Other hot searches, per Google’s index, are tied to the 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan and Mattel’s popular Monster High franchise.

By contrast, interest in one of Google’s top rising searches last year, “snooki costume“, appears to have sagged a bit. In 2010, Snooki (from MTV’s Jersey Shore reality television series) beat out not only the nascent Angry Birds, but also other long-running costume favorites like “catwoman“. It’s worth noting that “snooki costume” searches rose dramatically in the days leading up to Halloween 2010, so there may still be time for Snooki to reclaim her throne in 2011.


Pop culture icons that have demonstrated more staying power (although also at levels lower than 2010) include artists like Lady Gaga, who has been a relatively popular costume search for the past three years. The shape-shifting Gaga is sort of an umbrella term for a variety of costume ideas, including “lady gaga outfits“, “lady gaga hair” and even “lady gaga egg“.  Another singer with eye-catching outfits, Katy Perry, is also popular.

Interest in Harry Potter has fluctuated over the past decade, although interest appears to be on the rise again in 2011, no doubt a tribute to the film series finale released this summer.

Perennial Favorites

While phenoms come and go, most of the high volume Halloween costume searches remain fairly consistent. These include classic get-ups with a variety of executions, like princesses, pumpkins and the undead. Character costumes that have shown durability include superheroes like Batman and Spiderman. “Zombie costume“, which has a long history of search interest, is enjoying a ghoulish peak this year, bolstered by AMC’s The Walking Dead television series.

When do “costume” searches peak?

Searches for variations of “costume” and “costumes” in 2011 began to pick up slightly in August, but really gained momentum in September. Although the end of summer and kids being back in school organically influence growth in these types of seasonal searches, there are also clearly external factors at work as well. The combination of in-store displays, as well as print, direct mail and online display advertising from stores like Costume Express and Party City surely help make Halloween attire top-of-mind, and help drive search traffic.

costume” vs. “costumes” terms: which variations are more popular?

For the past few years, searches for variations of the singular word “costume” have been slightly more popular than those for the plural counterpart, “costumes.” This effect becomes more dramatic as October 31 approaches. This would seem intuitive as singular keyword variations imply that the searcher has a specific costume in mind. Earlier, pre-season queries may be seeking to browse a variety of costumes, in order to help spark ideas or compare prices before decisions are made about which costume to buy (or for the more industrious or frugal to make themselves).

This wasn’t the trend just a few years ago, however. In 2007 and prior years, plural variations were more popular. This makes sense in the context of how search has grown overall in recent years, trending away from the broad terms and toward the more specific, across all online retail categories. Today’s shopping searchers are more savvy when they’re starting their searches; they have a better sense of what’s available online, what they want to buy, and what stores they might like to buy from. At the same time, search marketers have honed their craft to meet this demand for specificity from search consumers.