FREAKquel: Has 9/11 Diminished Pearl Harbor?

Yesterday, after posting this item wondering whether 9/11 had begun to diminish our collective remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day, I wrote to Bill Tancer of I asked Bill to take a look at his search-query data for any insights into this subject. Here’s his reply:

Unfortunately, I only have access to 24 mo. of historical data. However, the question is fascinating so I charted the volume of searches in the U.S. for the two terms “pearl harbor” and “9/11”:

Using our search term analysis, I can analyze where people go when they search on the term “pearl harbor” listed below (for week ending 12/07/2006):

I also decided to check out that spike in “9/11” that happened this September.

So to answer your question, with the exception of the week of 9/11, “pearl harbor” searches continue to exceed “9/11” queries.

I am a bit surprised by this, and am guessing that if we included searches for “september 11” and “world trade center” along with “9/11,” the story might be different. I am even more surprised that Wikipedia got more 9/11 traffic than,, and combined.

Thanks, Bill.


I am even more surprised that Wikipedia got more 9/11 traffic than,, and combined.

This is Google at work. A Google search for "9/11"...
...yields the following results (in order):

2. Wikipedia

And that matches the Top 3 websites that received traffic.

Two other sites ( and also appear on the first page of Google results and in the top 10.

It just goes to show that where your web site ranks on Google for particular search terms can be VERY important to your web site's traffic.


Looking at the seasonality of the Pearl Harbor searches shows just how much of it is driven by schools. Notice how low it goes during the summer, and how it spikes right around finals time.


According that Google Trends info, Sweden has an unusual interest in Pearl Harbor. Is Kate Beckinsale Swedish?


Could it be that the spike also reflects interest worldwide? As a European, I don't think many of us really know much about pearl harbour but 9/11 seems to have affected all.

Welll, Pearl Harbour surely affected "all" back when it happened but I guess nowadays - being essentially a historical event - it's of more interest to Americans. On the otherhand, 9/11 is practically "current affairs"


In my memory, going back to the 1960s, interest in our war with Japan has waned dramatically, while obsession over the Holocaust has vastly increased, even though America wasn't involved in the latter. Lots of people now seem to believe we went to war to stop the Holocaust, rather than to avenge Pearl Harbor. Our War in the Pacific now seems in vaguely bad taste because it was against non-whites, while our War in Europe was against ultra-white Germans, so it is now much more fashionable.

Bill Tancer

Just posted an updated chart including other variations on 9/11 searches here .

Also, I agree with previous comments that a large portion of "pearl harbor" queries are likely to be educational in nature, hence the large % traffic to Wikipedia.


Thanks, SD and BT. I was curious as to numbers, etc, and I appreciate the research done and speculations given.



Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems like you're implying that Google ranks wikipedia high, thus people see wikipedia more often, and thus wikipedia has higher traffic.

Google ranks web pages however they want to, since it's mostly done by 'bots'. Part of their ranking system was that they wanted to rank popular pages higher.

While I agree that it helps to be ranked highly on google, I don't think google goes in to automatically rank wikipedia higher. It's also doubtful that wikipedia pays google to be ranked higher. The only other explanations are that wikipedia is liked by google bots and a lot of people link to wikipedia from their own pages.

The bigger question is what causes the public to shift their trust to a website. Basically we believe google's mantra of do no evil and we believe in the volunteers at wikipedia (although this blogs author would probably not do...).

Anyway, I just want to say that the effects of a highly ranked pages are reciprocal to the popularity.