Astrological predictions
Photo: © 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
The first days of the year are an interesting time for me as an Internet trends analyst. There are all the obvious changes to our online habits that I've come to expect on January 1, such as increased diet searches (they typically only last five days) and increased visits to office supplies stores as we seek to get organized for the year ahead. But there's one phenomenon I've always found a little strange. Over the past several years, the week leading up to New Year's has always been the time of year when we see a sudden surge in visits to astrology websites.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest believer in the Zodiac, so I had to go online to try to find the connection between this particular time of year and astrological interest. A few quick searches revealed several articles on the importance of framing your New Year's resolutions based on yearly astrological predictions.

It's not too late to make your New Year's resolutions. If you need some inspiration from the stars, here's a list of the top astrology sites over the past week:

Top 10 Astrology Sites
(week ending January 2, 2010)
  1. MSN Astrology 
  2. AOL Horoscopes 
  6. Yahoo! Astrology 
  8. Super Horoscopes 
Source: Experian Hitwise
The beginning of the new year also has been a time when we've expressed our fears with some unusual search behavior. At the start of 2009, economic fears weighed heaviest on our minds on January 1. As I look at search terms for last week, my sense is that we don't have enough to worry about.

The fastest-rising search terms indicate that some of us have become obsessed with doomsday scenarios, such as the Mayan Calendar, which some believe indicates the world will end in 2012.

For those of you who think we'll prove the Mayans wrong in two years' time, there is also a surge in searches for the Apophis Asteroid. Not being well-versed in astronomy, I assumed this surge in online interest must be related to an upcoming opportunity to see an asteroid streak across the sky. Despite my stellar illiteracy, I'll admit that over the years I've spent many cold nights standing outside trying to identify comets or meteor showers to no avail.

Today, however, I can just Google "Apophis Asteroid." When I do, the search results reveal that there is a chance—albeit small—that this particular asteroid could strike the earth on Friday, April 13, 2036. The site calculates that the probability as 1-in-48,000, so maybe it's a little early to start packing up our earthly belongings.

As an Internet analyst, January really is my favorite time of year, given some of the odd online behavior. Stay tuned next week when we dive into other New Year's search surges, such as "prom dresses" and "pregnancy." Hopefully there's no connection there.

Bill Tancer is an Internet trend analyst, columnist and author of the New York Times best-seller Click—What Millions Do Online and Why It Matters.


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