Powerball’s journey from average word to the world’s most-searched keyword ranking at over 89 million in 2016.
Fairy tales often start with a prince and a princess, but sometimes, on the rare occasion, they start with a ball - not one that ends at midnight and a missing shoe, but rather one of the red variety - a Powerball. In 2016, Powerball’s fairy tale took off with her rise in fame and search engines, ironically beating out a Prince (The Artist Formally Known As only ranked 2nd). The little red ball who would one day grow up to become the most searched keyword in America in 2016 and 5th in the world, was fairly unsearched and unimportant for most of her youth.
Born in Florida, Powerball grew up surrounded by hundreds of small white plastic balls in a metal drum. Life consisted of spinning in circles twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays. It was a close to midnight kind of job with hardly much skill or motivation - transactional, one might say. The name of the game was Lotto America, and she was just one of many balls that made it possible.
Until April 22, 1992 when everything changed. Lotto America had been denounced as the game title, and instead she, Powerball, had been chosen to take its place. That very same night she debuted as the first draw. Little did she know becoming the lottery’s title would cause her name to be searched around the globe years down the road.
In the beginning, Powerball remained content, yet unrecognizable, despite popularity picking up over the next 24 years. The show was succeeding globally and Powerball was given the opportunity to travel across America, even drawing at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. In 1988, Powerball moved to West Des Moines, appearing on National TV on a weekly basis.
As the years went on, Powerball was becoming a word recognized everywhere. Folks globally were putting their bets on the little red ball that could. And on March 13, 2010 the payoff finally arrived when Powerball produced the first jackpot winnings of over $211 million. Just one month later, another multi-million dollar ticket was produced in Montana - ultimately setting the stage for a keyword on fire.
By 2012, Powerball had already made her first multi-million dollar paycheck. Her success could be measured in numbers and by the end of the year she had produced a $500 million jackpot - an unheard of lottery.
89.7 million searches, $1.586 billion dollar jackpot, 1 keyword.
Times were changing, the lottery was only growing in size, and everyone wanted a piece of it. As the numbers rose, the hope of winning intensified. But that didn’t always lead to a winner. After 20 consecutive rollovers, the lottery reached a groundbreaking record of $1.5 billion in 2015.
The world held its breath and took to Google. Searching anything they could find to feel closer: “Powerball numbers”, “powerball 2/11/15”, “powerball winner”. With the huge jackpot only building in size, the world was starting to pay closer attention to Powerball. Search engines everywhere where bustling to keep up.
When divided - the word “power” and “ball” had a low impact on search results. But when combined, Powerball skyrocketed through the search ceiling - reaching an astonishing 89,760,000 searches in 2016 alone - with the search mountain peaking in January. Everyone wanted a piece of the highest Powerball jackpot in history, $1.586 billion and the keyword that made it all possible.
But there were some people out there who were not after Powerball for her money, but for her SERP. In 2016, the SEO Heroes studied Powerball to discover exactly why she was attracting so much traffic. But their search primarily uncovered greed, jealousy and an insane lawsuit.
Of course, Powerball isn’t over. In a way she’s only just beginning. As people continue to value easy money over politics and technology, Powerball will likely continue to have breakout results. And what better way to keep light of her tail, than searching (if not buying a ticket)?
So who is Powerball? In a word, lucky. As a concept, lifechanging. As a ball, red.
Summed up by Taylor Swift, “Red is such an interesting color to correlate with emotion, because it's on both ends of the spectrum. On one end you have happiness, falling in love, infatuation, passion. On the other end, you've got obsession, jealousy, danger, fear, anger and frustration."
So, in light of it all, some say bird is the word, but this year, it was ball. Powerball.