Bitcoin searches on Yandex: tracking fluctuations in keyword popularity

Bitcoin

Based on data from Yandex search, Yandex.Market, Yandex.News and coindesk.com

As of January 25, bitcoin is worth around $3,582 USD (according to coindesk.com). It was worth 5.5 times that in December of 2017, when its price reached an all-time maximum. That month also saw a peak in the number of bitcoin searches on Yandex, which was followed by a sharp decline in both the price and interest in cryptocurrency.

The recent history of bitcoin

We thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at crypto-related search activity across this period of major volatility: January 2017 through the end of 2018. During that period, the price of bitcoin managed to grow 20x (from $1,000 to almost $20,000) before falling to a third of that and then stabling out.

Just as before, bitcoin searches on Yandex fluctuated along with the exchange rate. Many noticeable surges of interest occurred right after the price of bitcoin passed a round number. The sharpest such spike took place on August 13, 2017 when the price exceeded $4,000. At that point, the number of daily searches for bitcoin nearly tripled.

However, not all surges of interest have been associated with record prices. Many of them coincide with certain high-profile events that took place. For example, the June 2017 “Petya” virus attack led to an increase in bitcoin searches because the hackers demanded bitcoin from their victims. Another major event took place in August 2017 when bitcoin split into two branches (bitcoin and bitcoin cash).

Yandex user searches for bitcoin

Fluctuations in search volume for bitcoin on Yandex

You can see from the line representing the number of bitcoin mentions in Yandex.News that the price, number of searches, and mentions in the news move in concert with one another. As the price of the currency rises, the number of mentions in the news does as well, which then stimulates interest and leads to more searches.

Yandex.Market data also coincides with this crypto fever. In May and December of 2017 (i.e. during the periods when users were most interested in bitcoin), demand for the video cards used to mine bitcoin rose sharply. Meanwhile, there were no major changes in demand for other popular tech accessories.

Bitcoin demand affects videocards

Bitcoin affects demand for videocards

How searches for bitcoin changed over time

We didn’t just observe fluctuations in the number of Yandex bitcoin searches, though. The actual content of searches also shifted noticeably over the period we studied. While the most notable search term was, unsurprisingly, “стоимость биткойна” (bitcoin price), the distant second in popularity was “что такое биткойн” (what is bitcoin).

In December 2017, at the peak of bitcoin’s price and user interest in the topic of cryptocurrency, searches like “курс биткойна” (bitcoin exchange rate) and “что такое биткойн простыми словами” (what is bitcoin in plain English) accounted for half of all searches about bitcoin.

Of course, these were not the only topics that users searched for. They were also interested in other narrower topics depending on what else was going on at the time. To see how users’ attention shifted, we divided the most recent bitcoin history into five periods that differ substantially by search topic.

For example, from the end of spring 2017 through early summer, people were really interested in if they could actually make money mining bitcoin. We saw a lot of searches containing the word актуальность (in the sense of “currently” or “now”): [can you currently make money mining bitcoin?], [can you still mine bitcoin using video cards?], etc.

For each time period, we compiled the top 5 nouns that appeared in at least 50% more Yandex bitcoin searches than average:

  1. During the first period (from January through May 2017), people were interested finding easy ways to make money with bitcoin. For example, people asked about so-called bitcoin faucets (websites where you can get a few partial bitcoins known as satoshi in exchange for watching ads or doing other simple tasks).
  2. In May 2017, interest in mining really took off (this is also when demand for video cards skyrocketed on Yandex.Market. The share of searches concerning how much profit someone can make off mining grew considerably, as did searches for specific video card models and about setting up mining farms.
  3. In August, the blockchain divided into regular bitcoin (BTC) and bitcoin cash (BCH), which sparked interest in the new currency. A few months later, a similar spike accompanied another currency fork— bitcoin gold (BTG). The word “China” appeared frequently in searches at this time as well, because the country introduced new cryptocurrency bans.
  4. At the very end of 2017, a sharp increase in bitcoin price was followed by an equally sharp decline. Words like “collapse” and “fall” topped the most characteristic words associated with the currency. People also searched for “futures”, which started trading on several exchanges.
  5. Over the first few months of 2018, search terms involving cryptocurrency fell and then stagnated. Recently, interest in the topic has declined so significantly that some words that have no direct relationship with bitcoin now frequently end up in searches. For example, minecraft made the list thanks to the game coins that share the “mine” name with the topic of cryptocurrency. During this last period, people also began searching for news about the cryptocurrency terminals that appeared recently in a few Russian cities.

Taking a close look at the keywords people use to search for information about a given topic can tell you a lot about what concerns are at the forefront of their minds. Bitcoin-related searches provide a particularly vibrant example of how keywords can change rapidly in response to current events. If you want to find out more about what keywords Yandex users type in to search for products or services similar to yours, the Wordstat tool is a great place to start!