People Ask Google: ‘Why Is Boston So Great?’

Autocomplete, you flatter us.

Nothing reveals a stereotype quite like the stuff people Google en mass in the privacy of their own homes. And Boston, as frequently stereotyped a city as any, needn’t worry, as it turns out.

Google’s autocomplete feature, which supplies you with suggested searches based partly on what other users are commonly searching, offers a window into the national zeitgeist. So an enterprising cartographer put, “Why is [state name] so…” into a Google search bar and documented the first word to turn up. The map of the results has been featured all over the news this week, ahead of the State of the Union. “Why is Massachusetts so smart?” is apparently the top response for our commonwealth (surprising no one, of course). There’s also, “Why is Washington so liberal,” “Why is Tennessee so racist,” and, oddly, “Why is Pennsylvania so haunted?” Why, indeed?


Amazing Maps

Inspired, we decided to check in once again on what kinds of things people are saying about Boston and its environs. What do people want to know about Boston or Dorchester or Brookline or Cape Cod? On the national level, all 50 states have enough search volume that Google is guaranteed to have some suggestions. Not so on the local level. Part of the interest here is seeing which spots actually return any suggestions at all. As it turns out, places like Provincetown, with fairly strong and specific reputations, got an autocomplete, where places without as strong an impression, like Quincy, didn’t.

First, we confirmed that America really does envy our brains by typing in Massachusetts.

Indeed, it does. So we asked about Boston.
googleboston1Hey, we’ll take it. After all, last time we played this game, the top result was, “Why is Boston so boring?”

Dorchester was one of the few specific Boston neighborhoods to return an Autocomplete suggestion. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. But here, as ever, let’s agree to blame the French.


Cambridge’s search required adding “MA” to remove all results related to the British university.

googlecambridge2People frequently seem to wonder why places are expensive. Even on the state level, New Hampshire, California, New York, Alaska, and Hawaii all returned “expensive” as their top result.


googlecapecodAt least Cape Cod gets some (probably bridge traffic-related) props before they get to the big question.

provincetownAgain, if a place is small, it requires a big reputation to make autocomplete. P-Town, obviously, has one.

You can play around yourself and see what else there is to find. Or you can just muse on the subject of why Boston is so great. Hey, it’s a large part of what we do here for a living, after all.