Houston, whose death in February shocked fans, was the most searched.
Teen heart-throbs One Direction topped the image search charts – with band member Harry Styles individually seventh most popular.
On Facebook, politics took centre stage – Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were the most discussed figures in the US.
The social network grouped its top trends in a special 2012 section.
In the US, the presidential election dominated discussion over the year, followed by excitement around the Super Bowl.
The London Olympics was the fifth most discussed topic in the US, whereas in the UK it understandably came out on top, beating chatter about steamy novel Fifty Shades of Grey into second place.
In third, Rylan Clark – a flamboyant yet divisive contestant on this year’s X Factor series.
Unlucky in love
Google’s results – which exclude pornography-related queries – give an honest glimpse into the psyche of the world’s internet users.
The company measures its chart by assessing what terms have had the greater increase of traffic when compared to 2011.
As it often does, “What is love?” topped the list in 10 countries, with “how to kiss” and “how to flirt” also popular for the presumably unlucky-in-love searchers.
The list also reveals some guilty pleasures. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a US reality show following the life of a child beauty pageant participant, was the third most searched for TV programme worldwide.
Topping the TV list was Big Brother Brazil and soap opera Avenida Brasil.
There were also massive spikes for people who until this year the wider public probably did not know anything about.
Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner, whose record-breaking skydive captivated millions around the world, placed sixth in the list of most discussed individuals.
While Amanda Todd, the Canadian teenager who took her own life after posting a message about being bullied on YouTube, was the world’s third most discussed individual.