Real-world problems are becoming highly complex and therefore have to be solved with combinatorial optimization (CO) techniques. Motivated by the strong increase in publications on CO, 8393 articles from this research field are subjected to a bibliometric analysis. The corpus of literature is examined using mathematical methods and a novel algorithm for keyword analysis. In addition to the most relevant countries, organizations, and authors as well as their collaborations, the most pertinent CO problems, solution methods, and application areas are presented. Publications on CO focus mainly on the development or enhancement of metaheuristics like genetic algorithms. The increasingly problem-oriented studies deal particularly with real-world applications within the energy sector, production sector, or data management, which are of increasing relevance due to various global developments. The demonstration of global research trends in CO can support researchers in identifying the relevant issues regarding this expanding and transforming research area.