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A Roundup of COVID-19 Search Trends and Stats You Should Know

April 8, 2020
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written by Luke Davis
SEO Executive

We explore the COVID-19 data and search trends from Google and other sites as millions try to adapt to life in quarantine.

There isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time of writing, the outbreak continues to spread and affect millions of lives, and as we all navigate the situation, we turn to the internet for updates and advice. In turn, these searches give an insight into how people are dealing with the virus and the potential for businesses to provide information.

Analysing the data, we can see an overview of how industries are coping and the ways they’re trying to help their respective users.

Google

Google has been very busy, both as a company and with the stats and trends produced from its search engine.

The searches of panic buyers

It’s been nigh-on impossible to find toilet roll and pasta in the last few weeks. But is it just a problem in the UK? We conducted our own research into “panic searching” and what consumers have been searching for. Spoiler alert: pasta and toilet paper have been popular searches across the globe.

Other COVID-19 related searches

As you might expect, most searches over the last few weeks have been related to COVID-19 in some way. Notable terms include:

  • “Meditation” (reaching an all-time high, worldwide)
  • “Cotton bandanas” (up by over 2,500% in the past week, worldwide)
  • “How to claim 80 percent of wages gov”
  • “How to delete houseparty account on Android”

Because of this unique period of internet searches, Google created the Google Trends Coronavirus Hub to track these emerging searches.

Emerging outbreaks in the US

The New York Times wrote an interesting article on how Google searches could help find emerging COVID-19 outbreaks with queries like “loss of smell” and terms involving other symptoms like diarrhoea and chills. While not definitive or necessarily conclusive, these kinds of behaviours are good indicators for small regions and could help officials to act and minimise the effect of the virus.

Most searched terms in the UK (according to Google Trends)

Click Consult analysed some of the most coronavirus-related searched terms in the UK. They were as expected, focusing on the behaviours and emotions of people with terms such as “Coronavirus anxiety” and “When will coronavirus end?” making their way to the top.

Travel

ADARA’s COVID-19 Resource Center

One of the biggest-hit industries during the pandemic has been travel. To help brands adapt, customer intelligence company ADARA has created a Traveler Trends Tracker which uses real-time travel data to track consumer behaviour and identify trends. You can sign up for updates and segment the data by region.

The internet

YouTube, Netflix, and Disney+ reduce video quality

Netflix
Netflix in SD, like the good old days.

Now that everyone’s at home, that means more viewing hours on streaming networks like Netflix and Disney+. Many networks have lowered their video quality to help users reduce their data use but also help their own servers manage increased traffic. Who remembers standard definition, eh?

ISPs dealing with the increased traffic

Related to that, internet service providers are doing what they can to cope with all the Zoom calls and Google hangouts. TechCrunch suggested the coronavirus “could force ISPs to abandon data caps forever” while some are calling for free broadband, a pledge previously seen in Jeremy Corbyn’s unsuccessful Labour Manifesto last year.

Design

Unsplash’s top trends

Stock photography site Unsplash has a search trends page and the top searches are filled with terms related to coronavirus.

As of today, the top 10 searches that have had the highest increase in search frequency over the last 30 days are:

Rank Keyword Growth
1 zoom New
2 video call +59.58%
3 corona virus +55.40%
4 easter +52.61%
5 home office +47.54%
6 work from home +46.48%
7 corona +40.29%
8 online +39.50%
9 workout +35.37%
10 covid 19 +31.60%

Besides “easter” and “workout”, the remaining searches were related to working from home or the virus itself, likely where people have been looking for blog post images.

Microsoft

Increase in desktop searches due to WFH

According to Search Engine Land, Microsoft has seen a significant shift in desktop search as people have started working from home over the past few weeks. That also means more impressions and clicks on desktop, leading to boosts in Microsoft Advertising campaign performance. Microsoft Advertising’s corporate vice president, Rik van der Kooi, suggested flexibility in campaign managers’ ROI and CPA thresholds to make sure they can still “close the deals” as customer journeys will likely be longer.

Academia

Impact of COVID-19 papers on global discourse

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of misinformation and confusion out there regarding ways to avoid catching the virus if you have to go outside. The best place to go for medical advice, as suggested by medical and political authorities, is an official medical website like nhs.uk, who.int or academic research.

As there’s a rush to get medical information out, preprint papers (papers published before being peer-reviewed) are growing in number. The Lancet looked at the impact of these publications on the global discourse about the virus and how it spreads.

The effect on PPC

PPC reporting
PPC reports are key to analysing changes in performance.

Late-night internet browsing has become the norm which means spikes in ad impressions during those times as opposed to peak hours, earlier in the day.

For the digital marketing industry, this opens up avenues for businesses to reach their most profitable customers at a time when they’re most susceptible to new information. Adzooma can help you do that with its time-saving features and award-winning automation tools. What’s more, the platform is currently free until 1st June to help businesses thrive in PPC during the pandemic.

Here are a couple of things you can do to move with the tide, so to speak:

Take a more granular approach to your performance reporting

As you will have seen from the Google Trends graphs, a lot of emerging searches take place within a 7-day window so hours of the day count. That’s why it pays to look at hourly trends as well as daily and weekly to see where metrics like impressions, clicks, and CTRs have changed.

With Adzooma’s free Performance Report, you can focus on the areas that might need improvement and improve the performance of your campaigns. The Performance Report does this by:

  • Providing an overall performance score
  • Displaying your campaign against industry best practices?
  • Analysing each area of your account to generate suggestions you can action in seconds

That attention to detail can go a long way towards surviving the crisis and retain performance in the future.

Consider smart bidding

With over 70% of advertisers using smart bidding, it’s definitely a technique worth considering, though you need enough data for it to work efficiently. Google recommends using smart bidding for campaigns that have 30 conversions or more per month.

Summary

For millions of us, the COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented event in our lives. We’re all learning to adapt to new ways of living and maintaining good health as best we can and that involves engagement with technology, – whether that’s working from home, sourcing the latest information, or looking for reliable advice in the SERPs.

From late night Google searches to Tiger King binges, the terms we are searching for can really give an insight into our needs, interests, and overall behaviours during this time. They can also help businesses understand how they can act or make changes to help those in need.

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