The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: Search Insights During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted in SEO by Angharad Lock

Looking at search insights during a global event is always going to be interesting. This is especially true during a global crisis, like the Covid-19 pandemic. Search data from March 2020 - when the United Kingdom stepped up its pandemic response - demonstrates our continuing reliance on search engines. It also highlights the real-world importance marketing – particularly search marketing – has.  

It’s important to note here that this blog is not intended to encourage ambulance chasing marketing tactics. Misleading and deceptive campaigns that seek to drive traffic and sales through fear-mongering are irresponsible at best (risking manual penalties and de-indexing) and predatory (risking real world harm) at worst.

The Covid-19 crisis is having an undeniable impact on the search industry as lockdown, self-isolation and quarantine necessitate web search. With daily PM announcements and emergency policy & law changes, demand for information (in the form of longtail search queries) increases. For example: “when will Inois be paid furlough?”.  

The longer term effects of the pandemic can already be assumed: Google’s E.A.T update in 2019 already highlighted the need to stop fake news and false information. We can only expect that the practices espoused in that update will be even more important after this: demonstrating your expertise and authority is now, more than ever, a critical practice. 

With that in mind, here’s a snapshot of the nation's top searches from last week. Searches are for the UK and cover the last 12 months, unless otherwise specified.

Community spirit searches increased

Searches containing the phrase “help old people” rapidly increased w/c 15th March 2020. Consider the government’s announcement that all vulnerable people (including those over 70 years) will need to self-isolate themselves in the coming weeks.

Blog 1

Source: Google Trends, “help old people”

Around the same time there was a similar spike for searches containing “postcard”. This was mostly likely from the BBC News article published that same week:  Coronavirus: Postcard bid to help self-isolating neighbours.

Graph showing increased interest in the term "postcard"

Source: Google Trends, “postcard”

Searches containing “neighbours” showed a similar pattern too. A snapshot into the growing community spirit of the nation, perhaps?

Graph showing increased interest in the term "neighbours""

Source: Google Trends, “neighbours”

Questioning assumptions

Naturally, Google Trends does not tell the whole story. On one hand, an increase in searches containing “neighbours” may indicate people searching for ways to help elderly neighbours but digging down to a 30-day window on these searches there is a notable peak between 16-20 March. 

That BBC article was published the previous day, and Boris Johnson’s press announcements have been daily but...

Graph showing a spike in interest of the term "neighbours" between 17th and 22nd March

Source: Google Trends, “neighbours”

… related searches for this period include “dylan timmins”, “dylan neighbours”. 

Perhaps not indicative of growing community spirit after all, but instead, the return of an old soap character, Dylan Timmins, who returned for the special 35th anniversary celebration episode of Neighbours, aired in the UK on 19th March.  A timely reminder that assumptions can scupper your reporting if you aren’t careful!

Google trends related queries, showing terms related to the tv programme "Neighbours"

Source: Google Trends

NHS

Graph showing increased interest in the term "NHS""

Source: Google Trends, “donate to NHS”

Interest around protecting the NHS began around early March and has continued exponentially as the pandemic has continued, see above for the “donate to NHS” trend.

Another useful and perhaps reassuring thing to see is that search is always growing. Google has previously stated that 15% of all searches are new and this is evidenced here: searches for “clap for NHS” were negligible until the Facebook campaign gained traction.

Graph showing increased interest in the term "clap for NHS""

Source: Google Trends, “clap for NHS

Googling Symptoms 

“Do I”, “how to” and other information-seeking searches inevitably spike during times of crisis, reflecting the uncertain times and need for answers.

Graph showing increased interest in the term "do i have coronavirus""

Source: Google Trends, “do I have coronavirus”

Graph showing increased interest in the term "what temperature is a fever"

Source: Google Trends, “what temperature is a fever”

Graph showing increased interest in the term "what is a persistent cough""

Source: Google Trends, “what is a persistent cough”

Graph showing increased interest in the term "am i sick"

Source: Google Trends, “am i sick”

Graph showing increased interest in the term "how to wash hands"

Source: Google Trends, “how to wash hands”

Buying & Selling

Transactional queries also fluctuate. The effects of a nation working from home are palpable.

Standing Desk

Graph showing increased interest in the term "standing desk"

Source: Google Trends, “standing desk”

Webcam

Graph showing increased interest in the term "webcam"

Source: Google Trends, “webcam”

WiFi Booster

Graph showing increased interest in the term "wifi booster"

Source: Google Trends, “wifi booster”

Zoom

Graph showing increased interest in the term "zoom"

Source: Google Trends, “zoom”

Breakout searches also included “zoom stock price”.

Solicitors are also likely to be experiencing a surge in enquiries as legacy planning enters the national discourse. “Update will” queries also have the hockey stick graph.

Graph showing increased interest in the term "update will"

Source: Google Trends, “update will”

Google Autosuggest 

Google Autosuggest provides the most up-to-date data, pulling suggestions from real-time, real world searches. For example, “how to use Zoom” and “how to make bread”. Clearly not everyone is accustomed to video calls, whilst panic buyers flocking to the bread aisle is causing some would-be bakers to skill up.

Google Autosuggest from "how to"

(Screenshot from Google 31 March 2020)

As more companies struggle and restaurants are closing, searches for universal credit and information on cancelling subscription services are also trending.

Google Autosuggest from "how do i"

(Screenshot from Google 31 March 2020)

Google Autosuggest from "how can i"

Hope on the horizon

Fortunately, there is always hope and many of us are looking forward to the future, planning our immediate & important post-lockdown visits...

Google autosuggest of "when will"

 

Angharad Lock
Angharad Lock

Senior SEO Executive at Noisy Little Monkey, Angharad is a fan of words and numbers. Basically, Countdown incarnate.

Meet Angharad Lock

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