The coronavirus epidemic has upended every aspect of our lives. Many people are either working from home or not working at all. Social gatherings have migrated to online video chats and virtual hangouts. The new restrictions placed on people and businesses have affected how we get our information, when we get, and what we do with it.

It has also affected the habits of people using the internet. Our willingness to interact with online advertising is changing. So are the searches we’re performing in the first place. And these trends can have a great impact on both your performance in search engine optimization, as well as the general online marketing strategy for your business.

So what are these trends? And what can you do to navigate them?

What People Are Searching

Google’s search trends relate directly to what people are currently experiencing. This means, unsurprisingly, that a large number of people are searching for news relating to COVID-19. For instance, look at the following image.

This is taken from Google Trends, which is a free tool that shows you how often specific terms are being searched. This graph compares the amount of times “coronavirus” has been searched and compares it to how often “Taylor Swift” has been searched. Taylor Swift is generally frequently searched, but she barely registers when compared to coronavirus as far as search frequency in the United States. This illustrates how much coronavirus has taken over Google searches.

This is a small example but it goes to show how people’s focus has switched over the last month. You can visit Google Trends and type in your own industry to see how the trends affect you specifically, but many industries have seen downward trends over the last month.

In fact, the only industries that have seen an increase in search performance relate directly to the new reality of sheltering in place. This means articles regarding working from home, grocery deliveries, and other searches that help people navigate their new situation. For another illustration of this, here’s the comparison of online search trends for “online classes” and “school near me” for the last 90 days.

You can see the switch in search frequency begins to favor online classes just as many school districts began closing down. This is a great example of the changing trends due to COVID-19.


When People Are Searching

The fact that many people are staying home means their daily schedules have been drastically changed around. This is reflected in the times of day when Google searches are being performed.

For instance, searches after midnight have increased by 15% during this time. And even though this may seem encouraging, advertisers usually notice anywhere between 10% and 25% lower conversion rates during these times. However, these lower conversion rates are exacerbated right now, most likely due to people’s tendency to search for coronavirus-related material. This puts people in a bad headspace which makes them less likely to click through advertisements and complete a purchase.

Search trends during the weekend are fairly close to what they were before COVID-19 turned the world upside-down. Combining this with the late-night trends can make it seem encouraging to advertisers, but the fact that many of these searches are going toward information relating directly to their situation takes a large chunk out of many industry’s search topics.

What This Means For You

Unless you are in the news industry or grocery industry, there’s a good chance this means your search traffic is taking a hit right now. Essential industries are going to continue garnering searches as their services are needed. Elective services will see a drop in overall searches until society starts to move back toward normal.

And lower search volume means less impressions for your advertisements.

What You Can Do

Analyze your website’s performance to see if there are any small adjustments that can be made to optimize your ads. PPC ads, for instance, can be customized for factors like when they are active. If your industry has the opportunity to make use of this increased late night traffic, run more ads after midnight. But if not, save your money and focus them during the day.

The fact that more people are staying at home means there are more overall searches, even if many of them are going toward stay-at-home services and COVID-19 news. But an increased focus on inbound marketing gives you the best chance at mitigating the negative effects of the pandemic on search performance.

Many industries are seeing a drop in their search results as a result of the pandemic. Making use of all the tools at your disposal gives you the best chance at maintaining as much of your previous search rankings as possible. Realistic expectations and continued effort are going to be the best ways to get through these mutually difficult times.