How COVID-19 Has Impacted Search Results And How To Develop An Action Plan To Thrive

April 1, 2020

COVID-19 is impacting public health as well as the economy on a global scale. Such events always impact search behaviours and patterns. In the current crisis we have seen users turn to online search for immediate news and solutions and with the increase in working from home, there have been more users online searching for more hours of the day.

By looking at data across Google, Microsoft and Facebook we can pinpoint five industries that have been hit the hardest as well as five that have seen an increase in volume.

Five segments with biggest falls

Travel - This is not surprising as governments state people should be avoiding unnecessary travel and fewer consumers are looking to book any sort of travel. Searches for topics such as flight cancellations are very high though and ads related to these topics dominate the page. Facebook estimates that it will take the travel sector the longest time to recover from the crisis with the best guidance being to promote cheaper fares and easy cancellations and adjustments for future travel.

Bars and restaurants - In the US about half the country's dine-in restaurants and bars are closed for the foreseeable future with more closing with each passing day as shutdown orders are announced and volume has switched to searches based on takeaway and food delivery. Restaurants that had no online presence or route to deliver to the market are quickly looking for solutions and partnerships with providers such as Just eat or Uber Eats.

Automotive - Facebook forecasts the sector will not recover until the end of the year due to inventory that is already in the market that isn’t sold as well as supply chain issues for new builds. Search volume for automotive dealers has declined dramatically as consumers’ priorities change and users are only leaving the house for key work or to get essentials.

Live events / conferences - Public safety and limits on group size have seen venues cancelling shows and search volume for live entertainment has dropped sharply. Large conferences have either cancelled, postponed their events or are trying to host a virtual event instead. For example, Microsoft has transformed their annual Elevate event in Seattle into an online event available to all users across the globe.

Industrial and manufacturing - As manufacturing slows, we are seeing campaigns for manufacturing and industrial goods being impacted. There is a large drop in search traffic in terms related to manufacturing though the sector could quickly bounce back when the disease is under control.

Five segments with biggest gains

Health and medical - Searches for advice on protection for families and key steps to take are increasing. Consumers are using search more and more to find vital medication. Many advertisers are seeing increased ease in selling products online with conversion rates significantly higher than usual.

Charities - Google Ads supports a number of Google grant programs to allow nonprofits to advertise for free and search traffic has increased steadily for charities over the past few weeks.

Finance - Consumers are searching for help and advice at this time and we have also seen cost per clicks fall.

Media - We are consuming more and more entertainment at home and searches for terms related to on demand media in the home are significantly up.

Food - Unsurprisingly seeing a massive surge in users wanting to shop online and when supermarkets struggle to offer delivery slots they are searching for necessities from sites such as Amazon or smaller retailers that have an online presence and delivery service.

Communication is key

We know that in a time of crisis consumers seek positive interactions with brands and appreciate regular updates. In a recent global meeting, Facebook recommended that brands should be:

  • Authentic
  • Maintain proactive and frequent communication with customers
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Train customer service teams
  • Constantly monitor and act upon customer feedback