HomeBlogHow COVID-19 Is Shaping Google Search Trends & Patterns [Data]

How COVID-19 Is Shaping Google Search Trends & Patterns [Data]

Author: Mark Irvine
Last Updated: November 25, 2021 | COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic will define 2020. As we continue to see the outbreak spread and governments and businesses respond to COVID-19, we’ve seen changes in every aspect of our daily life. Even on the Google SERP, we’ve seen large shifts in the way people search during this crisis. Advertisers know all too well that COVID-19 has impacted many industries’ PPC campaigns, but understanding how to adjust to these rapidly changing trends can help keep our campaigns and businesses agile during this scary time.

At WordStream, we’re looking across tens of thousands of advertisers to understand the impact of COVID-19 on PPC advertising. In this article, we’ll examine how search habits are changing during COVID-19 and how advertisers should adjust their PPC strategies.

Post-COVID-peak update: We have more data and patterns in this post on resilient digital agencies in 2020.

COVID-19 related searches surge on Google

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates our concerns, news, politics, and economy, it’s dominating our Google searches. In fact, today, COVID-19 related searches are now the most popular searches on Google, far exceeding searches about other news, weather, politics, Google, Facebook, Amazon, or even porn.

Google search trends during the COVID-19 outbreak

In response to this surging trend in new searches, Google has released the Google Trends Coronavirus Hub to help track these emerging searches as well as other breakout searches that users are taking as they respond to developing news in the world. Advertisers should review these search trends regularly and be prepared to add new negative keywords to their campaigns to prevent wasting their budgets online.

COVID-19 searches spike early in the morning and late at night

Understandably, the pandemic is top of mind for most of us. But for those of us fortunate enough to not be actively fighting the disease on the front lines, we find ways to distract ourselves throughout the day and continue our lives in some shade of normalcy. Still, Google trends reveals that the coronavirus is often on our minds, but especially when we first wake up and before we go to bed.

COVID-19 Google search trends: morning and night spikes in coronavirus-related searches

There’s some variance throughout the day, such as around 6 p.m. and during press briefings, but it’s interesting to see these peaks so early and late in the day. It’s an uncommon trend—you usually see searches peak during mid-day working hours and after dinner, but the coronavirus searches buck that trend and peak when many traditional searches would slow down.

That means advertisers need to be adjust their accounts accordingly.

Navigate the changing online advertising landscape with this free small business guide to COVID-19.

Changes to search volume means changes to ad impressions

As many of us shelter in place or otherwise commute less during the pandemic, we’re staying up and online later than we normally would. That coupled with this unusual late night COVID-19 search habit has fundamentally changed when we’re searching online. Even in industries not immediately impacted by the coronavirus-related searches, we’re still seeing large spikes in late night searches and ad impressions in their PPC campaigns.

Google search changes during COVID-19 outbreak

Many advertisers have been noticing less search interest for their products throughout March due to COVID-19, that’s felt the hardest during peak hours. Later in the evening, though, that impact is much less noticeable and search volume has even increased by about 15% after midnight.

Interestingly, searches on weekends have been much less impacted by these negative trends that we see during the week. During most weekend hours, search volume is within 10% of it’s pre-pandemic averages, and it’s also increasing significantly in the late-night hours.

The impact on your PPC campaigns

At first glance, that increase in search volume late at night might be look like a relief to advertisers—but be careful. Many advertisers traditionally note between 10-25% lower conversion rates from their ads during these times.

average conversion rates for February 2020

Unfortunately, these typical nightly dips in conversion rates are exacerbated with current search trends during the pandemic. These late-night searchers are not just tired, but the bad news from their nightly coronavirus searches is more than likely hurting their psyche. these searches have much lower conversion rates than they normally would. In the evening hours coinciding with the peak search volume for COVID-19, advertisers have noted a 30% lower conversion rate than they typically would expect at night.

average conversion rates on Google search March 2020

Questions for Mark? Ask now! 

Here’s what you can do

These unprecedented times have us all feeling some anxiety, and our feelings certainly change throughout the day. Your paid search campaigns can take this into account. Here’s what you can do to address these current challenges in your PPC campaigns.

1. Revisit your campaigns’ ad schedule performance

You can easily track your own campaigns performance by day of the week and hour of the day within Google Ads. Simply click “Segment,” then “Time” within Google Ads.  Even if you reviewed this recently, the performance has likely changed in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

campaign performance in Google ads

2. Consider new day dayparting strategies

Those new searches between midnight and 4 a.m. will exhaust your daily budget even faster and likely won’t convert as well. To make the most of your limited daily budget, consider new dayparting strategies by bidding down on these off hours or even having your campaigns only run during profitable times

3. Try smart bidding

The coronavirus is going to present us with new business and paid search challenges in the coming months. As these trends and others emerge, it will be difficult to adjust campaigns on a dime. Google’s smart bidding strategies may help advertisers by digesting changing data and adjusting their CPC bids in real time to match their goals.

It’s unfortunately clear that the coronavirus is going to change our daily lives for the next few months at least. Stay safe and practice social distancing. While you’re stuck inside, keep an eye on your PPC accounts and the WordStream blog. We’ll be posting regularly with new data and strategies to best adjust your campaigns in these rapidly changing times.

Data sources

This report is based on a sample of 15,759 US-based WordStream client accounts in all verticals who were advertising on Google search throughout March 2020.

Questions? Register now to join Mark for a Live Q&A on Monday, April 27!

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Meet The Author

Mark Irvine

Mark is the Director of PPC at SearchLab Digital. Previously, Mark worked at WordStream and was named the Most Influential PPC Expert of the Year by both PPC and Microsoft.

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