While Businesses Shut Down in Arizona, Google Searches Ramped Up 

by Joel Coen

This past December, my children and I were at home in my living room having a conversation about specific, influential events that changed the world. We had just finished watching the celebrated one-shot war film 1917 together about two young British soldiers during World War I whose actions would end up impacting world history as we know it. The movie had a profound effect on my 15-year-old son, in particular, sparking long discussions about similar events and their significance today. We discussed 9/11 and the world before and after that horrific day. We discussed pre and post-World War II and the impact those conflicts have had. As our discussion came to a close, I made a statement that, looking back, I now regret a little. “You are lucky kids; you have not had to live through something like that. I hope you never have to.” I did not knock on wood.

Fast forward four months later, the world seemed to all but come to a complete stop. As the fast-moving COVID-19 began spreading throughout the world, and eventually to Maricopa County, Ariz., where I live, it was clear that this was one of those events that would truly alter the way we live forever. Working in marketing, with an emphasis on the digital world, I am fortunate to have a tremendous number of tools at my disposal that allow me to observe and understand what consumers are searching for and at what volumes. I can see firsthand their purchasing behaviors online. At our agency, we tried to pay special attention to these search volumes and trends to ensure our clients would know the best way to navigate through the crisis. On a daily basis we looked to see what consumers were looking for and what they ultimately wanted to discover, what we could predict, where we needed to position our clients in search results, and how we could best spend our clients’ marketing dollars to keep them top of mind with their customers. Over a three-month timespan, some very interesting insights began to surface.

One of our first big observations? Search volumes did not go down. People were using Google more often than ever at the beginning of the pandemic. We could see that people were dramatically seeking out more information related to what was happening as the virus began to spread. Amazingly, people were also shopping. Big time. Here are some of the areas where we have seen growth and changes in search volumes (all metrics are on a year over year basis):

  • Searches for “What to watch” are up 1000 percent
  • “Backyard ideas” are up 200 percent
  • “Online pharmacy” is up 100 percent
  • “Online therapy” is up 100 percent

Additionally, we have seen some major shifts in terms of consumer interactivity and viewership habits. There has been a 39 percent increase in streaming TV mid-day. We can only assume that people are watching more TV at home than they would be in the office. How people shop has changed as well as we have seen an 80 percent increase in searches related to “DIY” than we did last year. More and more we continue to see that consumers are wanting to make their lives at home better as shown to us by the increase in searches for “backyard ideas” and other increases that show interest in DIY home projects.

There is no doubt that the world will never be the same as it was prior to COVID. Effective marketers will have to pay attention to the data daily to keep an eye on the shifts, changes and trends that will best position their clients to get the maximum amount for their marketing dollar. The volatility of the current environment will most likely continue until the disease begins to slow its spread or a vaccine becomes available. Until then, it will take focus and poise to keep the ever-shifting world of digital marketing one in which clients can see continued success.

Joel Coen is chief digital officer of Commit Agency 

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