With retail stores & restaurants closed, individuals working from home, and others off work altogether, we have seen a change in purchasing behaviour across the United Kingdom, and a change in what we are searching for on Google.
Fun fact. There are over 3.5 billion Google searches each day worldwide.
So just how has the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown impacted what we are searching for on Google?
All of our data has been gathered using both Google Trends & the Keyword Planner found within the Google Ads interface.
Not only are these fun tools to see what people are searching for in certain locations, but they are fundamental tools for any digital marketer. Both Google Trends and the Keyword Planner give us an idea of what individuals are searching for, showing us historical data that can help marketers pick out seasonal trends, allowing flexible and planned campaigns.
Google Trends (scored from 0-100) represents the search interest regarding specific search terms or categories. A score of 100 is peak interest, with 0 showing no interest really at all in the topic or term.
Google’s Keyword Planner can help marketers when it comes to planning PPC campaigns, showing historical search volumes for keywords and how competitive the terms are.
We use these two tools for planning both Search Engine Optimisation and Google Search Ads campaigns.
Anyway, less talk of Google’s tools, let’s look at the data.
Everyone Knows Zoom
It seems the majority of the public have now heard of Zoom. Even the Queen apparently uses Zoom to keep in touch with her family, and she’s just turned 94!
Whether it be for team or client meetings, a sales pitch or even a relaxed evening quiz with a bottle of wine, everybody seems to be using Zoom.
There are alternatives out there, the recently launched Microsoft Teams and Google’s own Google Meets or Google Hangouts. The chart below shows a comparison between the three, with Zoom being the clear winner.
Zoom saw interest increase from mid-March, hitting an interest score of 100 on the 3rd April. Using the Keyword Planner, we can see the sharp rise in search queries for Zoom around this time.
For the 6 months prior to March 2020, there were typically around 130,000 searchers per month for the term “Zoom” across the UK. The number of searches in March 2020? 4,090,000.
Related search terms include “How to Use Zoom” and “Zoom Quiz”. However, there are a few things you need to use Zoom, especially if it’s for work-related purposes. You’ll need a microphone and webcam. That’s straight forward if you have a laptop, but what if you’re working on a desktop PC?
With electronic stores closed the public has, as always, turned to Google.
The Keyword Planner shows another sharp increase in the search volume for “Buy Webcam”. Rising from 790 in February to 12,880 in March.
It’s a similar situation regarding PC Monitors. With “Buy Monitors” and closely related search terms rising from 8,780 searches in February to 24,650 in March.
The most popular search term when it comes to purchasing a PC Monitor is “Cheap PC Monitor”. With 5,400 searches, a significant increase on previous months as can be seen below.
Multiple monitors, a webcam and Zoom. Now all of us office folk can work at full efficiency from home.
No Time for Those Long Supermarket Queues
One of the biggest changes to life during the Coronavirus pandemic has been going to the supermarket, or simply, not going.
In stores, toilet rolls were flying off the shelves, you couldn’t find antibacterial soap anywhere and there were no baked beans.
Fortunately, we’re past most of that, there are toilet rolls, baked beans and soap on the shelves as supermarkets take more measures to ensure the safety of their customers. Limits on the number of customers in the store have been put in place as have restrictions on the number of certain items that you can buy.
Anyway, do you ever wonder what people are doing with all that spare toilet roll they panic bought? Well, Google Keyword Planner helps give us a good idea of what people are doing with it all.
That’s right. Those who decided they’d buy a year’s worth of toilet rolls have now turned to build forts out of them.
In the UK, March 2020 saw 8,100 searches for the term “Toilet Roll Fort”. This was a drastic increase from a lowly 20 searches the previous month. It seems lockdown really has gone to some peoples heads.
Let’s now talk about those long queues to get in the store. Nobody enjoys that. Whether it be due to people being impatient or the worry of catching the virus while out the house themselves. Some people are also required to isolate for an extended period of time meaning they are unable to physically go to the supermarket.
Fortunately, we live in a modern world where we have the internet. Now those who don’t want to, or can’t travel to stores can simply buy online.
Terms related to Food Delivery have increased by a great deal. “Online Food Delivery” saw 903,090 search queries in March, compared to 207,110 the previous month.
This is also shown across many of the related queries in the chart below. The figures stated on the graph show the 6-month average.
The search volumes for March 2020 are much higher. With “Food that Delivers” receiving a search volume of 246,000. This rise can also be charted in Google Trends. Showing that peak interest occurred in the last week of March, before slowly reducing close to normality throughout April as panic buying became less prevalent.
One of the hardest things with shopping online is finding a delivery time that is available. Shoppingslot.co.uk allows users to search for open supermarket delivery slots on one website. Formed during the pandemic the company saw a need and delivered a solution.
In March there were 640 searches for “Shopping Slot” on Google. Previous months saw approximately 50 searches per month.
There has also been an increase in the number of searches for “Online Seafood”, “Online Bakery” and “Online Butchers”, as individuals are either unable to leave the house or unwilling to travel to their local butchers, bakers or fishmonger.
We’ve All Found a New Hobby
Being stuck inside all the time has led to many of us finding a new hobby or actually carrying out our New Year’s resolution for the first time ever.
I personally have started running (weather dependent), while others have picked up newfound hobbies and skills.
The British population took to their gardens in the wonderful early Spring weather. With Garden Centres closed people had to either buy online and have items delivered, or find somewhere that allowed collection.
The term “Garden Tools” was searched for 40,500 times, nearly 3x more than January and February as shown below.
Other garden tools related search terms that increased significantly were “Garden Hoe”, “Wheelbarrow”, “Strimmer” and all things lawnmower.
Not only did we see searches for simple garden tools increase. For some of the population, we saw a true Ground Force effort, with the volume for “Garden Planning” also seeing a sharp rise to 40,500 queries in March, much higher than that of previous years.
Search terms for “Garden Plants”, “Small Garden Trees” and various vegetable & fruits plants all saw large rises as well.
As I mentioned, myself, like others, have taken up running throughout the lockdown. This is highlighted by the increase in search volume for running-related terms.
The March figures are similar to that of December and January when many people are planning to exercise as part of their “New Year, New Me”. Usually, we see search volumes drop throughout February, and into March and April. It seems for once, people may actually be sticking to running this year, with the lockdown giving us little else to do.
After the shortage of toilet rolls in our supermarkets, we saw a lack of flour and baking materials. At first, I thought The Great British Bake Off was in town, turns out many are practising their baking and hoping to become the next Nadiya Hussain.
There was an increase in search volume for many baking-related search queries.
- “Baking” saw 60,500 searches in March, an increase of 27,400 from February.
- “Baking Bread” rose from 4,400 to 18,100. (Get it “rose”, like bread does when you bake it).
- “Banana Bread Recipe” went from 201,000 searches in February to over 673,000 searches in March.
Google Trends clearly shows us how the country has taken to their kitchens.
Other search terms that we have seen an increase in volume are the likes of “ Best Things to Watch on Netflix”, “Learn a New Language” & “Buy Beer Online”.
With fine weather towards the end of March, the Easter weekend looming, and confined to their homes, the country turned to purchasing their alcohol online. Search volumes for “Buy Beer Online” rose from 390 searches in February to 9,900 in March, with Google Trends showing a peak interest between 22nd-28th March.
Not a new hobby for many, binge-watching Netflix, also saw a large increase in search volumes in March. An additional 6,000 searches were made to find what’s best to watch on Netflix, with an increase of 8,450 on similar searches.
My personal answer to the question “Best Things to Watch on Netflix”. The Last Kingdom. It took me 2 days to watch the recently released Season 4. Now I’m lost and will be most likely asking Google that very question to find my next guilty pleasure.
While some were taking a more laid back approach, drinking and watching Netflix. Others looked to expand their knowledge by learning a new language.
The chart below shows the increase in search volume results for people trying to learn various languages.
The reasoning for this increase could be one of two reasons. Either individuals are now taking time indoors to learn a new language, or parents are looking for resources to aid in educating their children from home.
Duolingo, a language education app, also saw an increase in search volume and interest. Increasing from 246,000 in February to 368,000 in March.
A Life Without McDonald’s & Sunny Holidays
However, not all search queries have increased. People are unable to travel abroad, holiday parks are closed, and fast-food chains have also shut their doors.
These closures have seen a reduction in the number of searches on Google for holiday bookings, flights, and restaurant chains.
Most flights and holidays were cancelled, which saw generic search terms like “holidays” and “book holiday” decrease drastically. The chart below shows monthly search volume for the keyword “holidays” since March 2019.
Compared to March 2019, search volume was down 100,000. “Book Holiday” is also down slightly, from 14,800 searches in March 2019 to 12,100 in March 2020.
This is also the case for individual companies such as TUI, Jet2 and other travel agencies who provide holiday packages.
For many of these companies, search volume has decreased to Pre-New Year levels, which in the travel industry is the quietest period with families focusing on Christmas as opposed to booking their next holiday.
“Jet2 Holidays” saw search volume decrease from 1,500,000 in February to 823,000 queries in March. This figure is 397,000 searches down compared to the same period in 2019.
With people unable to go out and eat, search volumes for “Restaurants Near Me” also dropped. In February, the term had 823,000 searches through the month, in March, just 450,000. The lowest it has been since March 2017.
Many terms including “Near Me” saw a decline. Whether it be specific cuisines such as “Mexican Food Near Me” which saw nearly half the usual number of queries, or more specific chains, such as “Subway Near Me”, where there were 30,000 fewer searches.
Terms within the food industry which were not negatively affected were queries questioning when chains would be back open again.
With McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and other fast-food chains closed, people turned to Google to find out when they’ll be able to next get their Happy Meal, Zinger Burger or Boneless Banquet.
In March 2020 there were 1,300 searches for “When Will McDonald’s Reopen”, this is the first month the Google Keyword Planner has recorded this query, with previous months not seeing enough searches to record information.
So there you have it. A collection of some of the search query trends that we have seen on Google throughout the 2019/20 Coronavirus Pandemic.
Finding out what the people are searching for, and doing keyword research is the first step when it comes to creating digital marketing campaigns, whether it be SEO or PPC.
While we have carried out this research out of interest, it can show us how purchasing behaviour and the intent was influenced.
We saw a significant rise in people searching for products which they would usually buy in-store, online. For example, “Buy Seafood Online”, or “Buy Running Shoes Online”.
We saw a fall in search volume in regards to queries looking for services, entertainment or food in the local area, with many restaurants, stores, and attractions closed.
But most of all we saw how life carried on. Despite a great change to all of our lives, we endured through harnessing modern technology, and Google’s search engine to help us find what we require most in what may be one of the most mentally, and physically challenging times of our generation.
These searches could be for something as simple as finding something new to watch on Netflix, that recipe you’ve always wanted to perfect, or when you’ll next be able to enjoy a McFlurry. But it’s also an engine that can help us in our time of need when we are unable to go out of our houses and need living essentials such as food.
There has always been an argument that modern technology has led to the world becoming more isolated. But now we are truly isolated, technology such as the internet, Google, Zoom and many others, allows us to be closer together than where we would be without it.