COVID-19’s Impact on Organic Search Traffic by Industry

As many of us wait for our respective industries to recover from the effects of COVID-19, our team has begun work to create a resource that helps paint a picture of search click trends in various industries. For each data set, we provide both a year-to-date (YTD) view as well as a zoomed-up version that shows when COVID-19 began to have the biggest impact — March onward.   

We plan to improve upon, expand, and refresh these charts on a weekly basis, so be sure to provide feedback here, and come back to check in on how things are trending over time.

You can also learn more about our methodology and the reasoning behind this study here, as well as view best practices for how to use this data.

How is COVID-19 impacting the travel industry?

Perhaps due to a combination of travelers changing plans and low costs, travel sites remained pretty steady through Q1, with a drop-off starting in March as everyone settled into quarantine-mode.

The first two weeks of March were marked by sharp spikes in queries for “flights to Italy” and “cheap flights” — presumably, consumers were initially trying to take advantage of low travel prices caused by decreased demand. The following two weeks revealed the exact opposite, with sharp decreases in clicks for those queries, revealing that the initial novelty of cheap travel quickly wore off as the spread of COVID-19 progressed.  

Is there less interest in moving into a new home or apartment? 

End of March saw the biggest declines for real estate (both “rent” and “buy/sell”, although the latter is temporarily missing from this chart) and construction categories. 

By the latter half of March, interest had shifted away from things like “open houses near me” and “refinance calculator” to “mortgage rates” and “is now a good time to buy a house” — revealing uncertainty and anxiety in the housing market.

There was a noticeable shift in the rental market as well, with interest shifting away from “apartments near me” to “rent relief” and “rent reduction.”

The construction industry saw a similar dip toward the end of March. Interest has since started to pick back up across all three categories.


How is Covid-19 impacting service industries?

People can do much of their shopping at home, but what about services? The closure of non-essential businesses definitely appears to be having an impact on this sector. 

For example, health services took a bit hit, likely because many doctor’s offices are only taking critical appointments, leading people to stop searching for doctors near them to make appointments with. 

Job and career service sites also took a hit. Covid-19 has forced many businesses to cut budgets and institute hiring freezes, which could be contributing to this decline. Specifically, interest in “cover letter”  “questions to ask in an interview” and “how to get a raise” are being traded for interest in “work from home jobs” and jobs in essential services sectors (e.g. grocery stores and shipping).

Service industries that are trending up include education, restaurant delivery, pet services, and legal. While it’s fairly obvious why online education services and restaurant delivery would be up, pet services and legal were surprising. Diving in further, it appears that while less people are searching for “dog boarding” (because we’re all at home), there was a huge uptick in interest for dog name ideas, indicating that the increased time at home has prompted many people to buy or adopt pets. For legal, the increased interest seems largely attributed to will creation and divorce. 

How is Covid-19 impacting the health industry?

Covid-19 is a public health issue, so naturally we wanted to look into how the pandemic is impacting a variety of health verticals, including health media, health retail, and health services.

Total demand in the health media vertical remained mostly steady with a slight uptick, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Drilling down, it seems that while quantity of demand is similar, the object of that demand has shifted greatly. This industry seems to be dominated almost exclusively by interest in Covid-19 symptoms, whereas before, the big traffic-drivers were things like diets and other common ailments like pink eye. 

As we saw in the previous chart, health services is trending down, while health retail is experiencing a surge due to queries for products like masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometers, which has recently begun to level off. 


How much are media streaming and internet usage surging?

With Covid-19 sending us all indoors, there’s obviously going to be an increase in media streaming, but we wanted to see how that correlated with internet services. Turns out, there is a correlation.

As media streaming services saw a surge in traffic, so too did internet companies. What was the cause? Understandably, there’s a surge in people searching for “speed test” — with so many people streaming from home, people are likely experiencing issues loading their shows and movies.


How is Covid-19 impacting essential vs non-essential home retail?

We wanted to better understand how being at home more often would impact traffic for both essential and non-essential home retailers. Does being stuck at home during a pandemic make people not only want to clean their home, but decorate it too? Turns out, that’s the case!

In addition to people looking to spiff up their home office setup (explaining the surge in traffic for things like desks and desk chairs), we’re also seeing a surge for things like patio furniture, trampolines, bedding, sofas, and rugs.


Are restaurant closures causing more people to get take-out, make food at home, or both?

Restaurants are closed, but we still have to get our food from somewhere. We wanted to know whether people were primarily getting their food delivered, cooking at home, or whether both were surging equally. Turns out, both are surging about equally in correlation with Covid-19, meaning there’s opportunity here for both media websites that publish recipe content as well as restaurants and delivery services, although, cooking & recipes has just recently begun to trend down, indicating that people may be getting tired of cooking so many meals at home.  


How is Covid-19 impacting the wedding industry?

Sadly, many people have had to postpone their weddings due to Covid-19. With venues closed and travel off the table, the wedding industry has definitely taken a hit. But are people still researching and making wedding-related purchases in anticipation of stay-at-home policies ending?

Our data indicates that both wedding media and wedding retail companies took an initial hit but are starting to make a comeback. People have been increasingly interested in reading about weddings, as indicated by the fact that the wedding media sector has seen a surge for the query “weddings.” In the wedding retail sector, interest in engagement rings and wedding rings is down, while new queries seem to be popping up around virtual ring try on.


How is Covid-19 impacting investments?

The end of February through mid-March saw a spike in traffic for both informational investment content and precious metal retail. Part of that was caused by a spike in interest for stimulus-related content. There has also been a good amount of fluctuation caused by “Boeing stock” and other airline-related investment topics. 

Check back again frequently for refreshed data as well as improvements to the charts, keywords, and categories we’re evaluating. Any improvements or additional data you’d like to see? Suggest it here!

Best practices for using this data

Having data is great. Acting on it is better.

How can we use the data in this study to inform our business efforts?

  1. To check our assumptions: Data is a great way to prove or disprove your hunches. This data can help you see whether you need to correct course or stay the course.
  2. As a springboard to look into our own data: Benchmarks are valuable. They can help us understand whether we’re doing better or worse than what’s considered “standard.” However, there’s nothing quite like your own site’s data. If you see something in this report that surprises or concerns you, use that as a catalyst to investigate your own site’s organic click data.
  3. To detect trends early & forecast: The data in this chart is updated weekly. It also aggregates data from multiple sites in a given category. This can help you understand where the industry might be moving, even before you start seeing those trends reflected in your data.
  4. As a record of past performance: Data over time is a helpful way to understand how you’re performing relative to past performance. If you’re noticing volatility now, is that more or less than in past weeks? Data over time can help you answer those questions.
  5. To understand & provide what your audience wants: Perhaps the most important way you can use this data is to understand what your audience needs at any given time so you can know how best to serve them. Pay close attention to what they’re looking for so that you can provide the content and website experience to match.