Coronavirus Impact on Search Marketing

By Chris Roberts


Category: General

The new coronavirus COVID-19, affecting 192 countries and territories across the globe, has drastically changed our lives in past weeks. Health experts around the world are struggling to combat the virus and help people across the globe. But you might also be wondering, how does it affect Search Marketing? You might assume your clients are going to increase their search queries. This might be true for some queries, but for others, it will be the opposite, and search will decrease, as the pandemic continues. Most of your clients are probably already at home, either self-isolated because of the travel history, or because they don’t want to risk exposing themselves to the virus. Let’s find out how COVID-19 might impact your SEO strategy and Search Marketing in general, as well as SEO companies. To read more about the new coronavirus, click here.

COVID-19 Impact on the World of Search

Corona is not another Google update, but it will definitely affect rankings in some way, as well as the number of searches per day. Because many of the clients and customers are going to end up at home, the number of searches for particular queries will increase. However, because the virus is going to affect the economy, people’s lives, and their income, they might not be able to buy specific products or services at a certain point. However, at least in the beginning, it might also increase online purchases, as people cannot leave their homes. But it’s difficult to make any statements as it is unclear how the process will develop, and we hope we will be able to get back to normal life as soon as possible.

When we talk about changes, we should mention the cancellations of some significant events in the digital market world. Search Engine Journal points out conference cancellations due to the virus, such as the DealMaker London event scheduled for April 1, 2020, and CloudNext conference in San Francisco planned for April 6, 2020, which will be streamed online instead. Facebook also canceled its F8 developer conference and Global Marketing Summit in May and will hold it virtually. Altogether, the cancellation of major tech events has incurred over $1 billion in direct economic losses, according to estimates from PredictHQ.

The Basics of Search Marketing

Search marketing is the process of increasing visibility in search engines and gaining traffic through paid and unpaid ways. SEO – Search Engine Optimization – means gaining relevant traffic through free efforts. This includes keyword research, page maintenance, blogging, optimizing content, etc. SEM – Search Engine Marketing – is the process of obtaining traffic by paid ads on search engines.

When it comes to SEO, the most essential part of it is keywords and keyword research. Keywords are words and phrases used by users to find content online. Each keyword has its own search volume – the number of searches in a period of time. Based on the competition for the keyword, and how many clients each keyword can bring, we target keywords that are going to be most effective for us in a specific period of time.

How Will COVID-19 Affect Your Keyword Strategy?

Regardless of what business you run, if you want to keep your top positions in searches by your clients, you should consider targeting keywords associated with COVID-19. This is because it’s the most discussed topic right now and relevant to everyone. More than 90% of your clients have likely searched for “coronavirus” at least once, and some continue to search “COVID-19” daily. We recommend writing about COVID -19 so your clients get up-to-date information about the virus. Besides, writing about the new coronavirus will very likely help you appear in more searches as well.

Because you should also communicate with your clients how your strategy looks during the emergency, the articles you write can touch on the adjustments you make to your business during the pandemic. Are you going to offer services online? Are you going to have meetings online instead of your office? Are your office hours changing? Will you offer free shipping to encourage online purchases? You can answer all these in your blog.

Looking at Google Trends, we can conclude that the way people search, and what users search for, has changed dramatically since the outbreak of coronavirus. It is only natural that the interest for queries like “coronavirus” has increased.

Graph showing large increase in search intrest for term Coronavirus
Interest graph for “coronavirus.”

But users’ interest in searches like Italian food and Chinese food has decreased.

Graph showing decline in search interest for italian food since the coronavirus outbreak
Interest graph for “Italian food.”

Graph showing decline in searches for Chineese Food since the covid-19 pandemic
Interest for “Chinese food” after the virus outbreak in Wuhan, China, has decreased.

Graph showing sharp increase in searches for Face Masks since the pandemic outbreak in 2020
Interest for “face masks,” on the other hand, has increased since the breakout of COVID-19.

Because keyword competition plays an important role in the price for paid ads, it is rational to conclude that the price for ads that include keywords with less attention, will drop in price.

How Will COVID-19 Affect Ads?

Money spent on digital ads is going to be impacted by COVID-19, according to eMarketer estimates. In 2020, the expected amount for media ad spending is $691.70 billion, up 7% from 2019. The number is lower compared to their previous forecast, which estimated worldwide ad spending would increase by 7.4% to $712.02 billion in 2020.

EMarketer anticipates total media ad spending in China to reach $113.70 billion in 2020, down from the previous estimate of $121.13 billion. They also expect growth in digital Ad spending in China by 13%, which is a lower number compared to the last expectation, which was 15,2%.

“Companies with supply chains dependent on China might begin to reduce their ad spend as a way to mitigate economic losses.”


The above numbers might change, however; After Emarketer published their estimates, President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on most travel from Europe.

On March 5, 2020, Facebook announced that they would take down political ads if they contain misinformation about the new coronavirus. This is to keep Facebook users safe from disinformation. In the past few months, Facebook became the target for criticism as it allowed political ads that might have contained false information. But the company is rigorous when it comes to the health emergency and COVID-19.

“We’re removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations. We’re also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation — for example, claiming that their product can cure the disease.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO.

To help the World Health Organization in the situation, Facebook is giving free ads to combat the virus.

“We’re giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support. We’ll also give support and millions more in ad credits to other organizations, too, and we’ll be working closely with global health experts to provide additional help if needed.”

Mark Zuckerberg

According to Search Engine Land, it’s expected that Google and Facebook will experience ad revenue declines in travel and other industries most affected by global efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re monitoring COVID19 closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency. We’ll start rolling out this change in the days ahead.”

Rob Leathern, Director of Product Management at Facebook, on Twitter in regards to companies selling face masks.

Because there was a drastic shortage of medical masks, some companies started exploiting the situation and raising prices, as they knew terrified customers would buy their products.

“We’re banning ads and commerce listings selling medical face masks on Instagram and Facebook. Supplies are short, prices are up, and we’re against people exploiting this public health emergency. We’ll start rolling this out over the next few days.”

– Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram

A luxury international travel business reduced their budget by more than 50% compared to previous months – across all digital channels – because of the current situation, according to Michelle Morgan, director of client services at Clix Marketing. (Search Engine Land)

Some businesses will reduce the budget on their digital ads, as their business is affected by travel restrictions, and because customers cannot visit their stores or offices anymore. If someone owns a restaurant, they simply won’t invest in ads anymore, as nobody wants to pay to advertise a closed business.

On the other hand, some businesses that haven’t been offering services online might move to the digital world and create new ads. For instance, a restaurant that never previously offered delivery services might consider providing delivery service for the first time (if allowed in the region) and paying for digital ads.

And what about e-commerce? Online stores might benefit from the situation – as many customers are not allowed to, or choose not to, leave their houses. But in the long run, they might run out of supplies.

Online portals that offer videos, films, TV shows, and online books will most likely see an increase in customers. It’s absurd to conclude they will be out of supplies, as their ‘supplies’ are virtual. Most websites, like Netflix for example, have more than 4,000 movies and 1569 TV shows in their catalog. What sites like Netflix are going to see in the next few weeks is probably an increased number of users who binge-watch their shows.

As most people are forced to move to the virtual world because of the pandemic, we suggest you find ways to keep your business going and address the new unique issues arising from the current situation. And if the SEO world ends up reshaping in some way because of the virus, you can rest assured that SEO experts are going to adjust to the new reality as well and make adjustments to your SEO strategies accordingly.

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