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Google shares search insights for COVID-19 recovery

by Michelle Hill

July 1, 2020

With the majority of UK businesses reopening over the next couple of weeks, the recovery period begins for the vast majority affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The good news for businesses is that shoppers are already hitting the high street and the British public still knows how to form an orderly queue - albeit a slightly longer, socially-distanced one.

With the emphasis now on COVID-19 recovery plans, Google has provided us with some search insights to help us put effective strategies in place. Here’s what they had to say.

Growing interest in domestic travel

With international travel set for a slow recovery and summer plans in turmoil, people in the UK are turning their attention to domestic travel. According to Global Web Index’s Coronavirus Research May 2020 report, 49% of people in the country say they would prefer to take a domestic trip over the next 12 months and 30% are considering staycations.

At the same time, Google’s own search data reveals growing interests in domestic travel habits with a clear emphasis on the outdoors.

Search volumes for “camping,” “campervan” and outdoor activities, such as surfing and mountain biking, have all increased over the past 90 days, too. As the UK emerges from lockdown, the picture of what a summer holiday looks like now for most of the country is very different.

UK travel brands that normally rely on foreign visitors are going to have to wait for any sense of normality but there are opportunities for recovery in the domestic market for brands able to adapt.

New gaps have emerged in your search strategy

With such dramatic shifts in search behaviour over the past few months, brands need to reassess their search marketing strategies to take advantage of new opportunities and plug gaps in their search coverage.

The consumer journey is different post-COVID-19 and shoppers have very different priorities now. Some of the touchpoints you were targeting before lockdown might not be so relevant and new opportunities will also be there.

We already know that, even in normal times, 15% of all searches made on Google each day have never been searched before. The coronavirus outbreak has only fuelled changing search habits and brands need to react - especially those that paused their search marketing efforts during lockdown.

Google suggests brands need to focus on maximising search coverage to be present across the entire funnel. Aside from re-evaluating our target audiences’ search habits and keyword opportunities, Google recommends combining broad match keywords with Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) in Google Ads to expand reach.

Broad match keywords will allow your ads to show for the widest range of keyword variations while DSAs use content from your landing page to generate ad copy that’s relevant to user keywords. So you’re casting a wider net with broad match keywords but still achieving relevance with Dynamic Search Ads.

Consumer priorities are different

As mentioned above, consumer priorities have changed dramatically as a result of the coronavirus outbreak but what does the data actually tell us? Going back to the Global Index report mentioned earlier, the same study shows that after a period of stockpiling, UK shoppers are more selective about their purchases.

A key trend that’s emerging is an increased interest in sustainability and the social responsibility of brands/products. According to GWI, 42% of shoppers say COVID-19 has made it a lot more important that companies behave sustainably and 37% want to see companies reduce the amount of single-use plastics.

However, this comes at a time where disposable PPE is in demand and public transport is considered more dangerous than travelling by car.

Google search data also reveals strong declines in searches for clothes, cosmetics and beauty during lockdown. At the same time, interest in home improvements, gardening and exercise saw some of the biggest increases.

It will be interesting to see how these interests change as lockdown is eased and social distancing is relaxed. In the meantime, brands need to keep an eye on search trends and be ready to react to changes in consumer behaviour.

Local searches are on the rise

During lockdown, local searches unsurprisingly took a hit with the vast majority of businesses closing to the public. During this period, “when will” searches emerged as a trend, highlighting the desire of people to see a return to normal (or something close to it) as soon as possible.

Now, “when will” searches are on the decline and a new rise in “near me” searches shows that people are keen to interact with businesses in their area. According to Google, generic searches like “what is open” have turned into “what is open near me” as lockdown measures are eased.

Some local businesses have already benefited from COVID-19 travel restrictions and a greater emphasis on buying local could present a major opportunity as businesses reopen.

Above all, local businesses need to make sure they have a presence on platforms like Google My Businesses and keep their details up-to-date so people in the area can find them online and get all the information they need before attempting to visit.

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