The State of Search: COVID-19 and a Rise in Desktop Search

Search results experienced some turbulence throughout March. Although Google has not confirmed the occurrence of an algorithm update, sensors reported volatility resembling that of an update specifically around March 18th-20th, 24th, and again, at the end of the month, as demonstrated in the graph below:

REQ SERP Volatility in March 2020

Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted nearly every industry and business across the world, it’s difficult to attribute major SERP changes to Google algorithm updates, alone. During this time, it’s important to consider changes in user behavior and search intent as safety measures that directly impact users’ day-to-day are enforced. 

According to Microsoft Advertising, desktop search is on the rise as most companies have moved to telework status, students are completing spring semesters online, and shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders have been issued. As a result, search patterns are changing as people are spending more and more time researching, shopping, and consuming media, online. This reinforces the importance of maintaining a strong search presence during this time. 

Additionally, the intent of some search queries has likely evolved or shifted over the last four weeks given the current climate. It’s important to closely monitor keyword rankings and queries in Google Search Console for major changes that could potentially be leveraged with new content that better satisfies the current needs and interests of users.  

In an effort to provide users with the best, most accurate information during this unprecedented time, Google has taken measures to help better inform users about COVID-19. Google has also taken measures to help businesses more accurately share changes to their operations and services with users by providing new schema and Google My Business (GMB) features:

  • Google published a COVID-19 specific health site sharing information and resources and recently released a new guide on how health organizations can make COVID-19 information more available on their sites. 
  • New schema properties for virtual, postponed, and canceled events were released to help sites display the most accurate and up-to-date information as the COVID-19 environment evolves. 
  • GMB now offers a COVID-19 update post option so businesses can share changes made to their businesses as a result of COVID-19, directly in the SERPS (i.e. temporarily closed):
Google COVID-19 Business Listing Updates

What this means for you

As search behavior and users’ priorities shift during this time, it is important to consider how the intent of some of your target keywords may have evolved as well. We will be closely monitoring target keyword rankings and queries in GSC for major changes that could lead to new content recommendations for your sites. We’ll also be monitoring Google Trends for questions and topics pertaining to your industries for opportunities to take advantage of on your sites. Lastly, Google’s new COVID-19 schema and GMB post should be leveraged where relevant to keep users and Google up to date on changes in business operations. 

Let’s talk.