Project Description

May 2020

The World of B2B

Richard Willett
Richard WillettOnline Marketing Manager

Search behaviour during the pandemic

Run for Heroes. The Pillow Challenge. The Bill Clinton albums meme. Even Captain Tom Moore’s phenomenal fundraising achievement. There have been many things online to entertain and inspire us during lockdown and essentially, all these challenges and stories are designed to distract us from how we’re currently feeling.

But how are we feeling? Is social media giving us a true reflection of public sentiment?

Not an easy question to answer, but Google can give us a few clues.

Evolving searches and country insights

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Google has been monitoring global search trends and documenting the findings in fortnightly articles. The results have been rather enlightening.

Initially, people were looking for information on ‘how to pay’ (South Africa) and ‘applying for self-employment benefits’ (Netherlands), but as the pandemic developed and global economies shrank, searches became even more concerned with financial difficulties. Searches for ‘credit exemption’, ‘business loans’ (Italy), ‘unemployment grant’ (Egypt) and ‘payment relief’ (South Africa) highlight the ever-increasing financial concerns people are facing.

The continued lockdown has also seen a shift in priorities, with people initially thinking about personal care, searching for things such as ‘acrylic nail kit’, ‘dog grooming kit’ and ‘cut hair yourself’. This appears to have evolved as people have settled into their daily routines. People are thinking more about spending time outside where they can, with searches for ‘hammock’ (Norway), ‘jacuzzi garden’ (Germany) and ‘pressure washer’ (UK) all generating more searches. So people’s priorities are certainly changing.

What does this mean for B2B brands?

Gaining true user insight has always been tricky, but it has never been more essential. It’s a hugely difficult time for marketers, but user insight can put us on more productive ground when it comes to messaging. Social is very often the go-to arena for discovering what people are talking about, but in these times of users wanting/needing to learn about topics that are unfamiliar to them, analysing search trends can be more revealing. No matter what industry you’re in, many search terms will have a propensity to rise or fall during the pandemic. Keeping abreast of these changing search trends can help us improve tone of voice, content plans and timings.

For example, the recent 5G conspiracy theories have brought about an unprecedented rise in searches around 5G:

Although the claims around 5G and the spread of the coronavirus are completely unfounded, it’s important to understand what users are looking for answers to. The volume of users wanting to know more about 5G technology, the potential dangers, and information on the masts themselves has sharply increased, and brands need to make sure that they have the content to appease these users. Lack of information means an increase in confusion, which breeds doubt and impacts trust.

Time to listen

Brands are understandably nervous about what content to create and when during these uncertain times. My advice: listen. Not just to your ‘target audience’ but to everyone, because your target audience is currently being influenced from every which way. Create content that answers the questions that people are searching for. This will result in people gaining true value from your content, and your content will have a greater chance of ranking well on search.

After that, there should still be time to take part in the Pillow Challenge, should you so wish.

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