A Glimpse of COVID’s Impact on Search and SEO

Behind each key phrase question is a consumer’s search intent; the explanation an individual typed a string of phrases into the search bar. Check out this evaluation from Semrush, the digital advertising and marketing platform, to see how folks’s relationship to the pandemic modified over time. Want much more SEO traits and visitors benchmarks? Download the whole Semrush State of Search 2022 ebook right now.

The surge and decline of key phrases is sort of a temper ring for the way the world has felt in regards to the pandemic. As vaccines rolled out, folks searched much less for COVID testing and extra for inoculation. Search intent shifted from taking part in offense, in the direction of protection.

As eating places closed and we remoted ourselves inside, demand for meals supply skyrocketed (surprisingly, not for Domino’s pizza!). As journey restrictions eased, folks shifted away from restriction-mode to cocktail-on-the-beach mode.

Keyword traits reveal the internal workings of pandemic mindsets. Google turned the nameless helpline for COVID-related worries, hopes, and life planning.

The pandemic additionally launched a completely new vernacular—it modified the way in which we converse. With that, an array of search phrases was created. “PCR” and “rapid-test” have been on the ideas of our tongues and fingers as folks searched for methods to grasp their well being standing.

COVID search traits even confirmed who we (effectively, who Google) put belief in. The search engine outcomes web page (SERP) for the key phrase “coronavirus” gave weight to native authorities over nationwide ones. It most well-liked information from a privately held firm, fairly than the world famend John Hopkins University.
Semrush analyzed search, key phrase, and natural visitors information over an 18 month interval (March 2020 – August 2021) to see how on-line consumer conduct developed via the lens of COVID. Let’s begin with a brand new method to converse.

In the US alone, folks Googled “covid vaccine near me” over 38 million occasions each single month. The following key phrases had a median month-to-month search quantity of over 1 million from March 2020 – August 2021, within the US.

Some of these phrases weren’t related on the onset of the info interval (March 2020), as there was no vaccine. That means the present common of some of the key phrases is way increased than what you see right here!

Of the 425 key phrases that displayed probably the most search quantity progress within the US since March 2020, here’s a breakdown of the most well-liked terminology discovered throughout the key phrase set.


Some of these phrases weren’t related on the onset of the info interval (March 2020), as there was no vaccine. That means the present common of some of the key phrases is way increased than what you see right here!

Of the 425 key phrases that displayed probably the most search quantity progress within the US since March 2020, here’s a breakdown of the most well-liked terminology discovered throughout the key phrase set.


Keywords associated to vaccines turned extra widespread than key phrases associated to COVID testing. This information highlights the craving for an answer to COVID (vaccines), over a mitigation (assessments).

Keyword Changes Over Time

To seize evolving attitudes in the direction of the pandemic, we tracked the rise and lower in search quantity for pandemic-related key phrases from June – August 2021. Particularly, to see how the vaccine roll-out impacted what folks have been looking on Google.

Of the 47 COVID-related key phrases that decreased by 40% or extra within the designated time-frame, right here’s what they’d in frequent.

  • 8 key phrases (like “covid relief bill” and related) relate to the COVID stimulus. As there was no indication of one other stimulus within the US, this development of decreased searches is smart.
  • 18 key phrases (like “covid 19 india” and “covid colorado”) immediately relate to or indicate a necessity to grasp the quantity of circumstances in a location. As the pandemic has dragged on, regardless of surges, folks have been much less within the “numbers.”
  • 9 key phrases (like “nose burning coronavirus” and “is coronavirus testing free”) relate to testing or signs associated to COVID. This lower might indicate that individuals already knew the routine when it got here to testing or figuring out indicators of COVID an infection.

Vaccine Keywords

We additionally checked out 325 of the most well-liked key phrases associated to COVID vaccines. Here the typical search quantity was 44,994 searches per thirty days.


Of the highest 10 vaccine-related key phrases, 9 of them are about vaccine availability domestically, with each the names of the vaccine and/or institution talked about within the question itself.

The tenth hottest vaccine-related key phrase, “covid vaccine side effects,” speaks to the need to learn about choices associated to private well being, with 125K month-to-month common Google searches.

In reality, key phrases that relate to the unwanted side effects of the vaccine have been evident in over 8% of the most well-liked vaccine-related key phrases, additional indicating a need to learn. “Side effect” key phrases have been much more widespread than vaccine producers, corresponding to “Pfizer” or “Moderna.”


The Coronavirus SERP

To get a snapshot of probably the most distinguished pandemic authorities (within the eyes of Google), we tracked probably the most extremely ranked websites for the key phrase “coronavirus” from March 2020 – September 2021.

Here are the highest 10 domains:


Unsurprisingly, the CDC and the WHO are the highest two rating URLs on common.

When solely the top-ranking URLs, of the highest 20 domains, 14 are government-run web sites. Out of these 14 websites, an astounding 9 of them are native authorities websites, not nationwide websites. Of these 9, one is a hyper-local area—lacountry.gov (in the event you embody dc.gov you possibly can argue that 2 out of 9 are hyper-local domains).

Google opted for much less nationwide protection, and extra native protection, on the SERP for this important key phrase, “coronavirus”. This raises the query—why was one state authorities ranked and one other not? For instance, New York, one of the hardest-hit states, was not among the many high 20 domains.

State-run websites additionally tended to rank higher than different nationwide well being websites such because the NIH and even the FDA.

Also noteworthy is the extent to which Google positioned belief within the privately run worldometers.data, owned by Dadax, LLC. Worldometers.data was most well-liked by Google over information collected by Johns Hopkins University—the one .edu on this listing.

When wanting on the top-ranking domains and contemplating all of the URLs from these domains that rank among the many high 50 outcomes, the outcomes open up a bit.

For instance, right here the CDC’s coronavirus.gov was the eighth best-ranked website general, not the sixteenth. Also, the ArcGIS information dashboard, powered by Johns Hopkins, ranks among the many high 20, together with Wikipedia and the extra acquainted Washington Post.

Still, native authorities websites dominated with a exhibiting of 7 domains.

Lastly, the IRS appeared on the highest 20 listing. This was possible an indicator of how vital the monetary facet of the pandemic was to Google, because the IRS website was the epicenter of varied stimulus checks.

It’s prudent to do not forget that the highest of the SERP, the above the fold part, was dominated by Google’s personal properties, powered by varied information sources:

Industry Snapshot: Restaurants 

One of the most important modifications to life throughout the pandemic was the flexibility to frequent eateries. As lockdowns turned half of regular life there was an apparent shift to takeout and supply choices.

To higher qualify this shift, we analyzed the highest rising restaurant-related web sites as measured by their progress throughout the first 5 months of the pandemic relative to their natural presence throughout the 5 months main as much as the pandemic.

Overall, there was a 26.65% enhance in natural visitors throughout the vertical. Here are the highest 10 rising websites throughout the restaurant key phrase class, all associated to meals supply.


5 of the ten eatery-related websites with probably the most natural progress on the onset of the pandemic are associated to on-line meals supply. DoorDash topped the listing of such websites with 122.65% natural progress!

However, the highest rising website, with 264.26% natural progress was Gold Belly, a website the place native eateries are featured for delivery throughout the US. This may level to the significance of supporting native and smaller institutions throughout the peak of the pandemic.

The 2nd and third listed websites, “alohaorderonline”and “toasttab” are each associated to software program options to assist native eating places thrive on-line.

The precise eateries that confirmed probably the most natural visitors progress on the onset of the pandemic embody:


Absent from the listing are some of the most important chains corresponding to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and many others. Perhaps as a result of these fast-food institutions usually are not recognized for his or her supply providers. Dominos, nevertheless, clearly recognized for supply, can be absent from this listing.

As the world opens, these progress numbers stagger. Heading into the spring of 2021, and summer season of 2021, the websites analyzed right here have been not on a progress trajectory. They started a reclining development in the direction of normalized ranges.

Industry Snapshot: Travel

The journey trade was despatched right into a tail-spin as nations, cities, and airways shut down. We analyzed key phrases that had little to no searches (search quantity) however confirmed probably the most progress throughout the pandemic. The thought is to indicate how the journey trade and folks modified because of this of the pandemic.

Looking at key phrases with the very best common month-to-month search volumes (March 2020 – August 2021), there’s a predominance in the direction of discussing journey bans and restrictions. Keywords corresponding to “travel hawaii gov,” “pennsylvania travel restrictions,” and “eu travel restrictions” went from nothing to tens of 1000’s of searches per thirty days.

In reality, the typical progress in search quantity of the 300 journey/COVID key phrases we analyzed is simply above 22,000%!

Of these 300 key phrases, the next phrases have been probably the most frequent. This highlights how consumer conduct modified with regards to journey queries and what info is probably the most related.


However, this development is fading quick. As the world reopens, astounding search quantity averages for these key phrases have decreased.

Looking on the similar key phrase set from June – August 2021 (as inoculations rolled out and the US reopened extra and extra), the identical dataset solely grew 65%. Meaning, search quantity progress for key phrases associated to bans, restrictions, and COVID was down over 99%!

The information demonstrates a shift away from a “restrictions” perspective of journey. Good information for the journey trade! People are returning to their “normal” mindset round journey.

Organic Traffic on the Web

In 2020, the highest 100K websites inside our dataset acquired a median of 1,559,337 visits per thirty days. In 2021, that quantity jumped to 1,603,418—a 2.83% enhance. However, a lot of the rise is because of ranges earlier than the pandemic.

January 2020 – March 2020 the typical quantity of web site visitors was 1,308,556, with a month-to-month excessive of 1,405,230 (February 2020). April 2020 noticed a median of 1,693,276. Meaning, the pandemic resulted in a 29% enhance in visitors.


After January 2021, visitors ranges got here again down. This is maybe the tip of peak COVID visitors and a return to a normalized SERP. What that stage of normalization is, stays to be seen.


The visitors development helps what’s being seen within the ecommerce house particularly. Overall, ecommerce noticed a big shrinking of its collective natural visitors. Year-over-year, general natural visitors for ecommerce websites decreased 23.24%.


Amazon noticed an much more vital downturn with a 37.5% loss of natural visitors in comparison with 2020. This represents Amazon dropping 18.58% of its natural visitors market share.

However, we’re not at pre-pandemic ranges on this house both.

In reality, the primary 3 months of 2020 offered 15% much less natural visitors to ecommerce websites than what was recorded between July – September 2021.


While the world’s ecommerce conduct is returning to pre-COVID ranges, we’re not there but. But, will we ever be?

It’s nonetheless unclear if natural visitors throughout the ecommerce sphere will finally return to pre-COVID ranges or if the pandemic left us with a brand new regular (15% extra natural visitors to ecommerce websites relative to pre-pandemic ranges). If the latter, a stabilization level of natural ecommerce visitors stays unknown.

Overall Takeaway

Release of the COVID-19 vaccine put the world on a brand new trajectory. It additionally reset the natural advertising and marketing panorama. Organic visitors was up general in 2021, however noticed a downturn that started with the sluggish world reopening. As in-person experiences turned safer, folks spent much less time in entrance of pc screens and extra trip on the earth.

Understanding this new context for natural visitors is important to forecasting natural progress and analyzing efficiency over the previous yr. It additionally means so much is left unresolved. While it’s extremely unlikely the natural panorama will return to pre-COVID ranges, we nonetheless don’t know what is going to occur.

The stunning shift in ecommerce websites and Amazon’s weakened grip on the SERP might level in the direction of a brand new on-line procuring panorama. Curb-side pickup demand might drop off the face of the earth, or it might simply be getting began. Smaller ecommerce gamers may win SERP floor, or the large boss Google Shopping might sweep all of it away.

Keep cautious observe of modifications in patterns however don’t rush to conclusions. It’s vital to fastidiously observe what’s occurring to your website and what’s occurring throughout the ecosystem itself. The sands are nonetheless shifting and nobody is aware of the way it will all finally play out. Monitoring the scenario fastidiously is the very best factor you are able to do for the success of your website or your shopper’s website.

To study extra, obtain the whole Semrush State of Search 2022 ebook. It’s filled with relevant perception into key phrase traits, consumer conduct, and trade benchmarks. If you’re able to stage up your search advertising and marketing recreation, that is the book you want. 


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