How has Covid affected our search activity?

As we’ve now passed a year since our first lockdown, we couldn’t resist diving into some data.

  • Search & Social

What we’ve done here is use Google Trends to create graphs on a collection of searches we believe to be most relevant during the ‘Covid Era’.

We categorised them in 5 different ways:

  • Ways we’ve looked to adapt
  • Searches that have been damaged by lockdown
  • Rising concerns
  • How we’ve maintained our sanity
  • How we’ve worked on improving ourselves

In each of the 5 categories, we’ve identified 5 different searches worth looking at. So, a total of 25 searches. Of course, there’s a larger number of searches affected by Covid than 25. But our graphs could only get so messy.

Speaking of the graphs, we’ve gone with the date range of everything from January 2010 onwards. And forewarning, they do get a little hectic. So, our advice is to choose 1 colour to focus on at a time.

 

Covid Adaption:

Covid Adaption Graph

For this we used the following search interests:

  • Video Conferencing Software
    • The concept of video conferencing has been around since the 1870s. Before they even invented the telephone. Bit strange. But it wasn’t until around the late 2000s that it became commonly used.
    • Skype was probably the first major and globally used software for video calling. But it’s since declined in popularity and paved the way for Zoom.
    • Either way, you can see that search interest has been fairly consistent and low over the last 10 years. However, the first lockdown sparked a lot of interest for businesses to compare and trial the best solution for their workforce. And that quickly came back down after 2 months. So, it seems that in that period, Zoom capitalized on market share.
  • Face Masks
    • Now of course this is an easy trend to assess. Culturally, face masks have been practically non-existent in the UK before the pandemic.
    • The demand shot up rapidly entering 2020 and hit a second, much higher peak, in the summer.
    • The purchase of face masks seems to have adapted over the past year from purely practical to more fashionable choices. Many businesses even branding their face masks.
  • Business Loan
    • Covid has undoubtedly hit a vast majority of employers and employees hard in the past year. With that stemmed a significant spike in demand for business loans.
    • Hitting a peak as we entered the first lockdown. But still significantly higher than average a year later.
  • Desk For Home
    • With the lockdown came the adoption of home working setups. While a kitchen table could suffice many have looked to the likes of Ikea and Amazon for a more professional and work-oriented space.
    • This hasn’t yet come down as search demand remains significantly higher than usual. This is largely due to many businesses looking to adapt to a more long-term working from home system.
  • Laptop
    • Typically much higher than the other searches, there was still a notable peak over the past year which has interestingly seen its highest demand at the start of this year.

 

Covid Affected:

Covid Affected Graph

For this we used the following search interests:

  • Cinemas Near Me
    • Focusing now on leisurely activities we have of course been significantly restricted over the past year.
    • One of many industries to have substantial financial losses is the film industry. With hundreds of cinemas closing for good and production and release of major blockbuster films coming to a halt.
    • Interestingly, cinemas searches were on a continuous upward trend over the last 10 years. But they plummeted to nothing over lockdown and remain significantly lower than the numbers shown in 2018 and 2019.
  • Hotels
    • Here we see that hotel demands have been consistent over the last 10 years but of course dropped over lockdown.
    • Interestingly, when looking at purely search demand, the drop in demand was the least significant of these 5 that we’re looking at. Some hotels were able to adapt with covid friendly rules that enabled them to stay open.
  • Flights
    • We see a very similar trend here to hotels as they often go together. However, the financial losses are on a much larger scale and they’ve struggled to return to their previous demand as quickly as hotels.
  • Restaurants Near Me
    • This is one of the weirder trends in this article. Like cinema searches, we’ve been seeing a rising demand leading up to last year. And again, like the others, it plummeted over the first lockdown.
    • However, as you can see the demand for local restaurants sky-rocketed late last year hitting an all-time peak record. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Gym Near Me
    • Those searching for a workout have followed a very similar trend to those wanting a trip to the cinema. Demand here dropped just as significantly as cinemas over lockdown and then rose back up late 2020 to similar levels as before.
    • Interestingly, unlike cinemas, you might argue that it’s much harder to make gyms more adhering to covid rules than cinemas. At least when you sit down at the cinema you’re not resting your back against the fresh sweat of about 30 others people. Although it largely depends on the film.

 

Covid Worries:

Covid Worries Graph

For this we used the following search interests:

  • Redundancy
    • Over the last year we’ve become much more concerned with our job security and vulnerability to covid. This has made us more informed on employment laws and how to live healthier lifestyles.
    • Here you will see that those searching on the topic of redundancies hit an all-time high over the summer with many businesses struggling to survive a second lockdown.
    • This seems to have come back down this year as we look to stabilise and recoup losses.
  • Furlough
    • Now this search follows a very similar pattern to face masks.
    • The word itself has been around since the early 1600s and has been utilised ever since. However, at a national scale, it’s been particularly relevant during the pandemic, and search interest spiked out of nowhere around the time of the first lockdown as you would imagine.
  • Water Per Day
    • Moving on to health concerns many people are adjusting their lifestyles, particularly older demographics, to stave off vulnerability to covid and other threats.
    • The particular search here that we’re focusing on is “how much water should you drink a day”.
    • As you can see this is regularly quite high but has grown significantly at the start of this year and last year. So that’s a combination of covid health concerns and the usual post-Christmas clarity where you’ve eaten your weight in Yorkshire puds and chocolate.
  • Sleep Per Day
    • Similar to water, sleep is a fundamental way to improve your lifestyle. So the search we focus on here revolves around “how much sleep should you get a day”.
    • Like water, this has seen an all-time peak at the start of this year, however, this wasn’t too far outside the rising trend we’ve been seeing over the last 10 years.
  • Doctor Visit Frequency
    • Doctors and dentists are potentially the most feared workers across the globe. Many of us can quietly admit to ourselves that we’re not looking after ourselves as well as we should.
    • However, there’s an interesting trend here. The search for “how often should you see your doctor” has been on an upward trend as with the others, but due to the NHS being overwhelmed over the pandemic, this search has taken a bit of a back step. The search has since returned to previous demand and has actually hit a particular peak this month.

 

Entertainment:

Entertainment Graph

For this we used the following search interests:

  • Streaming Services
    • Introverts around the world have rejoiced at the thought of government-sanctioned home time.
    • However, while many have reveled in the opportunity to catch up on their hobbies, we’ve still found ourselves struggling to decide how to fill our newly acquired time.
    • Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are one of many areas that saw significant growth over lockdown, hitting an all-time peak in the first lockdown, and then a second higher peak this year. Raise your hand if you’ve completed Netflix.
  • Best Books
    • Once people completed Netflix, after a period of rabid response to the latest available shows and documentaries, we began to turn our attention to the past.
    • So, these are variations on the searches of best-of lists. People looking to indulge in the forgotten classics that they never got round to.
    • It appears that most of these spike every year around Christmas time. One part due to us having more time on our hands and another part due to buying others a book or DVD that the internet thinks is unmissable.
    • Searches on books have been on the rise for the last 10 years, defying the notion that they’re going out of fashion. And while there’s usually only 1 peak a year in demand there were 2 peaks last year undoubtedly due to lockdown.
  • Best Films
    • Interestingly, while films have followed a similar pattern to books, they didn’t get the second peak that the lockdown brought around for books. Aren’t we a sophisticated bunch?
  • Best TV Shows
    • Those in demand of the best tv shows were on the rise, up until 2014 when it started to even out. However, it did hit an all-time high in the first lockdown last year.
  • Best Podcasts
    • Now podcasts have been on the most significant trajectory out of these 5 and are certainly in high demand these past 2 years. With such a growth in podcast content, those searching for the best are growing in numbers. And this hit an all-time peak during the lockdown.
    • Shout out to Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and of course Karly Pilkboys. The original Podfathers.

 

Self-Improvement:

Self-Improvement Graph

For this we used the following search interests:

  • Home Gym
    • This was particularly booming business during the lockdown. Those searching for home gyms, weight plates, treadmills and so on.
    • I myself forked over an unreasonable amount of money to complete a home gym setup. And it led to a few emotional drives home when discovering the message "Out Of Stock" applied to the physical stores not just the website.
    • While fitness products were rare to come by online it didn’t stop us searching. The first lockdown brought about as significant a peak as we saw with face masks!
  • Online Courses
    • It’s admirable and suspicious that without even flinching the general population dived online to fill their lockdown time with education.
  • Language Learning
    • Another way we looked to improve ourselves was by learning a language. With fantasies of returning to Spain or France next summer with a fluent understanding of the locals.
    • As you can see, this also saw a significant increase over the first lockdown and has risen again at the start of this year.
  • Learn Piano
    • We could have looked at any instrument here and we did for the most part. But it appears learning the piano saw the most significant increase during lockdown. Shout out to my fellow pianists out there! How good do you have to be to refer to yourself as a pianist? Maybe piano enthusiast is less risqué.
  • Meditation
    • Spirituality and its practices have been a rising interest over the last 10 years online. Some odd data here though. Searches around meditation hit an all-time high at the start of lockdown but also saw one of its more significant drops towards the end of the year.

 

That’s all the data and insight we have here for now. Hopefully you can take some interesting nuggets out of it, even if it only serves the purpose of small talk. Check back on the blog and our socials for regular analysis and posts about all things digital.