Impact Of COVID-19 Lockdown On Worldwide Search Behaviors
Search Behaviors and keyword trends have gone for a toss in the past week. Social distancing and home quarantine have resulted in irregularities in click behaviors across all sectors. Grocers, Restaurants, Hotels, Productivity sites, and E-commerce are the spaces that have seen the most action (or the least in some cases).
If we take a glance at Google Trends the growth swings are quite evident. Most of the surges in search volume has been around representative search terms in the bulk, grocery, and online productivity categories. Social distancing and lockdown measures have forced people to turn their attention solely towards the internet for most of their activities ‘at home’. People are forced to prepare food at home since restaurants and online food delivery services are temporarily closed. The keyword “groceries” saw a whopping 446% increase in terms of search volume for the week ending March 21compared to the same period in 2019 as per Google Trends data. “Online groceries” and “grocery delivery” are the closest related keywords which saw a similar growth pattern.
To avoid gatherings and in-person events many conferences have moved online and travel plans have been postponed. Most of the companies around the world has shifted their employees to work from home scenario. These factors led to a surge in the usage of many online peers to peer work platforms and video conferencing apps.
Trends data clearly shows an increase in search patterns for Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype. All of these platforms saw their highest search interest with YoY growth ranging from 270% for Skype to1057% for Zoom.
On the contrary, keywords like “hotels”, “restaurants” and other local businesses have seen a significantly low amount of search interest which is normal in the current scenario.
This is an unforeseen situation and all types of businesses are being affected as a result of this. It is advisable for all businesses to hold on and try to adapt to the situation in order to accommodate the new set of customers’ needs and also to find new solutions for their workforces who are working remotely. Nobody knows for how long this situation will last, it might continue for several weeks, if not months.
Search behavior is a reflection of the users’ preferences and it’s clear that people are now more focused on tackling their new way of life and preparing themselves for the long run. They are less likely to concentrate on leisure activities for the time being.
Mobile-First Indexing: What Should You Do?
Google in their latest update announced that they are now primarily focusing on mobile-first indexing and they are planning to shift to mobile-first indexing for all websites by September 2020. As per their analysis stated in their update, 70% of all sites that currently appear in their search results have already been shifted to this new category. They have also made it clear that they will be shifting the remaining sites to this new indexing method as and when their systems identify that the sites are ready for the same.
So what does this mean? It means that there will be a significant increase Googlebot’s crawling of the web, primarily the smartphone Googlebot. According to Google they will update their index for each site’s mobile version and there will be a variation in time depending on the domain of each website. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Google will stop using its traditional desktop Googlebot but the frequency will decrease and most of the crawling for Search will be done with their mobile smartphone user-agent.
It is absolutely no surprise for SEO veterans as Google had been working on this for the past four years and we (as in the world of the internet) have come a long way and our preferences have widely shifted from desktop to mobile viewing. Google started its mobile-first indexing process long back in 2016 and we had plenty of time to get ready for this.
Some key pointers for optimizing for mobile-first indexing are:
- On-page content is the same on mobile and desktop versions
- Meta data is the same on both versions
- Structured data is the same on both versions
Apart from the above pointers the top priority for mobile-first indexing is responsive web design. Google also prohibits the usage of mobile specific URLs (also known as “m-dot”)because it primarily causes issues and confusion for viewers and search engines alike.
An increase Googlebot’s crawling, particularly from the mobile smartphone user-agent is asure sign that your site has been moved to mobile-first indexing.
The following can also help you:
- Search Console (settings page)
- URL inspection tool
Google’s guidance with regards to optimizing a site for mobile-first indexing remains the same.
Furthermore, you are likely to receive the following notice if your site has not been moved over yet:
Indexing and ranking of your web pages in Google might take a hit If Google has issues with accessing your site with the mobile-crawler. The deadline is September 2020 and if you have received the above notice then it’s time for you to take action for your website to be mobile-friendly.