Patrick Berlinquette, founder of Berlin SEM, believes the data left behind in searches is invaluable and that understanding the meaning behind the search can save lives.
“From what I’ve seen, just as ads can get someone to buy a shoe or insurance, they can also convince someone to not carry out a violent or self-destructive act,” he wrote in an article on Medium.
“For the last few weeks, I’ve been serving ads to people in China who use VPNs to Google any phrase containing ‘“coronavirus”’ or ‘“COVID-19,’” He wrote. “My ads appear #1 at the top of their results page, promising them access to current information on the virus. There are ads in Chinese, for users who have their browser set to Chinese, and ads in English, for users who have their browser set to English.”
When someone clicks on the ads they are directed to a Chinese or English U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page about the coronavirus. The idea is to create content, so when someone clicks on a paid search ad in search results the ad leads to life-saving information. And there is no shortage of people going to search engines querying coronavirus-released content.
The U.S., Switzerland, France, Germany and the UK have shown the highest numbers of people searching for coronavirus-related queries, with increases of 425% in the United States, 327% in the United Kingdom, and 321% in France between Feb. 6 and March 9, according to data released Thursday from CodeFuel.
The data comes from “experimental data sets” that CodeFuel, a search technology division of Tel Aviv's Perion Network, hopes to prove before launching new products, said Tal Jacobson, GM of CodeFuel.
“We’re working on a few new products based on AI,” he said. “We have a lot of data sets.”
The search data, aggregated and anonymized, shows dramatic spikes in coronavirus-related searches in a variety of countries.
Searches in Switzerland rose 3,306% after South Korea reported its largest daily increase of patients on Feb. 22.
The three main peaks for searches in Italy occurred on March 1, when 566 new cases were confirmed in the country; March 5, when 769 new cases were confirmed; and March 8, when 1,492 new cases were confirmed.
Austria’s searches jumped 8,000% on Feb. 23, the day that Italy was named as the European country suffering from the greatest number of cases.
Early in February, when cases began to became more prominent in Europe, New Zealand’s Coronavirus search rate rose 714%, and the Netherlands' rate rose by 550%.
Unexpected numbers came from Luxembourg, which saw an increase of 466% in coronavirus searches in three days, between Feb. 23 and Feb. 26.
Aggregated data is based on various terms such as coronavirus, coronavirus update, coronavirus symptoms, corona virus, corona, coronavirus france, coronavirus map, symptoms of coronavirus, coronavirus news, coronavirus uk, n95 mask, pandemic, coronavirus death toll, coronavirus usa, ebola, coronavirus italy, wuhan, and coronavirus cure.
Google and Microsoft Bing are among the search engines CodeFuel works with.