Google Search Data Challenges How People Trend Through COVID-19

Despite U.S. consumers learning to cope in a global world where pandemics could evolve into a more common occurrence, reports suggest the number of new coronavirus infections in the United States have declined from a day earlier, reaching the lowest level in more than two months -- nine straight days with fewer than 50,000 new cases.

Search volumes are a strong indicator of what people think and do. Several companies are tracking the progress through Google Search.

Volume is leaning a bit toward out-of-home activities, though many keywords are trending down from the prior week, according to Robert W. Baird Analyst Colin Sebastian, who has been keeping an eye on trending keywords in Google search.

Google search volume for outdoor dining, for example, fell 2.5%, while volume for restaurants fell 6%, Yelp fell 3%, Uber fell 5%, Lyft fell 8%, masks fell 16%, and road trip fell 16%, compared with the prior week.

Recently, Baird’s search trends tracker also saw a slight decline in social media interest. For example, interest in Instagram fell 1%, Snapchat fell 4%, and Twitter fell 5%, each compared with the previous week.

In a reflection of how search behavior is becoming focused on “near me,” Uberall continues to keep an eye on near-me searches on Google Trends.

Searches for masks and access to COVID-19 testing locations are keys to reining in the virus, which will enable the economy to recover -- an outcome that all brands, retailers and SMBs badly need, according to Uberall.

Near-me searches for COVID tests also stand in for the continued vitality of near-me lookups, although people have been substantially confined to their homes and buying much more online. Brands will need to keep an eye on the trends as they invest more in campaigns.

Searches for COVID-19 testing locations are trending down in many states. More recently, however, from June 1 to July 31, the states with the highest proportion of “covid test near me” searches shifted dramatically to:

  • No. 1.  Florida, previously No. 6
  • No. 2.  Georgia, previously No. 3
  • No. 3.  Texas, previously No. 13
  • No. 4.  Arizona, previously No. 7
  • No. 5.  Louisiana, previously No. 25

Google began listing COVID-19 test centers in search results last April. Google in April began listing COVID-19 test centers in search, displaying information for more than 2,000 centers across 43 states in the U.S.

Public testing began to increase in April, when people searched for centers and quarantine orders went into place. Searches for COVID-19 tests on April 24 ultimately peaked before falling and then stabilizing through late May. 

Analysis by Uberall on the Google data shows the interest in testing was initially flat, “reflecting the way in which many parts of the country still weren’t taking the virus seriously.”

From April 1 to May 31, the states with the highest proportion of “covid test near me” search queries were New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Illinois, and California.

The states with the lowest were South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, and Alaska. 

The research states that at the end of May, “covid test near me” searches trended downward for a few days. At that time, coronavirus cases had been declining slightly nationwide, settling into a plateau (May 23 cases = 22,717 vs. May 31 = 20,039 cases). This led to a very brief drop in the number of tests during the first few days of June, according to Uberall data.

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