Even Search Terms Shift Amidst a Pandemic


Things have been heavy—both at home and at the (virtual) office the past few months. While we’ve been hunkering down and keeping our distance, we’ve also reassessed what we want out of life—and how we can improve our mindset and focus. After all, good can come from mess.

According to Pinterest (most known for finding the latest instapot recipe or yarn wall hanging DIY), with COVID-19 creating new life stressors, more people than ever before are turning to the beloved inspirational platform for well-being and self-care. From February to May, searches have shifted from how to keep a succulent alive to mental wellness/meditation ideas (+44%), gratitude (+60%) and positivity (+42%).

And the positivity doesn’t stop there.

In challenging and uncertain times, sparks of creativity and a now-or-never attitude are ignited. No longer are we waiting for the “perfect time” to grow our family or build that house … instead, we’re taking life by the horns and making it happen now, damnit.

Case in point: Pinterest says that searches for “starting a new business” are up 35% on average, as are searches for “future life goals” (2x), “life bucket list” (+65%), “family goals future” (+30%) and “future house goals” (+78%). And, searches related to gratitude are higher than ever—a huge leap of 60% from February to May.

So how can brands and businesses take these keyword learnings and apply them to their own?

According to our own resident digital marketing guru, Alex Webb, curating content that incorporates keywords and content trends will make all the difference.

“People are trying to find something positive among the onslaught of negativity being constantly shoved in their faces,” she says. “Hence searches like ‘wellness/meditation/gratitude/positivity.’ Additionally, people are looking for ways to save and/or make money. The economy is uncertain, at best, right now. Even employed people may be thinking about tightening their belts. People are looking toward the future, when they presume things will be ‘better’ … which explains all the searches with the word ‘future’ in them.”

Given these observations, Alex says advertisers should do three things:

  1. Avoid scare tactics. Focus on the feel-good messaging. In the past, scare tactic ads could create a sense of FOMO and drive users to take action now or create a sense of concern, again motivating users to do something now. However, people are worried enough these days. Focus on the good—the value—your company can provide.
  2. Provide and emphasize value. Can you offer free shipping, discounts, etc., right now? Do it! And let everyone know about it.
  3. Understand that the buying cycle might be longer. As people daydream about better days ahead, they may stumble across your ads or website … but they may be further away from committing than your pre-pandemic customers. Think about how you can nurture them in the long run. How can you stay top of mind until theyare ready to convert? Do you have an email list they can sign up for? Perhaps some longer-term retargeting ads are in order. Anything to allow you to stay in touch with them.

“Knowing your audience’s mindset is imperative to building good relationships,” Alex says. And likewise, getting those insights is simple:

  1. Look at platform trends (like Pinterest). You can also check out Google Trends.
  2. Look at which pages on your website are getting the most traffic. Do you see a theme?
  3. If you’re running a Google Ads campaign, check your search queries reports.

Here’s an example: At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, our pest control client saw a spike in search queries around DIY treatments. We hypothesized that this was because a) people didn’t want a stranger coming to their house during the pandemic or b) people wanted to save money, if possible. Maybe both. Our team wrote several blog posts about using essential oils to treat pests and DIY pest control. We provided real value by telling searchers the truth—some DIY methods can work as a stop-gap measure but they usually don’t clear up an infestation. Obviously, the client would rather you become a customer, but they didn’t balk at us talking about alternative methods.

In April, their organic blog traffic (number of users) was up 50.7%. Specifically, one blog post about essential oils and pest control was up 68.1%, driving 3,596 users. (Keep in mind, this is a regional pest control company … not a national chain … not an exciting startup or social media platform.) Those significant gains continued and even increased further in May and June.

In a recent survey by Channel Factor, 80% of consumers head to their favorite vloggers on YouTube to improve their mood—and it’s no wonder. Fun, lighthearted content with zero commercial interest is just what 2020 ordered. Lockdown life led to a huge uptake in media consumption—including a 44% worldwide increase in social media use according to Statista. With more people browsing through social media, knowing who your audience is more important than ever.

And the better you know who your audience is, and, more important what they’re looking up on Pinterest or YouTube these days, the easier it will be to create more targeted, more relevant content for them to engage with … and that means more eyes on your business. Which is just the way it should be.

This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.