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How has COVID-19 impacted our googling behavior?

Updated: May 27, 2020

In this post, we look at the impact of COVID-19 on the increased Google search of specific terms such as unemployment, hotel bookings and delivery services in the US. We have tried to confirm the direct correlation of COVID-19 and these Google search terms by looking into some other sources such as media releases. This blog shows another example of how search term statistics could reflect our everyday reality. Of course the actual numbers are in possession of related stakeholders such as US Department of Labor for unemployment benefits or CDC NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics) for Divorce rate, but we were interested in looking at how Google Trends could be a single source of information to perform statistical studies.

Unemployment Benefits

"COVID-19" search term started ramping up in the US on 23 February 2020 and reached its peak exactly a month later on 23 March. "Unemployment benefits" search term started to increase on 15 March and reached its peak on 30 March, as you can see below:

The increase of these numbers can also be confirmed by looking at the daily new cases of COVID-19 in the US (see the graph below), which started to ramp-up past mid-March, about the same time as the first lockdown in the US was ordered by the state of California (source Wall Street Journal).

By looking into the number of "Unemployment benefits" Google search in different US states in the past 12 months, we see that Nevada has had the highest search rate due to the fact that its major employment is linked to the gambling industry. The second state with highest "unemployment benefits" search term is Kentucky. This state is home to Ford and Toyota factories, two companies with a temporary unemployment of more than 20,000 employees (source CNN).

Video Conferencing and Delivery Services

COVID-19 pandemic brought some industries such a food delivery and audio video conferencing platforms into the spotlight. An example of this is "Zoom", which is a video and audio conferencing tool. "Zoom" search term on Google has increased in the US as "COVID-19" search term increased in mid March this year. By announcing that Zoom faces security backlash in the first week of April, we see a sharp decline in "Zoom" search term.

Another interesting term is "delivery", which seems to be another favored search term across the US:

Hotel Booking

By now we have looked at facts with a positive correlation with COVID-19 pandemic and in tandem with each other. Now let us look at a term with a negative correlation with COVID-19. Guess what: "hotel"! yes you guessed it right. Since the beginning of this pandemic, "hotel" Google search has significantly decreased.

To make sure that there is no seasonal effect to that, we have also included a comparison of this search term to its position of last year. Below in blue, we see the "hotel" search term from May 2019 through May 2020, and in red we see the same search term from May 2018 through May 2019. As the below graph shows and contrary to this year, previous years shows no such decrease in the search rate of "hotel".

Impact of COVID-19 on Legal Separation

Let us now look at another rising concern: "legal separation". Below we see the results of this search term on Google for the past 5 years during the month of April (as April 2020 was the month during which COVID-19 lockdown in the US began). The blue line shows the result of 2020, with a significant drop towards the end of the month. In order to make sure this drop is an outlier we calculate the Z-score for this year for the past 5 years. Z-score of April 2020 is -1.96 which means that legal separation search term is 2 times less than average of last 5 years.

However, as officials are concerned about the increasing number of divorces after lockdowns are eased, we need to look at the same comparison after the COVID-19 lockdown will end.

What other interesting correlation with COVID-19 pandemic have you found on Google? Share your ideas with us.

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