How COVID-19 Affected What and How Families Search Online

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the marketing industry as a whole. Some aspects of marketing have changed, while others have remained the same. The core of school marketing – delivering helpful and human content with a focus on the student experience – hasn’t changed. But what – and how – families search has changed in light of the coronavirus.

It is likely the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic isn’t fully understood at this time. Families across the country have been affected by the spread of the virus and are pivoting from their previous behaviors. Adapting to all the changes has become the new normal.

Search behavior is a reflection of users’ priorities, and priorities changed during the pandemic.

Here are some of the changes in search behavior the World Economic Forum and Noble Studios has identified by exploring Google Trends.

Top searches were related to:

  • COVID-19 “Can children pass on the coronavirus” has been one of the top searches since the pandemic was first identified
  • Quarantine hobbies (things to do at home)
  • Financial security including banking
  • Real estate, such as mortgages and new home
  • How to make items needed during the pandemic (i.e. face masks, hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • How to do things at home people might normally purchase (i.e. cut hair, manicure, pedicure, eyebrow waxing, facials, etc.)
  • Home exercise, workout apps and online yoga as well as meditation tips for beginners
  • Outdoor experiences such as searching for walking and hiking trails, outdoor parks, etc.
  • How to play board games such as bingo
  • Food – both recipes and food delivery
  • Online school and online learning
  • Health and wellness, including online doctors, telemedicine and telehealth. Additionally, searches for antidepressants have risen significantly
  • Technology. Online communications platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet are seeing an influx of usage
  • Insurance, including keywords for life, health, business and unemployment insurance
  • Educational support services, such as meals, technology support, reliable wi-fi, counseling, academic learning support and bereavement support (Politico)

What does this mean for school marketers?

In the past, SEO was about SEO tactics, building links and creating content. Those strategies are still important. But in today’s online world, school marketers need to leverage how content is published in terms of your social media platforms, blog, going live and video marketing. The bottom line is, you need to get your school out there and drive interest so Google takes notice and your ranking in search results increases.

When it comes to SEO, content is still king. Regardless of the type of content, it will eventually contribute to how easy it is for families to find you online. This hasn’t changed. What has changed is how you need to think about the user experience.

The world was moving toward a mobile-centric world even before the pandemic, but stay-at-home orders impacted how quickly mobile use accelerated. Page speed has become even more critical, especially now that there’s 5G.

In addition, the online world is now becoming voice-centric. People are using voice assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Home to search for answers. So now, schools need to think about how they can be compatible with voice search.

How can school marketers keep up with these rapid advancements?

The key is to remain focused on the needs of families. Engagement with families, whether on social channels or search platforms, has to be the number one priority. Even Google sees people clicking on search results as engagement. Google recognizes when someone does – or doesn’t – click on a search result. And if someone doesn’t click on your Google result, Google recognizes the searcher didn’t see what they were looking for in your title or snippet.

So how do you create content your target families will want to engage with? It comes down to understanding what your families are searching for and your ability to create quality content. With so much content being uploaded daily, there’s no room for average content.

And, consider consistently doing live streams, such as Facebook Live, YouTube Livestream or Instagram Stories. There are many channels out there for creating a two-way conversation between school representatives and families.

What changes are you making in your marketing strategy in response to COVID-19? Please share with other school marketers in the comments below…


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