Search Traffic Anomalies and Seasonal Trends

Search Traffic Anomalies and Seasonal Trends
by Teresa Anthony
April 28, 2020

During this pandemic, it is very clear to see anomalies in keyword search trends.  We look for anomalies and seasonal trends when we plan PPC search campaigns and in refining SEO meta tags to improve metrics and ROI.

In Figure 1, “Online Search Trends April 2019 to April 2020”, the keyword ‘COVID-19’ was never searched for before February 2nd. This keyword also brings up a company name ‘Covid Technologies’ that makes cables.  This is how we find our negatives as ‘technologies’ and ‘cables’ would then become negative keywords, since we do not want search queries for cables. Also, this company should not run search ads at this time for cables, as too many nonrelevant clicks on the virus would eat up the budget. Most likely, their website traffic analytics will be skewed during this timeframe.

You can see that the keyword ‘pandemic’ and ‘face masks’ started trending before we knew of ‘COVID -19’ which peaked March 25th, and that ‘social distancing’, ‘hand sanitizer’, and ‘toilet paper’ queries quickly followed. ‘Face masks’ peaked about two weeks later on April 4th, as it is still actively searched for as an ongoing solution to this situation and is not dropping in queries like the rest of the keywords.  The ‘social distancing’ and ‘hand sanitizer’ query spans are as broad as the ‘COVID -19’ query and signals relevancy. The sharp rise and fall of ‘pandemic’ and ‘toilet paper’ keywords are not as relevant and are fleeting. Since we don’t have a year of these keywords after the pandemic, they appear most likely to be seasonal.

As a seasonal query in Figure 1, ‘Thanksgiving’ keyword starts getting a few queries in August and rises in October as people are booking travel. Queries sharply peak on November 24th and drops almost straight down to zero the next day displaying its annual trend. Any advertising for Thanksgiving before September or after November would be moot.

This seasonal trend is relative to when we build up marketing for a B2B tradeshow. Six to eight weeks before the show is a good time to advertise and no more than a week or two after the show as the target audience has digested the content and moved on looking for the next event to learn and engage in new information.

When you compare seasonal trends to ‘ongoing’ search trends such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, you can pinpoint what drives people to go online and want more information. In Figure 1, you can see the peak in April of 2019 after the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, that the queries were declining.  Queries peaked again on December 25th when news stories were published on whether Christmas services would be held at the Cathedral.

When there are no anomalies in search traffic it can be difficult to pinpoint trends in search behaviors. The search term ‘Kardashians’ typically ranks at the top of Google’s search trends and this graph in Figure 1, is slightly trending downward over the past year. The peaks on June 25, September 25, December 19, and April 1, are most likely due to advertising and PR rather than demand.

For B2B businesses it is the product or service ‘demand’ search trends that is most important in guiding your media plan on when to advertise on search.  Separating search trends due to an event, PR or advertising, from actual ‘time to buy’ queries is the key to profitable B2B advertising. Some product demands go up in December as companies and universities use up their end of the year budget.  Looking for these trends in your own search account will be your secret formula to increasing sales and getting the most out of your ad budget.

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Teresa Anthony is a B2B creative marketing expert for 25 years, integrating search engine marketing into the marketing communications mix for transparency into analytical performance and results.