April 16, 2020

Impact of COVID-19 on SEO and Your Organic Traffic

COVID-19 or better known as Coronavirus has led to a global upheaval in 2020.

This is because businesses, as well as economies, are shifting to support the health of the citizens and the slow infection rates. While the government has imposed measures to restrict the foot traffic and movement of vehicles, business owners have been forced to search for creative methods to provide services virtually to their customers. Many businesses are also suffering due to the COVID-19 outbreak and have come to a complete halt.

Here’s a video that explains what impact the Coronavirus has as a result of business growth slowing down.

At the same time, COVID-19 has created notable changes to online search behavior and the type of content displayed by the search engines in the results page.

In this article, we would be discussing how the pandemic has impacted organic traffic and how your business can deal with it.

Impact of COVID-19 on Organic Traffic

In the last few weeks, providers of SEO services and the SEO community as a whole has been heavily discussing the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on organic traffic and performance. While there has been a major drop in organic performance across different verticals as well as changes in online behavior, there are many fields that have seen a notable rise in organic traffic.

It’s safe to say, the Coronavirus has had a huge impact on SEO.

With instability and uncertainty in the economy due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there have been diverse effects on different businesses and industries. According to Nick LeRoy, an SEO Consultant, the most significant changes in the organic traffic and revenues were seen from 12th to 16th March 2020. He arrived at this conclusion after analyzing data and information from 10 anonymous sites across different verticals. He also found out the following:

  • The micro-niche eCommerce websites that suffered a 25% drop in their organic sessions. They also saw a 35% decrease in their organic revenue.
  • The online food shops had a 56% increase in their organic sessions. They also saw a huge 188% increase in their organic revenue.

Various types of SERP Features Google Displays to Address the Coronavirus Emergency

One of the interesting developments of the pandemic has been that the result page of Google has started triggering several new panels related to ‘coronavirus’.

These panels provide users with information related to this disease. The content is generally taken from the website of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is the Centre of Disease Control, as well as other local government bodies. Google even shows an ‘SOS Alert’ panel to indicate a state of emergency across the globe.

Another SERP feature displayed by Google when it comes to ‘coronavirus’ is the safety tips. These tips showcase a video on how to wash hands properly along with other tips from WHO. Additionally, one can also see an ‘Affected Area’ panel, which shows affected areas on a world map. One can easily see on this map how the pandemic is spreading and its density in different regions of the world. In the last, before other organic results are displayed, Google also displays a ‘Symptoms’ panel where one can check out the common symptoms of COVIS-19. These symptoms are also taken from the WHO website.

How Will COVID-19 Affect Trends Long-Term?

COVID-19 is being termed as the biggest trend in the search history of Google. Not only are people searching for data and information related to COVID-19, but they also look at the information on the stock market, the economy as well as national leaders like Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. While there are continuous topical searches as well, however, the searches are more about or related to the coronavirus outbreak. Long-tail keywords have started taking precedence, such as:

  • Is any shop open?
  • Best movies to watch while in quarantine
  • Are there any test centers for coronavirus in New York?
  • Pandemic vs epidemic

This can put a lot of pressure on the marketers as one needs to be thoughtful while finding the right target keyword and creating an effective search strategy. It is also possible that searches related to coronavirus would stay for a long time along with combination searches like ‘COVID-19 + future of banking’ and ‘coronavirus+ schools’.

How the pandemic has affected the organic traffic of various industries?

Different industries have been impacted differently due to the pandemic. According to a study by SimilarWeb, the worst affected sector due to the COVID-19 outbreak has been the travel and tourism sector. In this sector, there has been a 34.02% decrease in traffic for sites related to air travel; a huge 38.83% decrease can be seen in the case of hotel and accommodation sites and a 32.52% decrease when it comes to car rental websites.

When it comes to growth in traffic, it has been seen that websites related to food delivery have a 7.8% increase in traffic while the movie website has seen a 9.07% growth rate. Further, according to Education News, traffic on e-learning websites has also seen positive growth, with the websites of Open University seeing an increase of up to 50% in their daily sessions.

After combining different reports when it comes to industry-specific performance, it has also been observed that remote software websites have been one of the major winners. According to the G2 report on the influence of the pandemic on software usage, the downloads through its marketplace have seen a significant increase in remote work, entertainment as well as learning. There has also been a 565% growth in the number of downloads when it comes to audio-conferencing software and another 52% growth in virtual reality platforms.

How Should Businesses and SEOs Respond?

As the number of people working from home has increased, daily commute to work is no longer a necessity. Businesses and SEO also have more time now to devise their digital marketing strategies. Be it content for a sanitizer brand or an SEO marketing plan for a global media house, digital marketing strategies can be easily well-tuned. There are several things that the businesses and a Digital marketing Agency can do to utilize the period of coronavirus outbreak to their advantage such as:

  • Review the Business Accounts: This includes keeping a check on a drop in traffic as well as impressions using an analytics tool. It can be done every second day to deduce inference from them. Since all campaigns are not the same, you would be able to take guidance from the data that you get.
  • Revisit the balance between offline and online channels: Having offline channels might have always worked for you, however, it is now a good time to invest and work on online channels, like Facebook Live and YouTube display ads.
  • Increase Content Vetting: Since this is a medical emergency, you should verify all sorts of data and information to avoid incorrect or fake data. Some tips to ensure this is as follows:
  • Follow the health guidelines of your country
  • Always refer to international websites and journals such as WHO and CDC instead of the national or local news websites


There are a lot of things at stake for businesses as well as SEO agencies in these challenging times. However, observing the trends and taking preventive actions for the same would help you in handling the situation in the long run. It is best to check the existing performance of your business, make corrective decisions and then utilize these insights to grow further.

If you’re looking for help with your SEO, PPC, Facebook or LinkedIn campaigns, Flow20 can help.

We’re now also offering a range of online training courses for Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram.


Guest Author Bio: Andrew Raso is the CEO and one of the founding members of Online Marketing Gurus. He has a long illustrious career in the SEO and SEM industry and has written for many prestigious websites.


About Shirish Agarwal

Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.