In the year of the “new normal,” I’ve started to attribute all search trends to just two factors: COVID and TikTok. Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but it sure feels that way.

When looking at trends, many factors need to be considered in order to establish a correlation. But as COVID continues to change our lives, it inevitably impacts search behavior. Traditional knowledge about seasonal fluctuation in demand can no longer be relied upon. Instead, it has become easier to correlate search demand patterns to the pandemic by looking at data before and after the news of the pandemic started to spread. 

With all that said, I’ll dive into COVID trends and save my TikTok theories for another day. The following 6 consumer behavior trends stood out across various industries, based on search data that specifically compares how demand has changed over the past year. 

1. Real Estate

Is it a buyer’s market? Should I buy a home right now? Are house prices falling? People are questioning the real estate market and showing a greater interest in moving, with an average increase of 75% year-over-year (YoY).  Virtual open house tours are the new normal and finding a safe vacation home or a work-cation destination has been a large trend this summer.

Virtual open house (MSV 480)

The following types of homes have all gained over 80% in search demand since last year:

  • Foreclosed homes
  • Lake homes
  • Waterfront property
  • Ranch homes
  • Homes with a pool

SEO Tip: Be sure to analyze trends across searches that contain neighborhoods, counties, and cities to get a better idea of how real estate is fluctuating at a local level.

COVID related trend? Yes. COVID has caused drastic changes in many areas including, but not limited to, lifestyle, rent affordability, a desire for bigger properties, work style, staycations due to travel restrictions, and countless other unprecedented modifications.

2. Fashion

Fashion is a constantly evolving industry and the concept of “loungewear” is dominating more than ever this year. Categories like sweatpants, joggers, and leggings all saw spikes in demand, but sweatpants saw the largest increase, as high as 145% since last summer.

To no surprise, a brand such as Nike was able to shine this year, but a less expected brand is Crocs, which saw a 182% increase in demand. Can I blame TikTok for this one?  I definitely think it contributed.

Loungewear is a bright spot with more people working from home.

SEO Tip: Don’t only rely on search demand in order to stay up-to-date with fashion trends.  Social trend data can help as the entertainment world and popular influencers are having immediate impacts on retail trends.  

COVID related trend? Yes. Remote working, online learning, and social distancing  have created new retail trends. As brick and mortar stores struggle, e-commerce takes over (and so does SEO).

3. Outdoor Fitness

Outdoor running and hiking searches are more popular than ever,with people eager to learn about the closest hiking trails and walking paths to them. This is reflected in the amount of search data for fitness and running related apps. The increased interest around outdoor activities has also caused a rise in bike sales and searches for the best bikes. Finally, there has also been a surge in activewear and accessories, such as sneakers, backpacks, and water bottles.

Best shoes for hiking

SEO Tip: Many of these searchers are first time runners or hikers and will need early stage content to guide them. Create content that directly answers questions found within the “People Also Ask” section or create content in a list format to target keywords beginning with “best” and “top.”

COVID related trend? Yes. The combination of spring/summer weather and limited indoor activities has inspired people to look to the outdoors and get out of their homes.  Additionally, the closing of gyms prompted people to create new workout routines and find other ways to continue to stay active.

4. Telehealth

The idea of virtual care became increasingly popular during the months of March and April and it’s definitely here to stay. Even as in-person doctor visits resume, many medical offices continue to offer virtual care options.    

A category within telehealth that is gaining a new appreciation is the idea of teletherapy with an average increase of 247% YoY. Aside from the virtual therapy sessions that have helped patients throughout the lockdown, a subcategory of therapy that has also been received well virtually is teletherapy for speech.

Telehealth keyword MSV data

SEO Tip: If there is a surge in COVID cases, it is important to be prepared and have information around the different telehealth service options.  Be mindful that different doctors may be searched for differently. For example, telemedicine can refer to a general physician and teledentistry is specifically for a dentist. 

COVID related trend? 100% yes. I think this one is self-explanatory.

5. Cleaning Services

Interest in cleaning has increased overall, but what might surprise you is that professional cleaning services have seen a greater increase in demand than topics relating to cleaning one’s own home, despite lockdowns and recommended distancing.  

Specific cleaning services that have seen an increase since last year include:

  • Deep cleaning
  • Housekeeping
  • Commercial office cleaning
  • Furniture cleaning
  • Move out cleaning
  • Carpet and rug cleaning
House cleaning services YoY searches.

SEO Tip: With cleaning services in high demand, ranking well has become more competitive. Be sure that you have an organic local strategy in place that also works in sync with a paid strategy. Now more than ever, it’s important to have well optimized local pages and up-to-date information for Google My Business. 

COVID related trend? Yes. The spread of COVID triggered a cleaning frenzy of disinfecting, sanitizing, and overall deeper cleaning of homes and surroundings. This inevitably generated an increase in cleaning searches.

6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Interest in how AI is being used within specific industries is starting to escalate.  My findings show “AI in the insurance industry” at the top with an average increase of 162% in demand since last year.

 Other themes that are important to note:

  • Searches with the intent for automation solutions on average increased 139% YoY
  • Chatbot AI solutions on average increased 30% YoY
AI within specific industries is on the rise (chart).

SEO Tip: Searchers may be using different terminology when searching for an AI-type solution so be sure to further research if you want to create content that targets intelligence, machine learning, automation, or RPAs.

COVID related trend? Most likely. As more companies are budgeting differently and even possibly downsizing, they will become more aware of new industry technology disruptors to help improve efficiency.

These are only 6 of 2020’s wildly different consumer behavior search trends. They represent changes from an unexpected global adversity, COVID. 

How can we stay one step ahead when search topics are rapidly shifting? For one, essential keywords should be enhanced with modifiers, such as “at home” and other COVID related keywords. Additionally, answering questions that people are asking is crucial. It may feel that COVID brought life to a halt, but the reality for SEOs is that the rate of change is faster than ever.  As we all experience this new reality, SEOs need to adapt to rapid shifts in search behaviors while also preparing for future changes.

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