As the United States struggles to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, it goes without saying that it is topic 1, 2, and 3 in the country.  

According to Google Trends, on March 21 people were ten times more likely to search for coronavirus terms than the usually dominant Trump-related terms.  You can see an analysis of coronavirus-related searches on Google here

Social media analytics firm Sprinklr saw similar behavior on social media.  On March 11,Sprinklr observed a record 20 million mentions of the coronavirus on social media.  To put that into context there were 2 million mentions of Donald Trump on that same day.

Given how coronavirus is dominating our national conversation and the fact so many people are quarantined at home, I wanted to see how the coronavirus was impacting the website traffic of our Brick Factory clients.  After reviewing data for over fifty sites, traffic patterns fell into two general categories:

  1. Sites that have no relationship to coronavirus have seen significant drops in traffic.  Frankly this is the majority of sites we manage. This is unsurprising.
  2. Sites that either have some relationship to the coronavirus pandemic or that can provide a diversion have seen traffic surges.  Note that we don’t have any clients that are at the front lines of the response.

Very few sites saw their traffic unaffected by the coronavirus.  Traffic either went up a lot or down a lot. 

Organizations who have nothing to do with coronavirus

For clients that have nothing to do with coronavirus, we have generally seen drops in traffic of between 20-40% over the last week.  Organic and paid search are generally the primary source of traffic for these sites. It tracks that a drop in interest in anything except the coronavirus is going to lead to a drop in traffic from search.

Following are examples of drops we have seen for a few of the sites we manage:

  • One issues advocacy client has seen their traffic drop nearly 40%.  The issues they are involved in are in the news on a weekly basis and typically generate significant traffic from both organic and paid search.  Interest in their issue on search engines has plummeted ove the last week.  
  • A health-related nonprofit with no connection to coronavirus has seen their traffic drop by 37%.  Once again, a drop in search traffic is the primary driver.
  • Traffic to our Brick Factory site has dropped 20%.  Obviously hiring a digital partner is not top of mind for most organizations this week.

Organizations with some relationship to coronavirus

We don’t really work with any clients that are on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.  However we do have some clients that are tangentially involved or can provide a diversion. These clients have seen their traffic increase.  

  • A trade association client whose members make products used to fight the virus has seen a 38% increase in traffic.  Much of the traffic is to resources they developed about the coronavirus.
  • A nonprofit involved in helping senior citizens has been a 62% increase in traffic.  One again, much of the new traffic is to resources they developed related to the coronavirus pandemic.  
  • In one of the more unexpected examples, a for-profit company has seen a 134% increase in traffic.  They have a passionate user based of hobbyists who likely have some unexpected time on their hands.

What should organizations do?

I think the path forward for organizations is pretty straightforward.  

If you have coronavirus-related information that is of value or you can help people take their mind of the crisis, put that content front and center.  

If your organization has nothing to do with the coronavirus, you need to keep plugging away with the understanding that your traffic is going to be lower for a while.  You should trust that the traffic will come back once some level of normalcy is restored.  

Hopefully this will happen sooner than later.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.