Increased Uncertainty – Increased Search


Figure 1 – Increased search query traffic likely due to Coronavirus effects

It is well known through sites such as Google Trends that search queries such as ‘coronovirus’ see a surge in usage (frequency). What is less clear as Google do not release their daily search query volumes, is the effect on overall search behaviour and volumes. Are more search queries being made or are the same volume of searches being made but about different topics?

There are estimated to be 3.5 Billion search queries a day using Google. DuckDuckGo at around 60 Million queries a day is minnow, but may represent broader trends and the data is freely available.

Figure 1 shows the usual ‘ebb and flow saw-tooth’ of search query volumes with increased queries during work days and a dips during the weekend. This is seen on the Internet and with corporate search engines. The data shown is March, the orange line is search query volumes from 2019 as a baseline, whilst the blue line is March 2020.

Search engine usage has been steadily growing and this is reflected in the gap between 2019 and 2020 data. However, what is noticeable is the gradient change since the WHO pandemic was declared. On Monday 23rd March, DuckDuckGo saw its biggest daily search query volumes at over 60 Million. There is no evidence for this type of gradient change in previous trend data.

A plausible explanation is with increased uncertainty, people increasingly turn to search engines to meet their information need. The data on unique users is not available, so it is unclear if ‘more’ people are making queries, or it is the same number of people making ‘more’ queries. Also the impact of more people being at home and remote working. More research needed!


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