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Coronavirus and Google Search: Trending Topics and Top Domains

The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on all aspects of life, affecting how we work, how we interact socially and, of course, how we search. A special Google Trends page tracks interest in coronavirus, COVID-19 and related topics. And trends don’t just include people searching for information on the virus. The pandemic has seen demand shoot up for home workouts, information on unemployment support and numerous other topics. In this blogpost, we map Google’s trends to our own ranking data to reveal the websites that are leading organic search for the topics dominating this time of crisis.

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Coronavirus Analysis Background

For our analysis of the leading domains for topics related to the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19, we first looked at the Google Trends page on coronavirus, which provides latest insight into topics with increased search interest. Whilst this data is only relative, with search demand shown on an index scale of 0-100, it does reveal topics that have recently seen a major uptick in public interest.

Based on Google’s trends, we created topical clusters which we extended by adding related keywords relevant to each topic. With these clusters, we were then able to analyze the organic search results to see which websites are most successful for each topic. The topics covered are:

  • General virus information: Informational searches for pandemic data, symptoms of COVID-19, treatments etc.
  • Economic issues: These include people looking for updates regarding unemployment benefits, state support for freelancers etc.
  • Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions:Informationon social-distancing guidelines, school closures etc.
  • Personal protection and prevention: People looking for guides to hand washing, making face masks etc. Also includes transactional searches for hand sanitizer and other related products.
  • Home workouts: Searches related to keeping fit at home.
  • Wine delivery: One home delivery subject picked out explicitly by Google as a trending topic.

Other topics with increased interest since the outbreak of the coronavirus and national lockdowns include home learning remote working and things like home haircuts, but for the scope of this article, we have limited ourselves to the six clusters listed.

Here are a few more details on the analysis:

  • Keyword sets were compiled for both US and UK, with some overlap but also with a significant proportion of country-specific keywords
  • The leading websites are therefore provided for com and
  • Prominence in Google search is indicated by the proportion of topic searches, for which a website appears in Google’s top ten (approximately equivalent to the first page of search results).
  • We analyzed both desktop and mobile results. In most cases, there were only minor differences, but we have highlighted a few later in this piece. If not otherwise stated, data presented refers to the desktop results.

As a small disclaimer, please note that the ranking data presented in this blogpost was collected on the 3rd of April 2020, and, particularly for a fast-moving topic, rankings can change very quickly.

New York Times tops Google News, but some space for specialist sites

The Google News boxes are a highly visible way for media sites to gain traffic from Google searches on hot topics. For news-worthy searches related to coronavirus, we see the New York Times featuring most often, with an article in 15.9% of news box integrations.


While the top positions all go to major media organizations and newspapers, we see more specialized outlets like Investopedia (finance) and National Geographic (here: science) also making the top 10, as win achieve news box rankings in their relevant areas of expertise.

News boxes in the UK

The media landscape in the United Kingdom is quite different, and here we see the Guardian as the big leader, followed by the BBC. We also see a much clearer dominance for all-round news outlets, with no specialist media managing to make the top 10.


Topic Breakdown: The Leading Websites in Each Category

With coronavirus affecting so many aspects of people’s lives around the globe, we decided to focus on six thematic clusters, based on topics highlighted by Google Trends, and see which websites are most prominent for each topic on the first page of Google’s search results.

As users search for very different things, it is no surprise that we see very distinct websites among the top lists. One general observation is that a large majority of websites are specialists, with comparatively little space for all-rounders.

Virus Information: Google Trusts Official Government Sources

It goes almost without saying that a global pandemic is a highly sensitive topic, which in Google parlance makes it the ultimate ‘Your Money, Your Life’ issue. Google pays particular attention to keywords that relate to a user’s health or financial well-being, making every effort to ensure that the search results come from sources with a high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (a.k.a. E-A-T).

The chart shows the 10 sites in the US with most page one rankings for Google searches looking for information on coronavirus and COVID-19, including data, symptoms, potential treatments etc.


There is a clear winner here, with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the official government authority for information on the pandemic, Google’s most relevant site. It is followed by other authorities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The leading independent newspaper is the New York Times, in 5th place, showing that for this critical issue, Google plays it safe by pointing users to the official sources of information.

Another indicator of the trust assigned to the CDC and WHO is that these are also the two main sources Google uses to populate its own special widget boxes offering announcements and information on coronavirus:


The Guardian Newspaper leads rankings for virus information in the UK

The situation in the UK is surprisingly different. Here, the Guardian website has the most top 10 rankings, appearing more often than the World Health Organization and government sources. This could suggest that the UK government’s website is lacking relevant content on some aspects of coronavirus, with Google turning to other sites to provide users with important information. Certainly for the Guardian, its position at the top of this list can be considered a big seal of approval from Google for its expertise, authoritativeness and trust.

Economic Issues: CNBC and The Balance the Leading Publishers

Economic issues, such as those related to unemployment benefits or state support for businesses are another sensitive YMYL topic. And again, several of the top-ranking domains in the US for these queries are official sources, with State Government websites, such as in New York or in California. We’ve removed these from the top 10 list, which focuses on websites that are relevant nationally.


The top site for financial topics is the business news channel, CNBC, followed by one of Dotdash’s niche publishing sites, Third place is occupied by, who provide answers to “everyday legal and business questions”. These websites all stand out for being specialized in financial and business topics, with the only more general media outlet in the top 10 the New York Times.

Any site featuring near the top of this list is clearly considered by Google to be an authoritative, trustworthy source, providing reliable, expert advice.

Economic Searches in the UK

In the United Kingdom, we have a quite different picture, in large part due to the different governmental structure. The central UK government has responsibilities that, in the US, are managed at State level. This explains why the UK government leads the national rankings for economic topics. Clearly, its sites are doing a better job at informing people of financial issues that they are on more general topics related to the coronavirus.


Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions: Twitter a Leading Source for Latest News

People searching for keywords related to non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as school closures or social distancing guidelines, are often looking for up-to-the-minute information. Here, a capacity to provide users with the latest news – and present it credibly – are vital to achieving high rankings. Again, we have removed State-level government sites (e.g. in California) from the national list.


For topics where speed counts, we see YouTube and Twitter (narrowly) leading the more traditional news sites, which are headed up by the Washington Post, CNN and the New York Times. YouTube and Twitter are often the platforms used by media outlets or individuals (politicians, journalists etc.) to communicate their messages as quickly as possible to the public. This also suggests that Google considers these topics not quite as sensitive in a YMYL context as the health and economic issues covered above.

NPIs in the UK

The situation in the United Kingdom is different, with far less prominence for social platforms. Here, the BBC has the most top 10 rankings for topics related to non-pharmaceutical interventions, with the Guardian and the Telegraph the leading newspapers. The BBC’s position at the top of the list reflects its role in the United Kingdom as an intermediary between official government channels and the public that Google considers highly authoritative and trustworthy.


Protection and Prevention: Mixture of How-To Videos and E-Commerce

The keywords related to personal protection and prevention measures can be clustered into two main sub-categories:

  • people searching for guides to washing their hands, making home-made face masks etc.
  • people looking to buy products/materials like face masks, hand sanitizer etc.

As a result, we YouTube as the leading website, dominating the how-to space with video guides to making protective equipment and demonstrations of handwashing. After YouTube, we see major online retailers occupying the top rankings spots, with Amazon, Walmart and Walgreens all competing for sales.


Clearly, Google considers video content highly relevant for how-to queries, which explains the superiority of YouTube and why the New York Times, CDC and Healthline appear some way behind, each with fewer than 2% of the top 10 rankings.

For topics related to personal protection and prevention measures, the situation in the UK is very similar. YouTube is way out in front with 17.8% of top 10 rankings, followed by Amazon in a distant second place.

Coronavirus Search on Mobile – Seven Fast Facts

On the whole, the top-ranking websites on mobile search are similar to those on desktop. There are, however, some differences between desktop and mobile results, such as:

  1. For non-pharmaceutical intervention keywords, Twitter performs much more strongly on desktop than on mobile (US: 2nd place on desktop, 10th place on mobile).
  2. YouTube is strong on all devices but the video carousels on desktop mean that it is able to occupy considerably more positions in the top 10.
  3. Across all topics, the top three US websites with the most AMP results on mobile are, and
  4. In the UK, the three leading sites for AMP results are, and
  5. On mobile, has the 3rd most page one rankings across all topics related to coronavirus, boosted in particular by additional rankings for prevention and protection keywords.
  6. News boxes appear less frequently on mobile – and different websites are more prominent, with Al Jazeera featuring amongst the top ten mobile news sites.
  7. In the UK, Wikipedia performs strongly on mobile, owning numerous high rankings for information queries that it doesn’t have on desktop search.

Staying at Home Impacts Search Demand

A big impact of the coronavirus pandemic is that lockdowns are forcing people to pursue activities at home that they would normally have done elsewhere. Here we’ll just look at a couple of topics that have seen increased demand as a result of people being unable to leave their homes.

Home Workouts: YouTube Dominates as Google Favors Video Content

One thing people are now having to do at home is fitness training, so we had a look at which sites are ranking for keywords specifically related to workouts “at home”.


Unsurprisingly, YouTube dominates the results for home workouts, with video results appearing for 93% of these keywords. The rest of the top 10 is fairly evenly split amongst health/lifestyle magazines and publishers indicates, which indicates that no one website has managed a big push to secure a major chunk of the increased demand for “at home” workouts.

The situation in the UK is similar. YouTube is again the clear leader, with the rest of the results divided amongst publishers. The only exception is the NHS, which has a few rankings in this category.

Wine Delivery: When a Niche Market becomes Mainstream

Google Trends picked out wine delivery as a topic that had seen a huge increase in demand in the US. The websites taking best advantage of the uptake in interest are, and was already the leading website in home alcohol delivery market, but for smaller websites like and, the current situation has created a real opportunity. If they can take advantage of this period by winning new business through a powerful organic search presence, then they have a chance of growing their customer base and seeing long-term benefits, well beyond this temporary lockdown period.

In a Crisis you need Strong SEO for Scalable Success

For any business operating in a comparatively niche market, unexpected events (not just global pandemics) can sometimes create short-term spikes in demand. In such a situation, having an established presence in the Google search results for your niche gives you a great foundation for exploiting such spikes, whilst reacting quickly to the changing situation and adapting your content offering will help you stay relevant to users’ new demands and expectations.

Clearly, such reaction goes beyond SEO, with businesses also needing to ensure that their website, shop systems, delivery chains and infrastructure can also scale in line with increased demand. It’s no good dominating the Google rankings if you can’t deliver a solid all-round experience for your customers. And of course, it’s no good being able to scale your business for a massive uptick in demand if a poor organic search game means it’s your competitors who are profiting.

Looking for online marketing insights from industry professionals? Our Digital Summit on the 28th of April is all about how you can use data to make better decisions. Secure your seat now to access all the webinars – live or on-demand – whatever suits your schedule:

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