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March 2020 Winners and Losers: How COVID-19 Impacted SEO – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: COVID-19 is already heavily impacting the SEO landscape with news media channels and health resources seeing huge spikes in online traffic. Despite the giant jumps in visibility, one clear winner emerged in March – teleconference software companies. Join host Ben as he interviews Searchmetrics’ VP of Services Tyson Stockton about March’s big winners and which teleconference company took the top spot.

Summary

  • Media channels like the New York Times have remained stable in visibility along with CNN and Forbes.
  • Health sites like WebMD are showing consistent stability along with Healthline, which was behind WebMD at the beginning of 2020 but is quickly closing the gap.
  • Teleconference software like Zoom, GoToMeeting and BlueJeans experienced stratospheric jumps in traffic with BlueJeans experiencing a staggering 82 percent increase in visitors. 

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to our March 2020 edition of Winners and Losers on the Voices of Search podcast. Today we’re going to look back on the month and talk about some of the trends behind some of the biggest movers, shakers, and slackers in the SEO world. Joining us for Winners and Losers is Tyson Stockton, who is Searchmetrics’ newly minted vice president of services. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO content and client success organizations. And outside of shepherding their largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, he’s dug through the Searchmetrics suite to help you understand who’s making moves in the SEO community. Okay, here’s my monthly sit down with Searchmetrics’ own VP of Services, Tyson Stockton. Tyson, welcome to Winners and Losers on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:               Thanks Ben. Good to be back. Different location, but always good to be back on.

Ben:                   There is obviously a lot going on this month and before we get into the obvious biggest trend in the world, and obviously in marketing as well, let’s start off with some happy news. You were promoted to vice president at Searchmetrics. When we get together you’re buying beers, right?

Tyson:               Yeah, maybe even a little bourbon too.

Ben:                    Okay. All right, well good. Let’s start off on a positive note, and hopefully we’ll be able to get together soon. Which brings us to the reason why you’re taking this call from your bedroom. Nobody can go outside right now. Coronavirus is dominating the landscape and as much as we’re going to try to keep it positive and keep you entertained and talk to you a little bit about SEO, we obviously have to talk about that and how it’s impacting the search landscape. So in our Winners and Losers segment, talk to me about when we decided to focus on how the coronavirus, COVID-19, is impacting the SEO community, how’d you start to think about segmenting the data?

Tyson:                 Yeah, and I mean I think as this develops, I would anticipate that the landscape’s going to shift quite rapidly over the coming months and weeks. But really, how I wanted to look at it is first targeting a few industries. Industries that we know have an impact of what’s going on and people spending more time at home. And as we see that increase and kind of scale throughout the nation, we’re going to see that kind of evolve in the search landscape. So as far as industries, I wanted to look at things like online streaming, what’s going on in the ecommerce or retail space with people not being able to go to stores. How’s that looking for media? How is that looking for health related and those industries that we know are having this significant impact to what’s going on today.

Ben:                     So let’s dive into the details here. It’s a little too early for us to talk about the coronavirus keyword on itself. We’re still collecting data to try to figure out what’s going to happen with who’s winning the coronavirus keyword search. And obviously we want to make sure that everybody who is optimizing for that term is doing it with the best intentions. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the industries that were impacted. First and foremost, let’s talk about what’s been dominating the news. The media category obviously COVID-19, coronavirus is something that is pretty much in charge of everything other than football signings lately. What’s happening and who’s winning the media game?

Tyson:                 Yeah, and I think one thing on the media, and just this topic in general is you do have a fair amount of variance even within the US and obviously across different nations. And what I’ve been noticing, one thing before we get into the winners and stuff is a lot of variance between different types of searches based on what’s happening in your community. So the type of results that I’m getting here in San Francisco is very different than someone that’s maybe like middle of the country where they’re not having the same immediate impact. So I think that’s one thing just to note, is with this type of event, you have a lot of variations or variance within location pieces. So the data sets that we’re going to talk about is across the entire U.S. but when we look at the media players and the larger media players, and typically this is a space that’s been highly volatile of winners and losers.

Tyson:                   They’re always on our top 100 lists, but one thing you see is first and foremost, stability from New York Times. And they are the clear number one in this space. If you went back earlier in the year, they were at right there with CNN, they’ve made some separation, so a lot of stability from New York times. And still that stronghold and the number one spot. Quickly behind them, you have CNN who, it’s not been significant wins, but we have seen CNN being on the winning side as far as over the last few weeks, linking together some single digit growth in their visibility points.

Ben:                        Yeah, I think that the story here is that in the media industry there hasn’t really been a ton of volatility. So as much as the topic of the coronavirus is dominating the news landscape, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are searching for the news more often. So we’re seeing a point up or down here, there. New York Times, CNN, Forbes, USA Today. They’re all within two points of where they were last week. And the biggest zoomed out trend here is that the New York Times in terms of search visibility over the last six months has picked up about a third of its market share and is now clearly separated from CNN. They were kind of neck and neck and over the last six months, New York Times has taken over. But there really hasn’t been a dynamic shift in the landscape yet. When we look at what’s happening in the days of the wake of the coronavirus outbreak here in the United States.

Tyson:                     I think one other piece to the point of New York Times is all these media providers, they’re all writing about essentially the same thing right now. But when we think about who’s poised or who’s in the position to take advantage of it, I think that’s where you have to give some credit to New York Times in this situation. Being that they are kind of the number one player and by having some of the fundamental SEO core technical aspects in a decent position. As these stories break and if you assume that everyone’s producing content, or the same quality of content, they would be the kind of front runner for the person that’s going to take advantage and actually capitalize on this increased search volume.

Ben:                        So let’s talk a little bit more about where people are getting their information. Obviously the news media is going to be an important part of that. There has to be people that are searching for symptoms of COVID-19 talk to me a little bit about what we’re seeing in the landscape of health companies.

Tyson:                   Yeah, so I mean honestly that’s a kind of hot topic of how these websites are trending. But maybe starting off on the broader lens of health and medical websites as a whole. You have WebMD, which is kind of similar story from New York Times, of showing stability consistently and kind of the number one spot amongst their competitors. And then you have Healthline who’s actually been having a really strong, I would say almost going back six, nine months. But their first Q1 has been strong. And they’re actually closing the gap on WebMD, so I think those two websites from the macro, overall health lens, not just COVID-19 or coronavirus. We’re seeing stability from WebMD and then growth from Healthline to actually close that gap.

Ben:                       Ryan Protel, friend of the podcast I’m looking at, you see he’s the VP of SEO at Healthline. Early lead for SEO of the year. Keep going, Tyson, what else are you seeing in the health space?

Tyson:                   Yeah, a little bit of a head nods to Ryan there. 

Ben:                       Who also looks surprisingly like Dave Matthews.

Tyson:                   So the other ones that are obviously clear impact sites for this, are the CDC.gov. And also the World Health Organization. So these are both websites that we saw probably some of the most increased growth, naturally knowing the topic of it. But I’d say CDC is actually winning the most of that for search traffic here in the US. And they’ve had a significant growth every single week. It’s been almost between low single digits, low double digit increases from a percentage standpoint. And so really since the start of this, or at least when we’ve seen it rise here in the US they consistently are growing. And as this further develops, we just expect that to continue the World Health Organization very similar story. And it actually follows a very similar pattern across kind of like if you’re looking at the trend line from the graph, they are considerably lower than the CDC from a visibility perspective, but the same pattern and the same consistent growth. I think the difference that you see there is obviously they have the more international. So you’re going to have the same trend being in all the different markets as well.

Ben:                   So I think the takeaway here, when we look at the traditional winners in the healthcare space where people are getting their information, WebMD and Healthline still leading the pack. Have seen a slight increase but nothing massive. Healthline is continuing their trend and trending towards being the biggest player and overtaking WebMD. Haven’t quite made it there yet, but you know things are getting weird when we’re calling out the CDC as one of the biggest winners of the week folks. That’s not a good sign. Congratulations to the SEO working at the CDC, we never want to call you one of the winners. That means things are getting a little messy and we’re all sitting at home hopefully listening to this podcast. But we are seeing a pretty significant increase. I think for the World Health Organization they’re up like 30% and for the CDC it’s up like 50% over the last four weeks. So significant growth in the visibility of those websites

Tyson:               And I would expect that trend is just going to continue over the next a month or kind of really duration of this whole event.

Ben:                    Boy, I hope not. But that would be my expectation too is that people are continuing to search for CDC related terms. As the coronavirus continues to spread. So Tyson, I guess the last industry that I want to look at with you today is we’re talking about where people are getting their information. They’re looking at the news kind of in a steady state. They’re looking for health information more from the CDC and the World Health Organization. People are also going to get information from each other. Talk to me about what we’re seeing when we start comparing what’s happening with the communication tools.

Tyson:                Yeah, and I mean I think this one and as more people start working from home, the dependency on keeping those meetings going. And just like what we’re seeing from their business side, we’re seeing the same thing from a search performance. So the online conferencing tools, we’ve seen a huge spike in overall visibility from these sites. It’s across the board, everybody’s winning. But there is a clear number one as far as who’s having the most significant gains. So four sites that we’ve looked at, Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting and BlueJeans.com. All of those had double digit growth. The lowest being Skype at 10 percent. GoToMeeting 23 percent, this just in the last week. BlueJeans, 82 percent.

Ben:                     Eighty-two percent.

Tyson:                 I know that one’s big, but the big outlier here and the one that’s like had a dramatic jump has been Zoom. So Zoom.US had 168 percent week over week increase just this last week. So I think that is the clear number one winner as far as the online conferencing tools go.

Ben:                     So, fascinating to me that of the communication tools, the peer to peer communication tools, we’re seeing a clear winner. Obviously everyone is doing a little bit better, but man, Zoom 168 percent week over week growth. Have you ever seen a bigger jump?

Tyson:                 It’s been awhile. I think we saw when there’s some of the algorithm drops, we saw some decreases around that range, but very rarely do you see the increases of this magnitude. And obviously there’s external factors involved here. But yeah, they’re definitely capitalizing on it and taking advantage of how the direction is going.

Ben:                     So people are searching more for ways to get connected using Zoom, BlueJeans GoToMeetings, Skype as well. Everybody is having a good visibility week and a trend for a couple of weeks. How about when we think about the communication tools for the peer to peer chats, what are you seeing out of the Slacks of the world?

Tyson:                 Interesting enough, Slack was actually the opposite trend of what we saw from those other sites. So across the board we saw increases from the online conferencing tools. But then if we look at just Slack’s performance, it’s been ups and downs. So if you look at it from just last week, what happened, they’re down 23 percent. But then if you go back a couple of weeks they increased. So I’d say overall we’re not seeing a huge downturn. But we’re not seeing the same uplift on those types of queries versus the online conferencing, the face to face element that Zoom obviously leans into GoToMeeting leans into. So we’re not seeing the same trend as the others. It’s not like the floor is falling out either.

Ben:                      I wonder if that is more related to Slack’s optimization and their site performance or if it’s just that people are not prioritizing work right now as they’re trying to figure out child care and there’s more sort of stay at home directives from the government here in the United States. It’s obviously a challenging time. It’s obviously a shift in the landscape. Personally, professionally, and in the SEO landscape and that’s really what we’re seeing here. Tyson, when we think about how people communicate, talk to me about who are your winners and losers.

Tyson:                 I think number one winner here is, for me, clear, Zoom. They’ve exploded in this last week. We see it in their business numbers and reports that are coming out, so Zoom would definitely be my number one.

Ben:                     I think for my biggest winner, I’m going to go with the CDC. Obviously an important reference point that we should all be looking at. Throw SEO out the window for a second. This is a serious topic and people’s lives are at stake and the place that we’re getting the real, right, and accurate information, the CDC, the World Health Organization. This is not a political thing. This is not a marketing strategy. This is a serious topic where people’s lives are at stake and those are the reputable sources of information that we should all be looking to. So their visibility increasing I think is a good sign. Even though obviously we don’t want to be thinking about the topic. Tyson, how about you for the losers? Who’s your loser for the week?

Tyson:                As far as the losers, we’ve been concentrating on the industries that are, have an increased demand or are very pivotal in what’s going on right now. So I think from my perspective, I’m not seeing any significant losers here because it’s such a surge in interest and demand that’s going on. So I think the losers here are probably actually industries that we actually haven’t touched on and all of these are ones that I think are more of an increase or a surge of search volume. Versus some of the other industries that might be feeling more tightening pressure.

Ben:                   Without having done the research. My guess is that the B2B, the professional, the sort of hobby enthusiasts, outdoor and event space, those are probably going to be losers as people are shifting and trying to figure out how to deal with the new reality. Well Tyson, I appreciate you coming on. We’re actually going to continue this conversation tomorrow where Tyson and I are going to talk about not necessarily where people are getting their information, but how search volumes are being impacted in industries that are relevant to our lifestyles at home. Tyson, stay healthy. Wash your hands, and, we’ll talk again tomorrow.

Tyson:                Thanks, Ben, talk soon.

Ben:                    All right, and that wraps up this episode of the voices of search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton. Searchmetrics’ vice president of services. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes.

Ben:                    You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is, Tyson_Stockton or you can visit his company’s website, which is Searchmetrics.com. Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you could always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter and my personal handle is Benjshap. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to try to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data, and go wash your hands.