Episode Overview: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced society at large to adjust to a new normal of living alongside the virus until an effective vaccine is developed. Every industry has been affected and will be forever changed – the search industry is no exception. Join host Ben as he speaks with Healthline Media’s Vice President of SEO Ryan Purtill about the future of search as society adjusts to living with COVID-19 and what the new normal in search looks like.
- As most of society continues to shelter in place, short-term queries for home remedies, how-to guides, exercise from home and maintaining proper work-from-home posture continue to rise in prevalence.
- The significant increase in searches of “How to disinfect,” guides will likely be a mainstay query well into next year.
- Telehealth and teleconference software will likely see increased use well after the pandemic ends as people become more accustomed to using them while sheltering in place.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Ryan Purtill: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. Today we’re going to discuss how search behaviors are changing in the wake of the coronavirus. Joining us is Ryan Purtill, who is the vice president of SEO at Healthline Media, which is now the largest and fastest growing consumer health publisher in the world. Healthline includes domains such as healthline.com, Medical News Today, greatest.com, and they reach over 300 million people a month.
Ben: Yesterday Ryan and I talked about how there’s been a change in user behavior in the wake of the coronavirus. Today we’re going to talk about, dare I say, how things are going to start getting back to normal. Okay. Here is the second part of my conversation with Ryan Purtill, vice president of SEO at Healthline Media. Ryan, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Ryan: Thanks for having me, Ben.
Ben: Excited to have you back on the show. Yesterday we covered a lot of ground talking about the user behavior changes in the wake of the coronavirus. I think there were three really big takeaways for me. First, there are more searches. People are in front of their screens more often. Second, we’re not seeing the same sort of predictable day. Every day is kind of the same as people are spending time from home. Then the third is people are looking for different content. They’re not necessarily searching for the same type of evergreen content. They’re really looking for topical content and mostly surrendered in your case around, well, the coronavirus.
Ben: Things are starting to get back to normal. I’m knocking on wood for everybody who can’t see me in person. Hopefully we’re all going to be able to get out of the house soon, give hugs and kisses to everybody. We’re not quite there yet. Talk to me about what you see happening as things start to normalize from an SEO perspective.
Ryan: It’s kind of interesting. So you see, like I’ve mentioned, this return to what most people care about from a search population, so some of our most popular type articles around intermittent fasting, keto diet, how to lower cholesterol. You start seeing that come back, which is interesting from our perspective of people recognizing the COVID reality and then are bringing back in the things that they cared about before all this happened. Then you see these new areas that are still heightened. Sleep is a really interesting area where we’ve seen like 30% increase in people having trouble sleeping, or 15% increases in anxiety and depression. That still is a lingering thing. That is not going to come back.
Ryan: We had a great speaker at Healthline talk about this entire COVID situation as being seen as grief and really downloading it as grief, and people will somewhat process and rethink how this has affected them over time, but there’s going to be lasting changes to what people care about from a health information perspective.
Ben: Ryan, as we start to think about the collective recovery from a traumatic event, what are some of those short-term queries and some of the things that we’re going to see through the recovery, as opposed to when we get to the end?
Ryan: I think you’re certainly still going to see a lot of queries where people are staying from home, so you’re going to see home remedies for toothache. Those types of queries, home remedies for everything, is up about 200% on our site. Exercise from home. Also do-it-yourself-type stuff, like how to make your own hand sanitizer, your own scrubs, your own face mask. That’s going to continue through this world.
Ryan: Then there’s the ones that have to do with the new changes in lifestyle. So everyone’s working from home, they’re working off their crappy chairs at their desks from their apartment, and actually back pain is up 40% because people are not used to actually working from home, either the amount they are, there’s a lot of studies that are showing people are spending more and more time when they work from home, or actually having the proper chairs and posture and those kinds of things. You’re going to see changes in those types of areas, and I think that’s going to continue for a little while, along with a return into these more evergreen queries.
Ben: As we start getting farther removed from the original shelter in place, sort of the understanding of the coronavirus, as things start to go back to normal, what do you think are the long-lasting repercussions of having gone through this from a user behavior perspective? I imagine that some people are going to continue to work from home after all of this. I know there’s a big movement there. Are there other changes that you’re seeing that you think will just sort of never either recover in terms of search volume, or just behaviors that are not going to come back?
Ryan: Yeah, it’s a good question. I do think, and this is even before COVID, but COVID certainly increased it, is the reliance on mobile. We saw a shift to more mobile during COVID and there could be lots of different reasons for that. People have their phone next to them and are okay doing it at work. It could be lots of people lost their jobs and their desktop computer was a company computer. There’s a lot of different reasons why that can be, but I don’t think there’s ever a year where there’s going to be less mobile traffic. That’s just going to continue to happen.
Ryan: From a query standpoint, I think certainly mental health is going to continue to be a drive here. I bet we’ll see spikes again in things like immunity and some of the misinformation that went out around COVID, like garlic helped ward off COVID like it was a vampire.
Ben: Does that work?
Ryan: No, it doesn’t.
Ben: Just asking for a friend.
Ryan: There’s an article, Google it. I bet you’ll see those spikes again, and then they’ll come right back down, and that’ll happen as second waves or third waves come out. One thing that I thought was super interesting that I’ll share is, when this all happened, people also increased search around past pandemics. So we got a ton of search around SARS and MERS and Spanish Flu and Ebola all these past months because, one, they’re being referenced in the news, so people are like, well, what is that? Did it work? But also people trying to understand like, “Hey, were there precautions that were done there that worked? Like, how can I start thinking of that?” So I bet you’ll see those pop back up again, but they’re acute. They’ll go right back down.
Ben: I also, like I mentioned before, the work-from-home trend and, hopefully not the unemployment trend, but people starting to think about the right way to take care of themselves in a different work environment is probably something that’s going to be a lasting trend as well.
Ben: Ryan, as we hopefully get towards the end, or we’re maybe in the middle, hopefully, I don’t know, somewhere, not the beginning of the coronavirus, are there any other trends that you’ve seen during this time that you think are interesting, other things that are going away or any other sort of long-lasting trends?
Ryan: I would just say in general, and I’m an optimist and have been trying to hunt for silver linings around this whole thing. I think one of the small ones I could find is a recognition through search streams that people are starting to take control of their own health in a new way. A lot of that was forced; they can’t go to the doctor, they can’t go to the dentist, they can’t go to the gym. And the resources that you were used to in your toolkit are not there anymore. So it requires users to really think about their health in a new way and say, all right, how do I do this by myself? What if I only had a chair? How do I do cardio?
Ben: How do I cut my own hair?
Ryan: That one I have not done yet, as you can tell.
Ben: No. Me neither. I feel like I’m wearing a mullet.
Ryan: I think the trend of that is going to lead into telehealth, and I think that’s going to be really positive for the world. More and more people are going to say, you know what, I can see a therapist over Zoom. I can check in … My wife is pregnant right now. Right in front of me I have a blood pressure cuff that we take every day because we can’t go to the hospital and check in as much as we’d like. So I think users are really going to start, by force, have to take control of their own health, which I think is always better. When users can take their own information and blend it in with professionals and take accountability, I think you’re going to see really positive repercussions for that over time.
Ryan: The mental health side of it is just such an important one, because that one often people don’t grab until it’s too late. So really as a company, we’re trying to focus there and really get resources in front of people.
Ben: I’ll throw in an un-SEO-related shout-out to the .com service and app, which I use regularly to do a 10-minute meditation every day. It’s just a nice way to take a break. Obviously not SEO related, probably not what everybody was here to talk about, but mental health is going to be increasingly important and something that you need to consider, not only for yourself, but also when you think about the health and wellbeing of the people that are actually conducting search queries to find your business and services.
Ben: So Ryan, from one podcast to an SEO help, it looks like you’re doing great. I appreciate you providing us with a silver lining and telling us a little bit about some of the changes in user behavior that you’ve seen in the SEO space.
Ryan: Absolutely. I have to give a shout-out to my cousin, Liam Noonan, who loves your podcast. And every time I’m on it, he gives me a text and goes, “You’re on it!”, so a shout-out to him. He’s an up and coming SEO, and yeah, thanks so much for having me again, man.
Ben: Liam, have Ryan give you my email address. Let’s get you on the show too, buddy. All right. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Ryan Purtill, the vice president of SEO at Healthline Media. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Ryan, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is Ryan Purtill 2. That’s R-Y-A-N P-U-R-T-I-L-L, the number 2, or you could visit his company’s website, which is healthline.com, H-E-A-L-T-H-L-I-N-E.com.
Ben: Just one more link in our show notes 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 could send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions, or you could apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter. My personal handle is Ben J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. 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 publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit the 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.