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Google organic clicks growing strongly during COVID-19 pandemic despite often mediocre SEO

29 January 2021 (Edited 02 February 2021)

Housebound consumers are making heavy use of Google organic search, but companies are neglecting SEO

According to the Digital Marketing Report Q4 2020 just released by Merkle, after 5 quarters of decline, Google clicks from organic search grew 20%-30% year-on-year in Q2, Q3 and Q4 of 2020 as consumers locked down at home shopped and bought online.

Some 4Q2020 statistics:

  • Google organic search clicks grew year-on-year by 30.5% overall, 32.7% on mobile, largely because of 40% growth in searches for retail and consumer goods.
  • Searches for essential consumer goods - food, water, shelter, clothing and medicine - grew 63% YOY, driven primarily by online grocery shopping.
  • Searches for apparel rose 2% after declining 11% in Q3.
  • Searches for non-essential goods increased by 33%.
  • Travel searches were down 20% YOY, but up from Q3 as rollout of COVID-19 vaccines improved prospects for 2021 travel.
  • Organic impressions on smartphones increased 28% YOY, clicks 37%. Decreased tablet use made for an overall mobile-device increase of 32.7%.

However: Other new data from Merkle suggest that although Google is making a strong effort to meet consumer demand for organic content, indifferent execution of SEO by companies is limiting their performance in organic search, especially for users with mobile devices.

Merkle SVP/Search and Performance Marketing Matthew Mierzejewski observes that SEO is significantly underutilized by many marketers as a search strategy, and that winning space in the Knowledge Graph for strategic keywords is more important than getting some product or YouTube video to rank on page one.

Meanwhile, Google paid search clicks grew 12% YOY in Q4, and costs-per-click grew for the first time since Q1. Ad spend grew 12% YOY, up from 11% in Q3. Desktop traffic on paid search increased as consumers spent more time at home, dropping smartphone share of paid clicks to a pre-pandemic level of 64%.

Comment: The message is clear: up your game on SEO, to stay competitive for as long as COVID-19 is with us.

Learn more about using SEO as part of your marketing strategy.

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