Site visits generated by organic search declined by 15% year-over-year in Q1, though Essential Retail sites bucked this trend, according to Merkle’s latest quarterly Digital Marketing Report [download page]. The impact of the coronavirus is clearly demonstrated in these new figures, exhibiting one of the many ways that consumer habits have changed during the development of the crisis.
In analyzing a sample of Merkle’s clients, the report found that amid the 15% overall decline in US organic search activity, tablet visits saw the greatest decline of 58%, compared to a 12% drop in desktop organic search visits and 10% in mobile phone visits.
Organic search activity has been declining for five quarters alongside an increase in spending on paid search. However, developments related to the coronavirus pandemic and increased awareness of necessary restrictions had a significant impact on organic search trends for this past quarter.
Per the report, in the week ending March 15, organic search activity relating to Essential Retail sites such as grocers and drugstores grew significantly, with a 53% year-over-year jump in clicks and a 23% climb in impressions. During that same period, Non-Essential Retailers – such as apparel retailers – saw a 31% decline in clicks and a 14% drop in impressions.
Google organic search volume declined the least (-13%) in Q1 in comparison to competitors Yahoo (-27%) and Bing (-26%). However, DuckDuckGo saw an increase in organic search visits of 38%, though this rate of growth is down from 68% in Q3 2019. What’s more, DuckDuckGo’s share of all US organic search visits remains very low, despite having grown year-over-year: it accounts for just 0.8% of visits alongside Bing’s 3.1% share, Yahoo’s 2.8% share and Google’s dominant share of 92%.
Merkle’s data also indicates an increase in direct site visits mirroring the decline in organic search. In Q1 direct visits accounted for around 22% of all US site visits, with Merkle cautioning that some organic search activity could be getting lost in data on direct visits.
Read the full report here.
About the Data: Figures are based on spend among Merkle clients in North America. Samples are restricted to those with active programs for at least 19 months and have not significantly changed their strategic objectives or product offerings.