In the bricks and mortar world, the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic laid out on every street corner and empty storefront. Less visible are the implications for the digital ecosystem. Adthena analysts wanted to know how the shockwaves of social distancing are impacting the PPC landscape and if there are any silver linings to be found.

We’ve gathered up some of their search intelligence to give you a snapshot of how a few key verticals are reacting to this unprecedented situation. For marketers looking for alternative strategies, potential opportunities and emerging threats, search data offers a reliable compass in a sea of uncertainty. 

In travel, big players drop out, others shift to branding

British Airways and Jet2 Holidays dropped out of paid search as of March 15, creating an opportunity for other advertisers to gain market share. BA still has a strong organic presence, but players like Airbnb already started chipping away at market share. In this environment, smaller operators are seeing marginal gains in share of clicks, and there may be room to capture more market share in the weeks to come.

With a noticeable decrease in sales and promotions, some advertisers, such as Airbnb and, have gone harder on the brand front, pivoting to brand-heavy messaging that uses the term ‘Official Site’ across all ad copy variations. These are tough times for travel brands, but there is still promising opportunity out there as long as messaging is bold, brand-oriented and focused on the top of the funnel.

In retail, Amazon is calling the shots in search

On March 17, Amazon announced its prioritizing of certain categories of goods in order to supply the most necessary products to consumers during this time of crisis. This means it has temporarily de-prioritized shipment for certain sellers across all but a few key categories until April 5. It has taken a similar approach with its retail vendors, prioritizing household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand products coming into fulfillment centers and adding staff to keep priority stock moving. 

This move by Amazon precedes its PPC spend on March 12, dropping out of competition for things like TVs, kitchenware and mobile phones, creating opportunities for retailers normally shut out by Amazon’s monopoly. Our search analysis shows that Best Buy in particular may be picking up some of the slack.

Retailers looking for opportunities would be wise to closely monitor Amazon’s search activity, as its moves so far heralds in search data ahead of its formal industry announcements.

Insurance advertisers clamp down on risk

With ‘unpredictability’ the new norm in travel, most insurers are attempting to manage risk, while a few intrepid players are taking it on. This dynamic is clear in the search data. Looking at analysis since the beginning of 2020, there has been a 50% decline in the number of advertisers displaying ads with ‘Travel Insurance’ in ad copy. But some providers like, have actually increased the number of ads with ad text containing ‘Travel Insurance’ and now dominate for that term. 

Consumers, after all, are looking for ways to plan travel, with searches around “travel insurance for cruises” on the rise, so with the right message and the right advertiser an opportunity exists. 

Overall, the number of ads containing ‘travel insurance’ within the ad copy peaked around week 3 and 4 of the year (coinciding with the first confirmed case of coronavirus outside of China and the first two cases reported in the UK).

Week 7 and 8 saw the sharpest declines in the number of ads containing messaging around travel insurance. Since then there has been a slow increase, coinciding with Italy’s major lockdown.

In conclusion?

Clarity is a scarce commodity in the current economic climate. But search intelligence can offer a way to track the competitive landscape and even forecast what’s coming, providing reliable, real-time visibility when marketers need it most.

We’re here, we’ll keep you updated, and we’re available to help you adapt your search strategy and buffer your business in these enormously trying times. If your business has been affected by Coronavirus and you’re uncertain about how to move forward with your search strategy, we’re here to help.