Editorial Strategy

3 Google Search Trends that Reveal How to Win More Traffic in a Crisis

Knowing how and when to create both proactive and reactive content is vital


SEO remains a crucial consideration for content marketers, and we’re here to help distill the data into insights you can use. In this ongoing series, we look at search volume trends to help you identify opportunities. This month, we dive into recession-related content. Whether you’re in financial services, insurance or real estate, it’s important to know what your audience is searching for, and when, so that you can serve up relevant and engaging content.

If we’ve learned anything in the last 36 months, it’s this: Anything can happen, and don’t count on much advanced notice.

This reality adds just one more layer of complexity to our jobs as content marketers, but in researching Google search trends and patterns around “recession,” we were reminded of several key tactics for publishing content in a crisis — particularly content that has a higher chance of ranking in a panic-stricken environment.

1. Know your content catalog so that you can quickly grab what you need.

Considering how long it feels the market has been in or near a bear market, it’s fascinating to see how equally quickly searches for “recession” rose then fell on June 16. On the day topic searches for “recession” peaked (Fig. 1), the S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropped 3.25% and 4.08% respectively. Also on that date, Switzerland and the UK surprised analysts with significant rate hikes, signaling that runaway inflation and recession were global risks. Notice that, despite months of recession talk leading up to June 16, searches were only marginally up. But the perfect storm of June 16 drove searches to a 12-month high. The lesson for content marketers here is two-fold:

  • Be proactive in your efforts. The sun may be shining today, but a storm will come eventually. Don’t wait for it, and don’t try to time the weather. Make sure you have plenty of definitional content in your catalog, that way you can grab what you need when you need it.
  • Know your content catalog well. If you were monitoring search traffic in the days leading up to June 16, you’d have spotted the opportunity to quickly refresh and republish an older piece. However, if you didn’t know where to look and instead spent a week or two creating a new rush piece, you missed the window.

graph of google recession searches from April 2022 through June 2022

2. Use real-time data to anticipate what questions your audience will have next

Now, give yourself a bit of room to react. Since those initial questions of “what is a recession” and “is the U.S. in a recession” (questions like these made up the lion’s share of June 16 searches) are answered, some may be satisfied. But if the existence of the term “rabbit hole” is any indication, most will not Spotify promotion . In the 27 days after June 16, topics like “federal funds rate,” “National Bureau of Economic Research,” “market trend” and “fixed-rate mortgage” saw major increases in traffic.

bar graph showing the topics with largest search increase the week of June 16 2022Google also noted the following related queries (verbatim, compared to the topic searches above) saw bumps in search volume:

  • “2nd quarter GDP 2022” +550%
  • “Fed rate hike” +200%
  • “Inevitable” +170%
  • “Bear market vs. recession” +150%

All this indicates that after getting initial “what is” questions answered, there is a natural inclination to investigate further. There may be additional “what is” questions, but they’ll be unique to the specifics and context of the moment. What should content marketers do? Once you’ve grabbed and republished the right piece(s), focus your reactive content efforts around these more detailed, investigative questions — content that will give your audience a deeper understanding and sense of expertise. This is where the magic happens. This is where content positions you as a reliable source of timely information in a crisis. Your audience is primed, so make sure these pieces all have clear, prominent CTAs; and use language that is specific to the moment (e.g., “Subscribe for daily market updates and analysis” instead of “Subscribe to our newsletter”).

3. Use geotargeted Google ads to capitalize on regional trends.

As you’re thinking about how to best meet the questions and needs your audience will have, don’t forget to consider regional interest. One topic that’s sure to be top of mind in a recession is housing. So we looked at three housing-related terms — FHA loans, foreclosure and adjustable-rate mortgage — to show how drastic the regional differences can be.

graphic showing top regional search traffic

For example, Alabama scored a 100 on Google’s relative search index for “foreclosure” searches over the past 30 days. This means it was the most of any other state; other rankings equate to a percentage of Alabama’s numbers. So, while Alabama was #1 for “foreclosure,” they scored only a 41 for “adjustable-rate mortgages.” Another example: Montana scored a 100 for “adjustable-rate mortgages,” but only a 37 for “FHA loans.”

When it comes to promoting this content, use available Google data to target the states and regions where you know audiences are most concerned with a particular topic.

Use these three steps to capture elevated search traffic in a crisis.

These tips are tactical and centered around helping you win traffic, but it’s important to remember why any of this works. It works because you’re thinking like your audience, working to understand them and provide them with the answers and resources they need. Search data on its own is just a pile of data — these three steps work as long as you’re keeping your audiences’ concerns front and center.

There will always be another bear market, another recession, another crisis — and now you’ll be better prepared. The challenge will be dedicating time to this effort once the sun is shining again. But you will not go unrewarded when the next storm comes and knocks everyone but you on their heels.

What recession search trends are you seeing? Need help incorporating search trends and SEO into your content? Please reach out to us at imprint@imprintcontent.com, and we can schedule a time to learn more about your goals and challenges.