Rosie, our Content Marketing Manager, delves into the intriguing world of Google Trends to assess the state of the fitness and wellness sector during COVID-19.
At this stage in 2020, we really don’t need to tell you that coronavirus has caused the biggest disruption to business in living memory. The global health crisis has forced businesses across the UK to pause, pivot and – in some regrettable cases – pack up shop for good.
At this time of unprecedented uncertainty (sorry!), there’s no way we can understand what customers are thinking about using specific products and services, or how their feelings might have changed. Or is there?
Let Me Look into My Crystal Ball…
If you’re not an SEO, you might be extremely surprised by how much customer insight can be drawn from search trends. It may be a nerdy pastime, but I regularly check in with Google Trends to understand the search landscape and inform any content topics I might want to produce in the coming month.
What is Google Trends?
Google Trends is a free tool that analyses the trillions of searches made on Google every year, allowing you to understand overall market trends. It’s very useful for understanding how search volume for a particular phrase or topic has changed over time, or in relation to another phrase or topic.
When you’re looking at results in Google Trends, it’s important to remember that the main metric is ‘interest over time’. This is defined as follows:
“Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means that there was not enough data for this term.” (Source: Google Trends)
Bear in mind that you’re looking at search interest, not search volume when you’re analysing the data.
If you’re unfamiliar with Google Trends and how it works, take a look at this video for an up-to-date guide:
As an example of how to use the tool, here are three trends that I identified as relevant to the yoga market.
Yoga vs Gym
Key takeaway: there is a huge opportunity for yoga businesses to capitalise on the rising interest in yoga in 2020 and convert the people who took it up for the first time during lockdown into regular customers.
This graph shows the interest in ‘gym’-related search queries and ‘yoga’-related search queries over the past 12 months in the UK.
What can we learn?
July 2019 to December 2019 was pretty steady in terms of interest, with ‘gym’ phrases 300% more popular than yoga phrases. We see a significant rise for ‘gym’ in January 2020 – this is a seasonal fluctuation we see every year as people make New Year’s resolutions to get fit. What is not normal, however, is the sharp decline in searches for ‘gym’ phrases in mid-March 2020: aka UK lockdown, which came into effect on 23 March. As of early July 2020, this interest has not yet picked back up to its pre-coronavirus levels.
In contrast, ‘yoga’-related phrases saw their biggest surge ever around lockdown. We can speculate why: people were looking for an online exercise programme that they could do with limited space at home. I think we can also assume that stress levels in the country were at an all-time high, so the relaxation and meditation aspects of yoga would have been particularly attractive.
For the first time ever, in March and April 2020 the interest in ‘yoga’ was at the same level as the interest in ‘gym’.
This suggests an unprecedented opportunity for yoga businesses to engage that new audience with an interest in yoga and retain them after lockdown. We can see from the trend chart that ‘gym’ interest is starting to rise again and ‘yoga’ interest is starting to fall – now is the time to be aggressive in your marketing campaigns to tempt people away from the gym and into your yoga studio.
What could you do?
- Continue to offer remote yoga sessions that allow new yogis to practise in their own homes
- Push the benefits of socially distanced yoga classes in contrast with the gym: you touch less equipment, you breathe less heavily, you have time set aside for relaxation
Key takeaway: although there was a big spike in people searching for ‘online exercise’-related terms in lockdown, in the summer months it has tailed off – online classes are no replacement for real classes, or for sunshine!
This graph shows the interest in ‘online exercise’-related search queries over the past 12 months in the UK.
What can we learn?
It won’t surprise anyone that there was a huge surge in searches for ‘online exercise’ as soon as lockdown hit, when we were limited to only leaving the house once a day for exercise. You only have to look at the soar in popularity of figures like Joe Wicks, who broke the Guinness World Record for ‘most viewers for a fitness workout live stream on YouTube’ on 24 March 2020 (the day after national lockdown started) with 955,185 households tuning in to watch.
It’s also worth noting that the search trends indicate a significant increase in buying-related phrases for home exercise equipment compared to 2019:
- ‘Free Weights’ search terms +500% YoY
- ‘Exercise Benches’ search terms +300% YoY
- ‘Yoga & Pilates Mats’ search terms +300% YoY
- ‘Exercise Bands’ search terms +300% YoY
- ‘Power Towers’ search terms +200% YoY
- ‘Exercise Bikes’ search terms +200% YoY
- ‘Weight Bars’ search terms +200% YoY
- ‘Aerobic Steps’ search terms +200% YoY
However, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the search interest in specifically ‘online exercise’ phrases has dropped off significantly through May, June and July, in line with both the easing of lockdown and the improvement in the weather.
The online exercise trend doesn’t look like it will be here to stay.
Although Zoom classes, free video resources and step-by-step infographics were a fantastic stop gap during the lockdown period, it is unlikely that uptake will remain high once coronavirus measures are further relaxed and exercise classes, gyms and studios are allowed to reopen.
What could you do?
- Communicate a clear reopening plan with your client base to reassure them that you are able to return to BAU (or ‘the new usual’) as soon as it is safe to do so
- Outline all of your hygiene and social distancing measures in a way that reassures clients rather than puts them off
Key takeaway: an uplift in interest in phrases related to ‘breathing techniques’ could provide the opportunity for a video, image or blog post content series.
This graph shows the interest in ‘breathing’-related search queries over the past 12 months in the UK.
What can we learn?
An intriguing trend that I didn’t expect to see was an increased interest in phrases related to breathing. If we take out the symptom phrases (‘coronavirus breathing problems’, etc.) there is still a significant list of breakout search queries in 2020:
- ‘breathing exercises for covid 19’ – breakout YoY
- ‘breathing exercises for coronavirus’ – breakout YoY
- ‘covid breathing technique’ – breakout YoY
- ‘4-7-8 breathing method’ – +3,700% YoY
- ‘box breathing technique’ – +2,600% YoY
- ‘jk rowling breathing technique’ – +2000% YoY
- ‘wim hof breathing benefits’ – +250% YoY
As a content marketer, this kind of interest in specific methods and techniques is music to my ears – it allows me to go to my client with a content idea based on solid search trend indications.
It seems natural for a yoga teacher to take advantage of the trend and serve this kind of wellness content to their client base, followers and potential leads.
What could you do?
- Create a piece of key phrase-enriched onsite content that outlines the main breathing techniques, how they work and how they can improve lung health and mental health, with an aim to achieve rankings and drive organic traffic to your website
- Create a video series showing how to do each one – if you’re new to the practice, it could be a ‘I tried xx technique for the first time and this is how it went’ video, with an aim to achieve engagement and exposure for your brand on social media
- Promote any onsite content on social media, targeting it specifically at Health and Wellbeing audiences
Staying On Trend
I only dipped my toe in the ocean that is Google Trends to find these three topics. With an inquisitive mind, a few hours with your laptop and a bit of search savvy, anyone can take advantage of this free tool to find actionable insights for your business.
If you would like some help with your SEO or Content strategy, please do get in touch with our friendly team. We’re a trendy bunch here at Passion Digital, so rest assured that we can use all of our know-how to stay agile and help you navigate these trying times.