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Desktop Search Surge: The Result Of Everyone Working From Home

April 15, 2020 Sarah Cavill

As recently as early 2020, marketing insiders were predicting that advertising spend for mobile search would finally overtake desktop in 2021, but that was before the coronavirus pandemic came ashore and changed everything. Desktop search is up. Mobile search is down. But will it last?

Why Are More Americans Using Their Desktops?

Shutterstock_283233887 Rear view of businesswoman using desktop computer in creative office

Now that many Americans are working from home and don’t have the ability to enjoy normal activities like going to the movies, dinner or gym, they are relying more and more on home-based digital solutions to connect with work, entertainment and friends. With convenient and continual access to larger desktop screens, many mobile apps are seeing use drop off, while website visitor volume numbers increase. “Now that we are spending our days at home, with computers close at hand, Americans appear to be remembering how unpleasant it can be to squint at those little phone screens,” noted an article in The New York Times on shifting internet behaviors. This renewed preference for desktop use is having a big impact on search. 

How Should Digital Marketers Respond To This Unexpected Shift Back To Desktop Searching?

Most sophisticated search marketers manage their desktop and mobile search campaigns separately so they can be uniquely optimized. With desktop search usage climbing and mobile search slipping, search marketers should make sure they closely monitor their campaign metrics — including cost per click and click-through rates. It’s likely that regular updates will be required as search behavior continues to change over time. And once people go back to their offices, there will likely be a significant shift that needs to be addressed — reverting back to how things used to be.

For marketers thinking about organic search results, the Google shift to mobile-first indexing is still in full swing, with a planned completion date of September 2020. So even as search strategies adjust to accommodate more desktop searchers, web developers and designers should maintain their mobile-first approach.

What Are Consumers Searching For?

One of the most significant changes among U.S. consumers is the move to online shopping almost exclusively, a change likely to continue to some extent after life returns to normal. Among the sectors seeing increases in searches: Groceries, e-learning services, fitness and sports equipment, tools and furniture. Consumers facing uncertain economic futures are also more regularly searching for credit cards and refinancing products.

Will The Shift To Desktop Search Last?

People love their phones. Prior to coronavirus, the number of searches was expected to rise to 246.4 million by the end of 2020, with nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population conducting searches via smartphones. Consumers will return to their phones for many of the same search behaviors as before and possibly for new habits adopted during self-isolation, like online grocery shopping. Digital marketers should continue to prioritize search campaigns across both desktop and mobile platforms and be ready to pivot back to mobile-focused strategies when consumers are back out in the world. 

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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