Coronavirus climbs into the Keyword Blocklists

According to Integral Ad Science data, in February the word “coronavirus” became the second-most common word on block lists for news publishers. As with other controversial events, brands and advertisers want to protect their brand image and association. Advertisers may block specific keywords for instance, when they don’t want their ads to appear next to certain online articles.

A timely and sensitive keyword can have both positive and negative effects on SEO. However, keywords lists should be created after much thought and careful consideration. Overzealous use, using relevant keywords, and failing to review your keywords routinely can all negatively impact the reach of your campaign.

The Impact for Publishers and Businesses

As the global novel Coronavirus crisis grows, consumers are making significant changes to the way they interact with content and advertising across platforms. Here's a stat on news consumption of select 40 popular news site in the U.S

In looking at an aggregate of approximately 40 select news sites, the week of March 9-15 was the highest week of news visits this year, by far – more than 100 million more news visits than next highest week (which was the previous week March 2-8). We saw 23.4% growth the week of March 9-15 vs. Mar 2-8 and 30.9% growth vs. Jan. 6-12.

In 2020, eMarketer expects total media ad spending worldwide will reach $691.70 billion, up by 7% from 2019, per its updated forecast. That's a decrease from eMarketer's previous forecast, which estimated worldwide ad spending would rise by 7.4% to $712.02 billion this year. eMarketer's new forecasts were completed on March 6, 2020.

eMarketer predicts the spread of coronavirus is likely to boost digital media consumption across the board as people spend more time at home and communicate in person less.

Social Media companies like Youtube have recently created policies in response to Covid-19.

Youtube’s sensitive event policy currently allows ads for content discussing the coronavirus for a limited number of channels, including self-certified creators and news outlets. Another example of Youtube guidelines is the removal of videos that claim harmful substances have health benefits.

Likewise, Facebook bans ads and listings for medical face masks and other items in an effort to stop misinformation and exploitation from the coronavirus.

Impact on SEO and Traffic

Internet searches including the terms “coronavirus,” “COVID” or “COVID-19” increased by 553,778% in Jan. 2020 – from 9,902 in Dec. 2019 to 54.85 million in Jan. 2020.
Source: Search Planner, Desktop Only

This unprecedented health event could have both positive and negative effects on SEO, depending on your level of SEO keyword research.

Business sectors like the travel and tourism industry are predicted to suffer and be negatively impacted in the future for an undetermined amount of time. Experts can’t really estimate the long-term effects that the coronavirus will have on travel websites and other industries that are adversely affected.

SEO keyword research and SEO best practices should be an ongoing and routine part of your marketing campaign. In some instances, a single keyword taken out of context can sometimes cause the entire article or ad to be misinterpreted by search engines. A perfect example of this is when a cruise line ad was placed alongside unflattering reports about the coronavirus. Additionally, a campaign with an excessive keyword blocklist can restrict your ad spend and negatively affect your campaign.

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