Coronavirus: what people are looking for online

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Here below the analysis.

Il Coronavirus ha generato un interesse mediatico senza precedenti a livello mondiale. Purtroppo, i casi di persone contagiate crescono ogni giorno e con loro anche la curiosità di saperne di più, di informarsi e di cercare di capire più approfonditamente cosa sia e come agisca. Abbiamo pensato di condividere con voi quanto sta accadendo nel mondo del web in merito a questo tema così chiacchierato, perché anche l’argomento più temibile, se conosciuto, fa meno paura. 

Introduction and methodology

In this short research we have analysed online research related to the term coronavirus.  The report presents both a brief quantitative analysis of research trends related to the term coronavirus and a qualitative evaluation of research queries carried out in 5 European countries.

First we analysed the global research trend of the term coronavirus and the distribution of research in the various states of the world.

We then focused on 5 European countries: Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

A first analysis was carried out on 26 February 2020. Since the data on search volumes for February 2020 were not yet available, we decided to see what search queries on Google related to the term “coronavirus” (related and suggested searches). The queries found were then grouped into similar search clusters in order to assess which macro topics the online searches were focused on.  The same analysis was then repeated a week later on March 4, 2020, in order to highlight changes in searches. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

General research trends

La Figura 1 mostra l’andamento globale delle ricerche su Google del termine generale “coronavirus”. Dopo un incremento repentino avvenuto dal 21 di gennaio e che ha registrato il massimo 10 giorni dopo (area rossa del grafico), si nota invece una diminuzione delle ricerche globali fino al 20 di Febbraio (area gialla), quando a seguito della diffusione del virus al di fuori della Cina e in modo particolare in Europa, il numero di ricerche aumenta esponenzialmente, toccando il massimo il 28 Febbraio (area verde).

Figure 1. Worldwide research trend of the term “coronavirus”. Source GoogleTrends

Where researches are concentrated

The effect of the spread of the virus in European countries can also be seen from the data in Table 1. In fact, the Table shows the distribution of research of the general term “coronavirus” in the world. In particular, the table shows the top 10 countries by number of researches carried out between 15 January 2020 and 4 March 2020. For these countries, the table also shows the position of the research carried out up to 26 February.  In blue are highlighted the countries that climbed the ranking during the week 26-February 4-March. As can be seen the spread of coronavirus contagion in Europe is reflected in a significant increase in research in European countries. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Table 1. Distribution of searches of the term “coronavirus” in the world: top 10 states by number of searches. Comparison between 26 February 2020 and 4 March 2020. (Source: Google Trends)

Research Query: what people are looking for in 5 European countries

The search queries found, related to the five countries analyzed (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom) have been clustered into 20 macro topics. Figure 2 shows the number of search queries found for each macro topic both on 26 February 2020 and, one week later, on 4 March 2020.

It is evident that the research is concentrated, at both times, on information concerning the state in which the research is carried out. This means that, for example, in Italy research is carried out such as: “coronavirus italia”, “coronavirus lombardia”, “coronavirus lazio” etc., in France “coronavirus france”, “coronavirus paris” etc. and so on for all the other states analysed.

It also turns out that while the 26th of February the research was strongly polarised on this macro topic, one week later people start to diversify their research and, while the information about their own country remains of extreme interest, research queries are intensified in order to have a general picture of the situation such as information about other countries or online maps on contagion.

Figura 2: Macro argomenti di ricerca in 5 paesi europei (Francia, Germania, Italia, Spagna, Regno Unito). Confronto tra il 26 Febbraio 2020 e il 4 Marzo 2020. Fonte: nostra elaborazione su dati proprietari.

Research Query: what you are looking for in different countries and how research has changed over time.

The 5 countries analysed differ from each other in the type of search queries made. Figure 3 shows the distribution of search queries, as of March 4, 2020, by macro theme and country.

It is noted that in the United Kingdom, search queries are preferred in order to obtain information on the situation in other countries and in particular in China. In addition, the British seem to be the most interested in getting a complete picture of the situation by also looking for news, map and origin of the virus. In Italy we are particularly focused on the internal situation of our country and the symptoms. It should also be noted that Italy is the only country among those analyzed in which we are looking for news about the closure of schools and information on any “hidden” news identifiable by search queries such as “what they do not tell us about the coronavirus”, “what they hide on the coronavirus”, etc.. In France they mainly look for news about the internal situation in the country and the situation in other countries, especially in China and Italy. In Spain, the attention of online users is focused on symptoms, while in Germany, data on virus mortality and information on the spread of the virus in other countries and in the world (through the search for maps) are sought. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Figure 3: Distribution of search queries by macro topic and country of search. Data as of March 4, 2020.

Online researches on the coronavirus do not only differ between countries, but change within the same country over time, in relation to the evolution of the situation in the country itself, as can be seen in Table 2, which shows the main macro research topics in the 5 countries analysed for both February 23, 2020 and a week later. The information provided shows a general tendency to extend the search for information to other countries in addition to one’s own.

Table 2: Main research macro topics by country analysed. Comparison between the data of 23 February 2020 and the data of 4 March 2020

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Valentina Tortolini

Anno 1975. Dopo la laurea magistrale in Scienze Statistiche e Attuariali e il dottorato in Statistica Applicata ho svolto attività di ricerca presso la scuola di alta formazione IMT di Lucca occupandomi principalmente di analisi dei sistemi economici complessi. Dal 2015 collaboro con la fondazione CERM per l’analisi delle dinamiche di mercato dell’industria farmaceutica europea. Nel 2017 sono entrata a far parte del team di ByTek Marketing dove mi occupo dello sviluppo di strumenti di analisi per i dati digitali. Quando posso scappo a Londra, leggo i gialli, ascolto musica classica.

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