How Did People Search Google For Coronavirus In 2020?

Google search for ‘coronavirus’.

# How Did People Search Google For Covid And Coronavirus In 2020?

As Covid-19 spread in 2020, people googled for information on Coronavirus and the disease and pandemic it caused.

Which were the most popular search terms associated with the virus? We can study that using Google’s Trends tool.

Google Trends lets you “Explore what the world is searching” via infographics showing the relative popularity of queries sent to the company’s search engine.

A search term with the most ‘interest over time’ gets a score of 100% at its peak popularity, and different queries (or the same query on other dates) get scores relative to that highest point, so 50% means half as popular overall.


The chart below shows results for five words (the maximum for comparison): ‘Coronavirus’; ‘Corona’, a colloquial term for Coronavirus or Covid; ‘Virus’, short for Coronavirus when referring to “the virus”; ‘Covid’ (technically the disease but also used for the pandemic); and ‘Covid-19’ (pandemic or disease).

Google Trends results for five search terms associated with ‘coronavirus’.

There are two clear peaks around late January and mid-March, which we’ll cross-reference against the New York Times’ timeline of the pandemic: those two dates coincide with 30 January, when the World Health Organization declared a “public health emergency of international concern” and when nations entered lockdown.

How did people search in different countries? The interest over time for each query is broken down by region (country). For example, the map below shows that Spain was 1st in searching for ‘Coronavirus’, with the United Kingdom in 5th and United States 17th. From the percentages calculated for all five search terms, 45% of queries from the US were ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘Covid’ was second with 35%.

Google Trends results from the US for terms associated with ‘Coronavirus’.

The words people use change over time, as illustrated by the name of the species behind Covid, which was initially called 2019-nCoV (‘n’ stands for ‘novel’) but was later renamed SARS-CoV-2 after scientists recognized its close relationship to the virus behind Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, now known as SARS-CoV-1.

As the chart below from the results shows, 2019-nCoV didn’t last long: searches started in mid-January and peaked later that month, coinciding with a rise for SARS-CoV-2 in early February that peaked in March and has held relatively steady since May.

Google Trends results for two of Coronavirus’ names.

Google Trends results for two of Coronavirus’ names.

Google Trends is a fun tool and this article only scraped the surface of how people search for Coronavirus information, so play with a few search terms and let me know what you find (@jvchamary on Twitter).

I’m a science communicator specialising in public engagement and outreach through entertainment, focusing on popular culture. I have a PhD in evolutionary biology and