Swine flu and search

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I find myself wondering if some marketers have seen an increase in site traffic after the swine flu outbreak. Due to its well-documented presence in here in New York, the sight of people on trains applying hand sanitizer and/or wearing face masks has become familiar this week.

This article from Bloomberg mentions some of the retailers that are increasing their supplies of those products, as well as the flu drug Tamiflu.

From the article:



“If we continue to see a steady stream of news and this becomes a fixation issue with the public, this could have a substantial effect on companies,” said Peter Sorrentino, a senior fund manager at Cincinnati-based Huntington Asset Advisors Inc. “These are very low-cost, high-margin items.” Huntington overseas about $13.3 billion in assets.


Its not surprising that demand for these items is rising. Working on my hypothesis that search is a leading indicator for the market, I checked in with Google Trends. Sure enough, searches for "face masks" and "hand sanitizer" have both spiked in recent days.

What can marketers do with this information, however? Only one brand home page appears on the first Google SERP, and it comes up organically, not in the sponsored links. Most of the other links are to news articles about the rise in demand, informational sites about hand sanitizer or drugstores. For companies such as these, is the incidental rise in demand enough, or is it worth their while to purchase keywords and ensure that their brand is top-of-mind for curious consumers who search for their product category?
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