How are people searching for information about the cost of living crisis?
The cost of living crisis is affecting almost everyone in the UK – 92% of adults reported their cost of living has increased compared with a year ago.
But what do people want to know about the cost of living crisis and what support are they looking for?
We share our findings about the search landscape, including popular searches, top ranking websites and tips for charities to help users reach the support they need.
Beyond ‘cost of living’, Google searches for energy bills, foodbanks and mental health reveal increasing need – and charities are best placed to support.
The cost of living in the UK has been outpacing people’s means for the last couple of years. It has been talked about long before it became a ‘crisis’ – however, the term ‘cost of living crisis’ has now taken on a meaning of its own.
The cost of living ‘crisis’ refers to increasing prices of food, fuel and household essentials, and the fall in ‘real’ disposable incomes as wages fail to keep up with inflation. The ‘crisis’ has grown alongside rising inflation and the impact of global supply issues.
The ‘crisis’ point is where the increased cost of living is affecting nearly everyone in the UK – the ONS found that 92% of adults reported their cost of living had increased by December 2022. Charities have found that living within this economic climate is a considerable additional challenge for their beneficiaries. For example, Macmillan says that 25% of people living with cancer in the UK “feel that they just ‘can’t afford life’”.
As people in the UK began experiencing a sharp increase in living costs in late 2021, the term ‘cost of living crisis’ entered the lexicon, and gained popularity across 2022.
Searches for ‘cost of living’ rose considerably in the first half of 2022, from 0 to 50,000 per month by May. After a small dip in the summer months, searches increased, averaging 50,000 a month from August to December.
‘Cost of living’ is a competitive keyword, and the results page on Google is dominated by news stories as well as information about support services from government sites. At the time of writing, only Citizen’s Advice Bureau is appearing on page one for the keyword ‘cost of living’.
For the keyword ‘cost of living crisis’, the Institute for Government and Crisis UK are appearing on page one of Google, however there are no other charities appearing currently.
Therefore, it’s perhaps unlikely that a charity will rank highly on the first page for these generic, high volume keywords. Google is interpreting that people search ‘cost of living crisis’ to find out information about what the crisis is, rather than for help and support. There are other searches where charities have a higher chance of ranking – we will explore these in this blog.
When did people start to search for help and support?
Searches for ‘help with the cost of living crisis’ began in May 2022 – it’s likely that search interest coincided with the announcement of government support measures like government support measures like the ‘Cost of Living Payment’.
Charities are dominating the Google results page for ‘help with the cost of living crisis’. Top performing charities are those directly providing support: Citizens Advice holds the featured snippet, with Step Change and Turn2us appearing below government sites. Other charities are also ranking, with pages pointing users toward channels of support.
This is exciting because there is a huge opportunity to rank for ‘help with the cost of living crisis’, and other terms where people are seeking support – especially if your beneficiaries are directly and significantly impacted, and if your organisation is in a position to help.
For charities that want to rank highly for ‘help with the cost of living crisis’ terms, create a page that is designed with SEO in mind. We recommend labelling your page using keywords that match up your support offering with the crisis – e.g. ‘Housing support during the cost of living crisis’.
For this search term, creating a content hub will likely be more impactful than a single page for SEO. This would involve creating additional child pages with relevant information and signposting to relevant support content across the site.
How is the cost of living crisis impacting on your charity’s beneficiaries?
The increasing cost of living is causing financial, health, home and relationship issues, including:
- Financial difficulties, including struggling to pay rent and energy bills
- Struggling to pay for food
- Struggling to pay funeral costs
- Struggling to afford pet ownership
- Increased risk of facing homelessness
- Financial worries leading to increased stress
- Negative impact on mental health
You will undoubtedly know how the increasing cost of living is impacting on people who your charity supports.
If you offer support to people struggling with housing issues, the cost of living crisis will have pushed people into increased risk of facing homelessness.
If you provide bereavement support, the cost of living crisis may be impacting people’s ability to afford funeral costs.
If you’re an animal charity, people may be struggling to afford the costs associated with owning and caring for a pet or they may even be looking into having their pet rehomed.
These are just a few examples. We recommend carrying out research to uncover how people convey those worries and needs, through user research and keyword research (to understand their search queries), in the hope of finding the support they need.
Energy bills, foodbanks, mental health: Google searches show increased need for support
Google is often the first place people turn to when looking for support. We’ve dug into what people are actually searching for, where increased searches show increased need, and where charities can respond to this need.
People impacted by the cost of living crisis may not specify this within their search. For example, if you were struggling with food costs, would you search for ‘struggling with food costs due to cost of living crisis’ or would you search ‘foodbank near me’?
Whilst we’ve uncovered a large amount of keywords directly associated with the cost of living crisis, the biggest opportunities for charities could be to focus on ensuring that content is optimised to directly address the ways people are searching for help due to issues exacerbated by the cost of living. This is a better way to address people’s needs and to convey the unique value of your charity.
When looking at data from Google, we found the following:
- Searches have gone up 890% year on year for ‘help with energy bills’
- Searches are up 50% year on year for ‘foodbank near me’
- Searches for ‘mental health support’ up 22% year on year
- Searches for ‘rehome my dog’ are up 48% year on year
None of these keywords directly reference the cost of living crisis but they do indicate just some of the ways that the increase in the cost of living may have impacted people’s searches.
Let’s have a look at what the results page looks like for ‘help with energy bills’, the keyword that has seen the biggest year on year increase.
A range of different charities are appearing for this keyword with pages which are directly related to support with paying energy bills. This shows that if your charity provides financial support or advice for people struggling with their energy bills, there could be an opportunity for you to rank highly, by creating similar content.
What else do people want to know about the cost of living crisis?
Other questions people ask that contain the term ‘cost of living crisis’ include:
- why is there a cost of living crisis (320 monthly searches)
- what is causing the cost of living crisis (210 monthly searches)
- when will the cost of living crisis end (720 monthly searches)
News articles predominately rank for these keywords, and competition for rankings is high. Whilst there is high search demand for this information, we believe that – for most charities – creating content to try and rank for these terms is not relevant to your aims, less likely to be successful for SEO, and therefore not a good use of resources.
We’d recommend focusing attention on creating content where you can add unique value and provide helpful support and advice to your service users.
We’ve found a couple of other interesting examples of ‘cost of living’ searches that look like they could be relevant, but where searcher intent is vague.
- cost of living crisis pets (50 monthly searches)
- cost of living crisis mental health (140 monthly searches)
The results page for this keyword shows RSPCA and Dogs Trust rank at the top of Google: with RSPCA’s cost of living hub with support and advice for pet owners, and a story page with information about how Dogs Trust is supporting dog owners during the cost of living crisis.
Similarly, the fact that there are searches for ‘cost of living crisis mental health’ shows that mental health is important within the context of the cost of living crisis. Charities such as Mental Health Foundation and Young Minds rank, again showing that Google thinks that charities are best placed to respond.
However, in both these cases, it’s difficult to know what the user’s ‘intent’ is:
- Are pet owners looking for support? Or are people interested in information about the impact the cost of living crisis is having on pet owners?
- Are people struggling with their own mental health due to the cost of living crisis? Or do they want to find information about the impact of the cost of living crisis on people's mental health?
It’s hard to say – a limitation of using keyword research as user research is that it provides quantitative data which we can’t drill down into further. In this case, user research is the logical next step in determining what information or type of content people want to see on the page.
However, the visibility of charities for these searches is a positive indication – if you create high quality content, written for your audience, about your services or response to the cost of living crisis – it’s likely you will rank highly for ‘cost of living crisis’ searches in your niche.
Show Google you are the best charity to offer support for cost of living searches
In order for search engines like Google to rank you highly, you have to demonstrate you have the best content on that topic – but also that you are the best organisation to provide information, advice and support.
Google is looking for E-E-A-T signals – that your website demonstrates your Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness – as well as putting real people’s Experiences at the fore. This is especially important when the content you’re creating impacts on people’s real lives, such as their health or finances.
The cost of living crisis is a perfect example of where information people read online could have real world consequences, so when creating this content you need to display high levels of E-E-A-T.
One example of this is by ensuring your content is fresh and up to date, and displaying this to users and to Google is important. An example of how a charity has done this well is Age UK. On their ‘Government help for energy bills’ page, they have included a last review date at the bottom of the page.
Tips for charities designing cost of living content
We recommend the following steps for charities who are looking to design content for people impacted by the cost of living crisis:
- Consider how people who use your charity’s services are being impacted by the cost of living crisis.
- Conduct keyword research to identify the queries that people are using to convey their needs, and check that your proposed content matches their search intent.
- Armed with a list of keywords, you can then identify whether you have content on your website which is related to these queries.
- If content already exists, ensure it is up to date and is optimised to include the keywords that you want the page to rank for.
- If you do not have content that targets the keywords you have identified, then you can design new content to respond to these needs.
- Add contextual information about the increased cost of living and explain how the crisis has exacerbated the need for advice about a particular topic.
- Signpost to other information that is useful for your audience.
- Ensure that the page follows SEO best practice:
- Match your language to the real queries your audience uses, and write about related topics that are useful for your audience.
- Design on-page elements and meta information with SEO in mind, including HTML headings (like H2) and the page (meta) title.
- Link to the new page from other related content on the site, using relevant anchor text.
Many charities have responded to the cost of living crisis by creating content, or signposting to existing information and support content, to help their service users. For our research we’ve analysed 100 charities to find out what they are doing.