Credit: Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

While our eyes are on the latest coronavirus updates, good stories can easily fall through the cracks.

But even in the middle of an intense news cycle, we have to keep in mind that our audience cares about other issues too.

In April, while the UK was in the middle of the pandemic, Sky News landed a story about increased domestic abuse web searches throughout the covid-19 lockdown.

"We were still getting to grips with what the virus was," says Jordan Milne, home affairs and crime correspondent for Sky News, speaking at The Power of Search in Data-Driven Journalism event yesterday (28 July 2020). In early lockdown, her beat had gone quieter than usual.

"Now that everyone was shut-in at home, I was wondering how this was affecting those who are not usually shut-in together."

And so her attention turned towards victims of domestic abuse. She contacted helplines and charities to see if there had been a rise. They were able to confirm the increase but there were no official figures.

"Anecdotes are great, but they cannot be the main part of your story," Milne continues. So she used SEMrush, a data provider and online research company to get the insights to build the narrative.

The tool, which can be used for free, can analyse data on website and search traffic, advertising spend, brand mentions on social networks and other social media activity.

It can then break this down into volume of keywords across a region or country, mobile or desktop, month-on-month or year-on-year, and more.

SEMrush data revealed that traffic to the website for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline increased by 156 per cent across the UK between February and March 2020. That formed the basis of the story and the interviews that followed.

Last year, BBC also used the tool to gain 'sentiment analysis' of the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland. Journalists gauged the mood of social media posts (positive or negative) linked to hashtags and account mentions. Similarly, The Daily Express ran an article surrounding the announcement of the James Bond actress.

You can start using the tool for one project (domain) and 10 search queries, after creating an account. SEMrush then offers paid tiers for multiple projects and searches.

The company said that it offer this free - but limited - services to journalists to help address alarming levels of misinformation in the online space.

Laura Morelli, head of media UK at SEMrush said that journalism has been under increasing pressure during the coronavirus outbreak to keep up with the 'near continual flood of opinion, false theories and faked news' online.

"While the online world and onslaught of tech may have thrown a lot of misinformation and biased information sources at the dedicated journalist, it has also opened up new ways of accessing insight, including sourcing up-to-the-minute perspectives on popular opinion and widespread sentiment, and the ability to identify trends through aggregated online search behaviour," she wrote in an email to

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