Before I begin talking about SEO & COVID-19, I hope you and your dearest ones are safe and sound.
From practicing social distancing to washing our hands (till your skin dries), and praying to God that you do not fall sick, we’re in the middle of an outbreak that none of us expected.
The COVID-19 pandemic, as we see, has impacted every industry and business in some form – ranging from complete shutdowns to massive increases in buying for some sectors.
It is the single most important topic in the minds of everyone. It remains the subject of regular updates from health officials. And yet, despite the abundance of scientific facts and guidance surrounding this deadly disease, misinformation abounds as confusion persists.
Time for a reality check. Now I won’t be debunking the general COVID-19 myths as I’m no doctor (I’ll leave it to the experts), nor the general SEO myths as you’ve always read. I’ll be incorporating SEO & COVID-19 and exploring some of the facts and myths to combat marketing during a crisis, once and for all.
As it’s pretty obvious in the image above, savvy marketers are already making shifts in their strategies and investing more SEO. According to Google Trends, the search term “SEO” and related terms have seen a spike in interest since lockdown is imposed worldwide.
So how are SEO and online marketing going to adapt over the coming months (if not years) and what can you, as a business owner, do to protect and boost your image when fear and uncertainty are at an all-time high?
We’ll get to the bottom of it in this article.
I’m sure you’re seeing coronavirus updates every breathing minute today so here’s another one. In my previous blog, I talked about “Content Ideas Amidst COVID-19 Social Distancing Period” as an effort to stay at the forefront of Google Trends.
And today, I’m back to debunk some myths and clarify some facts about SEO and marketing during a crisis. Let’s see what you should be trusting or doing, and what are things that should be avoided at all costs.
SEO & COVID-19 MYTHS
This article is written to tell you how crucial it is to deal with accurate information. Times of crisis can be confusing and frightening, resulting in an amplification of speculation, and conspiracy theories. Communicators must ensure that they are dealing with facts and not fiction, real information and not a rumor.
MYTH 1. Stop SEO efforts to cut budgets
Sounds familiar? I’m sure you’ve seen this phrase spiraling since lives have been flipped since the start of the year 2020.
When a crisis or recession hits, the knee-jerk reaction is to cut budgets, lay off workers, focusing on preventing further decreases and going back to basics.
Oftentimes, marketing is one of the first areas to see massive reductions. Since marketers don’t see the effect take on immediately, they choose to ignore it. Little do they know that SEO is a cost-efficient investment during COVID-19. SEO is a slow burn technique and the payoff begins to show after a few months, not a few weeks.
Do you think it’s possible that you’re the only business considering cutting your SEO budget? Absolutely not. Right now, your competitors are contemplating the same cuts and trying to make the same decisions.
As your competitors slice SEO budgets, their share of voice in search engine results will begin to drop from lack of maintenance (SEO efforts). Their rankings will hold for a few weeks and then start to slip as Google’s algorithms begin to recognize that there’s nothing new happening on their site. In return, you’ll be getting all the traffic, rank and visibility if done well!
The coveted page one search results suddenly become a little more attainable to sites who choose to stay in the game and remain committed to SEO. Even in a tough economy, people are still purchasing and searching frantically.
This is a time when many companies make rash decisions, but this is also a time where some managers and C-suite employees can make bold ones. Choose to stand on the wiser side.
MYTH 2. Halt All Advertisings, No One Buys Anyways
“The best marketing helps people first, and earns their business as a result.”
If your business is in a hard-hit sector (I’m sorry to hear that), or one that has no relevance at all to the current situation, it’s still a good time to do some clever, relevant brand-building.
There isn’t a single person on the planet right now who isn’t affected by COVID-19 in some fashion. At BiQ, we understand how you’re feeling. You’re scared about the future of your business and concerned about the health of your family, employees, customers, friends, and neighbors. We are, too.
And now we wonder, should we be stopping our advertising efforts during the coronavirus crisis? The truth. Now is probably one of the best times to use digital marketing to grow your business.
By continuing advertising:
- Your audience is reassured by your presence; and
- You’re projecting confidence, a positive outlook and that you’re still planning to serve your audience at full force once things get back to normal
What makes this global pandemic far different from any other world crisis is that our society is incredibly technologically connected. We are still able to shop online, video chat with family members, work remotely, and more.
It may sound a bit ridiculous at a time like this, but your customers genuinely want to see your content during the quarantine. Just look at the response towards BiQ below:
They want your Facebook messages keeping them updated and ads promoting your latest products. They want your YouTube videos so they can learn how your service can help them live better lives. They want to read and consume the content, potentially your content, whenever and wherever they want.
There are numerous thoughtful, smart brands that recognize that marketing doesn’t mean exploitation. When it’s done right, marketing is about recognizing and serving a real need.
MYTH 3. It’s Alright To Stick With An Old Strategy.
Which you’ll regret in the coming months….
Change is permanent. Even during a pandemic, the Google algorithm is prone to change at any time of the day. Just look at it, the pandemic, and news about it changes rapidly.
For SEO practitioners who keep a keen eye on search trends during a time like this, there is a lot to learn. Despite the disruption COVID-19 might cause, people will reinvent themselves. They may start to have more interest in certain things that they did not.
Think of it, right now an item like toilet paper is being searched for like never before. Maybe it will become a trend even after the pandemic. Will you still be sticking by something that isn’t generating any interest? Most probably not.
For one, your customers’ mindset (like yours and mine) is probably different than it was just a few weeks ago; the speed at which you are having to make website changes has likely gone up, too.
Learning and studying things prepares an SEO practitioner for the changes that will come. It’s obvious that things will change after the world has gone through this and it pays to adapt your strategies with what is truly needed.
MYTH 4. COVID-19 will be over next month (so I’ll just wait)
In weeks to come, and little-by-little every month thereafter, online life will become the norm for a larger percentage of the world’s population than ever before.
For many businesses, the future is uncertain. The world is dipping into a recession so cuts will have to be made and picking yourself up after that will not be easy.
No one knows when this will end which is why no one should be taking any chances.
Tens of millions of people who work in sectors that rely on foot traffic will be doing work or seeking work online. Hundreds of millions more will be fulfilled not just basic needs, but non-essentials online as well. That revolution is already creating a lot of disruption, but it’s going to create a lot of opportunities too.
It makes sense to invest in a long term marketing strategy that will provide a way out after the pandemic. SEO is characteristically a long term strategy. What you do today will bear fruits much later in the future.
The article particularly mentioned that companies that moved deliberately to capture opportunities before the recession are ranked among the eventual winners. While they focused intensively on cost transformation, they also looked beyond cost.
Since the pandemic has no expiry date, it makes sense to put more effort into a long term strategy so that once the disease has crawled back to wherever it came from you are ready to receive customers.
Doing SEO now means planting a healthy seed for the future.
MYTH 5. Ignore Data & Analytics
It is not business as usual right now. Here we are, sitting in our makeshift offices wondering when will life return to normal. But like everything else, data and analytics for businesses will be directly impacted by COVID-19.
It is almost certain that current events will have affected your website traffic in some way or another, and it is important these events are clearly noted against your analytics data. Instead of completely ignoring your website and giving up before trying, you need to be playing a long game of ‘showing up’ online.
This is the very time you should be reviewing your Google Analytics and Google Search Console data. Find out what terms people are using to find you, what pieces of content they are most interested in right now, review how devices (desktop/mobile) perform, look how traffic sources perform or investigate what pages people are seeing the most/least.
Your traffic may still be active… despite what your emails or lead form may tell you.
Well, people still have problems that need to be solved. Many of them may not be spending money right now, but their needs haven’t gone away. They’re still in research mode, trying to figure out their new normal.
Knowing what they want through thorough research and valid data is the way to keep your customers at this point in time. The best way to do so? BiQ’s Rank Tracking module that shows you accurate insights and reporting.
“Get insights, fix things, repeat”.
SEO & COVID-19 FACTS
Now that you’ve got the myths out of your head, let’s move on with true facts.
FACT 1. SEO is the primary focus for marketers during a crisis
During the mandatory lockdown of many areas, there are close to no one lingering outside, which ultimately means fewer people driving past billboards. The total number of potential eyes that are typically projected from these offline marketing is changing dramatically during these unusual times.
With that said, the rankings on search engines for businesses have become more crucial as this method of researching businesses becomes more widely used. Just look at where marketers are willing to invest in adapting the latest marketing strategies.
Clearly, if you:
(i) Stop optimizing your local presence – means losing visibility for “near me” searches and leaning back into the old untrackable, unreliable means of being found.
(ii) Ignore technical site issues – you may not even know about the technical issues that could be preventing your site from ranking well.
(iii) Stop updating with fresh content – you run the risk of losing rankings for target keywords, de-incentivizing people from visiting your website, decreasing your opportunity to score quality links and missing out on new audiences
(iv) Quit revamping outdated pages on your site – you’ll be irrelevant to Google and your users and off you go down the ranks!
(v) Stop building new pages – you’ll lose out on the opportunity to stay on top of your competitors in the SERPs
When you stop SEO, you are pausing one thing but many things at once.
Remember, people are spending a lot of time on the Internet these days, so it may be time to focus more on running the business online and what better way to get attention than to put energy into SEO strategies. People probably have more time to read and respond to emails, some may be trying to learn more about a particular product or service.
FACT 2. SEO requires consistency
Frequency and repetition are still important, no matter what climate the world may be in.
In the world of SEO, you should always be thinking long-term. Because SEO takes several months before optimization reaches its peak. Campaigns require continued maintenance and monitoring in order to see success.
Many businesses are fearful of how to respond or that their response will only add noise. Again, while this fear may be natural, avoiding consistent beneficial actions towards your site is a surefire way to drive Google and people away. If necessary, speak out on a daily basis so customers know that you can be counted on during a trying time and that Google thinks you’re relevant!
Now, if you already are working on an SEO campaign, taking your foot off the gas now can hurt too. Very quickly, keywords you’re ranking for will start dropping when you stop working on SEO. In 6 months or more, your keywords could be off the first page of search results entirely.
If inconsistency happens too drastically during periods of unrest, nurturing growth once markets stabilize will then be a difficult task.
But if efforts like SEO continue during times where users and businesses are searching for consistency, you’ll experience exponentially more growth by the time the most urgent concerns have been curbed.
So, please continue optimizing your websites and work on SEO, okay?
FACT 3. Revisit Your SEO Strategy
For businesses to best position themselves through this time of uncertainty, it is worth re-visiting their 2020 SEO strategies and roadmaps to understand the role of SEO in this rapidly changing environment.
Take the golden opportunity to revisit your current content marketing and keyword strategy. Leverage keyword research tools for topics that provide insight into the specific information they are seeking. Why should you be doing this you ask?
This is because keywords targeted yesterday may not be the most relevant today, as search volume and term trends could be fluctuating. Or perhaps, your users’ needs are changing due to and you should be adapting to fit their needs.
Perhaps you run a law firm and you’re considering having client meetings via Skype or implementing more electronic documents. If you’re in the fitness industry, you can offer online classes to keep your client base.
In a time of uncertainty and quarantine, clients and customers are likely to be more receptive to changing the norms because old practices simply cannot happen. So this is your chance to revisit your strategies and make things right.
PS: This is also a good time to re-optimize your content, revamp your website with a new layout, or launch a new site altogether! (Since many people are online and at home)
But for people to learn about your new services, SEO is the best way to push your strategies through. Creating new pages of content, updating SEO features and choosing the keywords correlating with your new services are all critical to a successful launch.
FACT 4. Focus On Online Activities and Engagements
As it’s pretty obvious, any person-to-person and bricks-and-mortar businesses are severely restricted worldwide. Businesses who heavily depend on it previously should redeploy their sales efforts to new channels.
Let’s say you run a cosmetics company. Without a doubt, you will be forced to close most of your stores during the crisis, especially in the severely affected regions. Here are what some changes in your strategies can help minimize the company’s losses:
- Re-deploy all your in-store beauty advisors as social media influencers
- Leverage on tools like Facebook, Instagram or TikTok as a social media marketing platform
What are these acts showing? Regular communication!
Customers today want a relationship with the companies with whom they do business and to go beyond the transaction to a more engaging, human place. If you do not already have a regular cadence of communication with your customers, now is the time to build one.
Moving your brand even more online will keep you connected to your customers and enable a unified customer experience. Three key areas to focus on: your story, website, and data.
Simply by steering the course of your ship, and responding to your users’ needs, you might be able to enjoy growth relative to the previous years! Right now, focusing on the future and what you can do to prepare for recovery matters. Rather than sit on the sideline and wonder what happened, take a proactive approach.
FACT 5. Be Positive & Kind
When times are good you often use words like” we understand, we care, valued customer” and so on. When a pandemic strikes, you stand should remain the same as this is the time to really walk that talk.
Keep the excessive ‘hard sell’ away.
Be empathetic, everyone is going through a hard time due to this unprecedented pandemic. Focus on strengthening your relationship with your customers but for reasons that are genuine and thoughtful, ask how they are doing, exchange life stories of caution, reassure that we’ll get through this together and triumph.
Instead of pestering users with purchasing BiQ SEO Suite, we chose to send emails of assurance every now and then and will always be there for them.
These are people who receive your newsletters, comment in discussion forums and some are even advocates for your business. Is this the time to shove products down their throats? Certainly not! It’s time to be an understanding friend.
Show how your brand can help and provide value in times of distress. If what you do supports or enhances people’s lives while quarantined, tell that brand story.
You don’t have to strip your brand of emotion. For example, offering your well wishes or using imagery of people smiling isn’t, in itself, offensive. In fact, it can be refreshing for people to recall normal life, and to be hopeful for the quarantine’s end.
As long as you keep the focus on helping people (and not patting yourself on the back), your marketing doesn’t have to stop.
Take action now, but act with compassion.
COVID-19 will End.
I’ll save the last and most important fact: Be Safe – None of the above can be achieved if you don’t keep yourself safe and healthy. Please keep striving on, you’ll want to get through this and see the sunrise beautifully again.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, getting your content to the top of a Google SERP will be more important than ever. Given the uncertainty, SEO is our best option for responding to ongoing COVID-19-related business interruptions with speed and agility.
One final recap, what’s the best way to protect your brand reputation – now and in the future?
- Continue creating SEO-focused content on topics that are relevant to your audience
- Keep your site, content and messaging up to date and relevant
- Audit your current campaigns to be mindful of your messaging
- Understand, anticipate, and go above and beyond to fulfill customer needs
- Activate purpose-led marketing messages and focus on helping customers
- Be agile with your marketing and advertising spend
Perpetuating myths will only make matters worse and lead to unnecessary worry for your businesses. I hope this blog about SEO & COVID-19 gives you a boost in knowing how you should be handling your business moving on. This is a time for all of us to educate ourselves through credible sources while trying to remain healthy and calm.
Stay safe. Stay at home. Together, we’ll get through this.
This too shall pass.