Never in recent history that the world is aggressively fighting the same enemy. The COVID-19 pandemic is straining the world’s economy. How do you deal with uncontrollable changes that can directly affect your online business, particularly your SEO strategy?
Being quick to adapt to the changing of tides is the safest way to survive. In times like this, you need to be creative and change tactics as your market and audience respond to the onslaught of infection. According to a Conductor study, almost two-thirds of the surveyed marketers forecast a decrease in their budget. As a result, marketers seek out low-cost means to keep the business going. What better route to use but modify the SEO strategy plan.
Social distancing and government-imposed quarantines are put in place to curb the effects of this pandemic. With that in mind, people have more time on their hands, and working from home becomes the norm. That being said, people spend more extended time researching, surfing, and learning something online. This occasion is an opportunity that many marketers saw. It is anticipated that there would be a surge in organic searches as people stay at home longer.
What Is Your SEO Strategy During The COVID-19 Crisis?
If you had foreseen this opportunity before COVID-19 blew out of proportion, then, good for you. If you haven’t, it’s not too late yet. At this time around, whether you have anticipated the need to increase your organic visits or just planning to do so, you need to have a solid business SEO strategy because this is not only cost-effective but also a smart investment, after all.
We have included a checklist you can use as an SEO strategy template during these times.
Have you recently checked on your website traffic using Google Search Console?
The world stops for COVID-19. As more and more people are relegated to stay indoors, many have resorted to online search, whether to pass the time or seek out some solutions, among others. Some online businesses would fare better than others, resulting in more visits and conversions. Other companies that haven’t performed well need to shift strategies to lessen the impact of this pandemic.
Here are some industries that are expected to perform well in during this health crisis
- Civic Sector
- Medical Industry
- Financial Industry
- Personal Care Sector
- On-Demand Media
- Delivery Industry
This downtime is an excellent opportunity to focus on SEO. Go to your Google Search console to check on a few things. Learn more about how your audience responds to this crisis. By doing so, you are learning about their collective buying behavior. The change in traffic is an indicator of what your audience is looking for and what they need. Adapt according to your analysis to safely maneuver your business across this pandemic. Consider these other factors when checking the website traffic in the Google Search Console.
Is there a shift in the type of queries?
Are there more people checking up on your brand, or are they gearing towards the generic ones?
Branded and non-branded searches are predictors of the type of visitors you have. These search types represent two different intentions and buyers at different buying stages.
Branded queries carry the name of your brand while non-brand ones don’t. Most often, non-brand queries are done by new visitors who don’t know your product yet but are searching for products similar to what you’re offering. On the other hand, branded queries are often done by your loyal patrons who know what you are selling.
If your visitors come from non-brand queries, you can deduce that your content is optimized up in the SERP, and if you correlate this to the sales funnel, your visitors are more or less looking for information and not exactly about your brand. There is little brand recognition at this level. Another way to interpret this is when there are more non-brand queries for your business; most of your visitors are not yet familiar with your product. If your ranking is high, most probably, your organic search is the result of your SEO efforts.
If branded queries make up most of your search volume history, your product may be already popular among your audience. Your products will always be in the first position in SERP if your audience is searching for your brand. Searches at this level are navigational. What this means is people are already familiar with your brand or looking for your website. The problem with this is more people are seeking out information about a genre or niche as opposed to those seeking a specific brand. Most likely, your site isn’t optimized enough to be more visible organically.
If in pre-COVID-19 time, your organic searches are from branded queries, it’s safe to say that most of your visitors came from direct traffic or those that typed your brand in the browser address bar to reach your site. Brand recognition was strong. If there is a change, say, most nowadays, come from non-brand queries, you may have to pivot your SEO efforts to make your brand more known again.
Which of your products/services have the most significant search volume or traffic change during this pandemic?
By focusing on search traffic on Google Search Console, you can learn which product has improved during this time and which ones are underperforming. It’s natural that in uncertain times like nowadays, peoples’ needs and spending habits change. Most likely, people tend to gear towards what is more necessary. Perhaps they would not spend at all. Expect there are going to be some changes in buyer behavior.
It’s predicted that there will be more purchases in products or services considered essential. If you think that your products with high search volume are deemed a priority among your market, then invest in its conversion content.
For your products that are not doing so well in terms of traffic, it is about time to create content aimed for the top to the middle funnel. Since your customers are spending less, focus your efforts more on brand awareness as opposed to pitching a sale. Informative content, during this time, might be your short-term goal, but this will enhance your expertise and trustworthiness in the long run. Hence, you positioned your products better for the future.
Is there a decline in your impressions and sessions, but the rankings are maintained?
Expect there might be a decline in your impressions and sessions, but these may be attributed to the COVID-19 impact on search interest. First, don’t get alarmed by these declines. Check your rankings. If these are still the same, chances are, the decrease in your search numbers may be COVID-19-related, therefore, only temporary.
Search behavior mimics human behavior. This is your barometer to find out your readers’ priorities and their responses to this pandemic. All the more, it’s essential to focus on search data.
It can be summed up to what essential needs are. Part of your content marketing SEO strategy is to understand the purchasing behavior of your leads or audience. Don’t be tempted to double your paid search campaigns to maintain your search volume. Only do so if your products fall within the “essential need” category forced by this health crisis. If you keep on spending on your PPC now, you might end up with a negative return-on-ad spend. On the flip side, if your rankings are still maintained, and the products you offer are still doing well in its market, you might want to maximize your ad spend but do so with caution.
Just because there are search drops across the board, it doesn’t mean you quit your SEO efforts cold turkey. Now is the wrong time to spend less on SEO. You should ramp up your organic search campaigns all the more. Once we get over this pandemic and everything returns to normal, you’d notice that you have recovered much better than your competitors who quit doing their e-commerce SEO strategy plans during COVID-19.
Are the number of conversions also declining?
If the rate of conversion is also decreasing, don’t fret yet. Check your sessions and impressions first. If the numbers are maintained, consider this: they are not ready to convert, but people are still interested in your products. It’s quite logical at this stage that people are hesitant to buy. Many are saving for a rainy day.
It’s time that you retarget your audience. Analyze what changed in your audience’s pain points and needs. Then adjust your strategies to maximize generation and, hopefully, lead to conversion. If there is one sure thing, many of your website visitors are spending more time online. Since they are spending time checking out your website, you need to have a better response rate.
Your visitors are not looking to buy products but be educated- and you should provide that. Studies have shown that trustworthiness is enhanced by giving more educational content. People are more likely to purchase when they learned more about the product early on in their buying journey. Brand affinity and trustworthiness compounds as time goes on, too. While they may not buy during this pandemic phase, your visitors are more likely to convert and buy after this temporary crisis ends, when things get to more normal.
Here are some tips on how to giving more value to the experience they seek despite this pandemic.
- Create rich, engaging content
- Provide virtual events
- Offer free webinars
- Build connections by having video calls and teleconferences
- Be more interactive
Meanwhile, you can provide a different payment scheme that can alleviate the burden of paying so much on-the-spot. You can offer staggered payment schemes or installment plans so your customers can still purchase your products.
Have you noticed anything unusual with your average search volume?
One of the keyword research metrics is the average search volume. You should anticipate that there would be changes in this parameter during the course of the pandemic. The average search volume is averaged over a set time so, naturally, if the searches decline during this pandemic, it would affect the average volume.
Don’t yield to knee-jerk reactions when you see a decline. There will always be a silver lining so invest in your rankings or learn why there is a decline. Look at other parameters such as competitiveness or CTR, among others. Adjust to the changes. Once this outbreak ends, you’d come out of it on top.
Have you researched the emerging search behavioral patterns for your industry?
You can use Google Trends to check the search behavior shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. By focusing only on the behavioral trends on your niche can help you create content that your readers need more. As part of your B2B SEO strategy, analyzing information on Google Trends can help you understand how your market reacts to the current situation.
According to Google, there are five behavioral shifts in consumer search:
- Finding critical facts and details
This is driven by the adaptation to the new normal such as online education and working at home
- Discovering and nurturing connections
As social distancing is practiced, your audience needs to connect with family and friends.
- Routine and schedule changes
Isolation creates a different kind of routine. More people are getting hobbies, staying late at night, and exercising indoors more.
- Highlighting COVID-19 frontline efforts
A spike in thanking and appreciating health workers for doing their job has been observed.
- Mental Health
There is an increase in searches related to activities to ease anxiety and uncertainty.
- Have you built content for short-term searches? How about COVID-19? Did you optimize the content?
As mentioned earlier, searches are going to change as people are trying to comprehend the situation. These searches would be more geared towards seeking facts about COVID-19, its cure, and the symptoms, among others, as well as information about necessary items such as food deliveries, mental health, and the likes.
Observe that people search more about this pandemic and less about your product. You’d notice that there are fewer conversions in times when you’re supposed to experience high conversion rates. They are more preoccupied with COVID-19 than with your products, and that’s completely understandable.
If your products belong to the essential goods, then, chances are, you have a lot of traffic right now. Otherwise, you have to invest in short term searches and COVID-19-related content. But here’s the catch: doing a separate COVID-19 and short-term search content won’t provide a lot of value or conversions. The secret lies in how you integrate these two to provide valuable content.
Let the following questions guide you in creating meaningful content:
- How is the topic relevant to my audience?
- Will talking about COVID-19 put me in trouble?
- What are the chances I’d be flagged for this kind of content?
- Is it morally sound that I add information about this topic?
Are you maintaining your rankings?
You are losing ground if you don’t maintain or optimize your content and website now. Next thing you know, you’re losing thousands of dollars in revenue. While it may seem tedious to do SEO when it looks futile as of the moment, your SEO efforts should be doubled, so it’s easier to get back up after the crisis.
How well are you planning for the future?
Understandably, you’d incur losses while the country has not flattened the curve yet. Your losses are only short-term. Once the economy regains, your business is positioned to follow that direction. Even at this stage, plan and optimize for future campaigns. Ensure that your customers stay with you after this pandemic. You can provide free lessons, consultations, or anything of value that would make them stay and put you on their priority list.
Are you visible online?
Is your website up-to-date? Being visible online is the sure way to reach your customers and clients amidst social restrictions and isolations. If your company is a traditional brick-and-mortar business, you are feeling the brunt of COVID-19 as people avoid going to crowded places.
If you have not gotten your business active online, now is the time to do so. Online search traffic may have been reduced but not as much as the ones physical stores are experiencing. What’s the SEO strategy for small businesses?
You begin by creating a simple website. This is the foundation of your online business. Next, create a Google My Business(GMB) account. This allows you to put add your store hours, address, reviews on Google search as well as Google Maps.
If you already have GMD up and running, make sure that you have updated this for the changes as your customers may want to know about these. While Google can be used to seek your business, most of them would check your business out on social media platforms. Make sure you have updated these, too, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. Otherwise, they would think your business is closed.
Use Google Ads and Facebook Ads so more people can find your business as these are the two most common modes of online promotion. If you have not placed your products online, do it now. Create a Google Merchant Center account so you can upload your products on Google. Update your products and pricing from time to time. Your shopping feed must be optimized, as well.
How do you respond when visitors check out your homepage?
Empathy is what many people need right now. Your visitors should feel warm and fuzzy whenever they visit your home page. Your response to this crisis is vital, but choose your words well. These should be encouraging and not alarming. Be clear about the information on your home page as well as your product pages.
Here are some tips you can apply on your homepage
- Inform about the proactive measures you’re doing to curb the spread of the virus
- Store openings
- Policy updates
- Explain that about shipping delays, product availability
- Addition or removal of certain services
Your customer support should be updated. If you have an FAQ page, make sure that this is updated and revised to cover your COVID-19 situation. Make sure that you are still targeting those COVID-19-related keywords.
Have you thought about having a dedicated Coronavirus page?
You take advantage of the Coronavirus topic by creating a dedicated COVID-19 page that also links to vital pages of your website. Having this dedicated page is a great idea, especially when your business is related to what is essential during the COVID-19 outbreak or when your business is directly affected by COVID-19. Instead of merely adding to the Coronavirus noise, consider the following tips:
- Do keyword research on this topic, and while you are it, make sure you pick the ones that are relevant to your site and niche.
- Make sure you are not choosing keywords with competition levels.
- Analyzing your audience can lead you straight to what keywords are relevant to them. Reach them using your social media platforms or email list.
- Link your pages to this dedicated page.
- Avoid misleading content.
Have you considered adding more video content and publishing it on YouTube?
YouTube has also observed a spike on coronavirus-related searches. Take advantage of this trend by posting a video-based content as more people spend time online and at home. Make sure that your videos are optimized relevant to your business.
An easy way to find keywords for YouTube is by using the website’s Search Suggest feature. Your focus is top/middle funnel, so informational videos should be informational. Reach out to your audience by being involved in virtual conferences and consultations. You can also use the Facebook Live and IGTV features.
Have you discussed how to deal with social distancing and enhanced quarantine?
When creating content, be mindful of social distancing and social isolation. Be careful not to be viewed either as clueless or, worse, offensive. Provide extra value by emphasizing how your brand can help during this crisis. Offer some content that can educate, entertain, or inspire people. Make sure that these ideas play around your brand so that everything stays relevant.
Have you used the new coronavirus schema attributes?
Does coronavirus pandemic directly impact you? You can use the new Coronavirus Schema Markup. Released last March 17, this new schema has several changes under it. The schema 7.0 included the following:
- Removal of medial health terms considered too general such as purpose, source, cost, etc
- Addition of new vocabulary for the coronavirus outbreak
- eventAttendanceMode to allow communication on how people can attend the event: online, offline or mixed
- SpecialAnnouncement to allow date-stamped update announcements associated with the outbreak
- COVID-19TestingFacility to refer to older as well as temporary testing facilities for the outbreak
Have you updated your local SEO strategy and Google My Business?
Whether you’re affected directly or indirectly by the outbreak, Google encourages you to update your Google My Business profile. The GMB features that you need to update are as follows:
- Business hours
If your operating hours have changed, indicate the time your store opens or closes
- Business description
Your business description should reflect whether the business is affected by the pandemic or not. You should also include the precautionary measures your business is taking to combat the spread of the virus.
- Google Post updates
Add content about updates on your business activities
- Update your contact information
If you changed your email or phone number, update this on GMB so your clients can easily reach you
Not to sound too optimistic, this coronavirus outbreak is going to end- and when it does, with this SEO strategy checklist, you are going to come on the winning end. While all of us are waiting for this to end, there is no time to slack. On the contrary, we should use this chance to take a step back and analyze what we must do to stay afloat. You need to continue to provide value to the world around you.
If you need assistance in your SEO plans, reach out to us so we can help you through this.