None of us were prepared for the realities of the COVID-19 virus. Who could have predicted the omnipresence of vocabularies like social distancing and telework? Who would have thought we’d be facing “out of stock” notices for pasta… and toilet paper? I certainly wouldn’t have predicted, in Q4 of 2019, massive closures of client-facing businesses as a preventive measure in a world-wide sanitary crisis.
I’d like to take a moment to hope that you and your families are healthy. As a fellow businessperson, I’d also like to wish the same for your company. Socially and professionally, we’re currently facing tough choices and long days.
A time of increasing digitalization
Social distancing and remote work are accelerating a trend that was already clear around the world: the increasing digitalization of our everyday lives.
With measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic keeping many people at home, we’ve turned to the internet to interact with others, to find things to do, to find and share information, to make almost all of our purchases.
In fact, Cloudflare found internet usage increased by up to 40% in some areas strongly affected by the virus.
These changes in behavior can impact traffic to your site. Because people may be searching for different reasons than before, less traffic does not always mean less revenue.
Example of an industry website facing a drop traffic but increased revenue. (source)
When your clients can’t be out and about, online is the place to be. Whether you’re a brick and mortar store or a mostly-online tech company, it’s possible to build an online presence that reinforces your ability to attract new customers and reinforce the loyalty of your existing client base.
Let’s look at how to make that happen.
A climate of under-investment in digital marketing
Though the trend is changing, marketing spend still doesn’t account for the increased presence of digital media in our everyday lives.
Hook Agency’s recent studies found that 50%+ of companies say the highest return on investment activities are search-related, but that nearly 70% said they were spending less than half of their marketing budgets on digital/online marketing for 2020.
Forrester echos these findings:
While the latest Forrester Research report projects that digital marketing spending will make up 45% of all ad spend in 2020, this number can vary depending on a variety of factors including industry, growth plans and local market. (source)
This means that large parts of that marketing budget go to events such as trade shows, physical advertising, print advertising, and other push channels. As events are canceled and empty public spaces provide less visibility for advertisers, marketing departments have unspent budgets.
A part of this can be saved, but part can be reinjected in digital marketing.
Opportunities to shield your company and build for the future
I believe that SEO is one of the best channels to invest in right now. As a pull strategy, SEO is a long-term game, with a recognized, exponential ROI.
And while search figures are down for the moment, SEO is not campaign-oriented. Unlike PPC, SEO is not affected by the decrease in spend by big advertisers which drives up the cost per impression of ads and drives down both viewer quality and CVR.
I’ve identified four areas where investing in SEO can make a difference:
1. Reinforce your search rankings using audit results
SEO allows you to use audit results to find areas for improvement to reinforce your ranking on current keywords to secure a higher percentage of traffic.
Now is a good time to brush up on your SEO, run a full site audit, and implement improvements from your findings.
How to do it:
2. Rethink how pages on your site link to one another
Use site structure to support new pages to capture new search queries. Google uses the way pages on your site link to one another to determine which pages are the most important on your site. This gives them an extra boost and makes it easier to get them ranked well.
How to do it:
- Understand how site structure impacts SEO
- Create a new pillar page or category pages if your business or website has topics related to the coronavirus, and link to them
3. Account for changes in search intent
“Search intent,” or what an internet user is trying to do when they search for something, plays an increasingly important role as search engines get better at understanding search queries. And the intent behind a query can change over time: even “coronavirus”, which at first brought up information about the family of viruses itself, now leads to information about measures and communications by local governments.
Monitoring intent shifts will help you adjust to changes in search intent that affect traffic to your website. In some cases, where “visit in person” intents are no longer possible, accounting for changes in intent can be essential to brick and mortar businesses with listings on Google.
How to do it:
- Review what search intent is and how Google uses it
- Set up intent analysis or go even further by scaling or using machine learning
- Follow the changes to Google My Business that can help provide information related to COVID-19 modifications
4. Fix technical issues that handicap your site
Use “downtime” to improve underlying technical issues to beat out your competitors later.
How to do it:
- Take advice from a technical SEO
- If you don’t have the manpower in-house, work with an SEO consultant to keep costs down
- Enlist the help of your web development team, who are able to work remotely
You’re not alone
No matter what you’re facing, you’re not alone. With 20% of the world’s population living in places that have implemented stay-at-home measures, we’re all facing the same situation.
This affects all verticals, but not all in the same way, as this weekly study shows. Even if you still have business coming in, you might have supply chain difficulties, or too many orders to supply, or difficulty getting employees on-site. Whatever you’re facing, there are people out there facing it with you.
With the increase of life online, digital marketing, SEO, and even Google can help protect your business now and prepare you to put your best foot forward after the pandemic is over. If you’re looking for ways to protect your business, support and resources are out there.