Search is a proxy for consumer intent and behavior, and the COVID-19 crisis is having a dramatic impact on search behavior, consumer mobility, media consumption habits, supply chains, and budgets.
The changing circumstances, businesses need to adjust their next marketing campaign to alleviate strategic risks.
Consumers and Companies Turn to Organic Search
In a recent survey, 1 in 3 consumers shows that the COVID-19 news has changed their shopping behavior. 47.2% of US Internet users surveyed last month said they are avoiding shopping centers and malls.
Marketing channels, such as PPC, already seeing a reduction in the budget. Google search ads lose 7% of their impressions of January 13, 2020, until March 9, 2020, SEO, however, is seeing a sharp uptick: brands like Daillyburn.com saw an increase of 300 + in organic search visibility of January 19, 2020, to the date of March 19, 2020.
With this shift, there are opportunities for SEO professionals and marketers to increase their impact content, create content that drives conversions current and long-term brand building.
Savvy marketers have already made a shift in their strategy and invest more SEO. According to Google Trends, the search term “SEO” and related terms have seen a surge of interest in the United States since February 2020.
SEO Is a Cost-Efficient Investment During the 19th COVID-19
People are looking online more than they ever did before. Regardless of the economic climate, you want your brand to be top of mind for searchers when they make a purchase decision.
So why SEO lean company now?
During economic downtimes, SEO is primarily a smart investment in the future of your business. One of the main advantages is how cost-effective compared to other channels, such as the media.
I spoke with Pat Reinhart, VP of Digital Strategy at Conductor, and he agreed, “SEO-focused content is the most cost-effective way and direct it to keep your business during economic downtimes. It requires a lower investment. And, it does not have an on / off switch as a traditional paid media campaign, so as to pay off long after the investment. ”
4 Tips to Build a Strong SEO Program to Weather Uncertainty
Tip 1: Create Content That Builds Trust
The study found that one week after reading a brand’s educational content, customers are 48% more likely to buy from that brand.
Early-stage, educational content strengthens brand affinity, trust, and conversions.
Now, in a time of crisis, you want to move your content efforts toward educational content that establishes trust.
Put yourself into your buyer’s shoes to understand what they want and need.
Consumers want and need transparency to help cope with today’s new normal. They want to trust not only the business but also the people behind the business.
Customers need to be earned, not acquired right now. And, the only way to do that is establishing trust through content that delivers answers and knowledge.
Tip 2: Proactively Manage Your Web Presence
In July 2018, Google updated their guidelines to include E-A-T, also known as Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
The keyword here is “trustworthiness.” Again, the more trust you build with your content, the more likely users will click on your content in the SERPs.
That’s why managing your online brand presence is essential during these times. Dated or inaccurate information can confuse and even hurt consumers.
Here are a few tips for managing your online reputation during COVID-19:
- Update your schema. This ensures that Google is showing accurate information about your company in this fast-changing environment and that users only see the latest information. If you’re an e-commerce company, help meet consumer expectations by updating product availability schema to provide real-time information to consumers. You can also add event status schema to update customers about changes to events and special announcements.
- Update your Google My Business page. Keep customers in the know about changes to your business’ operations like changes to operating hours by updating your Google My Business page. Google offers more guidance here.
- Keep an eye on Google Search Console. Web traffic, especially traffic coming from organic search, is a massively important indicator of where demand for your products and services has shifted. Spikes or declines in traffic can show you what kind of information is most important to your customers and can shape your response.
Google Search Console Updates: More Control Over Data & Email Notifications
- Add monitoring of search demand and social media mentions: Monitor COVID-19 related topics that are relevant to your business using Conductor and Talkwalker. Use search data to understand search and audience intent, and social data to analyze audience demographics, content tone, and sentiment.
Tip 3: Audit Your Upcoming Content & Campaigns
If you’ve already built your pipeline of content, now is the time to audit any upcoming campaigns for Q2.
You don’t want your campaigns to be tone-deaf to consumers. You want to show empathy and compassion for your audience during times of crisis.
Corona received some backlash on Twitter after launching its Coming Ashore Soon campaign for its new seltzer line.
Search being a proxy for customer intent means that SEO managers should have a heightened awareness of consumer sensitivities. This is valuable insight that SEOs should share with other marketers in their organization.
During this time, SEO is more than technical SEO— it is also about being the voice of the customer across the organization.
Focus on adapting in the short-term to give yourself a chance to build long-term brand equity.
Tip 4: Ramp Up Security
As I mentioned previously, trust is a significant factor for success right now.
However, hackers are taking advantage of the current situation. Hackers are using malicious malware to promote COVID-19 discount codes and specials.
For example, there was a “corona special offer” for a MacBook Air that only cost $390 USD, which was a scam to get sensitive information from consumers.
With security being a top priority, here are a few things to sure up your website’s security:
- Monitor log files for crawl errors. If you’re an SEO professional, you know log file analysis can help identify how search engine crawlers are accessing your website. The analysis can also reveal if spambots are trying to infiltrate your site.
- Implement SSO. SSO (Single Sign-On) authorizes users to use one set of login credentials (ex: name and password) to enter separate applications. It’s more secure. And your IT team will be thankful.
- Secure your site with SSL. Back in 2014, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal to encourage site owners to make their site more secure for visitors. Implementing HTTPS protects things like credit card numbers, browsing history, and more.
- Update plugins or apps you use. Hackers tend to look at old plugins or tools for vulnerabilities. Make sure you regularly update, so you’re not an easy target.
For SEO marketers, cybersecurity does not stop at HTTPS. It’s vital to take preventative measures to secure your digital assets today. A hacker can have a permanent negative impact on your SEO efforts. Safeguard your website for the future.
SEO Is a Needed Investment to Build Trust Right Now
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, getting your content to the top of a Google SERP will be more important than ever.
Because that’s where your consumers are looking for answers to sensitive questions from brands they trust.
“I must be able to trust the brand to do what is right.”
That’s what 81% of consumers say, according to the Edelman Brand Trust Report 2019.
That means trust is the most valuable commodity in these unprecedented and changing times.
If you want consumers to choose you, they first must trust you.
What’s the best way to build and strengthen that trust now – and protect your brand reputation – now and in the future?
- Continue to create 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.
If you’re investing in SEO and content, this is just the beginning.
Need help creating that relevant, optimized content? Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help your company to rise in the search rankings and stay on the top long term.