Four months into 2020 and Coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted nearly all facets of life. People need to make significant changes to their everyday lives in order to adapt to the “new normal”, while businesses must brace for the negative economic impact that will result from people changing their habits for the foreseeable future.
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. This guide outlines both short and long term SEO considerations as part of your business’s larger response to COVID-19 and how businesses can adapt areas of their SEO strategies to plan effectively against COVID-19’s impact.
Short Term (Q2/Q3 2020) SEO considerations
Is Your Business “Essential” or “Non-Essential”?
As businesses are closing physical locations throughout the world, they need to be aware of the guidance on what businesses are deemed “essential” and should be open to consumers during a crisis such as this. What is deemed “non-essential” should be closed to encourage social distancing in order to “flatten the curve”. Businesses should follow such guidance and immediately ensure that they actively communicate availability through messaging on their websites and Google My Business profiles.
– Determine the essential nature of your business and immediately update your website, Google My Business profiles, and other digital assets to accurately indicate the status of your physical location and how your business will be available for the foreseeable future.
Adapting to Immediate & Significant Shifts in Search Behaviors
In response to guidance on what businesses are considered “essential” and “non-essential”, consumer and search behavior will change accordingly. Businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, will likely see a large influx in search interest for their brand names, as well as their offered products/services, during this time. Conversely, most brand names, products, and services deemed “non-essential” may significantly drop off in search interest as consumers rapidly shift priorities during this period. Brands should closely monitor organic search sessions and conversion numbers for the foreseeable future and should plan to update forecasting, as well as historical reporting, to factor in the impact of COVID-19.
- Closely monitor Google Trends, Google Search Console, and other keyword tools to understand shifts in search interest and behavior around relevant keywords/topics for your brand and industry during this time.
- Monitor website performance to understand how users are converting during this time and update forecasting and reporting to factor in the impact of COVID-19.
Understanding SEO’s Role in Marketing during Times of Rapid Change
Significant changes in economic behaviors will result in businesses being mindful of their overall performance and budgets for the next several months. While it is currently hard for businesses to predict how long COVID-19 will result in significant economic impact, they should be aware of how SEO fits into short-term and long-term marketing strategies to understand how they can effectively plan for SEO during this period. Unlike most paid channels, SEO often cannot immediately shift short term priorities within organic search. Given the current level of economic uncertainty for many businesses and industries, the long-term nature of SEO should be considered when evaluating both paid and organic marketing priorities over the next several months.
- While the short term may require marketing channels to react in real-time due to the impact of COVID-19, the long-term, organic nature of SEO should be considered when evaluating marketing priorities.
- Evaluate paid and organic coverage for the next several months to understand how both can be balanced as part of an overall marketing strategy in response to COVID-19’s impact on your business.
Prioritize Top/Mid-Funnel Content Initiatives as Consumer Spending Changes
In terms of economic uncertainty, consumers are less likely to spend on products/services that are not deemed essential. With that in mind, businesses should expect that their typical consumer’s behavior will shift over the next few months and investment in top/mid-funnel content can pay off in both the short term and long term. As consumers shift away from actively spending on products/services in the short-term, businesses should best prepare themselves through investment in top/mid-funnel content that helps users that will be shifting back to the awareness and consideration stages of their buyer journey. To influence conversions in the future, focus short-term SEO efforts on developing useful, informative content that can reinforce expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) signals to search engines and customers.
- With consumer behavior likely to shift from actively converting over the short term, capture traffic with top-mid funnel content that can benefit future consumer behavior with information for your business’ product or service.
- Develop SEO-informed guides and other informative content around your products and services to build up E-A-T signals.
Long Term (Q4 2020 and beyond) SEO considerations
Get Started Executing on Your Q4/Holiday 2020 Initiatives – Today
While the nature of COVID-19 requires businesses to consider how they can plan for the next several months, businesses also need to be actively working through efforts for future initiatives to ensure that they are best prepared when the economic outlook begins to improve. Given that consumer spending is likely to reduce in the next several months, businesses should leverage the long-term nature of SEO to ensure that their brands are well optimized and positioned well before periods of increased consumer spending, such as holiday season in Q4. Q4/Holiday season is typically high-volume and high-competition for many industries, particularly retail, that may see performance declines over the next several months. To ensure that your business can make up for potential short term losses, while also ensuring that you can hit future goals, begin to execute on your planned SEO strategies and optimizations for Q4/Holiday 2020 well ahead of time.
- Leverage the long-term nature of SEO to ensure that your website ranks well for high-volume and high-competition keywords that are expected to peak in Q4/Holiday 2020
- While your business may see short term losses in the next several months, future planning and optimizations for upcoming initiatives can ensure that your businesses are best positioned for when the economy is in an upswing
Plan Large-Scale Digital Transformation to Future Proof Your Business
Currently, COVID-19’s main impact on the world is around social interaction and its impact on businesses and people to go about normal life. Physical locations are closed for the immediate future, supply chains are disrupted, and our general ability to go about everyday life is severely impacted. Another potential impact from COVID-19 will be the hastening of businesses evaluating the digital transformation of their products and services. As a result of COVID-19, conferences have shifted to digital video streams, movie companies have made new movie releases on-demand for streaming services, and many other businesses have had to reevaluate how they can reach customers during a time of social distancing. To best prepare for the future and to future proof against other potential emergencies, brands should see the impact of COVID-19 to be an opportunity to expedite their digital transformation to ensure long-term business health.
- Consider ways that your brand can digitize your products and services to future proof for potential emergencies while adapting to future trends.
Example: If your business sells certain goods, can you make something available as a direct download? If your business requires in-person consultations for services, can you leverage teleconferencing as an option?
Julie Ann’s Frozen Custard, a small single store shop in the Chicago suburbs transformed its business to make it easy for customers to order online, and pickup contact-free.
Julie Ann’s website screenshot:
Embracing this change and making it easy for customers to order from you can help keep you afloat.
COVID-19’s Impact on Specific Areas of SEO
Adapting Content Strategy to the “New Normal”
Businesses should be first aware of the direct impact on their specific brand and industry in order to fine-tune their messaging around COVID-19 specifically. Additionally, brands should consider the following areas that COVID-19 and the “new normal” that may impact content strategies for many different industries:
- Consider Having a Dedicated Coronavirus Page – if your business is considered essential or is majorly impacted by COVID-19, consider creating a dedicated page to capture all relevant Coronavirus traffic and can effectively link to key areas of your website
- Develop More Video & YouTube Content – with people expected to spend more time at home viewing YouTube and other streaming services, consider developing more relevant video content to get in front of users. Leverage SEO insights to help inform video topics and be mindful of the top/mid-funnel topics that you can create videos on
- Ensure FAQ Content is Updated Appropriately – evaluate your customer service and FAQ pages to determine if specific language should be updated or if new FAQs related to Coronavirus should be added
- Factor in Isolation and Social Distancing in Messaging – when writing any content or producing any messaging during this time, be mindful of the overall idea of social distancing. Consider some DIY topics around your product or service so that users can direct value during a time of isolation. Be careful with the language that could be seen as counterintuitive with COVID-19 guidelines
- Include Cleaning and Care Instructions for Products – if your business sells any type of physical product, you should include cleaning and care instructions on the product detail page. This can help to capture search traffic as people actively search for ways to clean certain products during this period, while also helping to reinforce E-A-T signals
- Be Mindful of Potential Changes in SERPs & Google Algorithms – businesses and industries that are considered YMYL (Your Money, Your Life), such as healthcare and financial companies, could see significant changes in the SERPS and organic results during this time. Brands within these spaces should be mindful of this when developing content and monitoring performance
Impact on Technical SEO & Website Development
Given that SEO is very dependent on implementation, the particular focus must be given to businesses’ ability to perform necessary technical updates in the short-term. With the disruption of COVID-19, businesses may not have their typical development structures and processes in place in order to face potential short-term challenges. With that in mind, consider the following items when planning out technical SEO initiatives during this period:
- Expect Limited Availability & Bandwidth of Development Resources – businesses may significantly alter how their websites are updated during this time and therefore there may be little opportunity for implementation. Factor in potential long periods of code freeze and determine if planned updates can easily be done via a CMS or would require code change
- Prioritize Fixing Known Bugs and Closely Monitor Site Health – as development resources become limited, prioritize fixing bugs that are directly tied to performance instead of implementing new features. Closely monitor to see if your site is being crawled, indexed, rendered, and ranked by search engines to identify issues that may arrive.
- Leverage new Coronavirus Schema Markup, if Applicable – for businesses that may be directly impacted by Coronavirus, consider implementing the newly announced schema attributes for Coronavirus
Data and Analytics
As previously discussed, data and analytics for businesses will be directly impacted by COVID-19. Brands should be mindful of the following data and analytics areas when monitoring organic search:
- Sessions and impressions may decrease, but if rankings are maintained, then declines can be attributed to COVID-19’s impact on search interest
- Sessions and impressions may maintain, but if conversions are down, then it may indicate that people are still interested in your business but are not ready to convert yet
- Average search volume, a key metric for keyword research, will be significantly impacted as changes in search volume in the short term will impact the search volume as it is averaged out over time
Forget Slowing Down: It’s Time to Accelerate Your Digital Business
Now is the time to invest in your online business and watch it grow
As we all grapple with uncertainty and adapt to a changed marketplace, one thing remains clear: your business can’t afford to slow down.
Restaurants are moving quickly to establish online ordering and delivery services, gyms and yoga studios are racing to post online at-home workouts, and conferences and events that haven’t been canceled are going completely virtual. All of these businesses have one common thread: digital has emerged as their lifeline.
As they proceed, adopting WordPress, which powers 35% of the Internet, will be an indispensable part of this strategy, allowing these organizations to go to market faster, and at a lower cost when they need it most.
At SEO Windy City, we help our customers move quickly with WordPress every day, and we’re here to support and help you spin up whatever site you need, fast, as you work to reimagine your business in a more digital way.
WordPress is a great choice for you right now, first and foremost because it’s free from the upfront licensing costs that come with other website software. You can easily spin up a WordPress site right now, and while acquiring a domain name and hosting it online will incur some cost, doing it all with a fully-managed WordPress provider (we partner with WP Engine and LiquidWeb) is similar in price to popular site builders like Wix and Squarespace, but with way more available functionality. WordPress is simply a marketing powerhouse for your website.
Don’t just take our word for it—WordPress adoption is soaring: It now powers more than 35% of the Internet, and it’s a favorite for many reasons.
Below are a few pro tips to help you get your business up and running on WordPress.
Pro Tip #1: Use a world-class theme to get your site off the ground.
WordPress themes can help you stand out from the crowd and get started quickly on the website of your dreams. Our favorite is the world’s most popular theme framework, Genesis. These one-click-setup themes offer far more versatility than the templates site builders provide, and they can help you get up and running in hours. Then, you can easily add all the content your heart desires to a beautifully-designed website that fits your digital vision.
Pro Tip #2: Performance matters.
Given the surge we’ve seen to all things online, you’ve likely got A LOT of traffic coming to your site(s). Maybe your site is dragging, which means lost visitors and lost revenue. Two of the most important factors for performance are speed and security.
Today, audiences want everything fast. So fast that it’s a generally accepted best practice for your site to load in two seconds or less—anything after that and you’re losing business. In fact, speed affects every business metric you care about, from the ability of potential customers to find your business online (SEO) to lost revenue (even with a mere one-second delay).
People dislike waiting so much, they’ll simply hit the back button and choose the next site in the search results.
Do you want to find out what shape your site is in? Try this Website Speed Test (from Google) to see how it currently measures up.
While speed is important, it won’t matter much without a solid security plan in place. If your website isn’t secure, there’s a flood of bad actors just waiting to break in.
WordPress’ core software is regularly audited by thousands of security experts, making it highly secure. That said, there are a number of steps you can take to secure your WordPress site even further.
Pro Tip #3: Tap plugins to turbocharge your online business.
Plugins are a great resource for WordPress site owners because they allow you to add functionality, meaning grow your business, without getting into the nitty-gritty of writing code. WordPress is also home to the most extensive, growing list of plugins built by thousands of developers, offering an endless stream of features for your site. From SEO, to interactive forms, to live chat, and eCommerce, the WordPress plugin ecosystem has you covered.
Many businesses are trying to figure out how to add online shopping to their sites. WooCommerce is one of the most popular plugins for adding eCommerce functionality to WordPress sites. If you’ve already got a WordPress site, all you need to do is install their plugin and follow the setup prompts to begin selling. We can help you fine-tune your eCommerce site for optimal performance—from improving conversions to your online store to providing one-tap payments for your buyers.
Contact us today and accelerate your business online.