There isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been interrupted by the COVID-19 crisis, and the disruption is forcing many marketers to rethink their budget, messaging and strategy.
So far, advertisers have decreased their spending across media channels, opting to pull campaigns midflight or pause their efforts until later in the year. But those who have the ability to be more agile are turning to SEO.
Since most of the world is on lockdown, people are spending more time online — and since they’re unable to attend conferences or tradeshows, they’re spending more time searching for products and solutions.
For marketers, that makes SEO a winning strategy. Search is more cost effective than other channels, and creating the right content can build equity with consumers in these challenging times. The investment also benefits businesses when economic growth returns since a brand’s improved content and search rankings remain relevant.
Here are three ways to improve your SEO strategy during this time of uncertainty.
1. Be ready to adapt
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the coronavirus pandemic has shifted our online behavior. But those habits aren’t restricted to simply watching more Netflix and connecting with co-workers on Zoom. It’s also changed how we search — and it’s not unreasonable to assume those behaviors will continue to shift, since we’re only a month into social distancing and working from home.
This means your SEO strategy needs to be more agile. There is still value in researching keywords and topics with tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, but historical search data needs to be taken with a grain of salt when everything around you is changing.
One tool that can help you react to recent events is Google Trends. Think of Google Trends as a pulse on consumer behavior. It analyzes the popularity of a search query over time and can provide some insight into how your audience is searching online. Test and compare different keywords and topics to find which terms are trending.
Another helpful tool is SEMRush Sensor. This was designed to track Google updates and the volatility such updates can have on search results. Although always helpful, this tool is even more useful now as our own behavior and current levels of online consumption are shifting what’s ranking and trending in search results. The free tool provides an overview of how some of the top-performing keywords in more than 20 industries have shifted in a one-month window.
Keep in mind that relying on these tools is a short-term strategy. What’s trending now may not be relevant in the near future. If you’re embracing a strategy focused on responding to trends, you’ll need to adjust to the ebb and flow.
2. Create trustworthy content
New customers are more challenging to acquire right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t earn their business. Do away with the sales pitch and create content that meets customers where they are — online, seeking answers in their search bars.
Customers may not be prepared to commit to your service given the current economic climate, but as online activity has accelerated, they’re looking for more ways to solve new challenges while consuming content that helps address their current — and future — needs. Creating content that aligns with these searches can build equity with your target audience and earn their business when the economy begins to recover.
For example, stay-at-home orders may present an opportunity for businesses to review the technologies and tools that they’re using in their day-to-day operations. These brands may even have more time to evaluate alternatives, even if they’re not prepared to switch. If you provide a service that could simplify their problem, explain how you can do it. Write about how your product compares to others and highlight the differences. Be educational.
The key to creating trustworthy content is simply being authentic. If you try to be something you’re not, your content won’t perform well, and it may even damage your reputation. By focusing on informing your audience instead of selling to them, your content could generate more traffic — and potentially earn their business in the long run. Check out these tips for adjusting your strategy during COVID-19.
3. Make voice search a priority
2020 was supposed to be the year of the voice search revolution. With increasing usage in voice-enabled devices and improvements to how technologies understand human language, it was clear that marketers needed to invest more in a voice search strategy.
The current landscape hasn’t altered this need. Search results and keywords may be fluctuating, but if you have the time and resources, this could be an ideal time for optimizing your site and content for voice search. It may even position your brand for an influx of traffic if your competitors are currently scaling down on their efforts.
Here’s a good place to start:
- Create content that answers questions: The goal here is to make your content more discoverable for voice assistants and optimize your content for Google’s featured snippets, otherwise known as position zero. Featured snippets are responsible for 40% of all voice search answers.
- Use structured data: Structured data makes it easier for search engines and digital assistants to find your content. Work with your developer to create structured data for list-like carousels, FAQs, how-to-guides, customer reviews and more.
- Speed up your site: Voice assistants need to produce fast results, so they’re not going to wait on sites with poor or even average loading time. Crazy Egg offers some tips for speeding things up.
- Be conversational: Target phrases that align with the way people speak.
If you’re pivoting to SEO, remember that this is just a start. Building a comprehensive SEO strategy takes time and patience, but if you’re working from home and have time to focus on it, SEO can help you reach new audiences and show how your brand can support them during this time of uncertainty.
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