COVID-19 Update – Content Marekting and SEO

SEO, Content Marketing, Copywriting

It’s been a few months since the COVID-19 outbreak rocked the world. As people and businesses try to recover and find their “new normal,” there are important takeaways for content marketers. The biggest news is no news, in a way: SEO hasn’t been fundamentally changed by recent events.

Tried and true SEO strategies still apply. There have been some search trends when it comes to keywords related to “COVID” and “coronavirus.” In other words, marketers should keep their fingers on the pulse of society, as usual, but without sacrificing their overall content marketing goals. After a quick recap of the best SEO strategies, we’ll touch on how you can tweak your copywriting to ensure your content stays relevant during uncertain times.

robot holding human mask with "new normal" background
We're moving toward our new normal, and it's more important than ever to connect with people digitally.

Should I Change My SEO Strategy to Account for COVID?

This depends on the business. Unless your operations have changed dramatically, this should only be a small focus. You may want to create a COVID page or blog posts related to the coronavirus, but the fundamental best practices of SEO are still more important. Content marketing strategies should be long-term plans, so don’t let present trends distract you from future goals. Most SEO strategies take at least two or three months to produce results anyway, so don’t sacrifice the future for short-term goals.

What Are the Best SEO Strategies?

Given that the core practice of SEO hasn’t changed because of COVID-19, your content marketing plan shouldn’t need a complete overhaul. The following strategies are always important, including now. Here’s where your focus should remain when it comes to creating an SEO strategy.

SEO spelled out in gears
Current events can do very little to throw a wrench into your SEO plans.

1 – Create a Good Content Marketing Plan

Content is arguably the most important piece of your SEO plan. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to create a content marketing strategy. If your existing plan isn’t working, revisit it. If you don’t know whether your plan is working, it could be better. Introduce data analysis and reporting to identify what’s successful for you.

First and foremost, conduct keyword research to identify long-tail keywords for your SEO strategy. Once you have long-tail keywords, publish regular blog posts that focus on those keywords while providing useful information for your audience. Even if people aren’t buying your products and services right now, they’re still spending time online where they can be exposed to your brand.

animated head with gears, search bar, charts, and graphs
A good content plan is the cornerstone of SEO success.

2 – Compress Your Images

This is one of the easiest ways to get a quick win for your SEO strategy. Compressing images helps your site load faster, so you should be doing this for every image. The following tools can help you do this as quickly and easily as possible:

3 – Use Google Tools

As soon as you create and publish a new site, you should set it up with Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Google Analytics provides data about a site’s performance, and Google Search Console can help you improve and optimize a site for SEO purposes. You’ll get feedback about where your links are coming from, keyword information, and technical errors.

animated version of Google Analytics
There are all kinds of SEO tools out there, but Google makes some of the best, and they do it for free.

Once you set up both tools, link Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Finally, submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. You probably already have a sitemap, and you can check by going to [YourDomain]/sitemap.xml. For example, the sitemap for Buddy Gardner Advertising is at https://www.buddygardner.com/sitemap.xml.

4 – Find and Fix Orphan Pages

Orphan pages aren’t connected to the rest of your site by internal links. Tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush can help you identify these pages if you aren’t ready to pay for an SEO audit. If you find orphan pages that are no longer relevant or valuable, you can simply get rid of them. If they’re still valuable, add content to them then set up internal links to connect them to the rest of your site.

5 – Prepare Your Site for Social Sharing

Does something look off when your site is shared on social media? If so, you need to address your Open Graph meta tags. Whether directly or indirectly, social media signals do affect a website’s ranking in Google search results.

Depending on how you built your site, you may be able to do this relatively easily in your settings and in your content management system (CMS). You can test this by sharing some of your pages and blog posts on social media, use an audit tool, or have an SEO professional check it for you. If you regularly post links on social media, you should already have an idea of whether they look right or not.

Open Graph Settings for Buddy Gardner in Webflow
Modifying the Open Graph settings in Webflow is a breeze. Here's what it looks like for the homepage of this site.

6 – Optimize Site Content and Meta Tags

After you conduct keyword research, apply what you’ve learned to your site’s content and meta tags. Once you’ve addressed the meta tags, add more long-form content to your site. This is important even for product pages and service pages. If you want to add long-form content for SEO without creating a giant wall of text, consider doing so in the form of an FAQ section.

changing SEO settings and meta description for Buddy Gardner in Webflow
Straightforward SEO settings are one of the biggest benefits of building a website in Webflow.

7 – Get Backlinks for SEO

Backlinks are an important ranking factor for Google and other search engines. There are a couple great ways to get more backlinks:

  • Find out where people are talking about you online. You can get a free trial on Ahrefs then use their content explorer, set up Google Alerts to see when your brand is mentioned, or use a number of other tools. Start by focusing on sites with a high domain authority, then just reach out and ask them to link to your site when they mention you. You may have more success with your outreach it you share the link that mentions you on your social channels.
  • Form partnerships by writing guest posts for other blogs. Just like when you’re finding existing mentions, start by looking for sites with high domain authority or lots of traffic. Keep in mind that when sites are much more popular than your own, they won’t be as motivated to work with you on this. It’s also important to find sites for which you can add valuable content that will appeal to their audience. Don’t waste time writing for a site if their audience isn’t relevant to your brand.
road with sign that says future forward with arrows
Your SEO strategy should be built for long-term success, so don't be too reactionary with it. If you want to address current events, you can do that with small adjustments to content and phrasing.

Copywriting With COVID-19 in Mind

This was more important when COVID-19 was even more on the top of everyone’s mind. It’s still worth thinking about, at least in a general sense, because it’s important to know how to write for and market your business during times of crises or stress. When it comes to content marketing, it’s actually more important to tweak your copywriting than it is to adjust your overall SEO strategy.

Audit Your Content

Look at your recent and scheduled content to see if you need to make any changes. Companies in some industries may need to make more dramatic adjustments. For example, tourism companies, airlines, and hotels had to shift a lot because of COVID-19. Regardless of how much you need to adjust, here are things to keep in mind when you take inventory of your content marketing collateral.

1 – Watch the Tone

This is mostly about making sure you aren’t striking a tone or using phrases that could seem inappropriate. People don’t want to hear about your “killer SEO strategy” during a global pandemic. Ease off the jokes, puns, and witticisms, too. You can be positive and uplifting without making light of the situation.

hands made of words like calm and friendly holding a fragile heart
Watch how you communicate online, because it's easy to misunderstand tone via written communication.

For some companies, it’s also important to be transparent about how your business is adapting. Don’t overpromise or try to position your brand as some heroic savior, but do be authentic and honest. It’s ok if your copy isn’t quite as entertaining as it normally is because you’re focused on taking the situation seriously.

2 – Adjust Your CTAs

When you’re writing calls to action (CTAs), you may also want to dial back the sense of urgency some. Content with a message like “book now, travel later” became more important. You can stay relevant without being pushy. Times of crisis aren’t right for phrases like “act now before it’s too late.” People are already stressed– don’t try to pile on with high-pressure sales language.

ugly graph labeled covid 19 2020 and showing downward trend
The economic response to COVID-19 has been almost as ugly as this graph. That doesn't make it ok to hit the panic button and strike a desperate tone.

Focus on how you can add value in the moment without rushing to create conversions. Some brands might not even be able to fulfill orders at the time. In those cases, be versatile enough to write generally and keep CTAs open. Instead of “come see us today,” you could try, “reach out to us online to get started.” As with everything related to SEO, think forward and keep building for the future.

3 – Decide When to Publish Content

You can take a break from publishing content. Seriously. Even during normal times, quality is becoming much more important than quantity. If you don’t have enough resources to keep up with your evergreen content plus COVID-19 posts, just stick to your normal content marketing plan. If it doesn’t feel appropriate to publish your new posts now, just start a big stockpile to use later. You can also create content that’s a hybrid between topical and evergreen, then edit or update later.

4 – Be Helpful

If you do have time to address current events in addition to your normal content plan, try to focus on what your audience needs. How can you help them do more with less in times of uncertainty? It’s important to tread carefully here and make sure you’re being sensitive, not opportunistic.

animated person looking through microscope
People will always be looking for products, answers, and information. Help them find what they need.

5 – Learn From Other Brands

When you see what other brands (especially your competitors) are doing, critique it internally. Avoid their mistakes, and take note of what seems to be working well for them. If you can’t tell what’s working and what isn’t, the comments and reactions on social media should provide hints. If you’re on the fence about something, it’s probably best to play it safe during hard times.

6 – Make a Blanket Announcement

If the idea of auditing all of your current and scheduled content is too overwhelming, take a blanket approach. You can do this by making a new page about the current situation, putting an announcement at the top of your home page, or adding a modal or dialogue box. Your Google My Business page and social media page also give you opportunities to address current events.

Google my business animated graphic
Like your website, your Google My Business page is part of your digital storefront. Make sure it's showing people what they can expect from your brand.

This helps you keep people informed about any changes to your operations that may not be accurately expressed in parts of your messaging. It will also help you earn the benefit of the doubt if you miss something in your content that could seem inappropriate at the time. For example, these kinds of announcements can help you avoid blowback from a previous post encouraging people to share your product with friends.

How to Get Started With SEO

If you haven’t built your website yet, the information above can help you do so with search engines in mind. If you need to fix your current site, the first step is normally to get an SEO audit. There are some free audit tools online that can get you started, but you’ll have to spend money if you really want to take a deep dive. Let’s connect to discuss how an SEO audit works, refine your content strategy, or get to work on some of your existing action items.

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