Importance of SEO for Businesses During COVID-19

SEO, Web Design, COVID-19

People are avoiding physical stores, which has led to a sudden uptick in online shopping. By the time COVID-19 slows down and people return to “business as usual,” consumers will already have new shopping habits that are likely to stick. Ecommerce platforms and digital storefronts were already becoming the new norm, and recent events have only accelerated that. As people shelter in place and spend an unprecedented amount of time on screens, brands need to adapt and meet people where they live (online).

people using cell phones and laptops
People have been moving their lives into the digital space for years already. Social distancing only accelerated the inevitable.

Search is at the heart of the digital experience. Consumers want to understand their buying options now that they’re avoiding public places. They also want to hear how brands are dealing with COVID-19 and what they’re doing to maintain business continuity. Businesses that can provide that information effectively will be rewarded with an increase in organic search traffic.

Why Is SEO Important During COVID-19?

SEO is always important. More than half of all website traffic comes from organic search, which means brands are missing out on the majority of potential leads if they don’t have good SEO efforts in place. There isn’t much data yet on how social distancing and the increase in screen time will affect the ratio of organic traffic to other sources of traffic, but there’s no doubt that the overall quantity of Google searches is increasing. As companies feel a financial pinch and cut budgets for paid search, there will be even more opportunities for brands with strong organic reach.

SEO will prove to be one of the most valuable things businesses can do during COVID-19 for the following seven reasons.

1 – Organic Traffic Trends Will Reveal New Customer Needs

As a marketing form, SEO success hinges on a company’s ability to identify which information their customers care about. Keyword research and analysis of the most popular pages on a business’ site will reveal what their consumers want to know. People just saw their needs change quickly, which means businesses have an opportunity to address those new pain points before their competition can. Helping customers during this period of uncertainty will create a competitive advantage that outlasts COVID-19.

Analyst looking at SEO data
Good Data + Good Content = Good SEO

2 – SEO Success Lasts

One caveat here is that not all SEO efforts are the same. Some black hat techniques can lead to a quick spike in traffic before ultimately resulting in penalties that hurt a brand’s SEO efforts. Responsible SEO, though, will create results that last for years. Businesses that can earn top spots in search engine results now are likely to experience an increase in organic traffic going forward as well. If a company can get an edge on their competition now, the effects may ripple out for years to come.

3 – Customers Are Looking for New Information

Since the COVID-19 outbreak is a relatively new development, there isn’t much information out there beyond what’s been published in the last few months. In other words, brands won’t necessarily have to topple a giant to get a top spot in the search engine results. It’s important not to share any bad information, though, so content marketers should be careful when they’re identifying facts and resources related to current events. Successful efforts in this area will position brands as thought leaders people can trust when they need answers.

Google searches for covid over time
People are looking for information that didn't exist until recently. Will you answer their questions?

4 – Better Online Experience for Customers

Google is designed to return the kind of links people want. The search engine is getting good at identifying the types of websites and content people appreciate. In other words, you’ll be creating a better user experience at the same time as you’re optimizing your site for search engines. Keep things organized, optimize your images, and make sure your metadata is relevant to your content. Your site won’t just be easier for your target audience to find– it will also be easier for them to navigate, understand, and appreciate once they arrive. Kill two birds with one stone by increasing your organic traffic and improving your conversion rate at the same time.

5 – Rebuild Your Business After COVID-19

Whether or not a specific business can achieve revenue continuity during social distancing, it has an opportunity to pull people into the sales funnel. Even people who have sealed their wallets shut during this period of uncertainty are still thinking about all the things they want to buy in the future. Most consumers have a lot of time on their hands, and they’re using it to research things online. Optimize your site now to get consideration from consumers who will give you business down the road.

If you use this time to focus on growing your online following, you’ll get a leg up on any competitors who have thrown their hands up. Some companies haven’t adapted quickly enough to current events, and it’s causing them to lose trust. If your operations have changed because of COVID-19, make sure you’re expressing that clearly online. Update listings, social media, and relevant parts of your website to keep everything consistent and accurate. Consumers will remember which businesses handled this health crises well and which didn’t.

6 – Global Vs. Local SEO During COVID-19

The internet is everywhere, so brands can use it to develop global reach. Even global companies can benefit by finding ways to make their content specific to people in more local markets. Whether your business needs to serve multiple markets all over the world or just one market in your hometown, this is a great time to increase local search traffic. Optimize your site for geo-targeted traffic by sharing relevant and accurate information that will help customers in the specific location or locations you serve.

flag on map saying shop local
Localize your content to show customers that you're plugged into their communities.

7 – People Are Starving for Entertainment

Maybe that’s hyperbolic. There are millions of blog posts published every day, so consumers aren’t likely to run out of content any time soon. That said, people are spending hours upon hours online, so their media needs are higher than they ever have been before. Find ways to keep people informed and entertained, and they’ll reward you with their attention and engagement. Form productive relationships now, and you’ll be able to convert those prospects into sales once your business operations normalize again.

How to Improve SEO During COVID-19

Given the importance of SEO during COVID-19, businesses should take action as soon as possible. Acting effectively is just as important as acting quickly, so brands need to take a thoughtful, results-driven approach to their SEO efforts. People are turned off by opportunistic companies, which makes it important to stay helpful and genuine. Digital marketing best practices evolve quickly and there’s a lot to learn, which makes some marketers feel overwhelmed. You won’t become an SEO expert overnight, but there are three key things you can focus on while your business deals with COVID-19.

1 – Be Trustworthy

People are feeling especially uncertain right now. They’re looking for dependability, and they’ll be grateful for brands that can inspire trust. People have been jaded by unethical advertising, which means they’re not likely to fall for false promises or opportunistic campaigns. Honest, informative content can add value for consumers and demonstrate that a brand is committed to their community.

This isn’t all new, either. Google has been looking for EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) since 2018. The search engine identifies ranking signals that indicate how much people trust a given website. If Google thinks your site is trustworthy, it’s more likely to recommend it to people in the search results.

black woman and white man shaking hands
People might not be shaking hands anytime soon, but they'll always want to do business with companies they trust.

Find out what your customers want to know, then answer their questions. This process is at the core of SEO anyway, and it’s especially critical now that there’s so much uncertainty and demand for reliable information. There’s not necessarily a need to offer big discounts or deploy aggressive calls to action. People are already much more likely to purchase something from a business they’ve previously looked to for knowledge or insights.

Another aspect of being dependable is to make sure you’re not exposing your audience to digital threats. As cybercriminals try to exploit the COVID-19 outbreak, there’s an increase in malware and other malicious online activity. If you’re using outdated plugins or apps on your site, now is a good time to make sure they’re not making you vulnerable to cyberattacks. It’s also important to secure your site with an SSL. Implementing HTTPS will protect your customers’ data and help your site rank higher at the same time.

2 – Think Ahead

If business has slowed down, this is the time to fill your pipeline with content for the future. If you already have campaigns planned, review them again to make sure they won’t seem inappropriate given the current situation. People are on edge now, which makes them especially sensitive to any messaging that disregards or makes light of the stress they’re experiencing. Take a look at your upcoming content schedule to make sure you don’t publish anything that can be interpreted as insensitive.

Child looking through telescope
Look ahead to the future without losing touch with current events.

You might have to put some of your planned content on the shelf until the world recovers from COVID-19. It’s worth it to come up with new, more timely content that won’t damage your brand’s reputation. As an added bonus, pushing some publishing dates into the future will give you a backlog of posts you can save for a rainy day. This is also an opportunity to cross projects off your marketing wish list now when you have time to get to them. Use your downtime wisely and you’ll be set up for success later.

3 – Refine Your Online Presence

There’s a good chance your business operations have changed in the last few months. Does your digital presence reflect the most accurate and updated information? If not, you risk losing trust by spreading falsehoods. Update your Google My Business page and other online listings to make sure they reflect your current operating hours or anything else people will need to know about. If you’ve made changes that your customers should know about, issue a quick and honest announcement.

Once you’ve ensured that all of the information about your business is up to date, keep your ear to the ground. Analysis and social listening tools will be able to provide insights about what customers are looking for. Once you identify what’s important to your target audience, you can tailor your content marketing plan to meet current needs. Without betraying your brand’s essential tone and message, pivot to stay ahead of your audience’s shifting attention.

Tailor fitting man for suit
Your content should be tailor-made to fit your audience as well as the occasion.

Content Marketing and SEO

Producing SEO-focused content is one of the most cost-effective things a company can do to increase reach. It’s especially important now when businesses are trying to create effective marketing strategies and tighten budgets at the same time. While the initial investment may be intimidating during uncertain times, businesses can reap the benefits long into the future. If you’d like to discuss how SEO can help your business specifically, let’s connect.

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