COVID-19 & SEO: What You Need to Know
These are trying times, the likes of which many of us have never faced before. Individuals and organizations are rapidly adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic on a global scale. As communities shift their focus predominantly to containment efforts and “flattening the curve” (i.e. slowing the spread) of the virus, businesses can already feel the significant impact of this new reality. Unprecedented – yet increasingly common – governmental intervention like mandatory curfews and industry shutdowns will only intensify the consequences for private enterprise. This may necessitate some achingly difficult decisions, including temporarily scaling back or shuttering operations for the safety of your employees and customers. The most effective strategy for business leadership to adopt is to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best-case scenario to unfold.
Fortunately, there is plenty of cause for optimism. As chaotic as circumstances are, this will pass. In the meantime, teamwork pulls us through even the most tumultuous times. This means strengthening or leveraging relationships both internally, within your company, and externally, with your clients. It is clearer now than ever before that we truly are all in this together. Solidarity with your customers base, target audience, and community can set you up to ultimately emerge in as strong a position as before (if not stronger). The choices you make now will determine how well-suited your company will be to maximize on opportunities once this ends. With a little strategic planning, rising to meet today’s challenges does not have to mean sacrificing movement towards long-term goals.
From a marketing standpoint, search engine optimization (SEO) should be a fundamental component of any plan to preserve the wellbeing your company or brand. There will be business winners and losers in this shifting landscape. SEO is a smart investment during this time to help you land on the right side of that divide.
Your Customers Still Need to Hear from You
In a crisis, people need answers more than anything. The old saying may be that, “knowledge is power,” but it is also a crucial source of comfort and security when folks are afraid. Content strategy is always a core pillar of an effective SEO campaign. The types of search queries you should answer may change, as will the search volume behind them, but people are still online searching.
COVID-19 simply opens up a new world of questions for your company to answer digitally. There are the most obvious inquiries to be sure to cover. Are you still open for business? Have your hours of operation changed? What about the way in which you deliver your service or product (ex: have you waived cancellation fees or lowered interest rates)? There are also more pressing fears to address. Most of these questions are likely some iteration of, “is your product or service still safe?” The last thing you want to do in a crisis is adopt a total information blackout. SEO can help you get critical information to as large an audience of your customers and potential customers as possible.
The Algorithm Is Unaffected
Search engine algorithms cannot get sick and will not go into quarantine. Although the real world is in turmoil, the mechanics of organic search in the digital one will continue essentially unchanged. Improving your page rank for searches that are valuable to your business is still possible. The way we achieve those improvements is still through great SEO. You can work towards offsetting losses by being proactive about getting in front of the customers who are indeed still online in a buying mindset. SEO can also help continue to capture potential customers today who are demonstrating intent to buy, even if that purchase must now take place in the future.
The only thing that will need to change in the short-term is how we measure progress. Customer interest in certain goods or services may wane, so organic traffic numbers will likely dip for the time being. However, your keyword rankings continue to be an effective indicator of success. If you continue to compete for and win in the searches that are highly valuable to your business, your SEO campaign will yield real-world benefits. These rankings are made all the more critical by the fact that, eventually, this pandemic will come to an end. This leads to one more important consideration.
SEO Progress Now Means Business Success Later
SEO is a long game, so it is not immediately impacted by what is going on with consumer sentiment on a day-to-day basis. This means there is no need to panic! The last thing you want is to treat your business decisions the same way folks are treating toilet paper purchases. If you want to rank well in a few months, when the market is (hopefully) roaring back, then right now is the time to steadily put in the work. In other words, whatever your SEO campaign can accomplish now will be planting seeds for the best possible competitive position when this crisis comes to a close. That will be ever more important the longer this difficult time extends.
Once this is all over, your customers will be eager to celebrate the end of social distancing and make up for lost time. Your SEO campaign is a critical tool for you to leverage in order to position your business as competitively as possible and ensure you are one of the first places they stop by to start spending money again.
Khalil supports the SEO team with branding, copywriting, and website design expertise. After years of ranting about the pizza in Colorado, he now splits his time between Denver and New York City.