The coronavirus has thrown businesses into an entirely unprecedented situation.
Employees suddenly working from home. Stores closed. Sales dropping.
Racing against time to cut costs and adapt as well as possible.
Before you axe online marketing, though, consider: Internet traffic is going through the roof while people are stuck at home during lockdowns.
A central question now is how to adapt your SEO strategy.
Despite the crisis, brands need to stay visible and credible, need to generate leads and revenue.
Here are six actionable measures you can take to corona-proof your SEO strategy right now.
1 – Adjust content to new priorities
Google Trends has set up a Coronavirus hub to track how the pandemic is affecting search behaviors.
And one thing is crystal clear: Priorities have changed.
People are focused on survival. They worry about how to pay their bills, how to prevent infections at home and at work, how to access essential services, how to deal with grocery shortages.
Content is still king in SEO and organic lead generation.
Consequently, you need to adjust your content to people’s new priorities.
First, you need to know how priorities have shifted in your niche. That means that you have to go back to the basics, running keyword searches, figuring out search patterns and the query structure. Gaining new customer insights is the goal here.
Ultimately, you need to consider how your business can now adjust and provide relevant answers, services and products in line with people’s changed needs.
Then, produce high-quality content.
2 – Be kind, generous and helpful in your content
When creating coronavirus-related content, the most important thing to remember is to be kind.
Everyone is worried. Many people rightly fear for their existence: Catching COVID-19 could endanger their lives, or cause them economic hardships.
They will not take kindly to someone pitching products without regard for their current situation. Or trying to put on a tasteless coronavirus sale.
On the other side of the coin, businesses showing genuine empathy and trying to help will be met with goodwill. And leads.
Entrepreneurs are sharing quotes about their decision to provide some services and content for free. Helping out people who are facing financial difficulties turned out to increase purchases and subscriptions.
On a much larger scale, online reading service Scribd announced it would provide free access to its archives for thirty days. That story was featured on sites ranging from Fortune to Lifehacker.
That kind of exposure is out of reach for most businesses, no doubt.
But your content can show potential customers that you know how difficult things are right now, and that you are doing your best to help. This strategy generates trust, and ultimately leads, conversions, and revenue.
3 – Explore new opportunities, attract new audiences
There is always opportunity in adversity.
It is crucial right now to check your Google Analytics and thoroughly analyze shifts in your audience, keywords and search patterns.
Many people are stuck at home for the moment and will be catching up on their reading, or exploring new topics. Millions of people also face the threat of losing their jobs – or already did.
Many of these people will be looking to extend their knowledge and skills.
You can harness these dynamics by reinforcing your position of expertise and authority in your niche.
Make sure you add high-quality, informative content, and that your existing content is up to scratch.
If you can think of ways to share useful skills, do so. Create webinars and online courses, how-to articles, introductions on technical subjects in your industry or comprehensive guides.
This is content that search engines generally reward – and that can give you an edge over your competition right now.
4 – Technical SEO
Apart from providing high-quality, topical content, one thing you can focus on right now is the technical SEO of your website.
People are spending a lot of time online, visiting many sites in quick succession. You don’t want yours to be the one to stand out because it’s slow, has duplicate content, or doesn’t display properly on their devices.
There are several technical strategies you can implement to improve the ranking of your site. Make sure that SSL is enabled, and consider enabling AMP HTML, a Google project that aims to speed up content delivery.
Ensuring that your website is fast – by using fast hosting, a CDN, minimizing HTTP requests, and adequately managing file sizes – will earn you a better ranking.
And, you need to make sure that your site displays correctly on all devices. Especially desktops.
Wait – what?
For the past few years, device-compatibility has always meant focusing on mobile-friendliness. But recent data shows that right now, people are switching back to computers, rather than consuming content on their phones. No longer on the go due to lockdowns, many are moving away from squinting at small screens.
5 – Local SEO
A New York Times analysis of internet traffic found that interest in local websites has been through the roof since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.
This is particularly true for local news sites. People want to know what is going on in their communities.
But this shift toward localization can also benefit businesses. During lockdowns, customers still need goods and services close at hand.
They are also aware that many local businesses are struggling for survival. And they are ready to support them with their purchases.
That means focusing on local SEO can bring immediate results, even at the height of the crisis.
By claiming your Google My Business listing, Bing Places and Apple Maps Listings, and optimizing and growing your local citations (NAP), you can harness local SEO to tide you over the current crisis.
6 – Internal SEO
So you’ve managed to drive traffic to your site. Excellent!
Others might lean back and call it a job well done, but your SEO work is far from over.
This is where internal SEO comes in. Analyzing the searches on your own website can seriously boost conversion.
Conversion rates through site searches can be raised to as much as 50% above the average.
The best way to do that is to pay attention to keywords used in internal searches, and to the general query patterns that are emerging. What answers do people want from you specifically? What are they most interested in? This will give you insights into customer expectations, which services to improve, and topics for new content.
People visiting your website is a show of trust. Now it’s time for you to deliver: Provide the content and the services visitors need, and prove that you are the business for them. Stepping up your internal SEO game can help you do that.
Nobody knows what the future may bring, except that the crisis is set to last for another few months.
All you can do to improvise, adapt and overcome – also in terms of SEO.
Showing empathy to your target audience, creating the right kind of content, and bringing your technical, local and internal SEO up to scratch will help you in this endeavor.
And, ultimately, taking the right steps now will help your business emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis – and ready to face the post-pandemic future.