How to Adapt Your SEO and SEM Strategy Throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic and Beyond

Editor’s note: This article is a contribution from Tara Johnson, content writer at Tinuiti, an award-winning independent performance marketing agency that accelerates brand growth

It’s impossible to talk about business these days without bringing up the coronavirus and how it has upended our lives. 

Social distancing and quarantining have prompted a sudden global shift to the digital marketplace—a shift that many businesses weren’t prepared for. 

Because of this migration, SEO and SEM are more important than ever before. Unfortunately, this upheaval also means that businesses have had to rethink their online strategy. 

Although states are reopening across the country, many are starting to consider a second wave or being forced to close (for a second time) and reevaluate their reopening timeline.

The current state of SEO/SEM

The coronavirus has had a significant impact on search engine rankings, ad spend, and performance

Search behavior often reflects what is happening in society and that’s exactly what we’re seeing now. Search terms are spiking in some industries and sinking in others and the distribution can change daily based on current events. 

Search performance has significantly changed since the outbreak began. Tinuiti’s data at the onset of the pandemic showed increased search volume for groceries, health and medicine, non-profits, finance, and beauty and personal care.

Meanwhile, there was a decrease in search volume for leisure and recreation, travel, car rentals, retailers, and alternative medicine.

The performance of these industries is changing constantly. For example, Klaviyo’s recent data has shown consumer interest in “new summer essential” categories such as home and garden, toys and hobbies, sporting goods, and health and beauty.

In response to these changes, how can you adapt your SEO and SEM strategy to stay relevant this summer and throughout the remainder of the year? We have some suggestions.

Update your website

While you’ve probably updated your website to reflect coronavirus-related changes earlier in the earlier, it’s critical to consistently update your website with relevant information as the situation continues to evolve. Add your new operating hours, location closures, reopening details, or potential shipping delays. Post the information in a prominent location on your website so that the customer is sure to see it. 

Also, create a coronavirus impact page so that customers know how your business was impacted and what you’re doing to address the situation. This includes how you’re handling your employees and what you’re doing to keep them safe amid any reopens or cared for if your business is remaining closed for the time being. 

You should also take the opportunity to conduct a full SEO audit and optimize your site based on the results. By the time the changes take effect, the pandemic will have (hopefully) abated.

Optimize your online listing

With the decline in foot traffic, online listings like Google My Business are crucial for connecting with customers who are researching local companies.

Google My Business in particular allows you to publish COVID-19-related updates in its own section. You can publish information like temporary closures, stock levels, changes to services, and availability of high-demand products. 

Just be aware that these COVID-19 posts expire after 14 days, so you’ll have to republish information every so often. 

Keep an eye on trends

Back when the crisis was still in its early stages, even the mention of quarantine in the news prompted users to search for and purchase as many toilet paper rolls and face masks as they could. 

Marketers should pay close attention to current events and how they’ll impact the business. Tools like Google Trends will help you detect any changes and determine whether or not you need to reevaluate your strategy. 

Adjust, don’t cancel

At the onset of the pandemic, many business owners and marketers froze their marketing spend as they were forced to shut down their stores.

With uncertainty still looming and brands unsure of whether they should plan for reopening or a second wave of the coronavirus, many continue to pause marketing spend as they adjust to a new normal. This is understandable, but not advisable.

On the other hand, businesses that take a reduced but still active approach to SEO and SEM will have the advantage over competitors that kill their campaigns. 

Plan for the long term

Use this time as an opportunity to position your brand for when businesses reopen. The fourth quarter is an especially high-volume season for many industries and many customers will want to make up for the time spent in lockdown by splurging on goods they couldn’t access previously. 

In Conclusion

While it is currently hard for businesses to predict how long COVID-19 will result in significant economic impact, they should be aware of how SEO fits into short-term and long-term marketing strategies to understand how they can effectively plan for SEO during this period. 

“Unlike most paid channels, SEO often cannot immediately shift short term priorities within organic search. Given the current level of economic uncertainty for many businesses and industries, the long-term nature of SEO should be considered when evaluating both paid and organic marketing priorities over the next several months,” Colin McGrail, Senior Specialist, SEO at Tinuiti said in a recent article

No matter how the world shifts or changes, it’s important to keep SEO and SEM at the forefront of your marketing strategy to sustain a successful brand.

Looking for more information on optimizing SEO for ecommerce? Find out the strategies to boost your organic rankings.

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