Most, if not all of us have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic professionally, and it has also affected the search engine and SEO dramatically over the past few months.
Search behavior has dramatically changed, and how consumers purchase things has also taken a great shift during these months. So, how should we shift our SEO and content strategies for now and after the COVID-19 crisis?
The Effect of COVID-19 To SEO
To really understand the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on SEO, we have to briefly discuss the effect of the pandemic in general to the world’s economy. In general, what we’ve seen during the quarantine period (varies by country, but largely from February to May) is the widened gap between essential and non-essential businesses.
Essential businesses like food, health care, and energy are doing pretty well during the crisis, and we can expect this trend to continue in the reopening period. However, some non-essential businesses have been doing well in the past couple of months (i.e. video streaming services like Netflix, video games, etc) and so they are also worth our attention.
Obviously everything is considered black swan these days and nothing is guaranteed to be certain. However, with the weakening economy all around the world and massive unemployment, we can expect the current trend of people focusing on essential goods to continue.
So, how is the impact more specifically on SEO and search engine in general? In the past few months, there are some important changes in the search ecosystem:
- Limited Google My Business functionality and especially, Google has shut down the ability to post reviews on GMB listings. This has significantly affected local SEO in general
- On keywords that are directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an intense focus on quality information. That is, only websites with very high E-A-T can rank on these keywords
- Google Ads has blocked all ads that capitalized on the coronavirus pandemic. That is you can’t publish ads that might mislead customers, especially for medical products
- New structured data (Schema.org) markups especially for event postponements and notifications related to the COVID-19 pandemic
The biggest overall change, however, lies in essential vs non-essential eCommerce, as we’ve briefly discussed above like search volume in the “essential” niches like health services, medical news/research, sanitization, daily necessities, etc. On the other hand, ‘non-essential’ niches like travel, hospitality, and other niches have seen a very significant decline.
With the reopening coming in the following weeks, we can probably expect some of these niches to recover gradually, but for some others (like travel), we probably won’t see improvements until the end of the year or even until 2021.
So, how should we react to this in the following reopening? Below, we will discuss the short-term and long-term tactics we can implement.
Short Term SEO Strategies To Implement
Whether your business has been affected by the pandemic negatively or you are forced to pivot to a new business model, here are some short term tactics we can use to improve our SEO now and after this COVID-19 crisis:
Adapting to changes in search behaviors
As mentioned, there have been very significant changes surrounding the essential and non-essential businesses, especially in search behavior. To respond to this issue, we should closely monitor organic search and conversion metrics, and use the data to forecast your future SEO strategy, such as:
- Monitoring your website performance to understand how your audience is engaging your website and how they are converting during the pandemic. We can use the data to predict the impact of COVID-19
- Using tools like Google Search Console, SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Google Trends among others to understand changes in search behavior and intent. You should closely monitor relevant keywords and topics for your industry.
Proper keyword research is extremely important at the moment. Not only will your existing customers be searching for new things, but there might be brand new potential customers that you can capture. If you don’t pay enough attention to your search metrics, you may miss out on important opportunities.
Update your website as soon as possible to contain the most relevant information and to adjust the appropriateness of your existing content (i.e. you might want to adjust your visuals that feature close human interactions).
As the business reopenings are going to happen very soon, businesses should follow local rules and guidance and communicate your business’s availability through the appropriate channels.
Add opening hours and other COVID info that is relevant to your site and Google Places.
Adapting your content marketing strategy
As mentioned, customers are unlikely to spend on non-essential products at the moment, and probably for months after the COVID-19 crisis. However, with the reopenings, we can expect the interests for the non-essential products may increase gradually as we enter this “new normal”.
Businesses should prepare themselves through investments in content and promotional activities that touch the awareness and consideration aspects of the buyer’s journey. A lot of consumers might not be ready to convert at the moment, and you should invest in informative content that can help future interests.
Develop informative and educational content that is optimized for SEO, which can be a great, sustainable investment for when the reopening finally comes.
Prioritize information over promotion
During the lockdown, there has been an increase in customer interest in learning new things about products and services. So, instead of running your advertising campaigns and promotions, it’s best to focus on turning your website into a reliable source of information to nurture incoming leads.
SEO Strategies To Follow After the COVID-19 Pandemic
With the uncertain nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to take proactive measures so our business can adapt to the future economic landscape. Here are some long-term B2B SEO strategies you can plan for now and after the COVID-19 pandemic:
Assessing Your Competitive Landscape
It’s quite certain that no matter what your niche or industry is, there have been and will be casualties of this COVID-19 pandemic. Some companies won’t make it past the crisis, and so your competitive landscape might look very different after this crisis. On the one hand, this might mean a new opportunity for you (if you can withstand the current storm), on the other hand, there might also be new challenges.
Of course, you’ll also need to consider your own position in finances, product positioning, and your online infrastructure in general. This way you can figure out the key areas you can improve for the post-COVID landscape, and also key problems you’d need to fix.
The more you understand the competitive landscape, the better you can prepare your SEO strategy.
SEO-wise, you might need to pivot to new target keywords and even target a brand new audience. In most industries, we might not see very significant changes in target keywords, but there might be significant shifts in search intent and overall search behavior. Make sure to do your research carefully and gather as much data as possible.
If you are a local business, you might also want to check your Local SEO landscape and whether there are shifts and opportunities in Google Maps/Google My Business ranking, now that Google has gradually reopened Google My Business features that were limited during the lockdown period.
Adjusting Your Digital Presence to The ‘New Normal’
One key impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is that more people are now becoming familiar with digital products, remote working, and other digital transformations. So, one key area to consider in future-proofing your business is to transform your product into digital forms—at least, partially— when possible.
Consider ways your brand can pivot into the digital realm and adapt to future trends. Also, adapt your content strategy to adjust to the post-COVID world, such as:
- Communicating isolation and physical distancing in your content. As it stands, they are here to stay even after the pandemic, at least for a while.
- If you are selling physical products, you should include cleaning instructions for your product. You can incorporate this into your content, which might help your SEO and search traffic in general.
- Make sure your FAQ section is updated accordingly. If necessary, you might want to add new FAQs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Publish more videos (including YouTube). People have consumed more video content during the quarantine period, and this habit might continue after the period.
While there’s nothing certain about the COVID-19 pandemic, an important thing we can do during this time and to prepare for the reopening is to test everything. Gather as much data as you can during this period to plan your short-term and long-term SEO strategies for now and after the quarantine period.
The times have already changed and it’s almost certain we are going to enter a ‘new normal’. We must prepare ahead and approach our content strategy with the new reality to reduce the negative impact on your organic traffic and also to seize potential opportunities after the pandemic.
If you found this article insightful, you would like to check more guides and reviews here:
- A step by step guide of writing SEO friendly articles
- A guide to improving eCommerce user experience through web design
- Tips on getting more Instagram followers
Drop a comment below and let us know which other subjects you would like to see on the blog.