Read Time: 5 mins 30 secs
By Joe Comotto, Director of Search Experience
In the fifth instalment of Incubeta’s Virtual Learning Series, Joe Comotto brings his knowledge of SEO to highlight how this often overlooked practise can play an important role in getting your business through the pandemic and into the new normal.
The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have seen marketers cutting back, or even entirely removing, their marketing spend. With a dependence on paid media, we often find that brands overlook the role that SEO can play for your business. As budgets decrease, now is the time to evaluate your strategy to find a place for investment and prioritisation in SEO; doing so will help your business to get through the storm and into the new normal.
To give you an idea of the change in the landscape to date, 1 in 3 consumers have already changed their approach to shopping. Google Search ads – the starting point of many a digital advertising campaign – lost 7% of their impressions from January 13th 2020 to March 9th 2020. Finally, with the vast of the majority of the population now at home, we’re seeing a huge increase in mobile usage. With these shifts, there is an opportunity for SEO professionals and content marketers to ramp up their impact, creating content that drives conversions now and builds their brand long term.
In his webinar, Joe highlighted the top 6 tips for anyone wanting to invest more in their SEO strategy during this period, including some areas that should be your immediate focus for right now.
Be Aware of the Trends
Search behaviour is changing rapidly, so it’s more important than ever to stay on top of market trends. Tools such as Google Trends will be incredibly useful here to help you identify new keywords and themes.
For example, we’re seeing customers moving online in increasing numbers, and instructional searches – think “how to’s” and recipes – have risen dramatically since the lockdown began. Searches for exercise classes online have quickly overtaken those for exercise classes “near me” as people look for workouts that they can do without leaving the house.
Schema markup is a specific kind of code you can add to your site to help search engines return more informative results for users; think rich snippets! Naturally, this means that Google loves schema, and it really helps your brand stand out in the SERP.
There are 818 different kinds of schema to take advantage of. Some common types you might already recognise (or even be using!) include FAQ, HowTo, Opening Hours and Item Availability; but there’s new COVID-19 related schema that you can make use of throughout this period. These can be really useful when you’re looking to provide date-stamped updates for things like travel bans or school closures, as well as to indicate where an event may have been cancelled or moved online.
In terms of implementation, it’s fairly straightforward as most have a CMS plugin you can use. You don’t need any coding skills to be able to get set up and there are lots of free tools available to create and validate the schema.
Customers will likely have many questions about your brand’s approach to COVID, so make sure to keep them updated with relevant FAQ content. A lot of this content can then be repurposed or slightly modified for a post-lockdown world, giving you evergreen content that you can continue to share.
Instructional pieces on how to care for and clean products will be useful to your current customers, as well as anyone researching how to care for specific products during lockdown. Similarly, consumers will be looking for activities to stave off the boredom, so DIY guides will likely see some good performance over this period.
It’s also worth noting that many consumers will be limiting their spending throughout this period, so creating content that’s tailored to the awareness and consideration stages of the marketing funnel. With more people working from home, a retailer might see success from a piece around how to style a perfect WFH outfit. Advice on how to make money go further will also likely be appreciated and helps to present yourself as a thought leader within your space. When those consumers are ready to purchase again, your business should then be front of mind.
During this period, it is crucial that your Google My Business Listing is up to date. This way, you can quickly and easily let customers know if your store is temporarily closed, so your customers don’t leave the house for a closed shop. You can also let your customers know if you’re providing a pick-up service and add special hours to your listing. If you own thousands of stores, Google have made this easier by providing the ability to update your special opening hours in bulk.
Google recently updated their Google My Business support to prioritise listings for critical health businesses, as well as any new listings, claims and verifications for these businesses. The Review and Q&A functionality, on the other hand, has been disabled for the time being.
Page speed is somewhat of an outlier here, as it’s certainly not a quick win and you’ll likely need additional support from your developer team. However, if you have the bandwidth, capacity and the time to look at increasing your page load speed then it will pay dividends in the future; not only to your SEO but your paid media as well.
For most organisations, we strongly recommend that you look into AMP, with the exception of retailers as there is a lot more additional work required to maintain it. But, if you’re pushing out lots of news or updates, AMP is the best way to get that information out there and featured on Google’s Carousel. If you have the time and resources to invest here, it’s certainly worth the returns.
Plan and Measure
The most important point to take away from this is the need to plan and measure. One of the biggest problems we have as SEO’s is proving the value of what we do, so being able to get enterprise-level focus on SEO and educating people internally is key to keeping SEO on the table.
The best way to do this is to relate your goals and KPIs back to business measurable outcomes. More often than not, if you want to get C-Suite buy-in, you’ll need to relate everything you do back to revenue. You need to show that your action caused a specific increase in revenue. By planning effectively and understanding the best way to measure this will ultimately allow you to keep SEO on the table as a priority for the business.