We can all probably agree it’s good to have a plan for emergencies. But more often than not, many of us find ourselves off guard when an actual emergency arises.
At this point, we don’t need to explain the COVID-19 situation to you. The infection rate is growing fast, and both the global stock markets and businesses everywhere are starting to feel the pain.
As a business, knowing how to respond to this situation isn’t exactly easy. And it’s human nature to avoid planning ahead until it’s too late.
In this article, we’ll explain the situation as it relates to search, and we’ll tell you the most critical action you should be taking right now.
Two Oncoming SEO Challenges
As the COVID-19 situation develops more every hour, we’re already beginning to see the effects the outbreak will have on businesses, marketing, and SEO.
Here are two big challenges we’ll likely face going forward.
Challenge 1: Search Behavior is Changing.
As the recent outbreak unfolds, search habits are likely to change on a deep level over the short term.
As you can see from this Google Trends graph, US searches for “coronavirus” have skyrocketed in the past month:
We’re also seeing a high demand for certain household products and medical supplies:
Meanwhile, interest in other things has gone down. With people feeling anxious and distracted by this world pandemic event, they are naturally searching for certain topics less frequently right now.
Of course, if you have one of the few products that went up in demand, you’ll notice an uptick in your Google Search Console dashboard. We’ve seen sites related to finance, healthcare, and news media see a slight boost.
On the other hand, the crisis has hit certain industries especially hard. According to analysts, people are spending significantly less money on travel, retail, consumer packaged goods, and entertainment. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though.
For businesses that aren’t part of the “lucky” group seeing an increase in demand, we’re seeing an overall decrease in search traffic across the board. Public uncertainty and social distancing measures are reducing the demand for most products and services.
Like other sites aiming for those high rankings, your core strategy up until now has probably been to create the best content possible, to optimize it for certain keywords, and to build your authority by sending links to that content. Usually, when you’re losing search traffic — like in the event of a core update — you can offset the decline by increasing these efforts.
But unlike a core update, you can’t really combat this change by making your content better. The simple truth is that people aren’t searching for your offers as much right now — they’re too focused on getting the latest news that could affect their health, their finances, and their families.
Search trends and buying trends are undergoing extreme change, and we’ll only start to see the full implications of this shift as the situation unfolds.
Challenge 2: We’re Likely Facing a Recession.
Before we begin, we should remind you that we’re just SEO experts, not economists. But based on what the economists are telling us, we’re bracing for a rough couple of months.
After this outbreak, experts are estimating the global economy is going to take a $2.7 trillion hit. Businesses are already hurting, the layoffs have begun, and things only seem to be getting worse in the short-term.
All of these things mean many businesses are going to struggle.
If the markets stay down for a while, your customers’ wallets are going to get tighter, and the demand for various products and services will continue to decrease.
How To Respond
Now that we’ve discussed the changes in search traffic and the economy, an important question must be asked: how should your business react to the COVID-19 situation?
Depending on how COVID-19 is impacting your business, the answer to this question will vary. But the underlying advice we can give to everyone is to try not to panic.
Instead of reacting emotionally, we encourage you to make smart, logical decisions pertaining to your business.
If you’re dealing with a deprecated demand in your industry, it probably does make sense to reduce your media spend. But this does not mean you should completely halt all your marketing.
Instead of pulling the plug on your SEO, you should react to what the market is doing and adapt to the situation.
Even if your overall sales go down because of the pandemic — or the economy — you can offset your losses by investing in a comprehensive SEO campaign that puts you in front of those businesses that are still buying. This will lay the groundwork for improved ranking positions when search volume rebounds.
Or, you might consider optimizing and expanding your content to keep your current audience engaged through the crisis.
By changing your strategy to fit these new needs, you have a great opportunity to display your values to your customers, your employees, and your community.
Double Down on SEO
Whether you’re a mom-and-pop operation, a B2B provider, or an e-commerce store, you’re likely going to experience a loss in the coming months. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to escape that.
But eventually, things will begin to normalize.
While we may see a new “normal,” the world will stabilize after this pandemic, and SEO will still be one of the most effective ways to reach potential customers.
It’s definitely a good idea to look for ways to cut back. But if you can afford to take a short-term hit in exchange for a return in the long-term, SEO is the way to go.
The simple truth is that during an economic downturn, you will naturally have less competition. This means, if you stick with it, it will be easier to see results after the dust settles and you’ll see results faster.
If you stick with your long-term SEO strategy in this global crisis, your business will reap the benefits for years to come. Those results could produce the revenue you need in order to make it through the hard times coming our way.
That’s why we encourage all businesses to either continue their SEO efforts, or, if they can afford it, get even more aggressive.
We’ve seen it happen during every recession, and we’ll see it happen again: businesses that maintain or increase their marketing expenditures in times of recession will pull ahead of their competitors.
In an age when a business’s success can hinge on its ability to react effectively, the COVID-19 outbreak will bring a sort of trial by fire. Those that either stay course or double down will emerge as winners. And those that pull back? Not so much.
By sticking to the discipline of SEO and keeping your brand in front of your searchers, you will make the cut when the buying decision is made. That’s why now is the best time to optimize your website, perfect your content, and establish authority with links. If you can successfully do that, your rewards will come.
When the world around you begins to crumble — when you learn how little control you really have — you have a choice to make. You can choose to hide from the chaos and play defense, or you can choose to face adversity head-on and play offense.
At Sure Oak, our mission is to empower people to reach their full potential and live their wildest dreams. To us, that means committing to being a solid, trusted partner to our clients and using our skills to help PEOPLE — businesses, yes, but ultimately the PEOPLE behind and involved and impacted by those businesses.
We remain steadfast in our pursuit to help our clients optimize their sites and their marketing spend. If you need help strategizing how best to work within this current COVID-19 crisis, please reach out.