It’s fair to say 2020 has been a year of turbulence, as life as we knew it continues to be disrupted by the novel coronavirus. The unprecedented changes our world has adapted to have significantly impacted our economy, from business closures to job loss and the long road ahead to restore what has been lost.
As the world works to overcome the virus that shut it down, nothing will come back unchanged, including SEO. While you work to bring your business into the new normal, here are some strategies you can use to make SEO a part of your company’s overall response to COVID-19, both short term and long term.
If there’s one thing this pandemic has proven, it’s that jobs some once thought couldn’t be done from home or from a distance, can be. In this time of uncertainty, many places are closed or have found alternative ways to offer their products and services. Working from home and curbside pickup has become the new norm across industries that never before offered these as options.
As businesses continue to provide their services as safely as possible, help your patients, customers and even your employees understand the current guidelines and policies in place by having a dedicated COVID-19 page. This provides one specific location on your website where users can easily stay updated on what they can expect when interacting with your company.
If your hours have changed, or your location is closed altogether, it is helpful to provide this information on your Google My Business page. Users looking for your goods or services will be able to tell from a Google search that your location is closed or has reduced hours. This is something you can temporarily add in the description, as well as any other details to help them continue to purchase from your business.
For daycare centers, this is especially important to note, as essential workers need somewhere to take their children while they work. You can note if you are an official pandemic childcare center in your description to help working parents know right away if they should contact you. Or, like this example, you can let them know right away you are not that type of center, and where to get more information.
Most businesses already have an online presence, but providing goods or services primarily online wasn’t the focus until now. A survey conducted in Europe this past April found 13% of consumers who have never before made an online purchase are considering online retailers for the first time, and this is surely a trend around the world.
This shift has companies reworking their website to accommodate online purchasing and curbside pickup or delivery orders, as the need for e-commerce continues to surge as a result of the pandemic. Restaurant chains are now offering groceries. Contactless services are being provided in the form of online college classes and telehealth medical appointments.
This new offering of products and services has generated an influx in search interest in companies or products that weren’t heavily searched for in the past. Grocery stores and pharmacies are likely to see a surge in website traffic as customers browse their website for availability on medications, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soaps and other essential items.
Another shift to consider is a drop in searches for non-essential items. Travel, clothing and luxury retailers are undoubtedly taking a hit as closed borders, shelter-in-place-orders and remote working or being out of work altogether affect consumers’ ability to make these types of purchases. While they’ve done a stellar job adjusting, the unfortunate truth is that they will take a hit due to being non-essential, with shipping and unemployment rates both at an all-time high.
Fashion retailer Express, which is primarily known for its wear-to-work styles, is catering to its audience who is now working from home right in the hero section of its homepage:
Meanwhile, luxury retailer Nordstrom has taken their efforts to the next level: they rank No. 1 for “work from home clothes,” with a page dedicated to their comfiest clothes for the long office days that are now spent at home.
It’s important to monitor your website’s performance to observe how users are converting on your website during this time. This should be taken into consideration when evaluating year-over-year numbers and reporting on successes. Expect to see declines across the board when it comes to Q1 and beyond. Take note that if your site’s sessions and impressions stay relatively the same, but conversions drop, this is likely related to the current situation and users are still interested in your products or services, but aren’t ready to convert. If your search rankings stay the same but impressions decrease, declines can likely be attributed to the coronavirus’s impact on search interest.
Now is the time to think long term. While your customers may not be making purchases like they normally do, this gives you time to prepare for when the situation shifts and customers are ready for your products and services. To stay top-of-mind in this interim period, it’s important to continue creating relevant, timely content that educates your audience and appears in the search engine results.
It’s also the time to adjust to what the “new normal” will look like as businesses reopen. Will your products or services be impacted by social distancing measures? You can begin preparing guidelines for your establishment for when the time comes to accept in-person visits, customer transactions and meetings. Create FAQ-style content that will address customer concerns, and provide measures your company will take to sanitize your locations and products.
There is still a lot of uncertainty as we navigate through a situation the world hasn’t faced in the digital age. The pandemics of the past surely impacted the economies of those times, but issues such as SEO and contact conversions didn’t exist.
One thing is for sure: businesses must be willing to adapt, comply with guidelines and rely on their data to make business decisions. Expect declines for the immediate future and potentially the long term. Be realistic about reopening processes, and stay safe.