blog-post
Amy Duncan
SEO Specialist

Thought Piece - Covid-19

2020-04-20

SEO for the New Normal - Covid-19

We appear to have entered a strange and unusual world where a trip to the shop is the highlight of our week. The new normal sees us staying inside and browsing the web for inspiration, entertainment and new ways to indulge in the things we’re prevented from doing during lockdown.

Even with all this change and uncertainty, in a peculiar twist of fate, one thing we can rely on is the Google algorithm. That’s why, now more than ever, you should look to improve the performance of your brand in organic search (SEO). Not only is it an opportunity to improve your business to satisfy the demands of consumers during the new normal, but it’s also an intelligent approach to the future. The mindset of the consumer has changed and for some it could be irreversible. Exploring your audience and their demands will help you to drive revenue post-lockdown, or as we like to call it: the new new normal.

We know a lot of businesses are experiencing financial hardship and we’ve already seen long-lasting establishments, such as Debenhams, finally be tipped over the metaphorical edge and head into administration. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re not here to dwell on the past or what shoulda, woulda, coulda, but rather to give you solid insight into the benefits of reviewing and updating your SEO strategy. There are actions various different businesses can take during this pandemic to help support their business now and in the long run.

LOCAL SEO FOR BUSINESSES

THE SCENARIO:

Personally, when this is all over, I’ll be going straight to the nearest beer garden and I’m sure I’m not alone. But from doing a quick survey we’ve seen that restaurants, rooftop bars, barbers, hair salons, spas and beauty salons are also going to experience a surge in demand. The question is, are they ready?

When I search for the best bottomless brunch near me or a pub garden in London, is your business going to appear? If not, do you think you’ve done enough marketing prior to or during the lockdown to be at the forefront of consumers’ minds to send them flocking when our freedoms are reinstated?

SEO YOU CAN DO NOW

Instead of having to fight for the attention of potential consumers with a flood of promising discount emails, take this opportunity to review your local search performance. Having worked with a well-known cocktail bar chain and indoor mini-golf company, we can see how an investment in local and general organic search has resulted in over 60% increase in organic traffic and a 43% increase in bookings in just 2 months.

Figure 1: Optimisation for Mini Golf Chain Begins in August 2019, Growth Begins October 2019

Look at how you can be useful to the consumer during this time, to remain prevalent in their minds. If you’re a cocktail bar did you know that interest in at home cocktails has skyrocketed in search? As the experts you’re in a position to provide the most quality content.

Figure 2: Demand for "cocktails at home"
Figure 3: Demand for At Home Cocktails (Recipes and Delivery) Has Increased Significantly in the Last 28 Days

It’s not just alcohol or hospitality brands that can benefit from the new normal. If you’re a beauty brand, can you leverage your expertise and relevancy to help people try and retain some semblance of normality of their self-care process? Providing truly useful and insightful content will position you as the brand that supported your audience during this hard time.

Figure 4: "DIY Face Masks" Have Never Been So Important

Analysis and optimisation are likely to be enough to put you in the same league, or above, as your nearest and dearest competitors whose discount emails may have taken a one-way trip to the junk folder.

SEO FOR BRICKS AND MORTAR RETAILERS

THE SCENARIO:

While the online side of the business may have been booming during quarantine, the hit on bricks and mortar stores won’t have gone unnoticed. Has quarantine converted us all into avid online shoppers or are we going to flock to the high streets once this is over, well, just because we can? Either way taking this time to review your organic search performance can only benefit.

HOW SEO CAN HELP YOUR PERFORMANCE DURING THE NEW NORMAL

While you can’t fault the benefits of your product of appearing on Google Shopping or paid search adverts, they’re costly solutions if relied on too heavily in the long run. Your PPC insights can inform your SEO efforts and vice versa - utilise your PPC while you build your organic presence then test and learn which keywords you can rely on your organic presence to do the job at a minute percentage of the PPC cost. Alternatively, analyse your best performing organic pages and apply learnings from engagement metrics and user experience insights to improve your PPC quality score and reduce your ad spend.

ACTIONS TO TAKE TO WIN DURING THE NEW NEW NORMAL (POST LOCKDOWN)

If you’re a brand / business that requires human contact, such as plumbers, interior decorators / fitters etc. but isn’t necessarily under the “retail” umbrella, then how can you stir up demand? How do you ensure you’re still necessary and relevant during the New New Normal (post lockdown). While those who provide or fit kitchens may not be able to sell their wares right now, you could capitalise on the unexpected surge in demand for kitchen ideas.

Figure 5: Demand for "Kitchen Ideas" Tends to Tail Off During At the Beginning of March, This Year We've Seen It Surge

The general advice is to allow between 3-6 months for SEO efforts to kick in, depending on the current quality of your site and any off-site activity you are undertaking it could take off a lot sooner. However, if it does take more time to climb the ranks, so to speak, it could be just in time for the peak sale times around January (if you’re in the kitchen business) during our new new normal.

If you’re bricks and mortar in various areas, take a leaf out of local search’s book and identify where your most engaged traffic is coming from and take learnings from those pages on your site. Go further and identify all local search terms relevant to your business and the areas where you operate. Using insights from search and other owned channel metrics, you can clearly see where the opportunity lies and where your “quick wins” and long-term strengths lie.

BRANDS WHO HAVE BENEFITTED – USE SEO TO KEEP MOMENTUM

THE SCENARIO:

Besides the supermarkets, who else has seen an unexpected spike in demand? At Home Fitness programmes, homewares and purveyors of comfy clothing… the demand for joggers in the UK has not been higher in the last 5 years. But as we emerge back into the wild, are joggers going to be the top of everyone’s agenda? Has your business boomed simply because of the confinement we all find ourselves in? Does that mean it is business as usual when this is over, or do you want to keep at least some of that momentum going?

Figure 6: Demand for "Joggers" Is at an All Time High (UK)

SEO YOU CAN DO NOW TO KEEP MOMENTUM

Realistically the demand for joggers is not going to stay at an all-time high, but is your brand more than just a pair of tracksuit bottoms? Where does your business sit in a wider eco-system? Incorporating your brand into something more than homewares or tracksuit bottoms, such as a something to positively complement your life or other key life moments can help keep you relevant and consistently appearing at the top of search results.

For example, comfy clothing brand PANGAIA has seen a significant spike in demand, likely owing to the current climate and their influencer activity, however, they’re part of the bigger movement towards embracing sustainable and ethical clothing options. Ensuring they appear for searches around this topic could see them increase organic traffic by at least 1,000 searches per month. In addition to that a link building strategy around this topic could see their referral traffic increase significantly. Overall it could be a less costly alternative to other forms of media.

Figure 7: Worldwide Interest in "Sustainable Fashion"

In an ideal world you have a creative strategy, with audience insights that you could use as a springboard to identify the opportunities where SEO can support or even wholly fulfil your goals. If this isn’t readily available, an SEO audit and strategy will be able to identify the role SEO should play in achieving your goals. A solid SEO audit should incorporate in-depth analysis of your competitors, your own activity (historical and presence) and what’s happening in the wider ecosystem.

TO SUMMARISE:

There are short term SEO actions that will help strengthen your business to accommodate the new normal or the new new normal we’ll experience in the future.

  • Utilise SEO insights to optimise and reduce spend on your PPC.

  • Use search insights and social listening to truly understand your audiences’ demands during lockdown and create content that won’t simply clutter their inboxes.

  • Explore your brand further to strengthen your offering and increase awareness by clearly aligning yourself with that wider community.

  • If you’re a local business, optimise accordingly to anticipate a future surge in demand for your wares.