Important SEO Tactics Through COVID-19

April 14, 2020

We will be hosting a webinar on this topic on Thursday, May 7th. Join us by registering here.

Our goal over the past several weeks has been to help our clients in every way possible to make sense of the ways that COVID-19 has and will continue to impact their businesses in the future. One area we’d like to cover for our wider audience is in relation to the question, “What can SEO/content do amidst the COVID-19 changes?”

According to a newly released survey by Conductor, 63% of marketers believe that SEO will grow in importance during the pandemic. Particularly as more pressure is applied to paid budgets, a flexible SEO and content strategy can help businesses maintain visibility, engage their audiences meaningfully and relevantly, and support healthy site traffic.

Here are some tactics we’d recommend:

1. Ensure you’re leveraging a keyword tool that can keep up with the velocity of COVID-19 changes. Unfortunately, many of the options are not keeping up as well as they could be, so we’d recommend using Google Trends to gain local and worldwide insight, as well as to track breaking topics and subtopics. With new keyword spikes happening daily, think about how you can alter your messaging to align with these spikes (when relevant) and provide more informative content to guide your audience and potential new customers.

2. Brands should stay in close contact with their customer service teams about the COVID-19 related questions they’re getting from consumers (either about the brand, their stores or their products) with an eye on compiling an up-to-date FAQ, specific blog posts/articles or finding info that will support fresh/topical changes to category-level content.

3. Review your out of stock (“OOS”) strategy – messaging, cross-sell and redirects, in particular. For instance, if certain products are out of stock, make sure to turn Google’s attention to new products to make the most of traffic while you’re restocking. Being OOS doesn’t have to mean losing the visitor.

Also, consider implementing product schema to indicate when products are “sold out”/”out of stock” in the SERPs.

4. Consider changing metadata to reflect different delivery and returns messaging, i.e. “easy returns” or “fast delivery”.

5. To stay agile during this time, ensure daily reports are set up to monitor and track against specific goals and KPIs.

6. If you have categories/products that are selling so WELL that they’re skewing WOW, MOM and YOY stats, create a custom segment in GA that includes or excludes those products/categories, so you can run WOW, MOM and YOY stats without the skew.  

7. If applicable and you haven’t yet done so, make sure not only store locator hours are updated, but consider replacing/placing a banner or some other callout on location pages that a) demonstrates your focus on your people, so hours are adjusting; and b) hopefully, what you’re doing to help (e.g. curbside pickup, philanthropy, a link to a corporate statement about your coronavirus response).

8. If applicable, push hours changes “live” to Google MyBusiness ASAP.

9. If you haven’t already, allocate homepage space for your brand’s messaging about COVID-19.

10. If you need to dial back on paid media spend, it’s important to use SEO as a way to measure the impact of doing this. Google Search Console allows you to track clicks from brand and nonbrand, as well as click through rates. If, for instance, brand advertising is turned off entirely, this allows you to see how much of that traffic was either recaptured or already being captured by organic.

Now is a good time to start to roll out cross channel reports if you have not done so yet. If you’re having to dial back on nonbrand campaigns, look at ways that SEO can support some of that traffic by focusing on topics that help increase rankings across the board. While it won’t replace all of the traffic, it can help recoup some of it.

11. Note that Google, Facebook and others have announced that their moderation staff has been reduced due to COVID-19 and, because of that, content that would usually, quickly be flagged and taken offline (videos, in particular) may not be acted upon as quickly. This has both near-term and long-term impacts:

a. Near term, it means we are seeing less authoritative sites ranking for news-related and health/fitness-related searches.

b. Longer term, consider that providers’ AI-based moderation is receiving a trial by fire and, accordingly, will likely be improved on a faster schedule than planned. That’s a good thing, right? Perhaps, but if AI “content moderation” leads us down the path of a machine determining what’s accurate/true versus inaccurate/false and the rankings that follow, consider that Google’s panel of Quality Raters becomes even more important.  Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines should be reviewed now more closely than ever.  

It’s now April 14, 2020, and while we are seeing signs that both our cities and our clients’ businesses are recovering, our answers above on “what should SEO do about COVID-19?” are honestly valid any time of year: follow the data, find out what matters to your customers, upsell/cross sell, keep your homepage fresh and your local listings current, and always use analytics to measure what you think is happening versus what is truly happening based on market changes.

Antonella Villani
And Nicholas Black
Follow ForwardPMX

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