How to Prepare Your SEO Strategy After COVID-19
After weeks of social distancing and working from home, Americans are heading back to work …
… and digital marketers are strategizing how they will reach, engage and promote their products and services online to customers and prospects whose intent while searching the internet is in just as much flux as everything else in life.
How will customers use the internet to find your products and services during the acclimation phase — as the country opens up again? This is commonly known as search intent. As everyone tries to adjust to a new normal, what should you proactively focus on to ensure you get a return on investment (ROI) from your online marketing spend?
The answer is far from clear-cut — but the fact is, people are using the internet much more than ever before while working from home, and your customers and prospects are spending more time researching content online that is important to them. According to an estimate by media analytics firm Comscore, online traffic measured by unique page views has jumped about 20 percent on average across the US. As people get back to work across the nation, this trend will surely continue and may even increase due to the entrenchment of new habits.
Obviously, SEO will be of paramount importance in the coming months, and the smartest digital marketers will spend money to leverage it effectively right away. In this article, we discuss some recommendations on how SEO will help to make sure your marketing message matches up with the evolution of your customer’s search intent.
Are you trending?
First off, a question — is your business in one of the fast-growing industries that has actually gained market share during the pandemic? COVID-19 completely shifted the segmentation from a focus on e-commerce, media, and publishing agencies to industries such as food service delivery, communications tools such as video conferencing technologies and online meeting apps, home workout products/services, and entertainment, to name a few.
Going forward, those fortunate brands are going to continue seeing an increase in their market advantage and website visits, especially if they invest in SEO to support the momentum they have gained during the lockdown. Investing in SEO is critical to ensuring their websites continue to surge going forward.
If you are not in those categories, you can still compete with them. Use the SEO tactics recommended below to get your online content back up into the upper rankings as your targets start searching again when their routine business needs come back with a vengeance — a combination of pent-up demand and government stimulus. You have the added incentive to do this quickly because the longer you wait, the lower your search engine rankings will fall.
- Ensure speed. Make absolutely certain your website loads quickly and ensure you reduce bounce rates.
- Conduct an SEO audit. Monitor the performance of keywords in your website content and learn what search terms are trending for the type of content found on your website.
- Optimize your content. If your message is not resonating and attracting traffic organically, it’s time to update your message and content assets on your website.
Ensure your site speed is quick
Your website download speed has one of the most important roles to play in meeting the demand for your marketing content. From an SEO perspective, that means making sure site response times and download speeds are in a good place and continue to deliver content with low latency. According to Google, the recommended page load time for websites on desktop devices is less than 3 seconds, and on mobile pages, it is less than 22 seconds.
You want to ensure that your site is able to serve content that your audience wants within the Google recommended time frame. Google Analytics will tell you how your site is performing and look at additional metrics like page views, returning vs. new visitors and bounce rates—sessions in which the visitor left your website right after viewing the entrance page.
The best time for an SEO audit is now
If you have cut your paid search budget during the worst days of the lockdown, the next 30-60 days of economic ramp-up are a perfect opportunity to evaluate which pages on your site are actually working under their own steam to draw traffic, without the assistance of paid search traffic.
You can use SEO tools such as Google Trends to monitor the performance of your keywords and take note of changes to grow your search traffic. In order to rank well on search engines, it is important to make and refine a list of keywords in your site’s content that match up with the terms that people use to find websites like yours.
These keywords help search engines see your site as relevant based on the keywords found in your content. The search engines strive to serve only the most relevant websites to people looking for those search terms.
Google Trends will also help you analyze the longevity of specific keywords and develop new keywords that are trending. Once you have a handle on what prospects are searching for, it is time to start updating or creating new content around those keywords and deliver authentically to fulfill the new requirements of your customers’ search intent.
As discussed regarding search intent, and as the world shifts to a new normal, audiences will be more focused on content that your website may not currently have. What do you do then? Perhaps you need a new messaging and content marketing strategy altogether, and maybe you should invest in developing a select number of research-based content assets, like eBooks, white papers, infographics or videos, to name a few.
Search engines value these as having high authority, which will result in higher rankings and increase the likelihood that prospects doing online research will be directed to your website.
Modern search engines, such as Google, use hundreds of factors when evaluating the authority and relevance of webpages, but there are two main categories: content (relevance) and links (external citation authority).
Next, invest in and optimize your new content for SEO, focusing on organic growth strategies. As the world of work begins to normalize again, this will place you in a much better position to gain traction. Regardless of the fact that there has been a downturn, it is critical to get ahead of competitors who may be waiting to see how the new normal will play out. For some, SEO may not be a spending priority as much as optimizing content is. Our recommendation is to do both.
The world is changing — your website content must too!
Quality, authentic content is favored by search engines more today than repurposed content is — and that begins with the right message. Publishing research from other sources used to be acceptable to search engines, and rankings used to overlook content that was duplicated elsewhere. But not anymore.
Emerging research shows that search engines are ranking original information, reporting, research, and insightful analysis higher than duplicative content. Keep this in mind moving forward.
If your website or linked asset content draws heavily on other sources, make sure it adds value and originality to the information, and doesn’t simply copy or rewrite those sources. Ensure that headlines are helpful and descriptive summaries of the content and that they avoid being exaggerating or scandalous in nature.
The highest-ranking kind of content is informational, with data and insights that one would expect to find in any other type of publication — such as a book, printed magazine or encyclopedia. After all, your prospects are looking for hard data to support their choice to purchase your products and services, and the search engines want to deliver this.
In addition, your marketing message should match prospects’ needs at every stage of their journey to purchase. Smart marketers will begin by looking closely at their underperforming content and try to improve the message.
Your basic content will get to the core of what your products and services are good at, and the value they deliver to your customers. The content speaks to your customers’ specific pain points as they progress along the buyer’s journey.
Once you have website content that is optimized to rank highly and attract traffic, now is a great time to reach out and contribute content to even higher authority sites that are actively hunting for quality content to link to, and that present you with great opportunities for publishing guest articles in your field of expertise. These contributions will provide you with invaluable link building opportunities — which are the engine that drives your website to higher search engine rankings.
If you focus on these SEO recommendations over the next 30-60 days as the world resumes some semblance of life before lockdown, you are sure to successfully leverage some of that quickly evolving buyer search intent, and bridge to the interim new normal—as your prospects, leads and audiences resume their work on the way to full operability.