How the Coronavirus has Changed the Work of SEO

May 29, 2020

Kerrie Ashall

Several months into lockdown and the country is still cautiously trying to navigate its way into the post-COVID world. Some industries have been massively and permanently altered by the pandemic, while others are scrambling to find creative ways to stay afloat in changing times. How has the SEO world been affected, and more specifically, what lies in store for SEO workers and for the way businesses show up in searches?

Google’s Gary Illyes recently set up four Twitter polls and asked SEOs around the world how the virus had impacted their work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results were mixed, with some reporting barely any change and others reporting massive differences.

Almost half claimed that the pandemic actually increased their SEO-related workload; just 20% claimed it had decreased, and 30% noticed no change. When asked whether it was harder to convince decision makers on the value of SEO services, the results were again mixed – 37% said it had gotten harder, but 31 and 32% said it had gotten easier, or there had been no change, respectively.

Did this happen because SEO workers were pitching differently during the crisis? When Illyses asked about this, the result was split three ways, with roughly a third each claiming they spent less time, more time, or roughly the same time pitching as before. Perhaps the most revealing result came when people were asked about their experience working with developers on SEO projects. A full 55% said it had stayed the same, 30% said it got harder, and only around 15% said it had gotten easier.

What are we to make of these results? As with most things in SEO, there is seldom a simple, straightforward answer. Polls like this go to show that SEO’s range is so broad that it can be challenging to pinpoint trends sometimes. In the end, exactly how any one industry or business is affected will depend heavily on their marketing strategy before the pandemic, the nature of the business, and how swiftly that business responds to the new challenges.

The virus has changed what people search for. For example, e-commerce is experiencing increases across the board, but less so for more non-essential items. Health and wellness sites are seeing traffic boosts as are some recipe sites, but the travel industry is a little more complicated – searches for flights may be up, but could be simply due to people seeking cheaper deals. Most restaurants are having to pivot into home delivery (making things like Google Posts useful for updates).

Ultimately, the answer to how the Coronavirus has affected SEO marketers and their clients’ campaigns is: it depends. The virus has affected every industry differently. The job of any SEO expert is to understand these unique changes and respond accordingly.

What have we been doing at Fibre Marketing?

When the pandemic hit, we had to adapt quickly and as efficiently as possible. Our client portfolio spans across a variety of industries that were affected in different ways. Because of this, each strategy we crafted was unique and adaptable, as the growing uncertainty resulted in almost daily updates and advice on what to do next.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the ways we helped navigate our clients through the Coronavirus crisis:

Google My Business Listings (GMBs)

One of the first major changes to search was the sudden release of GMB features, which allowed businesses to inform customers of their situation more accurately, as well as holding back on others. The option to mark your business as ‘Temporarily Closed’ was long-awaited, so we implemented this feature across clients’ GMBs ASAP. We also published a post for each one to ensure their customers and clients that they were operating smoothly, and how they were opening/closing.

As well as this, we made sure that any contact details were updated so that customers could reach the client as easy as possible – especially after Google temporarily suspended the posting of new GMB reviews.

Content Creation and Optimisation

One of the best ways for businesses to make the most of lockdown is creating and optimising their site content.

As the pandemic changed search behaviour, we needed to ensure that our clients were making the most of any opportunities that arose. Monitoring the rapidly evolving trends and search frequencies, we worked with our clients to create content that suits the users’ interests, answered their questions, and capitalised on new, untapped searches to bring in organic traffic.

This was done in the forms of dedicated COVID-19 sections, which included resources designed with customers in mind. For our elderly care client, this section included: arranging support during lockdown, how carers and customers are keeping safe, and even a video on setting up a Zoom account so family members can stay in touch with their loved ones.

A shipping container client’s section is catered towards medical facilities that urgently require extra storage or modular hospital buildings. The content section explores the options available, offering discounts to both medical and charitable organisations. The portable hospital page, which is linked in this guide, now ranks 2nd for the term ‘portable hospital.’

Link Building

As more and more news updates, theories, and advice emerged daily, the type of content that users found valuable changed drastically. So, we had to quickly change our link building strategies to ensure that we’d continue building great backlink profiles.

To do this, we shifted the focus of our content to suit users’ demands and needs, including working from home and mental health. We also monitored Twitter for story requests from journalists and bloggers, recommending our clients as a valuable resource for their articles. For example, a journalist was on the hunt for recruitment experts who could provide tips on writing CVs. One of our clients – an engineering recruitment company – had a blog article already on their site, providing the information the journo wanted, so we reached out, shared our blog with her, and thus gained a link on a top-tier site.

This wasn’t the only campaign we created. Other campaigns included a guide to making care packages, a dedication to home carers to name a few – all of which positioned our clients as experts.

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