Brands and Companies have unlimited potential right now to entertain, assist, educate, and inform. Here are six ways to leverage SEO in preparing for the new normal.

The demand for SEO is trending to an all-time high, with more than 1.5 million searches in the month of April. Companies are searching for the most affordable and cost-effective ways to understand shifts in consumer behavior and demand volatility, while optimizing content for all of their digital channels.

SEO is now mission-critical – it is the front and center of digital marketing strategies spanning paid media, local, mobile, video, email, and across verticals like Amazon and ecommerce. Companies that can activate their search insights with speed and accuracy are best positioned to recover and make gains, both during and post-COVID-19.

How SEO Paves the Way Forward

Even prior to COVID-19, organizations were struggling to keep pace with rapidly evolving consumer behavior. Now, companies – even as they adapt to their own work-from-home and isolation strategies – are rethinking their digital marketing channels and ROI forecasts.

SEO, once considered a simple marketing channel, has grown over the last decade into a rich, abundant source of business and consumer intelligence. SEO has become the most accurate representation of “voice of the consumer” inside organizations, offering companies of all sizes the opportunity to enhance visibility and expand their digital footprint while generating that rich, valuable business data the entire organization needs.

Search marketers are in position to really help customers recapture or transform their businesses into a more digital-focused economy, as:

  1. People always need products and services.
  2. SEO reaches the consumer when they are in a state of need and regardless of state of mind.
  3. When there is scarcity, people turn to search.
  4. SEO is affordable and efficient for ROI.
  5. Optimized content helps protect, build, and grow brand equity.
  6. SEO is the voice of the consumer and provides vital insights into consumer behavior and patterns.
  7. Search helps future-proof the business and provides immediate, midterm, and long-term wins.

With over 53% of website traffic coming from organic search, now is the time for organizations to leverage SEO in a multitude of ways. Many companies have halted paid search due to Coronavirus-related business interruptions and now need to re-evaluate how paid strategy works in synergy with SEO. How can organizations drive more traffic to the best content, feeding consumers’ need for media to consume while protecting furthering enhancing online brand equity?

SEO Now: Utilizing Insights & Taking Action

As the pandemic situation continues, opportunities will arise for brands to win prime search visibility and companies who get the first-mover advantage will be quickest to recover, dominating share of voice in-market. In fact, the conditions generated by COVID-19 present a great opportunity for proactive marketers willing to double down on SEO as consumers crave interactive, engaging content.

Brands have unlimited potential right now to entertain, assist, educate, and inform. Search is the pulse of the market and as recent research  has shown, COVID-19 has impacted every industry. Depending on how the vertical has been affected, strategies will differ.

1. Real-Time Data: Leverage to Understand & React to Trends & Consumer Behavior

With demand so volatile across all industries it is important, where companies can, to utilize real-time research to answer questions and uncover opportunities as they happen. This helps account for industry-wide trends but also empowers marketers to ask specific questions and discover quantitative, data-driven answers with speed, ease, and accuracy.

Marketing departments must take action to understand, in real time, how content is performing and ranking across all vertical and global search engines. As video consumption increases dramatically, it is important to track rankings there, as well. This can help you unlock which products, categories, and influencers are taking off and use that to further promote those videos and inform future content strategy.

For ecommerce organizations, it is particularly important to protect the brand on Amazon. Track how and where products rank, and quickly identify whether rogue merchandisers are taking away sales and diminishing your brand equity.

SEO Is Your Best Representation of the Voice of Your Customer

The insights that SEO data gives companies in terms of understanding intent, behavioral, and buying patterns has never been so important.

At a time when consumers are making both rational and irrational decisions based on emotion and the formation of new habits, it is essential to make sure you have technology and systems in place to identify and action “in the moment.”

Search data is valuable not just to the SEO team, but for marketing, product, and PR teams who are all looking to understand new types of customer journeys and what drives people on their journey.

2. Benchmarking Competition: Know Your Share of Voice & Work to Capture Market Share

As the shift to digital accelerates, the online landscape becomes increasingly more competitive. With new content being published every second, organizations must understand who is outranking them for the topics they want to own in dynamic SERPs. Understanding share of voice helps companies increase SEO authority by identifying sites that can help the brand reach the target audience with paid ads or other partnership opportunities such as co-authorship or backlinking.

Competition in search results can vary widely by search topic or user device. This is very important as working from home has consumers using both desktop and mobile devices in different ways than they did as commuters. Content strategies must be informed by insights on how aggressively competitors are targeting search topics and how their content performs in smartphone, tablet or desktop searches.

Share of voice accurately maps key competitors to help marketers prioritize competitive content marketing work plans. The more informed decisions marketers make based on understanding the brand’s share of voice, the better they can maximize return on spend and increase revenue from all digital marketing efforts.

3. Website Optimization: Enhance User Experiences & Create New Experiences

In order to get ahead and stay ahead, regardless of your vertical, is to ensure your website is primed to convert traffic. That means ensuring every aspect of your site, including content, is optimized and easy to navigate. Consumers are looking for an experience that informs and gives them the best experience possible.

Configure site audits for the site health issues that matter most. Audit on-page elements such as page title and H1 tag, and off-page factors including page loading speed, redirects, and 404 errors.

Tailor site audits to support specific business needs. It is also important to monitor and detect anomalies such as:

  1. Loading issues.
  2. Changes in performance.
  3. Drops in conversion.
  4. Decreases in traffic or revenue from content.

Detecting these issues as they happen and fixing them rapidly will mitigate any revenue loss and keep websites clean, healthy, relevant, and informative.

It is important to run ad-hoc audits to ensure website performance is not affected when and if organizations are taking on large projects such as:

  1. Site migration.
  2. Regulatory and accessibility projects.
  3. Penalty recovery.
  4. International expansion.
  5. Pricing management.
  6. Social media integration.

4. Content: Create & Optimize Content in Synergy to Ensure Relevance & Performance

At a time where so much content is being produced, it is vital to make sure the content you produce is of quality. Content needs to be authored with usefulness and trustworthiness and in line with Google E-A-T guidelines. Systematically review all of the content you have on your site.

Look closely at your optimization efforts to see how well you are meeting your current COVID-19 business objectives. Find any gaps in your content and adjust your process to better serve your (old and new) intended audiences. This allows marketing departments to align content with the buyer’s journey and measure the impact it is having on the growth of the business.

With consumers’ media needs so high due to COVID-19, it’s a great time for companies to fill gaps in the customer journey with quality content. Depending on the type of business and the extent to which operations have been affected, this may not even be the time to convert prospects to a sale. However, opportunities are still there to re-optimize to convert to another action that will deepen relationships and keep the brand top of mind until sales pick up once again.

5. Global, Local & Mobile: Manage, Pivot & Optimize for People, Places, Content & Devices

Digital media continues to create global interconnections. Many brands want to expand or pivot focus beyond their borders and engage with new prospective customers in foreign countries. From store closures through to store reopenings, local search is intrinsically linked to SEO. Now is the time to look at your strategies and opening plans and ensure your site and content is optimized for local and hyper-local search.

This is especially true for brick and mortar stores hard hit by the initial impact of COVID-19. Trust is a big part of recovery so it will be important to analyze search volume and ranking data on key store target locations. Evaluating the searches conducted in the areas surrounding locations will help you build content to drive traffic to re-opened locations. It is important to also do this at a global and local level across multiple geographies, locations, and languages.

And as consumers interact on multiple devices, from desktop to mobile, marketers must track mobile demand, mobile searches, and mobile rankings changes. Focusing on key areas related to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), mobile site structure, and page speed will help further enhance user experience, conversion, and revenue.

6. Technology & Innovation: Scale Performance with Additional & Valuable Automated Resource

Real-time research powered by deep learning is already helping marketers get the information and insights they need, right when they need it. Advancements in these areas are opening key opportunities for all types of companies. The ability to ask questions and find answers on demand reduces time and increases revenue performance.

Utilizing the power of a one-stop solution platform also brings instant impact, since marketers do not have to struggle with disparate and unconnected data silos and the inflexibility of narrow point solutions.

Advancements in the fields of AI and machine learning have already proven successful in being the “extra SEO person,” that additional data scientist and digital marketing Sherpa needed to help with time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks.

From an SEO perspective, intelligent automation can improve many of the auditing and optimization tasks that will help brands stay on top of Coronavirus-related shifts in demand and consumer behavior.

It is especially important to save time and maximize output in these times of resource scarcity when marketers are being asked to accomplish more (and faster) during COVID-19.

In its most simplistic form, automation gives marketing capabilities the gift of scale. Technology does the work of redundant tasks, reducing manual labor costs. It frees up time for human marketers to focus on more creative and impactful work. Utilizing advanced automation is already helping many marketers simplify complex and time-consuming tasks, even while drastically improving their impact on business outcomes and helping them make smarter and better-informed decisions.

Conclusion

In this time of uncertainty, search is the best option for responding to ongoing COVID-19-related business interruptions with speed and agility. SEO, in particular, is critical not only for discovery, but as the channel that provides the greatest insight into consumer behavior in real-time. Search insights can inform every stage of COVID-19 brand response through to post-pandemic success.

There will be business winners and losers in this new digital economy, and search insights will inform every stage of a proactive COVID-19 brand response. Understanding the challenges of COVID-19 and resulting consumer behavior is key in the path to evolving in sustainable and even profitable ways. SEO insights will uncover opportunities and provide key insights for operations, customer service, product development, R&D, the C-suite, and businesses as a whole.

As a result, the relationship between SEO and business strategy is set to become even more tightly intertwined.

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