March 18, 2020

SEO in the Time of Coronavirus

What a crazy time we are in. So many retailers and service industry businesses are facing forced closure right now. If you aren’t closed, customers are probably not rushing in your door unless there’s toilet paper on the shelves.
Posted in: SEO
President & Lemonhead Evangelist

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What a crazy time we are in. So many retailers and service industry businesses are facing forced closure right now. If you aren’t closed, customers are probably not rushing in your door unless there’s toilet paper on the shelves.

We’ve got a number of clients being affected by   the COVID-19 outbreak in a variety of ways. Some rely on tourism. Some rely on selling supplies for large gatherings. Some rely on foot traffic by people with disposable income. There’s no making those problems disappear, but there are things we can do. Here are a few things we’re doing right now. Hopefully,  some of these steps will help lessen the blow for your business too.

Find The Searches Still Happening

When events larger than 10 people are all being banned, it’s going to be tough for any business that makes money from parties and holidays. Looks at these search trends we’re seeing for the query Party Supplies as well as all queries with “graduation” in them.

These are going to continue to drop, sharply.

But while basically everything is dropping, there are some areas that aren’t dropping as much. For example, queries containing “birthday”.

From a sales standpoint, we’ll almost certainly see AOV dropping faster than traffic as people are likely planning smaller parties. But it looks like they are indeed planning parties. Especially with little kids, it’s pretty understandable that saying “your birthday is cancelled” won’t be well received.

Maybe this won’t be a savior for cash flow, but finding things like this can definitely help! I looked at Search Console queries week-over-week and sorted by the difference in impressions. You could do a lot of stuff by exporting this to excel and maybe finding terms that have the least drop (or even growth), but I was able to eyeball this one.

The more diverse your set of products / categories, the easier this will be.

Optimize Early

For companies with a lot of seasonal variance, SEO often works a few months ahead of the curve for sales trends. But now we’ve got to deal with the possible or even likely reality that things could be down through summer. That puts a lot of pressure on businesses for a huge Q3/Q4. But we’ve also got to hope that as things return to something resembling normal, consumers are going to be seriously itching to get out and spend. Even if folks are struggling financially, being cooped up for months without much entertainment or socialization is going to really weigh on everyone. So people will likely jump at the first chance to go out to eat, take a trip somewhere, see a movie, etc.

So what can you do to prepare? Start optimizing for Q3 today. Would you normally publish 5 blog posts in that time? Start now so you can write 20. Optimize the deepest pages that you may normally ignore. Make sure there’s no technical surprises. Especially if you’re on a reduced workload, that will make it more important to start now.

Communicate how Business is Changing – And Optimize for it

This is part public service and part SEO strategy. If you’re not going to be open or allowing foot traffic, make it abundantly clear via your website, Google Business profile, etc. Don’t have people leaving the house for nothing (or better yet, encourage them to stay home). But plenty of places have adapted by offering delivery, online ordering, curbside pickup, etc. Don’t just put this on your Facebook page. Put it everywhere. People are searching for places that deliver or otherwise accommodate various restrictions.

If you’re a business that uses platforms like Yelp, they have options in your profile to check little boxes for features like delivery. Google can be a little more ambiguous, but they have some tips for businesses to communicate changes here.

Reach Out to the Community

Not an SEO tip, just a good lesson for humanity. Use whatever platform you have to do whatever you can that might help. Around us, a grocery chain is offering a set of hours every morning that is reserved for people who are older or with compromised immune systems to shop before the panic-buyers clear the shelves. And they are sharing it on social media, email, etc. But it goes both ways. I’ve seen a number of bars and restaurants asking people to buy gift cards to help keep them afloat for now – sometimes offering incentives (eg spend $25 get $5). You never know how it will be received, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone needs to speak up right now.

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