For many small businesses during COVID-19, it can be easy to think that with physical operations slowed or halted, you can let your marketing operations follow suit. The truth is, digital marketing strategies like SEO can actually be crucial to your small business success both during and after this pandemic. In this article, we’ll take a look at why SEO is important and cover tangible strategies your business can implement during this time—whether your business is considered essential or not.
We’re going to cover:
- Why SEO during COVID-19?
- General SEO strategies
- Content SEO strategies
- Local SEO strategies
So let’s begin.
The right SEO strategies give SMBs unparalleled exposure on Google.
Why SEO during COVID-19?
Search trend data shows that traffic to websites from search results—both paid and organic—is in decline for a lot of industries. So is SEO pointless during the pandemic? Absolutely not. Here’s why:
- COVID-19 is trending, while SEO is a consistent practice.
- Consumers confined to their community are seeking out local businesses.
- There is no “bad” time to publish evergreen content, a staple of SEO.
- The visitors you do attract right now are likely to be highly qualified.
- SEO gains are long-term.
- Search is only going to be more ingrained in our lives after the pandemic.
- It is free and you just might have the time.
These are just a few of the many reasons SEO is important for small businesses right now.
General SEO for SMBs during COVID-19
Let’s first cover the broader themes behind these COVID-19 SEO strategies, which include consistency, content, local search, and planning.
SEO is something that needs regular maintenance. An analogy by Uptick Marketing states it perfectly:
“SEO is like sowing the seeds and cultivating the crops before harvesting what you can eventually eat. If you stop harvesting now, you may still have some crops to last you, but six months down the road, you’re going to be kicking yourself for losing out.”
Don’t ignore SEO during COVID-19, even if all you can do right now is the bare minimum. What you do—or don’t do—now will impact your business post-pandemic.
2. Long-form content
The pace has slowed for many consumers, and they may be more likely to delve more deeply into topics as opposed to scrolling through feeds while on their commute or performing quick actions in between tasks. Not only is this type of content more likely to get read right now, but also, it is a staple of SEO success. According to Backlinko, organic search results that rank on page one of Google contain an average of 1,890 words.
If the pace has slowed for you because of the pandemic, use the extra time to stockpile long-form content like blog posts that you can publish over the coming months.
Long-form content is first-page friendly on Google.
3. Local SEO
Local SEO has always been a lucrative solution for small businesses as they compete against big brands and major websites on search. And with people staying close to home, local businesses are being sought out. Local SEO tactics are important for any business but may be particularly useful right now for those who are operating and who might not have the time for long-form content.
4. Balancing short- and long-term goals
We know that the coronavirus pandemic will end eventually, but we also know that its impact is going to be long-term. That being said, your overall SEO strategy should employ a mix of both short- and long-term tactics.
- Short-term SEO efforts may include publishing content pertinent to coronavirus themes within your industry, as well as updating your listings and website for local search terms.
- Long-term SEO efforts may include publishing content that answers questions your customers will be asking post-pandemic, as well as continuing the objectives of your traditional (read: non-pandemic) strategy.
Your allocation of efforts to short-term vs. long-term goals will vary according to your business and may evolve as the story unfolds, so expect this to be a fluid process.
Content SEO for SMBs during COVID-19
So you know that you should keep up with your SEO, and you know that long-form content is a good idea, but what should you write about?
5. Target coronavirus-related keywords
On the short-term side of things, one SEO strategy is to target trending terms to boost your traffic. Broad search terms will have you competing against global and high-authority sites like BBC and Forbes, but long-tail, niche-specific searches related to the coronavirus can set you up for ranking success.
For example, a search for “prevent neck pain while in quarantine” yields a blog post by a small business Wood Associates Physical Therapy. While not open at the moment, there is no doubt that this post is building domain authority for the business and connecting it with prospects and future customers.
Small businesses can indeed rank for coronavirus search terms.
6. Target trending themes
If coronavirus-specific topics and keywords are still too competitive for your business, think about broader themes that are applicable across industries, like “virtual,” “in-home,” “DIY,” and “indoors.” For example, this local design and architecture firm shows up first for “virtual design consultation” search:
7. Reoptimize old but newly relevant content
The beauty of this SEO strategy is that it doesn’t require the production of new content. One of the search trends of the coronavirus is that many previously-dormant topics are getting revived.
For example, an old post we had on Facebook Live had a 326.78% organic traffic increase in just one week.
Check to see if you have any pre-existing content that is newly relevant to your audience during the coronavirus. Spruce it up and republish it to put it at the top of your blog reel and attract more traffic.
8. Target new terms
Another search trend we’re seeing is entirely new queries, like “drive-by graduation party ideas.”
Think about specific needs, desires, interests, and pursuits of your buyer personas right now and the creative ways people are adapting. You might be able to come up with some unique searches to rank for.
9. Continue creating evergreen content
The coronavirus is a major and serious issue, but it is a trending topic that will eventually subside. So while pandemic and post-pandemic content might help give you a traffic lift now, don’t forget about your longer-term goals.
Keep up with your evergreen content because unlike trending content, it will accumulate traffic over time and build your SEO “equity.”
10. Update already-performing content
Even your top performing evergreen content will still need tweaks from time to time—new facts, updated screenshots, better stats, etc. But between running day-to-day operations and producing new content, updating these posts and pages tends to get pushed to the back burner. After all, they’re already performing.
But for many of these pieces, the fact that they are performing well is precisely the reason to give them special attention. Since they’re collecting decent traffic, a few updates can cause a big boost, and one pre-existing post that moves from page two to page one will have much bigger results than a few new posts that make it to page four.
CTR doesn’t change much from page 10 to page three but soars from page two to page one (Backlinko).
This is a good time to go back into your top-performing posts and polish them up so they can stay on or make it to that coveted first page. Some optimizations you can perform are:
- Add high-quality outbound links
- Add new information
- Update screenshots and images
- Add alt text to images
- Add keywords to headings
- Change out title tags to be more compelling
Local SEO for SMBs during COVID-19
Perhaps the most important part of a business’s local SEO strategy is its Google My Business (GMB) profile. Your GMB profile is the source of data for your Google Maps listing, Local Results listing, and your Knowledge Panel result.
These listings provide a quick and thorough snapshot of your business, allowing consumers who find you in a Google search to assess you and engage with you, directly from results pages.
The real-time and specific information your GMB profile provides helps consumers find out if you are open now, close to them, and whether you offer pandemic-compliant services. This means that your local marketing strategy during COVID-19 should be largely GMB-focused. Here’s what to do.
11. Verify your hours
As of this post date, Google is putting labels on listings for businesses that haven’t added special hours or marked themselves as temporarily closed. If a consumer searching for a business near them during COVID-19 is presented with multiple listings, which one do you think they’re going to engage with? The one that they know is open or the one they have to call first and double-check?
Similarly, cancel your events to avoid an off-putting label such as this one on your GMB listing:
12. Check off your attributes
Many businesses are responding to the pandemic by offering special amenities like curbside pickup or delivery. Google My Business shows searchers these types of attributes on a business’s profile, so make sure to check off which ones you provide. Even if you are closed right now, small details will be especially important when you’re open to customers again and may become important as the situation evolves.
To indicate applicable attributes in GMB, make sure to select a category. If any pandemic-specific attributes are not yet available for your category, consider adding them to your business name or “about the business” section.
If an attribute is not available for your business category, add it to your business name for now.
13. Update your other listings
While your GMB listing is especially useful during COVID-19, it is not the only part of an effective local SEO strategy. Other listings are important because they serve as citations for your website, and also because Google looks at not only the quality and accuracy of your listings but also their consistency with one another and with your website.
That being said, if you’re a non-essential business with a little extra time on your hands, now is a good time to do an audit of your online listings.
- Make sure all of your information is identical across platforms. Check Yelp, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor, and other popular free listing sites.
- Check for any new listings that may have been auto-created or user-generated.
- Do a reputation check. Catch up on your reviews and respond to them—the positive and the negative. Customers look at your responses just as much as the reviews themselves.
- Set up Google alerts so you can stay on top of reviews and auto-generated listings moving forward.
Final SEO strategy: Focus on conversion
Traffic to your website may be in decline during COVID-19 as people shift their focus, but that could mean that those who are still finding their way to your site despite these major trends are highly interested in what you have to offer. This leads us to the last SEO strategy your small business can try during COVID-19: optimizing for conversion. This isn’t exactly SEO (it’s CRO actually), but it’s closely related. If you can’t get more people coming to your website, it may be better to focus on getting more conversions among those who do visit it. Here are some ways to increase conversion rates from organic search traffic:
- Use a plugin to create a popup for a content download, like OptinMonster or Omniconvert.
- Create a sidebar widget for visitors to sign up for your email newsletter.
- Try A/B testing the placement or language of the CTA on your homepage
- Run a limited-time offer with free or discounted services.
If SEO is something you are able to devote some time to right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, try out one of these strategies. Here’s a quick list to recap:
- Focus on long-form content
- Balance short- and long-term goals
- Target coronavirus keywords
- Modify for pandemic themes
- Reoptimize newly relevant content
- Target new terms
- Keep up your traditional keyword strategy
- Update top performing content
- Update your Google My Business profile
- Conduct a local listing audit
Depending on your circumstances, you may want to diversify your efforts to account for immediate relevance, post-pandemic search trends, and evergreen topics.