With all the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought into the world of business, it is no wonder that companies are revisiting their marketing strategies.
Considering that the world of marketing — and the world itself — is in constant flux these days, it can be difficult to decide the best way forward for yourself, your employees and your business as a whole.
For years, companies have been chasing the next big thing in online marketing. And every year without fail, we see posts and articles asking “Is SEO still worth it?”
Even before the pandemic was in full swing, an article in Forbes detailed that, yes, SEO is still an essential part of any business’ online marketing strategy and is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
The truth is that SEO is still one of the best ways for businesses (especially those that have a local focus) to bring customers straight to their door and is a powerful driver of organic search results, which accounts for most website traffic and leads.
And, seeing as only about a third of business owners actually invest in a solid SEO strategy, it means that you will stand out from your competitors when your potential customers are searching online.
In this post, we’re going to look at:
- Why SEO matters during the coronavirus pandemic (especially for smaller businesses)
- Why you should invest in SEO now to reap the benefits post COVID-19 and emerge strong
First of all, what is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
You’re probably familiar with the term SEO, but what does it actually mean?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a strategy that has been a mainstay of digital marketing since the late 1990s. Over twenty years later, it remains one of the most effective ways for businesses to maintain a digital presence.
SEO is exactly what it says on the tin; it is the practice of ensuring that your website is optimised to appear as high as possible in the search results to get in front of your target customer. No one reads past the first page of Google anymore. Therefore, it’s crucial that you actively engage in SEO to get your business ranking in the top 10 positions for keywords that your ideal customer is searching to find you.
Because of the sheer size of the online market — especially now, with so many businesses pivoting and making a mass exodus to e-commerce — SEO is absolutely essential to your marketing strategy. Basically, if you want to rise above your competitors and be seen amongst all the noise, you need to take SEO seriously.
Just having a website is not good enough in today’s digital landscape. It’s all about how you get that website in front of the right audience that will want to engage in your services.
If done properly, a website that generates leads day after day, month after month, is one of the most valuable assets a business can have.
Check out some of our clients who invested in SEO and are now enjoying regularly consistent leads despite COVID-19:
Why is SEO so important during COVID-19?
While J. Paul Getty’s quote may seem to refer to stocks or real estate, it illustrates a fundamental principle that is the secret to investing successfully and getting ahead of the pack:
Invest in SEO, while your competitors are not.
Experts argue that SEO is more important than ever. As some services may be delayed or put on hold due to lockdown/restrictions, now is the perfect time (if you haven’t started already) to swoop in and take competitive keywords while competition is dropping out.
You see, COVID-19 has definitely shut down a lot of businesses but it has also opened up a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity for forward thinking business owners.
Keywords that were once a long shot, dominated by heavy competition who’ve been doing SEO for years, are now easy pickings for those who are playing the long game.
After all, the cost of SEO is considerably less when compared to a staff salary or office rent. In fact, neither of those things are prerequisites for engaging in SEO: all you need is a website.
There are some businesses that may benefit more from SEO right now than others—health-related services, trades business, ecommerce for instance, and other essentials—but investing in an SEO strategy now will mean that once we emerge on the other side of the pandemic, your business will already have a head start through the gates ahead of your competitors.
During a recession or economic downturn, SEO is the best online marketing strategy compared to Google Ads or Facebook Ads, as marketing costs will soon fly through the roof as more and more businesses start marketing for leads/sales. SEO, on the other hand, is free. Once you’re ranking on the first page, you’re not charged for every visitor that comes to your website.
And, if the past is any indicator, consumers will be ready and far more willing to spend in the aftermath of a recession. So your investing in SEO now, means you could be sitting on the first page right as the market starts picking up.
A report published by The Manifest in April of this year looking at the data on the latest SEO strategy trends stated that SEO is one of the best practices businesses can be investing in during the pandemic:
Most people ignore Google sponsored ads — you need to rank organically
Over half of all website traffic comes from organic search results; in fact, it’s been noted that up to 80% of people will automatically ignore Google sponsored ads. Many customers, especially the ever-growing millennial consumer group, distrust paid advertisements.
But if a page has managed to get to the top of the search results without buying the spot? You’re getting one out of every three clicks, with the top three results accounting for approximately 70% of traffic.
Users trust organic rankings more than paid; they see it as a sign of quality, as Google is a source they rely on. 81% of shoppers will search before buying a product or deciding on a service, and 49% of users say they use Google to discover or find a new item or product.
Appealing directly to a customer who is invested in what you’re selling means that the quality of the leads and traffic you get with SEO is far higher; having your page front and centre when a customer is considering purchasing may just garner you that sale.
Organic traffic is related to user intent, which is the heart of the Google algorithm. By investing in SEO, you will be able to increase the amount of organic traffic that is directed to your page, which in turn directs even more traffic! You just have to get that ball rolling.
Compared to other expenses, SEO is your lowest cost for the highest return
One of the main appeals of SEO for smaller businesses — especially now — is the ROI you can get for relatively cheap. SEO gets you 15 times more clicks than PPC advertising, and 70% of people surveyed by Databox reported that SEO was better than PPC in terms of actually generating sales for their business.
Paying for ads can be an expenditure that is not worth it at the moment, as any gains disappear the moment you stop paying; SEO, however, is cumulative. Even if you aren’t seeing results right away, you are setting yourself up for the future.
As mentioned, the cost for ads can increase as more and more businesses try to get online, meaning you might have to sink a lot more money into ads than you get in return.
SEO, on the other hand, is not subject to inflation. Even as we see searches go up with more and more ecommerce, you will only have to invest the same predictable amount, allowing you to have a better grasp on your marketing budget.
With COVID-19, businesses may be experiencing budgetary constraints. SEO is a relatively cheap method of digital marketing that gets long-term rewards, bringing in more clients and more money (especially when things start to return to normal — you will be in the perfect position to reap the rewards).
We keep saying long term and it is important to realise that SEO is not an instant miracle to improve leads and online traffic. It takes time, patience and skill. SEO is all about gaining the search engine’s trust by creating good content and making a user (and Google) friendly website.
46% of ALL Google searches feature a local intent
This is an area where SEO really shines. Local SEO is one of the best opportunities for locally-focused businesses both during and after COVID-19.
Yes, paid ads can be targeted to customers in specific locations, but this doesn’t always work. For one, the user is less likely to trust an ad that they know is paying to be in front of them. (While we all know that we’re being watched at all times, we hate being reminded of it).
And two, as we’ve already established, why pay more to target your clients in a less effective fashion when you could be utilising Google’s own algorithm to work for you?
Google is smart — smarter than all of us, probably. It knows that you want to see the results that are the most relevant for you, so it tailors the results that it shows you to your geographic location. By optimising your website content for specific areas where you know that your potential customers are clustered and more likely to come from, your website will rank highly in the local search results for your specific niche.
This is a powerful tool that local businesses of any size can utilise to their advantage. It was found that 72% of customers who did a local search visited the store; while this may not be possible during COVID-19, it still indicates the likelihood of conversion.
Especially considering the current push to support local businesses in one’s immediate vicinity (and the more realistic travel restraints that prevent us from patronising other, further companies), SEO is especially important during the pandemic.
And buying local is a sentiment that existed before the pandemic and is likely to remain long after the last COVID-19 case is diagnosed, so take advantage!
It’s what the big businesses are doing
When in doubt, you should look at the giants in the field to see what kinds of business practices are letting them succeed. And, interestingly, what has been working for some of Australia’s biggest brands is investing in SEO during COVID-19.
Just look at Bunnings, Australia’s most trusted brand as of May 2020. Coincidently, it was also around this time that the company really started to amp up their SEO efforts.
As we’ve said before, organic rankings build trust. Particularly in today’s climate, where a lot of misinformation and fear is flying around, it is important that we can trust the brands that we buy from.
This is a major factor in whether a client will buy from your business; according to a survey conducted by Edelman, brand trust is one of the most important considerations for a person when considering a purchase.
Instead of simply coasting on their reputation, Bunnings is actively increasing their organic search rankings to reach their customers online. This helps them to stand out in the ecommerce market, where they are not as dominant, and keeps their image as a trustworthy source of DIY, garden and home products.
While they could certainly afford to pay for the top spot and advertise to prospective clients, Bunning’s marketing team understands the value of well-implemented SEO and the priceless benefits it can bring to a brand.
Another staple of the Australian market, Kmart, has been working on their own SEO tactics, particularly starting in July. This was when the second wave of COVID-19 really started to take hold of the eastern states, again driving consumers online.
Rather than relying on their reputation to carry over from their brick and mortar stores to online purchases, Kmart took a proactive approach and doubled down on their SEO, meaning that it would be easier for customers to find them amongst all the other ecommerce options.
Many of the products sold by both of these brands can be found elsewhere online, as they are just a carrier. Much of their appeal is in the brick and mortar store, but without that?
These two brands made the smart move to capitalise on their reputation and trust, ensuring that they would be among the top results for the products their clients are searching for through the smart use of SEO. This has enabled them to not only survive, but thrive during COVID-19 and beyond, as the ecommerce market will only get bigger and bigger.
“Okay, so I need SEO. What’s the next step?”
The best time to get started with SEO was months ago. The next best time is today.
If you want to come out on the other side of COVID-19 ready to tackle the future head on, we can help. Check out our free SEO audit and see what you can be doing differently.