21st April 2020
SEO During and After Coronavirus
Coronavirus has been with us for several weeks now. It looks like we will be dealing with the effects of it for months to come.
At SilverDisc, we are finding that coronavirus is hitting businesses in random ways - some are busier than ever, whereas others have been effectively mothballed for a few weeks so far.
And specifically within digital marketing, we’ve seen some interesting effects, even for businesses that are doing well. For example, some e-commerce retailers are doing so well that they can’t keep up with demand. Their supply chain is stretched, from obtaining new stock to finding warehouses and delivery drivers to supply it, and all the customer service elements in between and beyond. For this reason, we’re finding a scaling back in paid search activities, letting the organic search take over. Other businesses have scaled back on paid search simply because it is a lower funnel activity, operating close to the point of conversion, and they’re not currently able to fulfil.
Google’s John Mueller gave an excellent explanation of how to pause your business online in Google Search, addressing immediate, important steps you can take as a result of the pandemic. So in this post I’m not going to go over that ground. Instead, I’m going to describe some of the SEO changes you can be making now, especially in lockdown and if business is quiet, that will pay dividends later in the new world we now occupy.
Coronavirus has changed the world, and therefore it has changed your SEO too. But how? That will be different for every single business. The SilverDisc approach to SEO, at its most basic level, considers SEO as three functions: architecture, content and links. So I’ll give some SEO ideas for each of those functions, and how they might apply to your business.
SEO Personas following Coronavirus
A great place to start thinking about how you need to adapt your SEO is all the way back at the foundations of your digital marketing, your customer personas. If you don’t have these, define some! But assuming you already have some clearly defined personas, think now about how coronavirus has changed each of their worlds.
For example, if you are a travel agent, one of your target personas may be “baby boomer cruise travellers”. Thinking about how the world has changed for them, this persona may now split into at least two personas, each with different content needs. This can generate a whole load of content for your SEO, and perhaps some new thinking about how information needs to be organised on your website - do you need new information hubs to take coronavirus into account?
SEO Architecture covers the information architecture of your website, including those information hubs you have that may need to be expanded with new directory structures for coronavirus, as well as everything that might be described as technical SEO.
Technical SEO is a wide-ranging topic so here I’ll just describe a few globally applicable things to consider while things are quiet.
The first thing to consider is your Content Management System (CMS). Upgrades to CMSs are often released to improve speed, security and mobile-friendliness. For example, within the next couple of months Magento 1 becomes end-of-life and at the end of 2021 the same applies to Drupal 7. The current version of WordPress is 5.4 but only 21% of Wordpress sites are using it (and only 67% are using any version greater than 5).
What version of your CMS are you at, and what’s the latest version? If your version is far behind, now would be a good time to plan and rebuild your website on a more modern version, or perhaps even switch to a different platform. Your aim is to improve speed, security and mobile-friendliness, all of which are fundamental to good SEO - especially since Google switched to mobile-first indexing. The same thinking also applies to any themes and plugins you are using, the versions of PHP and MySQL, the web server and so on. Now is the time to bring them all up to date.
- To check on security, make sure you have added your website to Google Search Console and then check the Security Issues Report.
- To check your current website’s mobile-friendliness, use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.
- To check your current website’s speed, there are a number of tools. A good one to start with is Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool, where you are looking for a score above 90 for any website page you’d really like to rank well.
As already mentioned, your customer personas are a great place to start when thinking about new content that can be added to your website in the light of coronavirus. Classic SEO queries are transactional, informational or navigational (“do, know, go" in Google terminology) so think about how these three query types have changed in your market, and what that means in terms of demand for the kind of valuable content that you can provide to your customers and prospects. Use Google Trends to gain insights - here are some example coronavirus-related trends.
Content is more than just the words - it’s the feeling, too. Revisit your company’s purpose, mission, vision and values, and use those to make sure that the style and tone of the content you’re writing reflects your brand values. For example, SilverDisc’s purpose is “to unlock the value of technology for business”, and our core values are to be knowledgeable, friendly and collaborative - does this post hit the mark?
While working on personas, architecture and content, ideally you will have been looking around and ahead to see where links will be coming from. New sources of links may open up to you. For example, if the travel agent referred to earlier became the leading travel authority for baby boomers looking to restart their cruising adventures, this could open up all sorts of linking opportunities across sectors like health, news and government as well as travel. Start talking now to the people and websites that can be providing those links to you. Figure out how that maps into your PR and social campaigns too.
Here are some questions asked by this article as coronavirus changed your SEO world. Answering these questions should prompt appropriate SEO actions:
- How have our customer personas changed?
- What’s the latest version of our CMS and what version are we at?
- Does Search Console show any security issues on our website?
- How mobile friendly is our website?
- How fast is our website?
- What new keywords are people searching for? How has the emphasis on existing keywords changed?
- Therefore what new content or sections of the website can be developed to help our customers in the light of all that’s happened?
- Who would be interested in linking to that new content? Can we begin building those relationships now?
If you would like any help with issues raised by these questions, SilverDisc is here and ready to assist you, both during and after coronavirus. Let us know how we can help.