The effects of a global pandemic that were unknown a year ago are now familiar features of our daily lives. A big part of the change is a “stay-at-home economy” that has altered consumer buying patterns and rendered irrelevant many old marketing norms. We all know this – but how should we respond?
One example of consumer change is a shift to online searches late night at and early in the morning. This began as ongoing virus news poured in and lockdowns were instituted in the spring of 2020. Ordinarily, searches peak in the middle of the day and around dinnertime, but since COVID-19 concerns took center stage in people’s lives, search volume has increased about 15% after midnight. Unfortunately, conversion rates to sales during these hours are lower than normal. People are tired, and many are experiencing persistent anxiety. Is there a way to reach them in these times and states of mind?
Another pandemic trend is the change in product priorities. Online shopping levels for essential home products and foods shot up and remain high. As the pandemic has gone on, other home-oriented items have seen huge increases in demand, too, such as video games and outdoor heating appliances. We have gone through phases of trends and no doubt will continue to — business owners can feel bewildered as to how to navigate them and make a meaningful place for their own brands.
In a time of so much upheaval, you can at least look closely at what you are doing with your marketing. For instance, what can you do to ensure you aren’t wasting your online advertising budget on clickable posts that no one wants to read because other issues are filling their minds? How can you use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and other marketing tools to foster steady growth or at least maintenance-level business, even if you don’t happen to be selling the latest pandemic necessity?
Whether your product does or does not directly meet pandemic-related needs, you can always connect with your customers and potential customers through information they want. Perhaps during this time your most important online marketing activity can be the cultivation of both customer and fellow-business relationships through thoughtfully targeted online content. In the process you might find that your SEO could use some analysis and tweaking.
SEO is more complicated than it used to be. Tossing superficial keyword-filled marketing blurbs onto the Internet doesn’t win high ranking in customer searches. Today you must have the authority of genuinely valuable material with back references from other legitimate online sources in order to rise to the top of search results. The prolific use of the right keywords and phrases doesn’t on its own carry weight with more advanced AI search engine algorithms.
With all this in mind, here are some SEO tips gleaned from marketing professionals who are tracking the volatile world of pandemic commerce:
- “COVID-19” is still trending, yes. But it won’t be forever. Continue to create specialized, non-trendy, evergreen content your clients will value into the future. Don’t lose sight of this, even as you may want to also regularly acknowledge in your content the unusual circumstances of the pandemic. Evergreen articles with well-chosen phrasing and keywords can contribute to high search ranking and draw people who may have the time and desire to learn something new. Not only are you likely to maintain the interest of existing clients, but you may also attract new ones.
- Provide consistent output of content, because SEO gains are built over time, through the creation of valuable materials and strong links from other credible online sources. Can you somehow link to products or services offered by companies appearing often in COVID era searches? Are there unique serial reports or articles you can offer that highlight your brand over an extended reading time?
- If you have a local customer-base, continue to reach out to them even if you aren’t open for business at your physical site. Restrictions to normal business won’t last forever, and you want your customers to remember and think of you when things normalize. Continue to offer blurbs and articles that highlight keywords for local places, community issues, and other regional attractions.
- To hone-in on those searchers most likely to become customers, include more ‘negative keywords’ when setting your SEO options. This will further refine the nature of your services for online searchers and reduce the number of dead-end clicks in your PPC campaigns, saving money by eliminating disinterested searchers’ clicks. Fewer dead-end clicks also means higher search engine valuation of your content and company.
- The fact is, you know what’s on your customers’ minds more than you do in normal times because you are aware of their COVID-19 insecurities and struggles. Use key phrases and ideas that connect on a human level with them. Share the voices and faces of your staff as we all cope with this “new normal” that has us off-balance much of the time. In the process, they will learn about your company as a human entity they can relate to and trust.
- Connect directly with your customers. Contact those who have ordered something from you over the recent months to find out why they did, why now, and how it fits into their current lives. Ask what they are going through and what else they might need from your company. In addition to helping you develop communication with more powerful SEO keywords, this can turn your marketing focus from your products to your customers. And that is sure to benefit everyone.
- Help your customers think about the future. Whatever your products or services, you can use language that paints a picture of post-pandemic times when your customers will need them again. There may even be creative ways you can help them plan for a future that most of us have trouble envisioning right now. Consider how you might incorporate SEO keywords that lead your customers toward hope and energy for ideas that include your brand.
J. V. McShulskis