SEO as a Marketing Channel Post Covid-19

By Keith Hodges
14 Jul 2020

The world has changed dramatically over the last three months as people and businesses look at ways to tackle both the immediate and long-term impact that Covid-19 is having on their lives and businesses. From furloughing staff, moving budgets and creating new products – there’s been plenty of changes already – but what does this mean for the SEO industry and SEO agencies as a whole?

Current Business Situations

Like any industry, SEO is rife with like-minded individuals discussing impact on business, turnover, performance and overall client account health. This includes those working for both now and the future.

Many studies have been released to outline data and trends of search volume switches, impacts on different markets, expected return rates of traffic (and leads) and overall economic considerations off the back of this.

For this article, I’ve outlined where businesses, business owners, large corporations etc will see impact – considering impact at a working level, a marketing level and where SEO fits in to all of this.  

Trends on accounts can be grouped into the below:

Immediate loss: Across all industries this is the greatest problem and an unfortunate outcome of Covid-19 that is in some cases unavoidable.

For example, companies looking to pull budgets immediately to protect themselves, or simply those unable to pay the bills due to impact on their business.

Perhaps the most apparent of this type of business is in travel. The knock-on effect of consumers not buying tickets, airports being closed and no money through the doors is an immediate impact on marketing budgets.

Immediate gain: Companies either adapting product options (like switching B2B food delivery to B2C options by utilising exiting keyword rankings), or those who happen to be offering products that are currently in demand (paddling pools for example saw a 650% increase in search volume in the weeks following lockdown in the UK).

There is also an element of ‘luxury’ e-commerce items seeing increases – these are things like trampolines, exercise bikes, BBQs, TVs etc – anything that aided in making self-isolation a little more bearable, but will also maintain use after lockdown is lifted the ‘new’ normal starts to take shape.

Long term loss: There is an element of risk ongoing following the end of the current crisis and that is the long-term economic impact it will have on some businesses. This impact will likely result client accounts dropping out of agency retainers at renewal periods or dropping budgets to offset the cost of the losses sustained across the year.

Long term loss accounts can be considered as those that are still operating now, but likely to post a huge loss against business projections next year – meaning the budget for marketing and SEO might not exist when it comes to contract renewal.

Potential for long term gain: The final area is the potential for long term gain and highlights the desire for ongoing investment in SEO despite the current downtown in search volume and potential business, with the core element being that once the world returns to normal being in prime position high volume search terms will allow business to reap the rewards of ongoing SEO investment and recoup losses from a potential backlog of sales and enquiries.

Venue hire, B2B options and office supplies, potentially national based travel (dependant on lockdown changes), clothing and financial products all sit within this option.

Each based on backlog of enquiries, reopening of business facilities, a small break from isolation, a wardrobe refresh and upturn in the property market, respectively.

 

Traditional advertising and PPC impact

With budgets tightening and sales drying up across a lot of B2C sectors, there’s a need for businesses to look at where immediate costs can be shaved and financial control can be maintained.

As a general rule we consider PPC to be the tap that can be turned on and off in light as needed, often done seasonally based on individual market trends.

Reductions in revenue, but also falls in demand, impact on logistics and product stock, mean paid search is an obvious area for money to be saved.

Beyond this immediate savings on traditional advertising could come into thinking – print media for example is likely to take a hit as readers shy away from newsagents for the daily paper and instead head online. 

These two together, pose a risk for publishers working on and offline – as it could impact both revenue streams. However, for businesses attempting to cut costs and keep businesses afloat, they are positive moves.

Using SEO for the future

Where there is a potential growth however is the potential impact that SEO can have long term – with many seeing an investment now for the future being the right way forward. In essence, SEO work being carried out by agencies at the moment has always been with a goal on post Covid-19 lockdown timeframes anyway, and many businesses are focused on this.

Agencies are seeing cuts to PPC budgets and put into SEO budgets, to increase time on accounts and push rankings quicker, or the simple continuation and ‘keep calm and carry on’ in the knowledge that the longer term investment into SEO will pay off regardless of the current situation.

Competitively it also raises a few interesting questions around the impact ongoing vs. paused investments. If competitors halt investment on SEO and businesses continue, are we to expect that we can increase market share against them in the interim? It’s entirely possible if ranking positions 5-10 and jumping into the top 3 in this time.

Conclusion

As such, SEO is in a strange scenario now in being one of the more valuable forms of marketing, or even the only form of marketing in some cases, that will draw long term results.

It raises a conflicting question for businesses look after their budgets – on the one hand, is SEO pulled back to save money now, on the other, is it maintained in order to improve for the future? Within this are risk assessments, cost assessments and potential ROI. The commonality however is that every business will be doing what is right for them at this moment.

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