How to approach SEO in a period of global disruption
Marred by a pandemic, a war, political division, and seesawing economies, the past two-plus years have disrupted life as we know it.
If all these have taught us anything in the world of SEO, it’s that even the most sound, effective strategies are subject to re-evaluation.
Even in industries that aren’t directly connected to world events, SEO strategies and goals need to reflect the reality of the times and news cycles.
Let’s look at the role of SEO in a turbulent global landscape and how marketers need to pivot and adjust.
The role of SEO in weird times
One of the first things a fledgling marketer learns is that good SEO should reflect people’s needs:
- In the keywords you’re targeting.
- The content you’re writing.
- Even what you’re asking of the user in return.
SEO’s inherent purpose is to add value by providing information relevant to people’s searches.
When we’re in a state of acute disruption, as we have been for the past 30 months or so, that value is even more imperative.
SEO strategies focusing on transactions (unless you’re selling toilet paper during a shortage) will be far less effective than SEO strategies that provide the user with helpful information your company is uniquely qualified to provide.
For instance, a company that manufactures car parts should focus on addressing supply-chain issues and solutions plaguing its target audience of distributors, not building a landing page to convey sentiments on the war in Ukraine.
Effects on your SEO KPIs
The economy is affecting B2B and B2C companies in different ways right now.
Tech companies scramble for funding or are under pressure from concerned investors while their target audiences cut budgets.
Retail and ecommerce companies suffer from tightened consumer spending and higher costs of goods.
People aren’t throwing money around as they did a year ago – and SEO KPIs need to reflect that.
SEO conversion rate is, and should be, a KPI, but it might not be the most useful optimization benchmark right now.
Instead, consider focusing on more upper-to-middle funnel KPIs like:
- Time on site.
- Number of touchpoints.
- Percentage of returning visitors.
- Number of pages visited.
These can accommodate a couple of strategies, such as:
- Nurturing and engaging users with valuable information until they’re ready to spend again.
- Enhancing your purchasing funnel with content and information that reassures people they’re spending their money wisely if they make the leap to buy your product or service.
The silver lining for SEO in this period of disruption is that it can fill funnel gaps left by decreased paid media budgets.
Thus, ensure a holistic view of your marketing team’s goals and how SEO is expected to contribute.
Resources to inform your SEO pivots
Other than keeping a close eye on the macroeconomy and global trends, there are several tools you can use to inform your strategic adjustments.
Google Trends and keyword research tools
Google Trends and keyword research tools are extremely useful in helping you understand the topics and queries users are searching for – or aren’t searching for as much as they did in the past.
Internal data also plays a significant role in helping you pivot effectively.
Data from paid search
Alignment with your paid search team can get you access to almost real-time information on user search behavior.
Along with information on keyword demand, your paid search colleagues can tell you whether their campaigns are suddenly converting less (or more) without competitive shifts.
This could be an indication that the customer journey is changing.
Customers and leads
Your existing base of customers and leads is another great source of information.
Canceled subscriptions and repeat purchase slowdowns are flashing red indicators that your target audience’s needs are changing.
When you see those signs, consider sending surveys to collect feedback on their priorities and needs and incorporate those into your keyword and content strategy. (Your product and promotional teams will appreciate that data as well).
Traffic and impressions
Make sure you’re tracking traffic/impressions.
If they are increasing or decreasing even if your rankings are staying the same, this indicates a broad interest shift.
And always cross-reference your data with Google Trends – specifically looking for historical trends, including seasonality – to ensure you’re considering the whole picture.
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Use these channels to make quick SEO adjustments
I don’t recommend overhauling your branding and core site assets to address temporary shifts (although, to be fair, the pandemic seems like an eternity).
Instead, use or add a blog. It’s a great tool for quickly adding new, relevant content and updating evergreen content to fit the times.
One of my clients, a financial services company, posted an informational blog about applying for COVID-related loans and relief. It quickly became one of their most popular pieces of content.
You should also tackle high-performing blog topics on your social media channels. Just make sure to customize the content to be more interactive and solicit engagement.
How to get instant traction with pivots
Getting your head around the idea of quick results in a long-term channel can be challenging. SEOs spend much time earning authority and trust, and momentum builds on itself over time.
I recommend focusing on long-tail, low-competition keywords to gain interest in your brand and build authority and backlink volume.
For instance, you won’t start immediately ranking for “supply chain,” but you can get traction on “why is there a supply chain shortage.”
Organic social media can also provide rapid feedback on topics resonating with your network.
If a post gets a lot of engagement (constructive) on your social channels, that’s a sign that you’ve hit on a topic that could benefit from a deeper dive.
Don’t be afraid to try things like LinkedIn polls to surface sentiment. Then, feed this data into your SEO program.
What your audience responds to or provides you with information on in organic social can be used to create SEO campaigns.
Grab the topics and responses from this pivot and build a keyword list around the topics. These are instantly great ideas for writing a new blog or guide content or optimizing your existing marketing pages.
Once you start recognizing progress on those terms, consider increasing your focus on more competitive, higher-volume terms closely related to the long-tail terms you first put into play.
In a time of global disruption, we must return to the roots of what we do as SEOs and marketers and why this all matters.
We are here not only to help brands and businesses grow. We are here to help searchers find high-quality answers and solutions to what they need.
What they need changes dramatically during times like we’re in right now, and we need to adjust accordingly.
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