Leaning into SEO During a Pandemic

Introduction

In response to the “new normal” during this pandemic, many marketing teams have explored how they can modify practices to better engage audiences. This innovative disruption has been very necessary because of several factors, including changing customer behavior, an increasingly cluttered environment, social unrest and economic impact/changing budgets.

Although CMI/Compas’ client engagement hasn’t reflected this industry trend, according to a study conducted by Binary Fountain of 304 healthcare marketers has found that media spend budgets for a lot of different organizations have been impacted by the pandemic. In fact, 38.5% of healthcare marketers are expecting to reduce their budgets for media spending and paid advertising. A separate study conducted by Convergence Point Media, a digital healthcare agency, found a similar trend in its survey of healthcare marketers:

“How has the pandemic impacted your 2020 marketing and media budget?”

• 12%: “Reduced over 50%”

• 27%: “Reduced 25-50%”

• 27%: “Reduced by less than 25%”

• 12%: “Increased by 25% or more”

To further complicate things, it seems like even though some budgets are being cut, goals are expected to remain the same. While this presents challenges, there are tactics that can be used to maintain momentum on campaigns and provide high value.

If you’re living in this situation, this is the perfect time to disrupt your usual methods and consider alternatives.

Channels that don’t require media budget can help you bridge the gap between reduced budgets and high expectations for performance. SEO, for example, is a channel that can help you to continue to reach your audience during these challenging times, as they actively search for health-related information on the web. By focusing on developing and expanding your organic presence, you’re making a choice to invest your efforts in an initiative that won’t require a continuous investment to maintain operative.  When budgets return to normal, your SEO investment pays off with exposure to an audience that is actively searching for information.

Why SEO?

SEO has always been a vital tool in the savvy marketer’s tool belt for a variety of reasons because, with clever planning and some dedication, results can be significant. SEO can:

Drive long term wins, even after COVID-19

The great thing about SEO is that it drives long-term success, and, as you become successful at it, expanding your organic presence becomes easier. As you build authority by improving your organic dependability, you will develop momentum that provides you with a continued increase in your level of exposure. This means you will build out your presence with less effort in the future without a need for continued investment for placement. Its sustainability will deliver results long after the pandemic resolves. When you add back in your higher-cost tactics, you will come out ahead because the incremental exposure that’s being delivered by your SEO efforts will complement your fuller marketing profile.

Help you stay competitive

In a survey that was led by Conductor Search Light of over 300 marketing professionals, 63% of the respondents agreed that SEO will become more important during this time. This means that your competition is going to be putting effort behind obtaining more organic market share. Whether or not you had a fully functional SEO campaign before   COVID-19 started, if you have a website for your brand, it’s safe to say that you have at least some organic search rankings that are driving traffic. These connections are in jeopardy if 63% of your competition is looking to expand by way of SEO. If you’re not staking your claim and looking for a means to expand your organic presence, this will undoubtedly have an impact on your website’s performance.

Can be a way to supplement budget cuts for paid channels

As budgets are reduced across the industry, some brands may be forced to limit paid search coverage. While SEO and paid search have the biggest impact on visit volume when working together, with some careful planning, SEO efforts can temporarily help pick up a loss in traffic on categories that rank high organically and do not have a large competitive paid presence to keep the level of visits coming to the site.

To make this kind of short-term strategy most effective, it’s very important to do comprehensive analysis to identify prime areas where paid budget and exposure can be reduced without losing significant amounts of traffic. Though some keyword categories may rank high in the organic space, if there is a high level of paid competition, organic results will appear lower on the page and traffic will likely be lost to another paid listing.

Being selective, monitoring performance closely and being able to respond quickly is key to making this type of action successful.

Next Steps

CMI/Compas can help you to build an SEO strategy that will allow you to succeed in these challenging times, not just endure. Our process is simple:

Learning About the Competition

Our strategies start with understanding how your competition is reacting to this global change. Through a comprehensive analysis, we can learn about where your competitors are currently owning the market and new areas they’re targeting. With this information we can line up tactics to protect your current share, target areas they don’t know about and identify opportunities to displace them.

Your “Short-Term” COVID-19 SEO Strategy

Want to get started on making an impact in SEO today? CMI/Compas can review your current digital assets and optimize them to make them more potent in the organic search results. This will create a foundational layer that will impact performance, without the need of a significant investment of resources to create new content.

This can also be very effective because it will present you with the opportunity to adjust existing content that can help you connect with your audience, now that their focus has shifted due to the pandemic. You can even optimize your “COVID-19 centered” messaging to better align it to the language that your audience is using to search for information.

Your “Long-Term” COVID-19 SEO Strategy

To build a more inclusive strategy that will garner incremental results, a deeper dive, content creation and channel expansion could be a successful combination of tactics.

Search Landscape Analysis

In order to create an effective long-term plan, knowing how your audience changed is key. It’s vital to invest the time needed to review how/if their search behavior has changed, what content is still relevant to them, and what types of new information are they looking to discover. A Search Landscape Analysis can fill in those blanks and help to make certain that before any content is created, the proper direction has been set.

New Content Creation

Now that you have established what your audience is looking for, it’s time to start creating content that connects with them and guides them through their search process. This new content will help you to expand your authority, generate new rankings for relevant keywords that search users identify with and educate them about your offerings. It will fuel your successful SEO plan beyond the pandemic.

One particular type of new content that has been proven to be effective in supporting your audience and can also help you to establish a voice search presence is Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ pages. This content can be created to provide basic information about your brand and can also feature COVID-19 related information that can be very engaging.

Expanding Beyond “Traditional Search”

For anyone whose goal might be much more aggressive, consider leveraging advanced tactics that can help you build awareness outside of the traditional organic search listings:

• Video Optimization: It’s not commonly known that video search engines, like YouTube, operate according to SEO best practices. Optimizing key elements that are associated to your videos could increase their organic viewership and raise awareness.

• Voice Search: Device and voice assistant searches are an exciting market that’s growing every day. Using SEO, you can target voice responses and connect with a whole new audience.

Having a strong, integrated Search strategy (Paid and Organic) is essential to reaching your audience accurately and efficiently on the search engines.  The team at CMI/Compas can help you create a plan to meet your goals, even with a reduced budget. Contact us today, and let’s talk about how we can help you!