COVID-19 has certainly turned the world upside down.
Unfortunately, many industries have been hit hard during this pandemic and have seen a massive decline in traffic and conversions.
One of the most interesting trends we’re seeing is in ecommerce – both in terms of SEO and conversion.
According to research from Stackline, certain online retailers providing medical supplies, food, and fitness equipment have grown a considerable amount.
Some of the top fastest-growing product categories include:
- Disposable gloves.
- Bread making machines.
- Cough and cold.
- Packaged food.
- Weight training equipment.
- Cleaning supplies.
On the other hand, non-essential and travel-related product sales are declining during COVID-19.
- Luggage and suitcases.
- Event and party supplies.
- Luxury apparel.
Overall, total online retail traffic has declined by 9% since March 2020.
COVID-19 will more than likely usher in a number of long-term changes.
Some of the main ones we can expect include a big shift to remote working situations, food delivery, and ecommerce.
According to the latest research, ecommerce conversion rates have only declined slightly, but the long term is looking extremely bright once coronavirus is in the rearview mirror.
Things will return to “normal” one day.
Online business owners need to use this time when things may be slowing down to prepare for after COVID-19.
Now is the perfect time to restructure and improve your online store’s SEO and content for an impending flood of virtual customers.
So, where should you get started?
1. Do an In-Depth Technical SEO Audit
Many people have been using their time in quarantine to tackle home-improvement projects they have been putting off.
Ecommerce business owners should be doing the same with their websites.
A technical SEO audit is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success once traffic rates pick up again.
It requires going through all aspects of your platform like your site’s structure, site mapping, tags, and content issues.
It also is important to update the internal linking structure for both mobile and desktop versions of your site.
To improve your site structure, first, identify any 404 link errors with a site crawler.
You can either delete these pages if they are no longer relevant or fix them.
If you have lots of pages within your website because you offer a lot of products or run a pretty active blog, consider restructuring to organize these pages better.
It is often recommended that all of your pages are no more than three clicks away from the homepage, so try to separate them into logical categories for easier navigation.
Use auditing tools like WooRank or SEMrush to check these technical SEO factors and alert you to areas that need work.
Here’s a guide to technical SEO for ecommerce that can help you pinpoint current errors and make improvements.
2. Optimize for Mobile-First Indexing
In early March 2020, Google announced that it will now switch to mobile-first indexing for all websites beginning in September.
This means Googlebot will prioritize your site’s performance on mobile devices before desktop – as the majority of users now interact on smartphones.
If your ecommerce site is not fully tweaked for mobile-first, now is the time to do so.
First, make sure that Googlebot can properly access all of your website’s content by using the same meta robot tags on both your mobile and desktop site versions.
Next, make sure your mobile site contains the same content as your desktop version. Many developers will simplify mobile versions since the screen is smaller.
While a different design and layout may be necessary, it is important that you do not cut out content for mobile versions – since this is now the data that Google will index first.
3. Consider a Website Redesign
Now may be a good time to rethink your ecommerce site design and layout to give your online store a new look post-pandemic.
This is clearly a major undertaking (and not completely necessary for everyone). If a redesign is something you have been considering, now is a good time to make it happen.
The most important task in redesigning your website is to improve the UX.
Take a look at any complaints you have received from customers regarding the use of your website, such as trouble checking out or missing information on product pages.
You should also consult your website metrics to measure the CTRs and bounce rates for various pages. These numbers could indicate specific parts of your website that need to be reworked.
Pay attention to the overall look of your website.
Appearances can have a huge impact on the way that your brand is perceived, and can even make a customer trust (or distrust) your business.
If your pages simply appear outdated or the layout is confusing and clunky, it’s a good idea to adopt a more modern design while business is slow.
4. Continue Investing in Content Marketing
During this time, a lot of online stores in declining categories will think about stopping their content efforts. But this can do more damage than you think.
Sites with a consistent flow of fresh content tend to have higher rankings and higher CTRs, thanks to Google’s Freshness Algorithm.
Just because your online traffic numbers may be slowing down does not mean that you should hold back on content marketing. If anything, you should increase your velocity right now.
The key here is to keep relevancy as a top priority.
Many brands are jumping on the COVID-19 content bandwagon because of new coronavirus keyword trends. However, these topics might not be necessarily logical for you to target directly in your content.
Furthermore, you should not be super-focused on sales-related content in a time when your conversion rates may be declining.
Many people are facing financial hardships and do not have extra income to spend on certain items.
Instead, shift your focus to building trust and brand awareness.
For instance, you can share content on various uses for your product or topics related to your industry.
Say that your online store sells bicycles and bike parts.
You could create blogging content on ways to clean your bike properly, prevent rust, or how to do a tune-up.
This showcases your brand’s knowledge and expertise, which will help you to earn the trust of readers. Ideally, they will come to you once things return to normal.
Of course, money is tight right now for many companies.
If you work with a marketing agency, consider talking to them about your budget and see what you can afford.
But remember, great content usually has a major payoff in the long run, so it is certainly a worthy investment.
5. Build Your Email Subscribers List
Building your subscriber list should be a top priority to generate leads that will be likely to convert after COVID-19.
This can help you keep people engaged (and keep your brand at the forefront of their minds) even when sales are slowing down.
First, consider the reasons why consumers engage with brands, particularly on social media.
According to a survey from Sprout Social, the most popular answers were because they were interested in the product, promotions, to receive an incentive, or simply because they found the brand entertaining.
This should be the main focus of your email content and the selling point for your subscription.
Your content in every email should be providing value that extends beyond sales and promotions.
If you are simply sharing revenue-focused content, it might not make an impact – especially if your product category is on the decline.
Focus primarily on informational content creation.
How-to searches are incredibly popular these days as more people are looking for projects to kill the boredom.
Creating this type of content to drive users to an email signup can be very effective right now.
COVID-19 is certainly putting a lot of businesses in a tough spot.
Thankfully, ecommerce companies can still safely operate while other brick and mortar stores have had to temporarily close down.
However, this does not mean that you can sit back and relax during this time.
Even though things have changed quite rapidly, everything will return to normal at some point.
Slacking off on your efforts right now is a major mistake that could hurt you in the long run, so take this time to improve your online store to come out even stronger on the other side.
- Impact of COVID-19 on Ecommerce: 4 Ways to Adapt Your Digital Strategy
- Why It’s Time to Plan Your Digital COVID-19 Recovery & 3 Ways to Do It
- SEO in the Age of COVID-19: Organic Impacts on the Retail Industry
Featured Image: Created by author, April 2020