As it continues to spread and take hold in various regions, COVID-19 leaves in its wake a devastating human tool.
As of publishing, more than 2 million have been infected and more than 130,000 people have died worldwide.
As new data and early projections on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic are made available, only one thing is certain:
Nothing is certain.
In these challenging times, empathy and compassion for customers and employees are critical.
In enterprise organizations, large teams and in many cases the entire workforce is affected.
History has shown that in tumultuous economic times, SEO is more important than ever.
The entire supply chain is affected, all the way from manufacturing facilities through ordering, customer service, delivery, and of course the customers themselves.
The demand for credible, useful information is massive.
Media consumption has spiked as people now need to figure out how to work from home with children out of school, how to get groceries and stay fit without leaving the house, and more.
These are just the bare-bones logistics.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be exploring entirely new ways to go about our business as usual in an environment that is anything but.
Many businesses are now in a position where they need to adjust operations or even pivot their strategy in light of COVID-19 business interruptions and impact.
Paid search budgets are being halted as marketers have to figure out new ways of serving customers and delivering products.
Universally, companies are looking for the most cost-effective channels and many are having to shift from real-world events and promotions to digital-only in record time.
All of this widespread change means enormous volumes of content being created and pushed to consumers.
Companies need to be agile and get in position to capitalize on demand surges with short-term wins, while balancing this approach with the need to protect the brand long-term.
Interest in SEO as a discipline is growing more than ever before.
Here are three key areas where SEO professionals need to focus right now to get ahead of these trends.
Your employees must do what they did before in a remote work environment that may be brand new for them.
While a lot of organizations had some flexible scheduling or an occasional remote workday, entire companies have now had to go remote-only.
Employees are feeling a lack of connection and the impact of social isolation, not only in their work-life but in their personal lives, as well.
Teams that may have functioned quite well together in the office now need to learn entirely new methods of communication, problem-solving, collaboration, and productivity.
Your brand can support employees by ensuring that remote work policies are empathetic to the needs of employees in this environment.
Regularly scheduled team meetings may not work for all, especially those with other family members to care for.
It is important that each employee has the tools and also knows the process for executing their duties remotely.
Dedicate Some Channels to Socialization Only
For example, you could put a member of each team in charge of scheduling an (optional) hour of games played on Zoom once a week.
You might have dedicated Slack channels for discussing what people are watching on Netflix.
Remember that a lot of people aren’t getting these simple conversations they would’ve had at the water cooler anymore, and that complete isolation can be devastating.
Set up an Open Room Online Where Colleagues Can Get Together in a Co-Working Environment
It should be made clear that this is not a chat room, and that it is appropriate to go on mute well you get work done.
However, this structure still allows employees to take breaks together, run ideas by one another, and have that face-to-face interaction that is so important in professional relationships.
Don’t Forget About Physical Wellness & the Mental Health Benefits of Activity
In some regions, people are being entirely discouraged from going into public spaces and well in a lot of areas you could still go for a walk, many people are entirely housebound at this point.
Put a member of the team in charge of organizing group video activities that employees can opt into at different times of the day do light stretching or other low-impact physical activity.
Offer employees a free subscription to a fitness video website.
Find ways to support the mental and physical health of your employees at this time.
Tap Into the Expertise of Your SEO Pros as You Develop Content & Channels for Employees
They have the skills and knowledge to make that content readable and findable, to make your channels user-friendly, and to set up systems of measurement that will help you understand how they are being used and how you can improve your delivery.
Remote work may very well be the new normal for your organization and investing in your employees’ success today will pay off for years to come.
Be More Respectful Than Ever of Employees’ Time
Hold meetings only when necessary, and only for as long as needed to get the major decision making done.
Depending on your industry, you may be staring down the barrel of a different landscape than you were just a few months ago.
Processes and best practices that have served you well in the past may be irrelevant going forward.
As companies are having to be more agile than ever, it is critical that the data on which you will base decisions about your company’s future is serving you well.
Look to your SEO professionals right away to audit your customer and search data.
You need to understand how your customers’ needs are changing, and search is the greatest indicator you have at this point.
Across channels, devices, networks, and platforms, consumers are giving all kinds of indicators and clues as to how their priorities and needs are changing.
Capturing and interpreting all of that insight is a massively important task that is going to guide your process, products, and priorities as you recover from COVID-19 business interruptions.
Here are a few specific areas of focus.
Assess Your Marketing Budget
Evaluate your marketing budget with a critical eye to help aid in organic will complement one another in the coming months
It may not make sense right now to use paid in the way you did a few months ago, but it could be critical in giving important content about how your business is changing a boost until it performs on its own in organic search in the months and years to come.
Focus on Your Top and Mid-Funnel Content
Bottom-of-funnel and direct response may simply be out of the question at this time, depending on your industry.
But this is a great time to focus on your top and mid-funnel content, and on developing high-quality resources that showcase your brand’s expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T).
These are the qualities Google seeks in quality content.
Develop a Clear Workflow
Develop a clear workflow and make sure that employees understand who they can contact for various issues and what channels are available to them.
Where ever possible, prioritize deliverables over hourly requirements even where employees are on an hourly pay structure.
Be understanding that the typical workday may be stretched out over more hours or look quite different, depending on what the employee is coping with at home.
Be Nimble & Responsive
It is more important than ever that your marketing and content strategies are living, breathing, fluid guidelines rather than a strict plan to be adhered to over a long period of time.
As you gather search data and consumer insights, you need to be able to shift priorities rapidly to address changing needs.
It may feel unnatural or irresponsible not to have campaigns planned out a few months ahead, but the flip side is that you can’t afford to waste resources right now on content that could be irrelevant in a month or two.
Where you were proactive and prepared before, you must now be nimble and responsive.
We’ve been talking about the importance of augmenting human performance with AI-powered technology as an aspiration for years, and now is when it really counts.
Your marketing and SEO teams must be able to count on the quality and accuracy of the data they use to make decisions and to recommend courses of action to your company’s leadership.
They need assistive technology to not only automate redundant tasks but to effectively monitor all of the activity going on around your brand across the search ecosystem.
For example (disclosure: from my company, BrightEdge) below is a snapshot of some real-time insights into queries related to the Coronavirus and what terms people search around.
SEO pros need their technology to be able to make simple decisions, execute best practice optimizations, and highlight new opportunities for the brand to engage and educate consumers.
Audit with Greater Frequency
A monthly review of search insights simply isn’t sufficient when entire industries are changing and evolving daily.
Make sure your SEO professionals understand which insights are needed by each decision-maker and in what format they want to receive that information.
- Will they deliver a report in a daily video call?
- Should they be sharing certain insights to a group Slack channel?
- How often do leaders want to be updated?
Take Advantage of AI-Powered Tech to Execute Optimizations in Real-Time
This is a key way that you can still be proactive in your approach to serving customers, even in the face of such uncertainty.
If You Haven’t Been Using an AI Chat Assistant, This Is a Great Time to Start
This is especially important for organizations that want to be prepared for an influx of consumer activity once business conditions allow for it.
An AI chat assistant can answer simple questions, surface your best content and highest converting assets, and help the rest of your team by reducing the manual labor required to answer these common queries.
Now Is the Time for SEO to Serve as the Voice of Your Customer
Now is the time to really utilize your SEO channel to its maximum potential.
As you ride out shifts in demand and changes in consumer behavior, SEO will not only help you respond in the most effective ways possible but also plan for post-pandemic success.
Those enterprises that take advantage of SEO’s insight into the voice of the customer and their evolving needs will come through this built to last.
- The Business of Enterprise SEO: Mastering People, Process & Platforms
- The 4 Pillars of Enterprise SEO Success
- A New Era of Enterprise SEO: 7 Opportunities to Embrace Today
Screenshots taken by author, April 2020