Consumer needs and behaviors can change dramatically depending on the current economic climate.
However, one thing always remains consistent: They always turn to SEO to help them survive and thrive.
In fact, savvy businesses can capitalize on this opportunity by recognizing that shift (turn) and adapting their content strategies to accommodate the need.
SEO insights are a great place to find the most current trends in consumer behavior and intent.
Compared to traditional and expensive media, the conventional wisdom of holding back on your marketing budget – particularly for SEO – is a short-sighted strategy that erodes your brand presence over time.
If you want to be positioned for growth during the recovery that inevitably follows a downturn or recession, the prediction stage is exactly the time to invest in SEO.
According to Gartner’s latest State of Marketing Budget And Strategy Survey 2022, SEO is top of mind for all “unpaid” channels.
Here are some of my thoughts on why.
Consumers Search In All Economic Conditions
Yes, consumer needs and behaviors can change dramatically depending on the current economic climate.
But they don’t cease, or disappear, altogether.
Your customers may have greater concerns about the household budget and display a reduced commercial intent as a result. Perhaps they’re just not in the market to buy.
They will be again one day, though.
Sales is a cycle; while some markets have demand dips, others see rises.
For some, it could be time for them to learn, plan, and educate themselves on their options.
SEO Is A Long Game & The Rules Are Constantly Changing
You cannot simply pause your SEO – well, you can, but it would mean an awful lot of catching up when you “turned it on” again.
Google’s algorithms are constantly changing and updating as the search engine strives to better meet the needs of its users.
Rather than cutting back, tough economic times are when you can focus on and invest in improving user experience, resolving persistent technical issues, and speeding up your site.
These objectives may have been lower on marketing’s priority list when times were good and sales were plenty.
At other times, however, you might find it makes sense to reconsider ad spending due to your audience’s potentially lower commercial intent in search.
In that case, you could reallocate a portion of the budget, ensuring SEO intent data and channels such as pay per click (PPC) are working.
You should also focus on technical SEO and your website journey and performance.
Experiences will matter and help you convert opportunities – opportunities that you can’t afford to miss before competitors grab them.
- This is also a good time to audit existing content and find new opportunities to rank on different keyword terms. Update content, cluster content by topic, identify content gaps, and update calls to action (CTAs) to ensure a more cohesive journey for customers.
- For example, if you’ve published product reviews in the past, you’ll want to revisit those. Google’s product review update targeting low-quality reviews rolled out in 2022, and it’s even more important to ensure that content is top quality.
SEO Can Drive Wins In The Short, Mid, And Long-Term
A robust SEO program forms a solid foundation for your entire web presence. But it can also help your business stay agile and responsive to rapidly-changing conditions.
Economic uncertainty might call for quick action to find marketing efficiencies.
It also helps protect the brand from external threats or move on to surfacing opportunities.
In these conditions, SEO data is imperative for keeping a finger on the market pulse.
However, activating the insights gleaned from that data is a critical next step:
- It won’t do you much good to know that market share is shrinking and one product type is trending if you lack the resources to plan and execute campaigns around that product.
- Prioritizing SEO by ensuring it has a stable budget and executive support keeps your resources and team in a position to act.
Remember when the initial pandemic scare shut down much of the world’s economy?
The informational needs of consumers exploded, and service delivery models changed almost overnight.
The companies that were able to quickly update their Google Business Profile listings with current hours of operation, the availability of curbside pickup and online ordering, etc., became the first movers.
The demand for SEO rose to an all-time high.
Not only did this translate to business won, but those companies were also able to instill a sense of stability and calm among consumers in an otherwise tumultuous time.
Brand Protection Is Essential At All Times
Consumer behavior can be unpredictable, fragmented, and even irrational during times of uncertainty.
SEO helps the brand actively listen to audiences, triage issues, and combat negative brand sentiment in real-time.
As mentioned earlier, your SEO insights are a key source of this business intelligence.
- What are consumers searching for, and how is that evolving?
- What do those queries tell you about the commercial or other types of intent driving search activity?
- How are people behaving in search and on your site, and what new opportunities does that present?
Online reviews are another rich source of insight and potential liabilities if not managed correctly.
Google is clear: Businesses must respond to searcher reviews, messages, and questions as quickly as possible.
Your company’s review profile – average star rating, review volume, and recency – can impact your local rankings, too.
It’s essential that you have in place:
- Technology to monitor reviews across all platforms relevant to your business.
- A triage system so that serious complaints are escalated to the right person for quick intervention.
- Policies for review response. Templates that can be personalized depending on review content can help here.
Depending on your industry, economic uncertainty might bring a greater volume of reviews. Having this foundation in place will enable you to add resources and scale up as needed.
Brand protection should come from your content team, as well.
If you’re in the financial services industry, for example, you might find that your customer base has a lot of questions about how the current conditions impact them and their families.
They may have questions and concerns about employment, taxes, stimulus, or support programs that weren’t top of mind before.
Your business can not only serve as a thought leader but deliver real, valuable solutions for customers that will win their trust and loyalty for the long term.
Ecommerce, retail, and travel brands will look for insights and trends on demand volatility and category fluctuations in goods, products, and services.
Understanding these trends early on will help content teams create and target accordingly.
You’ll need a content team skilled in producing for these opportunities, crafting targeted content, and who can utilize technologies for optimizing and promoting it for maximum impact across all of the platforms where your audience is found online.
As a bonus, this program can help you outrank any competitor (or perhaps negative content about the brand) with positive stories and helpful content instead.
Whether markets are high or low, SEO team talents are needed most to find new opportunities, combat immediate threats, and lay the foundation for a successful recovery.
The role of business intelligence is critical to understanding the environment in which you’re currently working.
Organizations that “put it on pause” can damage the investments you’ve already made and leave you struggling to catch up with more forward-looking competitors.
SEO can have the effect of leveling out the peaks and troughs.
The data it produces is about as close to the real-time voice of customers as you’re going to get.
Compared to other channels, it is not just the most cost-effective; it also drives incremental value across your whole business.
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