8 Ways SEO can Help Local Businesses to Withstand Pandemic
For SMEs and local businesses, 2020 was meant to be the year to move forward, on the back of their progress in 2019.
However, none of them could have foreseen the crisis that befell on the world and continues to impact till date.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought day-to-day activities to a screeching halt. Local businesses have either shut down or are operating on a smaller scale.
It has also impacted the digital marketing landscape. It’s not the same as it was before the crisis. Various digital marketing campaigns have taken a massive hit. These campaigns have been deferred indefinitely, their budgets reduced or withheld till normalcy resumes. On the technical front, Corona has had a major influence on SEO practices, especially for local businesses.
Going back to our discussion on digital marketing campaigns, the most affected is digital ads. Businesses are not willing to spend money on running conversion ads. Meaning, negligible presence on digital platforms.
Marketing Channels: The Tectonic Shift
The year 2020 has seen a shift in the marketing channels. Businesses are looking for alternative ways to maintain their digital presence. Most of them point in the direction of organic or long term strategies like social media, SEO, webinars etc.
Of these strategies, SEO seems to be the favourite for many. In fact, according to a recent survey, SEO was the prime marketing channel, opted for by all the marketing experts.
SEO is vital to drive traffic and revenue for your business. Given that you are reducing your paid efforts, you will have more time to focus on it now.
8 SEO Strategies to Maintain Your Online Visibility
1. Fix Website Issues
According to data from the International Telecommunication Union, over 4 billion people (53.6% of the global population) are actively using the internet.
It’s the right time that your business should look to enhance the user experience of your visitors by fixing the issues on your website.
You can start off by optimizing your website. Popular optimization techniques include simplifying the navigation on the website and updating the website’s content.
You can also add banners or pop-ups about COVID-19 on pages that receive high traffic. In doing so, you will not only address the situation but also advise people on how to be safe. It will appeal well to the emphatic side of your visitors.
2. Run a Website Content Audit
It’s common knowledge that outdated information on a website can be detrimental to a successful SEO campaign. How often do you check the authenticity and relevance of your content?
The answer might be negative, but not for your fault. It’s because of lack of knowledge on how to verify the authenticity of your content.
To help you with that, we have created a checklist –
- Read through all your content. Refrain from skimming; read word-by-word. Update the page with the current information wherever required.
- Click on Every Link. It will help you figure out the links that are working and broken.
- Review all contact information, buttons, and forms. After all, you don’t want to waste your SEO efforts by misleading your visitors towards wrong contact information.
- Check the navigation of your site. It’s important for both SEO and User Experience. Good website navigation makes it easy for visitors to find what they want and also for search engines to crawl. It results in more conversions and greater search visibility.
3. Create Content Assets
Content marketing involves various types of content. Each serves its own purpose. Therefore, it is imperative for your business to create content assets.
Content assets compel your visitors to interact with your brand. It could be a social media post that can raise awareness about a product in a quirky way. Or, a blog that has the potential to explain the product in a detailed manner.
Apart from social media posts and blogs, other popular forms of content assets are e-books, videos, case studies, infographics, etc.
By creating your content assets as per the latest trends, you stand a better chance of improving your ranking on Google for long tail keywords. For instance, creating a detailed and downloadable e-book on COVID-19 will lead to high website traffic and more page hits.
4. Start making Videos for Business
According to Elite Content Marketer, over 50% of customers stated that videos helped them make buying decisions. It’s because videos are compelling visuals. Not only entertaining but also digestible because of the short time frame.
Moreover, videos create a better lasting impression on the minds of consumers. A classic example would be evergreen advertisements on TV, where people remember the act and the tagline associated with the product.
Therefore, let your consumer know more about your business through short but storytelling videos. You can post them on popular streaming platforms like YouTube and embed the link on your website.
5. Remove Unnatural Links
To eliminate online spam activities, Google doled out the Penguin update , wherein a series of warnings were initiated against websites that created unnatural links.
Unnatural links are artificial links created to manipulate a page’s ranking. It includes purchasing spam links, or potentially backlinking your website to the dark side of the internet.
If Google gets suspicious, it may penalize your website. It will lead to deindexing of your site from Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Hence, it would be in your best interests to delete such malicious unnatural and spammy backlinks, if any.
6. Connect with Customers through Your Website
In times of crisis, consumers expect businesses and brands to step up in their communication. If your business prefers to stay silent or refuses to address the issue, it might create a negative image of your business amongst consumers.
Therefore, look to respond to the pandemic through your website proactively. From how your business is keeping its employees safe to addressing the safety measures that need to be put in place, plan out a thorough response.
It could be in the form of blogs, videos or a dedicated page altogether.
7. Guide Your Customers through Blogs
The success of your customers is your success.
Blogging enables you to educate your customers about your industry and how it will help them find their desired solutions.
A long-form blog will help you in writing detailed information about your niche – from its functionality to its benefits; especially during the outbreak. It will act as a great reminder for your customers as to how your product or service will significantly benefit them.
8. Reveal New Search Trends
Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, your business also has the opportunity to reinvent itself by being in alignment with the latest search trends.
For example, there’s a high search volume for the dos and don’ts for COVID-19. Maybe you can create content around that, and also relate how your product will help your consumers fight the pandemic.
By researching new trends, you will be able to paint a clearer picture of what the world is going through and how you can participate in the situation to benefit your business.
However, to make your SEO campaign a success, you need to understand local ranking factors that lead to website optimization, increased traffic, lead generation, and brand awareness.
Let’s take a look at them…
Factors that Make Local SEO Campaign a Grand Success
Google My Business Profile
Google is the undisputed leader in providing accurate information to the user’s search query. However, the accuracy of the data depends on you.
If you want your business to appear on local search rankings, you must post the correct information on your local listing. Showcasing incorrect or inconsistent information may drop your search ranking.
To prevent that from happening, fill accurate details in your Google My Business (GMB) profile for the following categories – Business Name, Address, Phone Number, Images and Business Hours.
This simple step will make sure your business stays relevant in local search results.
NAP Consistency means your business’s Name, Address, and Phone Number should be in the same format across the web. It helps the search engine understand your business and where you are situated.
Moreover, search engine crawlers are ridiculously detail-oriented. If they notice an inconsistency in your NAP format, it can hinder your search engine ranking.
Review Management System
Nowadays, online reviews play an essential role in creating a perception of a brand. It can be proven from this study performed by Inc.com, which found that 84% of people trust online reviews, like their referrals from friends.
Furthermore, positive reviews can lead to higher conversion of search traffic into customers. Hence, it is important to have a review management system in place.
A review management system is a process of controlling and influencing a consumer’s perception of a business.
It includes tracking of reviews to know where and when they appear, assigning a review monitor, responding to positive reviews, managing negative reviews, encouraging positive organic reviews and so on.
As a local ranking factor, proximity will work best for your business. It’s because Google is determined to optimize local searches by accommodating all kinds of businesses for a local area.
Therefore, to make use of this factor, try creating content based on keywords of local searches.
For example, if you happen to trade sanitizers, try to incorporate relevant local user queries into your website content, explaining its importance during COVID-19.
Mobile Responsive Website
A study by the website Broadband Search found that mobile website traffic had increased by 222% from 2013 to 2019. This data signifies the importance of having a mobile-friendly website for your business.
Having a mobile-friendly or a mobile responsive website ensures that your customers are provided with a positive online experience when they visit your website through mobile devices.
Some of the online tools that help you determine whether your website is mobile-responsive are Google Mobile-Friendly Test, Small SEO Tools, and Bing Mobile Friendliness Test.
Location Centric Keyword Usage
You must research location-centric keywords to ramp up your business’s SEO efforts.
To find such locally relevant SEO keywords, start conducting keyword research. Focus on long-tail keywords for better results. For example, a coffee shop in Bandra will rank better locally than just a coffee shop in Mumbai.
The type of keywords you optimize in your blog or website content will determine where your business appears on the search page.
How do you perceive your audience’s behaviour towards your brand or business? It’s through interactions on your website or your social media.
To understand user behaviour, you must rely on social media activity, such as votes, posts, comments, bookmarks, follows, likes, and shares.
These factors will help search engines determine how relevant your business is. It will help your business rank better on search results, and draw referral traffic to your website.
GMB also stands for Grow My Business!
If your business is affected by COVID-19, you can provide updates about it on your Google My Business Profile. Their special pandemic provision allows you to convey accurate information to your customer.
You can provide the following type of updates on your GMB Profile –
- Your adjusted hours of operation, for instance, if you close early.
- Your business services are experiencing delays.
- Extra services you are providing for the community.
- If your business is “Temporarily closed”.
These updates will show on your GMB profile on Google Search and Maps. It will make sure that your local search ranking remains unaffected.
Here are some more Benefits of GMB Profile –
- Increases Your Visibility on the Web
Whenever you search for places on Google, you must’ve noticed a highly visible map appear right on top of the page. It’s called a local pack, and it increases the visibility of your website.
Firstly, your website will appear on the first fold of the Google search page. It will be easily visible to the user, resulting in higher CTR.
Secondly, the local pack provides accurate information about your business, which helps you connect with your target audience.
Lastly, your business will regularly feature on search queries for local listings in your area.
These reasons ensure your business is visible on the web, and thereby, increase your website’s organic traffic.
- Improves Brand Recall Locally
GMB is immensely helpful to small businesses, thanks to online reviews. A study by Moz showed that reviews make up for 15% of how search engines rank results in Local pack.
Moreover, online reviews influence 93% of customers. Therefore, a positive one will improve your local SEO, lead to more sales, and improve your brand recall.
- Helps to Build Brand Loyalty
Your customers can easily leave feedback on your GMB listing. Keep a track of these feedbacks.
If it’s positive feedback, you can appreciate their gesture and also offer them a discounted deal, which will make them aware of your products or services.
If it’s negative feedback, you can understand their criticism, and look to improve on it, while pitching in your service or product which is popular amongst your happy customers.
This transparent feedback mechanism will help you build and improve your customer relations. It will eventually lead to customers trusting your brand and becoming loyal towards it.
- Instantly notifies You about Customer’s Queries/Reviews
No one’s fond of a business that doesn’t respond. It not only appears to be rude but also ignorant of the business to not entertain their customers.
However, your GMB profile will eliminate that problem. GMB will notify you about a query or a review posted by your customer, which you can reply to in real-time.
This approachable attitude sits well with the customers and encourages them to do business with your brand.
- Offers Free Google Advertising
GMB is a free-to-use-tool that allows your business to promote your products and services organically by increasing your visibility in local search results.
The advertising is free, but the advantages are one-of-a-kind!
Worried about the Economic Slowdown? Beat the Heat with a Long-term SEO Strategy!
So, if you’re looking to cut costs to sustain your business, save the trouble for your SEO efforts. Instead, increase the budget to improve your SEO efforts.
It might sound stupid upon hearing it the first time. But always remember – marketing keeps your business in the minds of existing customers and puts you on the radar of potential customers.
Consistent SEO efforts will keep you relevant and involved online.
Still need the motivation to go ahead with your SEO strategy?
SEO is an indispensable part of your digital marketing strategy. As a local business, it is probably the best way for you to maintain your digital presence right now.
Additionally, it gives you great long term results. Here’s why you should definitely continue investing in SEO…
Your Customers are Searching More
In such an uncertain time, people are actively searching for the latest developments. Therefore, it has increased their online activity by time and volume search.
By using relevant keywords, you can target these people and convert them into website visitors or potential customers.
Continuing SEO While Social Distancing
While COVID-19 has affected your business, you can minimize the impact through a robust SEO strategy. Plus, you can carry on with your business dealings without coming in physical contact with your clients!
By believing in SEO during the pandemic, your business will be well placed to thrive in the post-lockdown economic recovery.
Even if you might not generate your desired number of leads, your efforts will eventually pay huge dividends when you look to expand post-lockdown. You may also emerge as a business powerhouse in your market!