What About My SEO in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Since 2006 Trinity has aspired to bring a human touch and feel to the SEO services we provide to our clients. We do this by maintaining a very hands-on and personal level of interest in guiding the success of your business, and the connections we make with each interaction.
In times like these, when everyone is concerned about how COVID-19 will affect both lives and businesses, we at Trinity want to assure you that our work has not stopped.
While this blog post won’t answer every question you have and is certainly not meant to be your health advisory, we hope that it’ll at least provide guidelines for how your website and inventory can be maintained moving forward.
Trinity has enacted a company-wide work from home policy to help keep our staff safe and close to their loved ones. It is one way in which we are helping to slow/stop the spread of this virus. What does this change? For you, not much.
Business as usual?
For the most part, yes. Assuming you make no changes to your website in relation to the coronavirus, your SEO efforts and priorities need not change, either. Please don’t worry that, because of the current state of things, you need to stall digital marketing practices. Now is the best time to prioritize website improvements and digital campaigns!
Here we shall provide you with a few tips about what you can do right now to mitigate negative impacts to your SEO—as well as a few things that you shouldn’t do.
Google My Business (GMB)
If you have been instructed or encouraged to temporarily close physical locations, be sure to update your business hours in Google My Business (GMB). Don’t list your business as closed in GMB! This is a permanent action that would affect not only the organic traffic to your site but also foot traffic in the future.
Google also advises that business owners and agencies update the business description field to include information about the impact of COVID-19. If there are any questions your customers are frequently asking, feel free to pose the question and answer to these in the Q&A section of Google My Business.
- Update as of 3/23/2020 GMB will not longer be publishing FAQ’s, New Reviews or Review Replies until further notice. During this time GMB will prioritize New listings, Claims and Verifications. Click here for more information!
Store Locator & Local Pages
If you manage one or more physical locations, you may or may not be affected by state-wide closures or curfews. Most important is to make sure your customers have the most accurate information. So, update your store hours and closings, whether through your CMS or a third-party app. Ensure the phone number(s) displayed is up to date. And finally, make sure your customers are informed. Write up one or two sentences briefly talking about COVID-19 on any location-based pages.
Of course, all this can be done in minutes if you use our SEO Cloud service. Everything you need to know about this service can be found here.
Website Interstitials & Banners
In an effort to be informative, we sometimes neglect best practices. One of the ways that we have seen this happen is with interstitials that are neither user or search engine-friendly.
Often, they are too large and crowd the visitors’ ability to navigate the site, or they require the visitor to click out of an intrusive standalone interstitial. Worse yet, when the above-the-fold portion is similar in design to the original page, yet the visitor is viewing a standalone interstitial with the original page inlined underneath the fold. Meaning, the visitor believes they are seeing the page but in truth, it’s a pop-up. If you think that was frustrating to read, imagine your visitors trying to escape its effects!
Let’s talk pop-ups. As effective as they are, try to postpone triggering them until after your visitors have interacted with your content. Nothing impedes organic searchers like landing on a page and being immediately confronted with an unrelated pop-up. Simple solutions can be anything from delaying them for a few seconds to activation by scroll. Either of those at least allows your visitors a moment to take in your site. If your site is indexed mobile-first, try to ensure pop-ups are only applied to the desktop.
Another way we’ve seen clients overcompensate is with banners. Try to maintain a reasonable screen-to-banner space ratio. If you are planning to use announcement banners, avoid the use of stylistic headings (H1, H2, etc.) and obtrusive designs that block the main content. If you want to be truly savvy, go ahead and link to more information like FAQ or a Contact Us. The more you know, right?
If a product is out of stock, unavailable for shipping or limited in supply, follow typical SEO best practices for webpage management. This is not the time to remove items from your website. Instead, temporary solutions are best. We suggest starting with an explanation as to why the product is unavailable, whilst doing the best you can to not sound like excuses are being made.
Offer alternative but similar products, or better yet, offer email notification when the product is back in stock and incentives to return.
Provide your visitor with other options, like:
- A field to input their email for notifications when the product is back in stock (which will aid in your email marketing efforts at the same time…)
- Include estimated dates of availability (but remember, it’s better to under-promise and over-perform!)
- Stick in a reminder of why supplies are low. Add a couple of sentences accounting for the situation and link to a more informative webpage, if you have one.
FAQ & Contact Us
Before you know it, you’re at the FAQ & Contact Us. This is the last stand before you’re inevitably hit with emails and calls. So why not tackle as much of that as possible now? You want to assure your visitors that, even if they can’t get into your stores, the online features are still there to be utilized.
Right off the bat, update your FAQ page with a simple overview of what your company is doing in this heightened state. When or if inventory is going to be affected or replenished. If and how users can request a refund, exchange or return. Whether they’ll be able to reschedule, rebook or pre-pay. How soon they’ll be able to contact a representative, and when is an appropriate time to call or email.
Here is where a little content can go a long way towards reducing the volume of calls, emails, tweets, and other customer service lines.
Areas of Opportunity & Things to Avoid
While business is presumably slower, and hours need to be filled, why not take the time to catch up on a few items often overlooked?. Here are a few suggestions:
· Focus on content development. Content strategies can operate BAU, regardless of the coronavirus’ impact on sales, personnel or events. Now is a fantastic time to earn competitive ranking for long-tail queries, focus on top-of-funnel searchers, and build a cache of resources to share through social media and email, where activity is high.
· Improve your internal linking structure. SEO hygiene is often relegated to “when we have time”. Well, now we have it! Have your analyst conduct a crawl of your website and identify outdated internal links that are redirecting or 404’ing. Replacing and removing them will help to improve the perception of quality across your site.
· Work through the backlog of technical work. Rather than ramp up new activities, complete pesky technical tasks whose tickets have been sitting idle in the queue. The technical SEO recommendations your agency makes may sound dry—but in truth, they’re often among the most impactful changes you can make to increase organic traffic.
· Audit your site and ID potential roadblocks. Has it been a while since you had a fresh SEO audit conducted on your site? Perhaps you’ve never had one done? This is an ideal time to have one done, as it’s unlikely much will be changing on your website in the coming weeks. Have a professional assess your website’s functionality, your platform’s capabilities, and the shortcomings of your current structure and content. This will give you a healthy queue of tasks to prioritize—some of which you’ll be able to tackle right away!
Conversely, now more than ever it’s important to consider website changes with SEO in mind.
What you don’t want to do is:
· Make premature deletions of webpages you might want to bring back later
· Block crawlers or users from pages whose traffic you might need to bring back later
· Make drastic changes to the site’s top navigation
· Make changes to the homepage of your site
If you’re considering any of these, book a complimentary strategy session with a member of our team! We’ll offer some advice on alternatives that won’t hinder your rankings or traffic.
This is one of the most trying times of this generation. The last thing we want to do is make light of a life-altering event we can directly affect by simply being better at what we already do. Keep your visitors informed about how to access you and your products and services, but also how to stay safe and retain the ability to make informed decisions.