COVID-19 has changed search behaviours and the whole SERP landscape. This SEO guide from our expert SEO team includes COVID-19 guidance so that you can learn how to be on top of changes that have been happening ever since the pandemic started.
How Has COVID-19 Affected SEO and Search Traffic?
COVID-19 has increased internet usage, affecting SEO and user behaviour. Search trends show that both organic and paid traffic to websites from search results is in decline for a lot of industries. In this post, we will explain why SEO has become so important during the pandemic – especially for small businesses – and the steps you need to follow for COVID-19 optimisation.
Why Has SEO Become Important During the Pandemic?
Even if traffic to many websites from search engines showed a decline, traffic to search engines did not.
Here are the four reasons why SEO became important during COVID-19:
- SEO efforts are long-term. Marketing budgets have inevitably been squeezed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. The good thing about investing in SEO is that – unlike PPC traffic, which will disappear overnight as soon as you pause your campaigns – your efforts continue to pay off long into the future. However, it’s worth noting that positive SEO results are not instantaneous and may take some time to appear.
- Evergreen content. It is always a safe bet to invest in useful and well-written content that won’t go out of date, which has a chance of ranking long-term and bringing in organic traffic to your website. While topics related to COVID-19 are trending for now, eventually interest in them will wane.
- Search engines have become a reliance tool. Now, more than ever, users rely on search engines as a first port of call when seeking out information and assistance. That makes a targeted digital strategy, both SEO and PPC, more crucial than ever before.
SEO Steps During COVID-19
Here are a few simple steps you can take to improve your SEO and help your business stay on top of the latest trends brought about by COVID-19.
Add a COVID-19 banner to your website
Keep your customers updated on the latest information about COVID-19 by adding a banner to the top of your website. This can be created and customised in just a couple of steps through Google Optimize. This is a great way to quickly customise your messaging and even tailor it by location.
Be aware of character limitations for mobile devices for your COVID-19 banner. Keep this in mind when adding a longer message to your website. Your message may appear perfectly fine on a desktop but may be too long on mobile devices. Limit your messages on your mobile site to less than 50 characters, and allow users to close out of the message if they wish.
Keep your website easy to navigate and up to date
For any temporary changes your business had to make due to COVID-19, you can create a personalisation to keep your website – and customers – up to date. For example, you can note any changes in store hours, phone number and so on.
Reduce carousels or any other distractions on your website. Avoid distractions such as automated carousels or animation on your website. If you have important information you want to get across to your customers – for example, how they can place an order during the pandemic – on the same page as the carousel or animation, it could draw attention away from that message.
Update your FAQ page. Your frequently asked questions may be different now compared to last year. According to SEO best practices, it is wise to update your FAQ page every time something changes – or in this case, to answer new questions that may have come about from the pandemic.
Make use of structured data for COVID-19 announcements
Structured data is a way of describing your site to make it easier for search engines to understand. To achieve that, you’ll need a vocabulary that presents content in a way that search engines can understand. Google has introduced structured data for COVID-19 announcements (known as Special Announcement Schema). According to Google:
“Due to COVID-19, many organizations, such governments, health organizations, schools, and more, are publishing urgent announcements that affect schedules and other aspects of everyday life. This includes the closure of facilities, rescheduling of events, and new availability of medical facilities (for example, testing centers). Here are some examples of special announcements:
- Announcement of a shelter-in-place directive
- Closure notice (for example, closing a school or public transportation)
- Announcement of government benefits (for example, unemployment support, paid leave, or one-time payments)
- Quarantine guidelines
- Travel restrictions
- Notification of a new drive-through testing center
- Announcement of an event transitioning from offline to online, or cancellation
- Announcement of revised hours and shopping restrictions
- Disease spread statistics and maps.”
Danny Sullivan, Search Liaison at Google, confirmed that any site may use the Special Announcement schema. You can implement your COVID-19 announcements by adding Special Announcement structured data to your web pages and submit announcements in Search Console.
Update your events listings
Use the new Special Announcement structured data in case an event has moved from a physical location to online or has been cancelled or rescheduled. Keep in mind that if you are using a third party site to announce your events (such as a ticketing website or social platform), you will need to check that they are using this new feature, otherwise your event listing might not be correctly updated.
Update your business hours on Google My Business
If your business hours have been affected by COVID-19, update them through your Google My Business account. Google My Business is a tool that helps you gain more visibility on Google by providing information about your business through the profile you will create. By ensuring your customers are aware of your new business hours, you will avoid confusion, frustration and possible negative reviews from a customer reaching your store only to find it closed.
Stay on top of important trends
Discover the latest trends in your business’ sector. For example, searches for key phrases such as ‘at home workout equipment’ have increased since the pandemic started. So if you have an ecommerce site that sells gym equipment, optimising your site and content with key phrases like that will increase traffic to your website.
Optimise old content that remains relevant
Scan your website and look for content that is old but still relatable to users. Optimise the page by updating the content until it is relevant and up to date (whether it is related to the coronavirus or not). Don’t forget to optimise the following:
- The meta title
- The meta description
- The H1 header
One of the advantages of SEO is that you can start making your website better by building on content you already have.
Update content that is performing well
If a piece of content is already performing well, you can update the content with new information and keyword data, allowing the content to reach its maximum potential.
While we have our fingers and toes crossed that the pandemic will soon reach an end, it’s still useful to keep up with the new SEO features, approaches and overall strategies to ensure your website and content are working as hard for you as they can. If you’d like some expert advice on how your SEO can thrive during the pandemic, please get in touch with our team of experts.