How to Build a Winning SEO Strategy for the COVID-19 Recovery

Derek Andersen Copywriter, DialogTech

With budget fluctuations and uncertainty in advertising markets, SEO has become critical as a stable and reliant resource to reach customers. As search behavior patterns change and brands’ marketing strategies pivot, the SEO tactics that your business uses should evolve too.

In this installment of our Embracing Evolution webinar series, our VP of Marketing Dave McAnally and Director of Agency Partnerships and Development Jennie Pisnoy (virtually!) sat down with Dan Toplitt, SVP and Head of US SEO at Reprise Digital, to discuss how SEO tactics have evolved and what the most successful brands are doing differently.

In addition to sharing SEO wisdom, our speakers also chatted about the most unusual searches they’ve run since quarantine started. These searches include fanny packs, rock tumbling, and petrichor candles (for the uninitiated, petrichor is “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather”).

Check out the full conversation, What a Winning SEO Strategy Looks Like Right Now, for all of Dave, Dan, and Jennie’s insights. And for all of the top takeaways from the on-demand webinar, read on.

What Is the Role of SEO Right Now and What Are the Biggest Challenges?

Since the COVID-19 outbreak started, SEO has become more important than ever. With many companies cutting their media budget, Dan recommends using SEO as a means to reach customers. In addition, by analyzing search volume trends, SEOs can provide valuable insights about shifts in consumer demand and pivots that marketing departments should make.

According to Dan, one of the biggest challenges for SEOs right now is how rapidly consumer demand is shifting. If you’re getting intent data from tools that pull weekly or monthly, you’re not going to be able to move quickly enough. Today’s most successful brands are publishing new content and updating their websites in step with shifts in consumer behavior — not a week-plus behind them.

Dave chimed in that first-party data is crucial to ascertain day-to-day changes in consumer demand. Companies should look to their web analytics tools and other channels — like inbound phone calls — to understand the needs of their customers. For example, DialogTech customers are capturing conversation analytics data on phone calls driven from their webpages and making updates to those webpages to address questions callers are frequently voicing.

What Permanent Changes Will COVID-19 Bring to the SEO Landscape?

Dan believes COVID-19 will drive an evolution of how consumers use the digital world to interact with the physical world. More brands are starting to offer virtual financial advisory services and telemedicine — Dan anticipates that consumers will acclimate to receiving these services digitally, even when there are no social distancing measures in place. He also anticipates COVID-19 will impact the physical layout of retail stores, restaurants, and other business locations long-term.

In order to implement these changes effectively, SEO can’t be a silo. SEOs need to understand consumer demand shifts and help disparate teams optimize the digital world to reflect those behavior changes and new service offerings. They also need to create website content that clearly communicates their new services offerings and drives conversions.

Dave agreed that SEOs should be heavily involved in creating a frictionless customer journey — especially online. Search engine algorithms are getting smarter and they’re prioritizing webpages that provide high-quality page experiences, relevant content that’s placed intuitively, and seamless customer experiences. Dave anticipates SEO and UX will converge even more in the future.

What Are the Biggest Mistakes SEOs Are Making Right Now?

One of the biggest SEO pitfalls Dan is seeing is that companies are not giving their SEO teams a seat at the decision-making table. Rather than using SEO and intent data to help formulate a marketing strategy, brands are asking SEOs to react to a pre-baked marketing strategy. This is detrimental, since search engines offer rich intent data that can be used to gain insights into the wants and needs of consumers.

Looping in SEO also has benefits downstream — Reprise Digital found that clients who used their SEO services saw 38% lower CPCs than brands who didn’t.

Dave said one of the biggest mistakes SEOs are making is failing to translate what their wins mean to other stakeholders in the business. Sitting on top of page one for your keywords is great, but SEOs need to think about how they can tie that to business value — how many visits is the ranking driving and are those visits resulting in conversions?

What Role Does the Voice of the Customer Play in SEO? Is that Role Shifting?

Dan says there is no difference between SEO and the voice of the customer — they’ve converged. Search is the easiest way for consumers to ask questions, identify what they don’t know, and learn new information. But SEO isn’t the only channel where marketers can capture data from the voice of the customer. To identify intent patterns, SEOs should also capture data from other touchpoints and channels, including social media and phone call conversations.

Dave added that search engines are the new focus groups for companies and SEOs should take advantage of them in the same way. He also mentioned how brands are using DialogTech’s call analytics to capture insights from phone conversations at scale. These insights from calls can provide SEOs with additional insights into consumer behavior shifts and inform their pivots.

For example, a DialogTech customer in the senior care space noticed a huge volume of callers were inquiring about grocery delivery once COVID-19 hit. They were able to react quickly to this spike to build a better web experience for grocery delivery and position it as a core service to meet consumer demand.

For more insights on how marketers can adapt their strategies for COVID-19 and beyond, watch the on-demand video, What a Winning SEO Strategy Looks Like Right Now.

To learn best practices for driving more appointments and customers during the COVID-19 recovery, download our eBook, Driving Appointment Calls From Paid Search After COVID-19.

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