Adapting Your 2020 SEO Strategy to the Impact of Coronavirus

By Tinuiti Team

Three months into 2020 and Coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted nearly all facets of life. People need to make significant changes to their everyday lives in order to adapt to the “new normal”, while businesses must brace for the negative economic impact that will result from people changing their habits for the foreseeable future. 

For businesses to best position themselves through this time of uncertainty, it is worth re-visiting their 2020 SEO strategies and roadmaps to understand the role of SEO in this rapidly changing environment. This guide outlines both short and long term SEO considerations as part of your business’s larger response to COVID-19 and how businesses can adapt areas of their SEO strategies to plan effectively against COVID-19’s impact.

Short Term (Q2/Q3 2020) SEO considerations


Is Your Business “Essential” or “Non-Essential”?

As businesses are closing physical locations throughout the world, they need to be aware of the guidance on what businesses are deemed “essential” and should be open to consumers during a crisis such as this. What is deemed “non-essential” should be closed to encourage social distancing in order to “flatten the curve”. Businesses should follow such guidance and immediately ensure that they actively communicate availability through messaging on their websites and Google My Business profiles.

Main takeaway:

– Determine the essential nature of your business and immediately update your website, Google My Business profiles, and other digital assets to accurately indicate the status of your physical location and how your business will be available for the foreseeable future.

Adapting to Immediate & Significant Shifts in Search Behaviors

In response to guidance on what businesses are considered “essential” and “non-essential”, consumer and search behavior will change accordingly. Businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, will likely see a large influx in search interest for their brand names, as well as their offered products/services, during this time. Conversely, most brand names, products, and services deemed “non-essential” may significantly drop off in search interest as consumers rapidly shift priorities during this period. Brands should closely monitor organic search sessions and conversion numbers for the foreseeable future and should plan to update forecasting, as well as historical reporting, to factor in the impact of COVID-19.

Main takeaway:

Understanding SEO’s Role in Marketing during Times of Rapid Change

Significant changes in economic behaviors will result in businesses being mindful of their overall performance and budgets for the next several months. While it is currently hard for businesses to predict how long COVID-19 will result in significant economic impact, they should be aware of how SEO fits into short-term and long-term marketing strategies to understand how they can effectively plan for SEO during this period. Unlike most paid channels, SEO often cannot immediately shift short term priorities within organic search. Given the current level of economic uncertainty for many businesses and industries, the long-term nature of SEO should be considered when evaluating both paid and organic marketing priorities over the next several months.

Main takeaway:

Prioritize Top/Mid-Funnel Content Initiatives as Consumer Spending Changes

In terms of economic uncertainty, consumers are less likely to spend on products/services that are not deemed essential. With that in mind, businesses should expect that their typical consumer’s behavior will shift over the next few months and investment in top/mid-funnel content can pay off in both the short term and long term. As consumers shift away from actively spending on products/services in the short-term, businesses should best prepare themselves through investment in top/mid-funnel content that helps users that will be shifting back to the awareness and consideration stages of their buyer journey. To influence conversions in the future, focus short-term SEO efforts on developing useful, informative content that can reinforce expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) signals to search engines and customers.

Main takeaway:


Long Term (Q4 2020 and beyond) SEO considerations


Get Started Executing on Your Q4/Holiday 2020 Initiatives – Today

While the nature of COVID-19 requires businesses to consider how they can plan for the next several months, businesses also need to be actively working through efforts for future initiatives to ensure that they are best prepared when the economic outlook begins to improve. Given that consumer spending is likely to reduce in the next several months, businesses should leverage the long-term nature of SEO to ensure that their brands are well optimized and positioned well before periods of increased consumer spending, such as holiday season in Q4. Q4/Holiday season is typically high-volume and high-competition for many industries, particularly retail, that may see performance declines over the next several months. To ensure that your business can make up for potential short term losses, while also ensuring that you can hit future goals, begin to execute on your planned SEO strategies and optimizations for Q4/Holiday 2020 well ahead of time.

Main takeaway:

Plan Large-Scale Digital Transformation to Future Proof Your Business

Currently, COVID-19’s main impact on the world is around social interaction and its impact on businesses and people to go about normal life. Physical locations are closed for the immediate future, supply chains are disrupted, and our general ability to go about everyday life is severely impacted. Another potential impact from COVID-19 will be the hastening of businesses evaluating the digital transformation of their products and services. As a result of COVID-19, conferences have shifted to digital video streams, movie companies have made new movie releases on-demand for streaming services, and many other businesses have had to reevaluate how they can reach customers during a time of social distancing. To best prepare for the future and to future proof against other potential emergencies, brands should see the impact of COVID-19 to be an opportunity to expedite their digital transformation to ensure long-term business health.

Main takeaway:

Example: If your business sells certain goods, can you make something available as a direct download? If your business requires in-person consultations for services, can you leverage teleconferencing as an option?

COVID-19’s Impact on Specific Areas of SEO


Adapting Content Strategy to the “New Normal”

Businesses should be first aware of the direct impact on their specific brand and industry in order to fine-tune their messaging around COVID-19 specifically. Additionally, brands should consider the following areas that COVID-19 and the “new normal” that may impact content strategies for many different industries:


Impact on Technical SEO & Website Development

Given that SEO is very dependent on implementation, the particular focus must be given to businesses’ ability to perform necessary technical updates in the short-term. With the disruption of COVID-19, businesses may not have their typical development structures and processes in place in order to face potential short-term challenges. With that in mind, consider the following items when planning out technical SEO initiatives during this period:


Data and Analytics

As previously discussed, data and analytics for businesses will be directly impacted by COVID-19. Brands should be mindful of the following data and analytics areas when monitoring organic search:


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