Good SEO reflects what people are actually searching for—not what you wish they were searching for. And that’s perhaps never truer than during periods of global turbulence.
But how can you gain traction with your pivots when you don’t know what huge change might occur in the next 24 hours?
Take the past two years: COVID, seesawing economies, the invasion of Ukraine… But what these events have taught us is that even the most effective and logical SEO strategies remain subject to reevaluation if the online search landscape demands it. Even if your industry isn’t directly tied to world events, you’d probably benefit by shaping your SEO goals more closely to current affairs.
So with that in mind, today let’s explore how marketers can pivot and adjust in times of change and crisis.
What is the role of SEO when the online landscape is so volatile?
SEO’s fundamental purpose is to add value by providing information relevant to people’s searches. That value becomes even more imperative when we find ourselves in a state of acute disruption.
SEO strategies focusing on transactions will generally be far less effective than those that provide users with the expertise your company is uniquely qualified to convey. Let’s say you manufacture car parts. In a crisis, why not focus on supply chain issues and ideate solutions for the problems your target audience of distributors are facing, rather than building a landing page expressing sentiments about an ongoing war unrelated to what you do?
How does turbulence affect your SEO KPIs?
The economy impacts different B2B and B2C companies in different ways. Tech firms scramble for funding, or find themselves under pressure from anxious investors even while their target audiences cut budgets. Retail and eCommerce companies experience tightened customer spending, exacerbated by higher cost of goods. And this is relevant right now, today: people aren’t throwing their money around as they did even just one year ago, in 2021—so your SEO KPIs need to reflect that change before it’s too late.
Let’s start with your SEO conversion rate. While it should still be a KPI, it might not actually be the most helpful optimisation benchmark at present. Instead, why not focus on more upper-to-middle–funnel KPIs:
- time on site
- percentage of returning visitors
- number of touchpoints
- number of pages visited.
These KPIs can then accommodate two key strategies:
- Nurturing and engaging users with valuable information until they’re ready to spend again
- Enhancing your purchasing funnel with content that reassures people they’d be spending their money wisely were they to buy your product or service
There’s a silver lining for SEO in all of this. Disruption leaves gaps in the funnel because of decreased paid media budgets. SEO can fill those gaps. So maintain a holistic view of your marketing goals, and continually analyse how your SEO can contribute to them.
What resources can you draw on to inform your SEO pivots?
While you should always keep a close eye on the macroeconomy and global trends, there are several tools you can use to inform your strategic adjustments as well.
Google Trends and keyword research tools
Understand the topics and queries users are searching for, or those they’re not searching for as much as they did in the past.
Data from paid search
Aligning with your paid search team can gain you access to realtime information on user search behaviours. They can inform you about keyword demand and whether their campaigns are converting more or less without competitive shifts. Either change could indicate an adjustment to the customer journey.
Customers and leads
Cancelled subscriptions and repeat purchase slowdowns are red flags that your target audience’s needs are changing. When you see the signs, consider sending out surveys to collect feedback on their priorities, then incorporate that information into your keyword and content strategies. (Your product and promotional teams will appreciate the free data as well!)
Traffic and impressions
If traffic and impressions are increasing or decreasing despite your rankings staying the same, people’s interests are broadly and swiftly shifting. Cross-reference your data with Google Trends, and look specifically for historical trends (including seasonality) to ensure you’re really looking at the bigger picture.
How can you get instant traction with your pivots?
It can be tough getting your head around the idea of quick results on a long-term channel. After all, SEO is all about trust and authority, so momentum often has to build over time.
But if you focus on long-tail and low-competition keywords to gain interest in your brand, you can actually build that authority with relative speed and boost your backlink volume at pace. For example, while you won’t be able to start immediately ranking for supply chain, you can certainly make headway with why is there a supply chain shortage.
Organic social media can also gain you rapid feedback on topics that resonate with your network. If a post generates a load of constructive engagement across your channels, you’ve likely hit on a subject that would benefit from a deeper dive. Try a LinkedIn poll to surface sentiment, then feed this data into your SEO programme.
However your audience responds, and no matter the information they provide you with, all that data is useful for honing your SEO campaigns. So grab the topics and responses from this pivot and build a keyword list accordingly. This is a great way to think up new blog titles or ideas for guides to optimise your existing marketing pages. And once you start seeing progress on those terms, you could turn your attention to more competitive and higher-volume keywords closely related to the long-tail terms you’d worked with initially.
There are other paths besides SEO, of course
In a time of global turbulence, it’s important to return to your roots with SEO. Depending on your perspective, marketers doesn’t exist only to grow brands and businesses, but also to provide searchers with high-quality answers to their queries and solutions to their problems. And even if SEO’s not the realm you want to focus on right now, that’s okay too—and we can help.
What’s possible for your brand?
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