SEO in Time of COVID-19 – How a Pandemic Changed User Behavior

In the midst of the health crisis, economies all over the world are left in ruins. The gloomy business landscape led to lower budgets, lackluster sales, and changing goals. Millions of businesses closed down and people lost jobs left and right. There is so much uncertainty going on right now and there’s no real answer when we’ll return to our normal lives.

But there is a silver lining for marketers in time of COVID-19. Home quarantining led people to stay online longer than ever before. This led to changes in online search  that online marketers could take advantage of.

How COVID-19 Changed Online Search Behavior

Changes in Search Terms

Some of the hardest-hit industries by the health crisis are the travel and leisure industries. Because more people are staying at home, online searches have transitioned to interest-based search terms, like baking sourdough bread, at-home yoga workout, indoor activities for kids, DIY and crafting, free courses, best video conferencing tools, or best shows to stream\ online.

Medical and holistic terms such as antiviral foods, sanitizing products, home remedies, handwashing, and antibacterial remedies are also high on the list of trending search terms.

On the outs are searches related to hotels, Airbnb, travel destinations, airfare rates, airline information, and luxury goods (bags, perfume, shoes, etc.). Inquiries related to dining out at restaurants and cafes are also on a steady decline.

By studying the changes in search terms, you can adjust your marketing messages so it resonates with your target audience at these unpredictable times.

Changes in Google SERP Features

Google has already adjusted its SERP features to address the health crisis. For instance, if the search term “coronavirus," was used in the searches, Google will present new panels that provide tidbits of useful information about the virus.

Usually, these infos were pulled from trusted sources like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC and The World Health Organization or WHO. Wikipedia, among other sites that consistently topped the searches for years, were replaced by WHO, CDC, WebMD, Healthline, Medical News Today, and other medical research sites.

How a Pandemic Changed User Behavior in SEO

How to Respond to SEO Changes

Have a COVID-19 Page Landing Page

You don’t have to own a medical research website to create a COVID-19 landing page. One way to get noticed during this transition is to create your own landing page that informs your customers what is happening at your business. The COVID-19 landing page could be used to:

  • Outline the services that customers can expect during lockdowns
  • What new processes the business has during the home quarantine period
  • Your operating hours
  • Other questions related to the health crisis and your business.

By creating a COVID-19 page, you can answer questions related to your business while also taking advantage of the changing search trends.

Keep an Eye on the Search Trends

It pays to keep an eye on the changing search trends during and after the pandemic. This way, you can adjust your marketing messages, website content, and SEO accordingly. Implementing changes according to the search trends gives you that rare opportunity to overtake the competition on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)! Suddenly, your website will be topping the searches without going through the motions like you used to. The best part? Your updated content will still make an impact long after the pandemic has passed.

Relevance and Credibility Matter More than Ever 

Gone are the days when websites would rank by laying the keywords thickly. These days, sophisticated algorithms and AI are used to evaluate the relevance of website content. You can still reap great results by optimizing your content with keyword phrases but building trust should be a priority.

The first step to build a trusted website is to provide credible content. That means being careful about the information that you are putting out there. Be sure that your references are credible, no fake news, no shady, unreliable sources. Check and re-check any information you find before building your content around it.

Be sure that whatever you publish on your website is relevant to your business. Even if your business is not related to the pandemic, there are ways to maneuver around it to align the information with government/WHO guidelines. However, stop short at manipulating the system for your own gain or you’ll get penalized by Google.

How the Health Crisis Changed SEO User Behavior

Keep Your Site Secure

Don’t let a pandemic keep you from safeguarding the security of your website. Everyone’s distracted at this point and hackers are taking advantage of the situation! If you have a lot of free time on your hands, now is a good time to ramp up your website security.

Always monitor and identify the crawlers that have access to your website, check if there are malicious activities going on. Protect your website from hackers by implementing single sign-on or SSO so you have more control over those who are signing in to your website. Keep your readers safe from phishing activities by using SSL. Finally, make sure that all the apps and plugins you use are up to date.

Improve Site Responsiveness

Everyone’s at home anxiously waiting for the pandemic to be over and the last thing they want is a website that takes forever and a day to load! Because more people are spending a longer time online, your website could receive more attention. If your site is too slow, you’re not making the best impression on readers.

Keep your readers engaged by working on the loading time of your website during the pandemic. You want your website to be as responsive as can be. To start, try using Google’s PageSpeed Insights to determine your website loading speed.

If your website loading times need more work, reduce the size and resolution of your image files. Avoid using graphics that are too heavy because these will slow your loading time down.

Time for (SEO) Spring Cleaning!

If you've been putting certain website updates off because you were busy then, take this time to do these now. Delete old content that's no longer in line with your current brand. The same thing can be said for images, videos, and other visuals that no longer belong to your current brand. If you've got broken links, redirects to old results, old meta descriptions, etc. now's a good time to update, delete, or optimize so by the time everything goes back to the way it was, your website content is spot on.

The world may be at a standstill until a vaccine for COVID-19 has been developed but don’t let a pandemic keep you from building the best SEO strategy for your online business. Again, more and more people are spending a longer time online and this is your rare chance to improve your SEO strategy to outperform the competition!

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