Chances of SEO & online marketing in times of crisis

Aktualisiert: 14. Juli 2020

A time of crisis is also a time of important questions, especially if budgets get tight. Should food brands stop investing in online marketing and SEO, or can the internet and e-commerce support business activities right now and beyond? Let´s take a closer look at this important decision.

The corona crisis has the potential to decimate global wealth by three to four trillion US dollars ($3,000,000,000 to $4,000,000,000,000) or more. This is not really news, as Bill Gates already predicted the scenario in a TED talk in 2015. However, e-commerce, which is less dependent on physical contact, is considered the winner of the crisis so far. But, depending on the industry, also some e-commerce players are still being hit hard, from travel to fashion or luxury items. The food industry, on the other hand, is seeing a big shift from shopping in stationary retail to online purchase, and this trend might actually stay much longer than the actual crisis. In some cities, food services are exploding by up to +500% at the moment. But what does that mean for online marketing investments, if times are still “unsure”?

Budget freeze or great opportunity: Three possible scenarios

In crises like this one, (marketing) budgets are often reflexively frozen or at least massively reduced. If we look at the possible outcomes of each behavior, those 3 scenarios can occur:

1. Investments in SEO, content marketing and link building remain the same: Those who keep their investment levels the same can in all likelihood expect visibility to improve, as web traffic is currently going up and so is the unique traffic on each single site that still invests in organic traffic.

2. Investments in SEO, content marketing and link building are increased: Anyone who invests even more in a company´s online marketing activities now is very likely to see considerable growth due to some disappearance of competition and a generally increased online traffic.

3. Investments in SEO, content marketing and link building are frozen: Anyone who almost stops investing in online marketing now must expect that their brand will not be able to return to their starting position easily and at the same price after the crisis.

If I am unsure, is waiting the right decision?

For some industries, "wait and see" is a better decision than for others. The aviation industry is a particularly good example. Extremely high expenses due to expensive operating materials, gigantic loans that have to be paid back on time. Perhaps it makes sense here to reduce all expenditures to zero where possible. However, other sectors who can consider themselves “winners” of the crisis – e.g. the food industry – should not wait too much with investing in their online marketing activities again.

It can become more expensive to wait with online marketing now

This is especially true for activities such as search engine optimization, which have a lead time of several months anyway. Those who invest in SEO, content and links now will not see the results until two to three months at the earliest anyway - in time for the first wave of the corona crisis to subside. Possibly there will be several waves and the topic of corona may well continue to be relevant for 18 months or longer. In other words, investments not made right now will have a negative effect on online visibility a long way down the road in the future. And it will be harder to gain traffic back again, as the competition will rise drastically some months down the road, when all brands are starting up their online marketing investments again, so the web will become even more “noisy and expensive”.

Shifting from SEA to SEO, where appropriate

But what does all this mean in concrete terms when it comes to designing one's own online marketing for a food business during the corona pandemic? First of all, looking at the data gives very important insights. If currently, money is invested in SEA, but the booked PPC keywords do not convert well at the moment, this budget can be shifted into longer-term SEO measures. Putting energy into promoting the top 5 organic rankings of a website can make more sense right now in terms of budget allocation and it will show long-term effects. SEA can be started again once the company is back to “business as usual”, but without the pressure of having to catch up on the investments held back during the crisis.

Of course, it is also important for sites with good rankings to do everything possible now so as not to lose them to competitors, so ongoing analysis is a key factor again.

What is certain in those times is that Google must continue to function as it did before because of its principles. The algorithm will only undergo minor additional changes. The two main components that have been used for ranking calculations since 1998 remain the same: content & links.

Content for Corona crisis

For the next two to three months and for each subsequent wave thereafter, the question arises as to whether most websites should report on current and user-relevant topics at all. At first, this may feel wrong. But life goes on.

So now more than ever, it is important to think about one's own customers and target groups and to do everything possible to focus attention on what is important, namely enjoying life again. The production of content that likes to think outside the box or is relevant for the time being is becoming all the more important. It might be family recipes, virtual date night cooking or the best “kitchen songs playlist” – get creative with your brand and the things you stand for.

Knowing your customers is key and giving them what they expect from you – maybe with a little hint here and there on the current situation – will let them perceive your brand as being even closer to them than before. Because customer-centric communication, especially in the online channels, will always bring the best results.

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