The events of the past few weeks have disrupted our daily lives in significant ways, and will continue to have long-lasting effects on how we work and communicate in the months to come. While the world works to adapt, businesses around the globe are wondering about the best ways to proceed, and how to continue communicating their messages to their audience most effectively.
As digital marketing professionals with years of experience in the fast-changing online space, we at Lilo wanted to share some insights with our clients on marketing and SEO in the time of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Physical Distance, Digital Connection
Some countries are practising social distancing while others are facing full lock-down and quarantine procedures. Thanks to today’s technology, this doesn’t mean we are cut off from each other entirely. An Internet connection is all that’s needed for people to keep in contact with their friends, families and colleagues – this is allowing many of us to continue with our work, and it’s also presenting a wealth of opportunities for you as a business to engage with your consumers.
Now is not the time to panic and go silent. Now is the time to explore new and creative ways of adapting, to keep your brand on the map and even boost its visibility.
The Changing Face of Marketing in a Post-Coronavirus World
The spread of the virus has prompted many employers to allow their teams to work remotely, and many shoppers have turned to e-commerce sites as well, in an attempt to limit their time out in public.
With fewer commuters on the road, and fewer people filling up shopping malls, marketing channels like signage, billboards and point-of-sale displays are no longer reaching the audience they have in the past. In addition to that, large-scale events are being cancelled which is costing both sponsors and traders some major marketing opportunities.
All this means we are set to see an uptick in online marketing efforts as companies work to reach consumers in their homes – and that in turn means we’re about to see the digital space get more competitive than ever before. With this in mind, it pays to ramp up your digital marketing efforts right now, rather than cut back on them.
Emerging Media Consumption Trends
Studies are showing us how the current crisis has started to impact the way people consume media. So far, surveys have revealed the following:
People are watching more TV (this includes streaming services and video-on-demand). In the US, there has been a 10% increase in TV consumption among adults aged 25-54 years, and a 10% increase among kids aged 2-17 years.
In South Korea, there was a 17% increase in TV viewing during a surge in the virus (mid to late February). Italy noticed a 6-12% increase (depending on the region), as more consumers were forced to stay indoors and more stay tuned to the latest news.
The number of minutes readers are spending on news sites has increased by 46%, compared to this time last year.
In the UK alone, an estimated 300 local Coronavirus support groups have been created on Facebook, to share information and discuss the unfolding situation. These groups have a combined membership of more than one million people.
In addition to this, more traditionally social events like concerts and DJ sets are now being streamed online. It’s clear that in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, we will see a shift towards more people not only turning to online sources for news and information, but also for socialising and a sense of community.
In light of these trends and developments, Lilo has some guidelines for businesses looking to keep thriving during this challenging time.
How to Engage with Your Audience Right Now
Step Up Your Content Marketing Game
In the digital marketing world, content marketing is used to help brands develop a long-term relationship with their audience through non-promotional online content that adds value to consumers’ lives. This includes blog posts, video content and infographics, as well as e-mail campaigns and social media campaigns.
Whereas advertising is promotional, content marketing is more about creating a story and a persona around your brand, providing information that customers are looking for. This content can be used to educate, inspire or entertain your target audience, cementing a relationship with them that will last long after the pandemic panic has died down.
By shifting your focus to content marketing, you can stay in touch with consumers who are staying in their homes, and increase your business pipeline during this uncertain time. With the help of a specialist agency to guide you, you can ensure that you’re putting the right kind of content out there and engaging with the right people.
Stay On Top of Search
Search Engine Journal says it best – “Humans still need products and services”. Consumers are still going to be searching online – possibly more than usual if certain goods and services become scarce, or are perceived as scarce.
In terms of marketing, this is a good time to harness the power of paid and organic search – a combination of SEO and PPC marketing – to reach customers with buying intent. Use tools like Google Trends to monitor what users are searching for the most. You may be able to offer products and services that meet the consumers’ needs directly, or you may find opportunities to create online content that will answer their queries.
Embrace Online Opportunities
Is there a portion of your business that currently operates offline, and could be shifted online? Are there ways to reach consumers online that you aren’t already using (such as virtual store tours or online shopping and delivery)? If your web presence is lacking, you will get left behind. Work to improve your current online presence to offer a smoother, quicker path to conversion – and look at ways to alter your business model that will allow you to shift to the online space.
Optimise, Optimise, Optimise
Just about every brand out there is trying to rank for trending terms right now, so make sure you get it right. Strong, user-friendly optimisation helps to set you apart, in the eyes of consumers as well as search engines. Consult with a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) professional, to help you optimise your content in the right way, be it your website, your blog or your social media presence.
Take Advantage of Video
We’ve talked extensively about the rising popularity of video content, with 72% of businesses reporting that using video has noticeably improved their conversion rates. On top of this, we are naturally using online video chat and web conferencing platforms to communicate even more than before, thanks to the need for social distancing and quarantining. This presents the ideal opportunity for your brand to create more vlogs, webinars and podcasts, to engage with your audience in an informative way.
Take Your Training Online
Businesses offering in-person consulting or training (such as fitness instructors, counsellors and business consultants) now need to find ways to coach their clients online for safety’s sake. If you are in an industry like this, the time is ripe to start offering slick, professional online training that will set you apart from your competitors.
Did You Know? It’s estimated that by 2025, the e-learning sector will be valued at $158 billion. So if you haven’t started exploring this trend already, this is absolutely the time to get on board and start incorporating it into your business.
Host a Digital Event
Brands like IBM have been leading the way here, adapting their plans for live summits and events to become digital events instead. This is a good lead for businesses to follow, and presents an opportunity for those within sectors to come together and create unique, immersive online experiences for their consumers. Organising or attending a digital event will help to keep your brand’s visibility high, while keeping your consumers and collaborators safe.
Work on Building Trust
You can use search marketing during this time for effective crisis communications. If the supply of your products or services is slowing down, or your operating hours are changing, or you are making changes to your business model, your consumers want to know.
You can harness search engine marketing to guide them to landing pages with pertinent information, or make important announcement on your brand’s social media platforms. Be honest and transparent, and keep the lines of communication open to let your audience know how you’re responding to the situation. Search marketing is an invaluable tool for reputation management and trust.
That said, it’s important to consider what your audience wants from you right now. Will they be reassured by a “business as usual” approach, or will they consider that to be tone-deaf? It’s important here to strike a balance between content that is relevant to your brand, and content that is relevant to the crisis. The right marketing specialist can help you to produce pieces of content that are informative and unique.
Don’t Cut Corners
With the world facing economic uncertainty, and many companies being extra-careful with the way they budget, it may be tempting to opt for a cheap SEO service, or to save money by buying a bundled marketing service. Don’t be fooled – this is a case where saving pennies in the short run will cost you pounds in the long run.
Instead of looking for a “cheap and easy” fix, the best thing you can do for your brand is to work with a specialist, who can advise you on where to focus your efforts, and show you how best to allocate your marketing budget. Low-cost, low-quality SEO will leave you with low rankings and low traffic. Bad SEO practices could even land you a Google penalty.
Keep Thinking Long-Term
At the end of the day, SEO and digital marketing are long-term strategies. Search engines don’t take a break during a crisis, so neither should your online marketing efforts. In fact, you might even want to take advantage of a couple of slower months to implement those “nice to have” projects that have been on the back-burner for a while.
This is a good opportunity to take stock of your current online presence, and identify where you can improve the quality. This will translate to more successful marketing in the months to come. If your competitors are scaling back and you’re forging ahead, you’ll also emerge on the other side of the crisis with a significant advantage. Whether it’s building links, crafting blogs or doing some in-depth keyword research, you should definitely be seizing the opportunity to refine your SEO during this unexpected business lull.
The Lilo team would like to assure all our clients that while we are taking the COVID-19 outbreak very seriously and are taking all the recommended precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, we are also here for you and ready to carry on full steam ahead with your SEO and online marketing plans. The beauty of digital marketing is that it allows our team to work remotely in a healthy and safe environment, while still facilitating online meetings and consultations, and working in close collaboration with each of our valued clients.
Get in touch with Lilo today, and let’s talk about developing the best SEO and search marketing strategies to help your brand go from strength to strength.