Coronavirus SEO: Tips for SEO Agencies and the Travel Industry During COVID-19

17 April, 2020
Image created by Dalysay on Imgur

Your daily dose of coronavirus humor! Now for the real stuff…

Yes. This is another coronavirus article. What can we say? It’s impossible to escape!

However, this coronavirus blog post is right up your alley if you are an SEO agency or in the travel industry.

COVID-19 has rattled the world to its core, reaching nearly every conceivable corner of the globe. As entire countries go into complete lockdown, forcing all but hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets to close, there is a reverberating fear of not only the mortality rate, but also the coronavirus’ impact on the economy. 
This specific post will dip into the coronavirus impact on searches and the economy, tips for SEO agencies during an economic crisis and advice for the travel industry.

Coronavirus Impact on searches and the economy

There’s no sense in beating around the bush when it comes to the impact COVID-19 has had on both search queries and the global economy: it’s been drastic.

Neil Patel generated a great graph displaying the conversion growth or decline of varying industries due to the coronavirus outbreak. While nearly all industries saw a drastic decline, the construction and travel industries were hit the worst. Very few industries saw growth, and you guessed it, they were food, healthcare, media and pharmaceuticals.

Microsoft Advertising also generated a Travel Update report which highlights that 80% of Americans (38% of Britons) were forced to cancel or postpone travel as of March 2020. Now, I imagine those figures have since increased quite significantly due to the growing spread of the virus.

So with a vast majority of the world now in some form of quarantine or lock down, people have more time than ever with their laptops or mobile devices. So, what are they searching for? 

The same Microsoft report highlighted that travel related searches have significantly decreased, but there has been a slight upward tick in the number of travel related searches for 2021. This could be related to companies in the travel industry already providing information or offers for 2021, knowing that the industry could/should rebound by then.

Google Trends is also a great place to explore what people have been searching for as of late, and they even have a specific section for coronavirus search trends. While searches related specifically to coronavirus have skyrocketed, other searches related to home delivery (i.e. Amazon, food delivery services, etc), home entertainment (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO) and anything else which results in spending weeks at home (like “how to” videos) have soared.

Photo by EpicTop10 / License

Coronavirus impact on SEO

With all these changes to searcher intent and the global economy, there’s no hiding the fact that the coronavirus has had an impact on SEO agencies.

Depending on what type of SEO agency you are, what industry you work in and what type of SEO services you provide, you may have been hit harder than others. But there is no hiding the fact that you were most likely hit in some regard. 

As the loss of clients in most sectors is inevitable, and the decrease in marketing budgets is likely, SEO companies are having to re-adjust how they attack the onslaught of SEO changes from the global pandemic.

However, as SEO experts we are in a privileged position in that we can still perform SEO from anywhere in the world. We aren’t tied down as brick-and-mortar businesses are, so we already are a step ahead. We also aren’t reliant on SEM which focuses heavily on paid search, and thus has felt the reverberation from the economic impact.

So as SEO professionals, what can we do in the meantime to ensure we conquer the crisis? Below we’ll list out certain things you can do as an SEO agency during these times to set yourself up for a bright future when the pandemic passes. 

Bend but don’t break. Be open to pivoting your business. Be proactive!

Clear and consistent communication with clients

Your clients are arguably your most important asset. Be sure you treat them that way!

Regardless of the current situation between you and your clients, we highly recommend staying in contact with them. Depending on the circumstances, you can cater your messages in different ways, but let them know that you are there to help in any way you can. 

We are also humans, and in times such as these it is nice to receive messages from others who care about your wellbeing on a level not related to business. You will see, these types of connections can, and will, build trusting working relationships in the future. 

And also remember, it’s much easier to retain an existing client/customer than acquire a new one!

Ask for reviews

Current and former clients are great resources! 

Now that we have more time on our hands we can reconnect with old clients, or stay in touch with current clients, and ask for reviews.

Reviews are great for two reasons: (1) we can add them to our website to generate more credibility with future clients and (2) we can use them as feedback in order to improve our services.

Photo by MACVILLANO / License

Help others

Now more than ever we need to help each other! There are different ways to do that…

Now I’m not talking about donating money. Obviously, if you are in a position to do so, great! However, I am referring to helping clients (or potential clients) and others in the world of SEO. These are great ways to build credibility and build fruitful relationships.

Helping current or potential clients

Many companies have had to pause SEO services or completely terminate contracts. While this collateral damage from the coronavirus pandemic hurts, it’s a great chance to show your sincerity and commitment to these clients.

Here are ways you can help:

  • Offer discounts – this is one way to keep a moderate revenue flow while offering the same great SEO services at a reduced rate
  • Offer free services (pro-bono): It’s highly likely your clients are  unable to pay at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them until the check book opens back up. Offering free services is one way to show your loyalty and commitment, while also placing yourself at the ‘top of the list’ for when things turn around.
  • Free consultations: People have a lot of time on their hands at the moment, now is a great time to reach out to potential new clients and offer free consultations to show them what you can offer them and what type of unique plan you would devise specifically for them.

Helping other SEO professionals

The SEO community is unique and tight knit, and now is a great time to connect with other like minded individuals and help out. 

While some of us may be more equipped to help than others, everyone can potentially add their grain of salt. Here are a few ways:

  • Free courses: If you’re in a position to offer free courses it’s a great way to build trust amongst the community while at the same time marketing yourself. One example (of many) is MOZ Academy offering their online courses for free.
  • Webinars: Online webinars via Zoom are a hot trend right now, so why not produce a webinar which you know could be helpful to others in the SEO industry.
  • Offer your platform for free: Some SEO agencies offer their own SEO tools, so now would be a great time to offer those tools for free. You’ll have SEO experts from all over flocking to your tool, and once the pandemic passes you may very well gain a lot of new subscribers! One tool we recently signed up for is SpyFu and they were incredibly generous in offering two free months of their platform.

Paid Ads

I know, SEO prides itself on performing well in organic search, but now might be the time to take advantage of some paid options…especially if you need new clients. 

The coronavirus impact on marketing has been substantial, causing the price of paid advertising on platforms such as Google and Facebook to drop drastically, in some cases up to 50% according to Brain Dean of Backlinko. With traffic on the web up and the price of paid advertising down, there’s no better time than now to jump into the paid advertising game, if you have the savings to do so of course.

This is also a great way to show you are agile and willing to change your form of marketing based on what the current situation presents to you.

Internal Focus

Now is the perfect chance to take your foot off the pedal and use this time to focus internally on your own business. It’s an opportunity to tie up loose ends, optimize your work flows and improve whatever needs to be improved.

Here are just a few ideas for you and your staff to think about during these unusual times:

  • Improve your website: Updating schemas, performing a keyword refresh and using tools like Hotjar to improve your website navigation are just a few things you can do.
  • Trial and error with your own website: Maybe there are certain things you want to try but don’t want to risk it on a paying client, well why not try it on your own website? Perhaps there is a certain WordPress Plugin that has always tempted you…
  • Blog Content: SEO and content marketing go hand-in-hand. Preparing content for later in the year when things will be on an upward trend, improving old blog posts and building your content bank are great uses of time during this slower period. Google Trends and Exploding Topics are two great resources for content ideas.
  • Team Meetings: Don’t fall out of touch with those valuable assets called employees. These are the people who make your business churn, so stay in touch with them consistently via video meetings.
  • Learn new things: As already mentioned, now is a great time to learn new things. From free online SEO courses to live webinars, this is the perfect opportunity to learn something new which you can implement in your own SEO services.
  • ORGANIZE: When business is full fledged we usually focus on the clients first and leave internal organisation by the wayside. Now is the time to improve work flows, organize content calendars and generally everything associated with having your ducks in a row.
  • Plan for the future: Set in stone how you are going to retain current clients and acquire new ones in the future, and get the wheels in motion now.

These are just a few ideas, and of course depending on your business and what services you offer, what tasks would be useful to you may differ. However, the most important thing to keep in mind as an SEO professional is that you should be proactive instead of reactive in times like these!

Photo by Jim Makos / License

Coronavirus impact on travel industry

We’ve already briefly seen the impact the coronavirus has had on the travel industry, but now it’s time to take a deeper look into it and explore what the future may hold.

Countries have closed their borders and asked millions upon millions of people to shelter in place. So yes, the travel industry has taken a substantial hit. 

According to Sojern, searches for global flights have decreased up to 77% in places like Spain, and global flight bookings in places like Spain and Italy have dropped over 90%. These are staggering numbers, but obviously not surprising as people literally aren’t allowed to travel.

And with flights limited, or completely grounded in some cases, the hotel industry has seen a massive drop as well. Major hotel chains such as Riu and Iberostar have had to close all their hotels during the crisis, while occupancy rates are down by as much as 96% in certain countries.

According to National Geographic, over 75 million jobs could be lost in the travel sectors, along with $2.1 trillion in revenue. The coronavirus impact on the travel industry in the US is thought to be “six or seven times greater than the 9/11 attacks” according to Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association. 

With such drastic changes in such a short period of time, it’s hard to really predict the future. However, one thing is certain: the travel industry will rebound

Let’s take a look at how experts believe the travel industry will return, and then what those in the travel industry can do in the meantime to ensure they overcome the crisis.

How will the travel industry bounce back after the coronavirus pandemic?

With this being a relatively new situation for all involved, it’s hard to truly know when and how it will return. 

We can take a look at China though, which is finally getting back to a normal standard of living after the coronavirus pandemic. Hotel bookings increased 40% the first week in March, while peak daily flights rose 230% from the month before. These increases, along with their predictions for the coming months, rely solely on domestic travel. 

This brings us to what experts such as Hosteltur believe the model will look like for most countries and regions:

Phase 1: Domestic travel
Phase 2: Regional travel
Phase 3: International travel

Countries are likely to protect their own citizens first, meaning borders will remain closed until there is enough evidence to show that the pandemic will not be re-ignited. 

Once that confidence level is reached, boarders will begin to open allowing for regional travel. According to Sojern, their data has revealed that regional travel within Europe should start to see an increase starting in Q4 2020. 

The same data by Sojern also predicts that international bookings will start seeing improvement by early 2021 for certain markets. Their model shows that the UK and France could be two countries to benefit quicker than others in terms of international travel.

These are mere predictions, but the model of domestic, regional and international travel are likely to follow suit. The issue is when. With conditions and regulations changing on a daily basis in every corner of the world, it is still too soon to accurately predict how it will recover.

What can the travel industry do to overcome the coronavirus crisis?

Much like SEO agencies, the travel industry should be proactive instead of reactive during this period. While it’s a difficult time for all, travel professionals must remain positive and ensure they give themselves the best chance to succeed once the coronavirus pandemic passes.

With this said, here are a few things those in the travel industry can do in the meantime:

  • Help!: There is so much you can do as a travel company to help right now. The platform Cloudbed is helping connect hotels with health care providers and local governments to offer their properties for use as field hospitals. Riu Hotels & Resorts is doing everything from offering bed sheets to make masks to donating cleaning supplies,masks and food. Pitch in if you can, karma will come back around!
  • Unique ads which exude positivity: Visit Portugal and Visit Britain are just two travel related entities which have launched positive travel based campaigns to offer hope and positivity. CNN also offers its ‘The Good Stuff’ weekly newsletter so that we get some positivity back into our lives. Give your customers hope!
  • Record YouTube videos: According to Search Engine Watch, up to 80% of consumers are going to YouTube for uplifting content during the crisis. So strike while the iron’s hot and create amazing ads or content for your customers!
  • Create content that builds trust: The customer life-cycle is usually long, especially when it comes to travel. Now is not the time to be pushing for sales (and really you should never ‘push’ for sales). Create content that resonates with your audience right now, and plant a seed. Nurture your clients throughout the entirety of the pandemic and they will certainly come around as paying customers because you have shown them that they can trust you.
  • Customer outreach program: Reach out to old customers and ask for reviews! Again, this is a great way to maintain your relationship, build your credibility in places like Google and find ways you can improve. Also, lay out what you will do to ensure the safety of your clients once the pandemic has passed. Nearly 60% of Britons are fearful of catching the virus if they travel on holiday, so reassure them now that you will do everything possible to ensure that doesn’t happen.
  • Be agile: Here’s an example: barbers and hairstylists are unable to work right now, so what have they done? Well, they’ve created ‘how to cut your hair at home’ videos to stay in touch with their client base. Be agile in a time like this and find ways to reach your clients in a useful manner.
  • Update GMB profile: Google continues to add and change its GMB display in order to stay ahead of the pandemic. Ensure that your profile is up to date so that your customers are informed. This is also a great time to add new photos, adjust your description and respond to reviews/comments.
  • Optimize website: There is no better time than now to dig into your website and optimize it. Focus on just a handful of keywords for each page, take an interest in long tail keywords and think long term/sustainable.
  • Take out Google/Facebook ads: As previously mentioned, the price of Google and Facebook ads has dropped quite significantly. If you have the budget to do so, there is no better time than now. But remember, positive ads which aren’t looking for a sale!
  • Be active on social media: Post content continually, interact with customers and have a bit of fun with it! More people than ever are sat with their computer or mobile device, so take advantage.
  • Create amazing blog content: Now is the time to create amazing blog content. Build up your content bank so that when things get back to normal you don’t have to worry about generating content and can focus on other tasks. If you need help or advice, take a look at our travel blog case study!
  • Look for questions people are asking: In uncertain times, people are looking for answers. So help them find those answers! Tools such as SEMrush, Answer The Public and Google’s ‘People also ask’ section are great resources. You can add relevant questions and answers to a Q&A markup on your website, or simply respond directly via a newsletter, social media, etc.
  • Plan for holiday travel in late Q3 and Q4: Let’s be honest, the summer period is likely to be slow or non-existent. So why not start planning for late Q3 and Q4? Create ideas, content and offers for such things as holiday travel and late summer escapes.

Again, these are just ideas for you to start with. But like we have mentioned, don’t sit around and assume that everything will fall into place once the crisis passes. The coronavirus pandemic will certainly cause a major reshuffle in many industries, so ensure you are doing everything in your power to come out stronger. 

Be generous. Be sincere. Be proactive!

Stay positive, SEOers!

“This too shall pass.”

These are uncertain times for everyone, but there are many beautiful things which have come from it: reconnecting with friends and family, community members helping those in need and the reduction in pollution are just a few.  

Try and stick with the positives which have resulted from the virus, and re-fuel your company with that positivity. Remain proactive and everything will turn out well!

Author: Collin Harrison

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