What do you do during a history-making (and history-breaking) pandemic? Some brave folks are on the front lines, maintaining essential services and providing health care for those in need. The rest of us are working from home and trying to help in the ways we can.

As search specialists, those of us in SEO are looking at the data to see where people’s intent is, what they’re searching for, and how our community can help others through the COVID-19 maze.

All Pandemics Are Local

Stephan Bajaio, Conductor’s Chief Evangelist, put together a curated list of over 20,000 keywords regarding different aspects of COVID-19 and a survey to see what marketers think the future holds in the next few months.

Unsurprisingly, the top searches were looking for information on the virus itself. Roughly 9,300 keywords were around “coronavirus” and “covid19.” Some 9100 keywords were news-related terms. And localized searches, like “coronavirus new york city” were also popular. Former U.S. House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill used to say “all politics is local,” but it turns out all global pandemics are local too.

Rounding out the categories were business news updates, stock market querries, coronavirus prevention and the economy. A full 93% of the searches are new, so they have no MSV or previous search volume. Another interesting stat: over 1600 keywords had more than 14 million searches. 

These will continue to compound in the coming weeks, and as the information being generated by the crisis changes, we’ll see trends change. Marketers will adapt in interesting ways, and in fact we’re already seeing that now. (For example, Ford Motor Co.’s decision to pull its sales-oriented ads and replace them with messages of hope.)

Right now, of business-related searches, 80% of search terms are travel-related. The second-largest chunk is insurance-related terms, probably as people look for educational material around how protected they are from health and economic shocks. The remainder are rounded out with querries about prevention, how to work from home, Trump, Bill Gates and shopping.

Survey: Marketers Will Plant Trees in 2020

Our survey asked a representative sample of marketers and SEOs what their top-performing online channels were in 2019. The answers were organic search, email, paid, and content marketing in that order.

Paid search will be the first to tighten during the current crisis. Email is still OK because most people will still be on their phones, but it will be costly. Organic search is still — still! — the top in terms of ROI because you have a relatively low, fixed, upfront cost, and once the content gains traction maintenance is cheap compared to PPC.

Accordingly, among the respondents, 33% say organic will increase in importance, 29% say it will increase steeply and 20% say it will stay the same. Very few folks saw a decrease in investment in SEO. What is that? Because SEO works great will all other channels, but we can fill in the holes when other channels fall through.

And what happens if we fall into a global recession (a likely scenario according to the IMF), and how will that affect marketing strategy? Most people (over 30%) think it will lower marketing budgets, especially the higher-cost channels like paid social but increase budgets for lower-cost channels like SEO.

This means planting trees, which is why all SEOs should celebrate Arbor Day. Because SEO is an investment in future goodwill and brand recognition that starts small but rises into a mighty forest. Did I mention that LinkedIn is posting more jobs for SEOs?

Why Search is More Important Than Ever

Stephan Bajaio and I work from home daily. This is the time when search comes on. But really, search is always on. Folks who are in charge of SEO are good at reprioritizing and pivoting. Being creative is what SEOs do. 

Though working from home is different for a lot of people, and it might be a rough transition for those who thrive off the energy in an office, as SEOs we know how to deal with these things, and we help others in our companies deal with these things.

We’re creating content that helps our customers because people are at home searching for answers. We’re not trying to capitalize, we’re trying to survive and thrive through this thing.

What we create now will help us in the long term. SEO is one of the most cost-effective investments. Everyone has a flavor that works for them, and costs are much lower than paid marketing.

WFH Tips & Tricks

After my son Declan was born, I started working from home 3 days a week. This is what I do:

  • Get ready every day like you’re going to work. 
  • Eat lunch on a schedule.
  • Pick a time to quit working and quit working at that time.

My spare bedroom is called the warehouse. I come in at 8:30 am, and I have a routine. I sit down at my desk, and when I’m on, I’m on. I have a  daily change-over routine, start and end times for working and I even set an alarm to tell me when it’s time to step outside to get a breath of fresh air.

People feel guilty working from home, but you shouldn’t. Remember to eat and to exercise. Feel good physically and mentally.

What Should I Be Working On?

The schedules, the meetings and trips that were planned in February have been zapped in an instant. Now that your meeting has finally become an email, you may discover there is more time to sit down and do actual work. (Is it wrong to hope this will last after the crisis is over?)

But change ain’t easy — at least not at first. I get emails from friends and colleagues asking me, Pat, what should I be working on? 

This is my solution: I look down my to-do list and do stuff that’s been put off. You could use the extra time to promote search to other teams. Pull some data and see how you can help them. Send the plan up to an exec you’ve been meaning to reach out to.

If you haven’t reached out to Danny Goodwin from SEJ, he is a great guy, open to talking to everybody. Pitch an article that contributes to the community both online and offline.

Be sure to contribute to your community offline and support your local restaurants. We plan on it and budget for it. We are lucky to be able to work online, and those of us who can should pay it forward for the folks whose livelihoods have been interrupted by COVID-19.

SEOs Vote to Halt Algo Updates Till After COVID-19

Barry Schwartz sent out a poll on March 13th asking if Google should suspend updates to give companies a break while they deal with an existential crisis. A majority of the respondents said yes, but a significant minority said no.

This is and isn’t surprising. After all, Google has stopped taking reviews for the moment to take at least one thing off business’s plates. But algo updates are Google’s business, and they’re mission is to make sure people get the best, highest information possible.

Do you think they should suspend algo updates? Leave your opinion in the comments.

Search From Home

Between 12 and 1 p.m. everyday, Stephan and I do a program called search from home. We would love to have you! We do it through zoom, and all are welcome.

During that show, we answer questions like, “We’ve been deemed an essential business, should we be creating COVID-19 content?” To which I pose these questions: What are your customers worried about? What is specific to your industry? 

This isn’t the time to get ranking, it’s the time to make content that informs.

Reinhart@conductor.com — if you need help shoot me an email. Talk to you next time!

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