Published April 16, 2020
During the current coronavirus pandemic, the ecommerce landscape is changing rapidly. Consumer priorities have shifted in recent weeks in response to COVID-19, and this means that ecommerce brands need to react quickly and nimbly in order to maximize organic traffic and revenue.
At this moment in time, SEO is in a unique and opportune space because COVID-19 is forcing consumers to shift their buying habits to online. While we don’t know if these changes will be temporary or long-term, we do know the immediate and lasting impact will be that more customers will move online for a greater percentage of purchases.
We’ve compiled a list of coronavirus marketing tips for SEOs. The most time-sensitive actions you can take now are to:
- Ensure you have a process for assigning redirects to out-of-stock products (more below).
- Update meta descriptions to reflect current shipping information.
By continuing to invest in SEO efforts during this time, you are choosing to remain visible in the search results. This will pay dividends now, and tenfold when search demand returns to normal and we are no longer adapting SEO to coronavirus times.
Furthermore, if your competitors cut their SEO budgets, there is even more opportunity to take over the search results now and to position your brand for long-term success once the epidemic is a thing of the past.
Our Complete Checklist for SEO Success During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Take Immediate Action
❏ Implement a process for assigning redirects for out-of-stock products. This will help retain the SEO value (page equity) of out-of-stock product pages in the event of inventory shortages.
❏ If the product is only out of stock temporarily, we recommend updating the copy on the page to state “Currently, we do not have Product X in our inventory, but you can find similar products here.” and linking to either A) a similar product or B) the category page that includes the out-of-stock product. Avoid phrases like “out of stock”, “discontinued” and “unavailable” because these may trigger Google to flag the page as a “soft 404” and remove the page from its index.
❏ If the product is permanently out of stock, we recommend 301 redirecting the discontinued product page to a similar product page. If there is not a similar product on the website, then the best alternative would be to 301 redirect the discontinued product page to its higher-level category.
❏ Update meta descriptions to include shipping and returns information. With many retailers facing shipping delays and inventory challenges, it’s a good idea to be transparent with your customers. If you’re still shipping, you want potential customers to see that from their first point of contact: the search results. When writing meta descriptions, keep the following in mind:
❏ They should have a compelling call-to-action, luring the searcher to click through.
❏ They should be unique and describe the content of the page well.
❏ They should be no more than 160 characters long, since search engines truncate descriptions beyond this point.
Capture Short-Term Gains
❏ Evaluate newly popular pages and update their copy
❏ Within Google Analytics or other analytics software, pull a list of your pages that are currently generating the most revenue. Highlight any that are not your usual best-performers.
❏ Perform new keyword research for those categories or products. Consumers are displaying different search behaviors and may be using different queries.
❏ Consider updating your title tags, meta descriptions, and on-page copy to include newly-relevant keywords.
❏ Review pages that are converting well right now.
❏ Within Google Analytics or other analytics software, pull a list of your category and product pages that currently have the highest conversion rate.
❏ Within Google Search Console, look at which keywords are driving traffic to those pages.
❏ If you find any high-volume keywords that are driving traffic but aren’t utilized on the landing page, update the copy to include those related terms.
❏ Look for opportunity for new category breakouts.
❏ Utilize Google Trends to find search terms related to your vertical that are currently trending.
❏ If you find any trending terms that suggest new groupings of your products, create a new category or subcategory for those products. Don’t forget to include the trending term(s) – as well as other relevant keywords – in the page’s copy.
❏ At this time when transactional queries are down for some industries, we’re seeing an increase in informational searches across the board as people spend more time online. Now is the time capitalize on informational keywords and content within your vertical.
❏ If you do not have a blog, or an informational section of your site (such as how-to guides, buying guides, etc.), now is the time to get this content out there. You should work on winning mindshare in advance of the eventual purchases that will come with either a ‘new normal’ of buying online, or a general economic turn-around. But not just any content – build content around those trending information keywords!
❏ You should not abuse the coronavirus topic just for website views. However, if you can provide support to others you can provide a service to consumers while driving traffic to your site. This presents a unique opportunity for brands in categories such as healthcare and fitness (home workouts), or who have online content that can be released to the public in the form of webinars or online courses.
Tackle Projects for Long-Term Improvements to SEO
Once you’ve implemented the more immediate action items listed above, this time of slow-down can provide an opportunity to take on some bigger SEO projects that can have a big impact on your site’s organic performance.
❏ Correct broken backlinks.
❏ This is a relatively low-effort task that can have a high impact on your site’s overall link equity.
❏ Pull a list of currently broken backlinks, determine the best page to redirect traffic to (usually the most similar current product or page, or if none exists then the parent category) and implement 301 redirects.
❏ Perform site speed analysis.
❏ Improving your site’s speed can boost your overall conversion rate, now and in the future. There are plenty of free tools you can use to diagnose site speed issues, including Google’s Lighthouse audit and PageSpeed Insights.
This is a time of uncertainty and anxiety for many, but ecommerce brands can help by providing high-quality information and products that make life a little easier. It’s also a time when thought leaders can experiment and pioneer new techniques and solutions. We’ve been excited by the innovations already happening in the ecommerce space.
You can also all of our content related to coronavirus and ecommerce here:
- How Coronavirus Is Impacting Ecommerce
- COVID-19 and Ecommerce: Amazon, Paid Search & Social, and Industry Impacts
- COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruption: Amazon and Beyond
- Amazon Vine Suspended in Response to COVID-19 & Supply Chain Disruptions
- April 2020 Industry Updates: Amazon’s Coronavirus Journey & Mobile’s Decline
- Ecommerce Brands Helping During COVID-19
- COVID-19 in Q1: The Impacts of Coronavirus on Ecommerce
- Conversion Optimization During COVID-19
- Paid Search Trends in the Coronavirus Climate
- COVID-19, Ecommerce, and Your Brand
Additionally, if you have questions about how your brand can deal with SEO and the current crisis, you can find more SEO resources below:
- Content Sells! The Why and How of Writing Category and Product Page Copy
- Search Engineering: Google RankBrain, AI, and the Transformation of Organic SEO
- Keyword Research: Three Basic Strategies
- 8 Tips for Product Page SEO Optimization
- Local SEO: Complete Checklist for Success
- How Do You Safeguard Your Website From Legal Battles? An ADA Compliance Checklist
- Google Search Console Errors: How to Find and Fix Them on Your Site