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COVID-19

SEO tips for ReOpening

7 min read.

Ed Carbery, SEO Director

by Ed Carbery, SEO Director

Core Investment

Changing Consumer Behaviour

The COVID-19 lockdown has changed a lot of things in Irish society, including business practices, consumer priorities and budgets, almost overnight. Consumer behaviours have changed; everything from what people are searching for, to how they do their shopping.

Businesses have had to adapt to an increase of online shopping; those that did not have an ecommerce offering lost out on this surge of interest. This is one behaviour that is likely to remain now that people have discovered how easy it is.

Now that local economies are beginning to reopen, we can expect to see more changes, as some people return to work and to leisure activities. Understanding and adapting to changes in consumer activity, sentiment and broader industry trends can help businesses continue to adjust.

 

The Importance of Communication

Businesses are gradually starting to reopen now in a phased approach. When they do, it is important that they get the message out loud and clear—we are open! As the restrictions ease, it is important that the public have the right information.

People search online, not just for products and services, but for information. It is important that the right information is matched to users’ search queries when they search online. This is essentially what search engine optimization (SEO) is.

As well as making sure that opening times are findable, it is important that information for other things such as social distancing or safety information are clear. Here are a few important points to consider:

– Adapt: consumer behaviours have changed; businesses have to adapt to the situation.

– Inform: businesses have to get the message out that ‘we are open’.

– Communicate: let customers know what changes the business is making as restrictions ease.

– Reinforce: it is important to have a consistent message online, and in other media.

 

Google My Business

 

What you see in Google Maps is part of the ‘Google My Business’ platform. This is categorized under local search, or ‘local SEO’. This can be a big part of a brand’s online presence and is usually the first thing users see about a brand when they do a search on Google. Traffic through the Google My Business listing is attributed to ‘organic’ in Google Analytics; this can make up a very large part of a website’s overall traffic. It is vital that any business that has a physical location claims and optimizes their Google My Business listing.

Now that businesses are reopening, it is important that the correct information and messaging is updated on the platform. Google has recently added additional fields and new tools to help businesses keep customers informed about how and when they’re operating.

 

The Importance of the Website

 

Your website is your digital window to the world. Customers expect to find the information they need instantly, and mostly on their mobile devices. They expect this information to be up-to-date and accessible.

COVID-19 has left a lot of people uncertain about where they can go and what they can do. Having clear information on a website can help ease this uncertainty. People may have questions around safety such as “How can I shop safely at your store?” Having clear content on a FAQ section is just one way that this information can be easily communicated.

If a website takes more than three seconds to load, almost half of visitors could be lost before they even arrive on the website. This is due to issues with pagespeed. Slow loading web pages not only affect usability when users get to the site but also affect how a page shows in the search results. Google uses pagespeed as a ranking signal in its algorithm—slow loading web pages will not rank as high; this means that users may not be able to find the information they need because of a slow loading experience.

Mobile usability is another factor that not only affects users’ ability to access information when they are on a web page, it can also prevent them finding the information from the search results in the first place as Google also uses mobile usability (or mobile-friendliness) as a ranking signal in its algorithm—web pages that are not easy to use on a mobile device will not rank as high, this means that users may not be able to find the information they need because of a bad user experience.

Website security is also something that can prevent users finding a website and can make them leave a page if they see security warnings in their browsers. Again, this is a usability issue but is also an SEO issue. Google has been using HTTPS as a ranking signal since 2014. Google want to make sure that websites which people access from their search results are secure.

These are “usability” issues but since they affect how Google shows results, they are also organic search, or SEO, issues. These are the types of issues we flag in website audits. Identifying these issues means that website owners can get them fixed, and users can find the information they are looking for from the search results and on the webpage.

 

Evolving Google Ranking Algorithms

 

Before websites can achieve the next tier of search results, which includes featured snippets, rich results and “voice search” results, they have to address basic issues around SEO. Google recently announced an upcoming search ranking change that incorporates several of these basic elements, which it calls ‘experience metrics’.

In 2021, Google will introduce a new signal that combines web vitals with their existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page. Websites that score poorly in these areas will likely see a decrease in visibility in the organic search results and a decrease in organic search traffic.

 

To summarize, as the restrictions ease, it is important that brands and businesses communicate the message that they are open for business. This messaging should be consistent across all media channels.

All website owners should ensure that their website content, and their information on Google My Business, is clear and up to date, and consistent with messaging on other channels. Ensuring that website usability, security and speed issues are optimized will not only help with conversions and user satisfaction, it will also help with organic search visibility.

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