Since the end of January, the coronavirus has dominated the news, going from being a local phenomenon in China to a Pandemic. This is creating a lot of uncertainty and having a great impact on people’s behavior. In this article, you’re going to read, how does Coronavirus affect SEO and how to overcome it.
In this type of situation, the famous John F. Kennedy quote always reappears and appears everywhere:
“In the Chinese language, the word” crisis “is made up of two characters, one represents danger and the other opportunity.”
For a month now we have been seeing how the traffic on the websites of clients and their competitors is decreasing, which makes us think of a kind of algorithm update. Only, in the case of algorithm updates, we can take action to regain the edge that competitors may have gained above us. But what do you do when things don’t depend on you? When the user loses interest and stops searching for certain search terms?
Read on and we will give you some tips to survive with your SEO strategy to the effects of Coronavirus.
How does Coronavirus affect SEO?
I have been working in Digital Marketing for more than 10 years and I have always thought that the worst that can happen is that Google launches a new algorithm update and the client websites are not prepared for it. I’ve survived the Penguin, the Panda, and other minor or major Google updates, but I’ve never had to face a pandemic before.
By the way, if we search for a “pandemic”, you only have to see the search results to understand how serious the situation is:
Google alerts users that there is a coronavirus pandemic, giving the possibility to share the warning on social networks (directly from Google, functionality not seen before), and, in addition, after the top stories shows official sources (in this case the websites of the Ministry of Health of Spain and the World Health Organization) where to get information, with the clear intention of avoiding creating even more panic.
SERPs have been updated to respond to users’ search intent … but what do we do when there is no search intent?
We are going to analyze the case of a website specialized in trips to the Asian continent, in which we have been working for a few months and whose traffic began to increase towards the end of last year, thanks to successfully implemented technical and content SEO tactics. Web in which the month of February and what we have been doing in March are being … sad, let’s say.
Among the category pages of the web we had directories that suffered a fall due to different problems that we tried to correct, but there were destinations that were booming, among those destinations, nothing more and nothing less than … China!
The drop in organic traffic, compared to the same period of the previous year, is 42% , but, given the situation, the results are not surprising. We are talking about the country where, on January 11, 2020, they announced the first death from Coronavirus, in Wuhan, although towards the end of last year the authorities were talking about a new powerful virus in the area.
However, traffic suffers further decline as of January 21, the day when the first cases outside China are confirmed, in countries such as the United States, Japan, South Korea or Thailand. The latter are destinations that our client also offers, so the traffic on those pages has been affected in the same way.
We are talking about a website that, for keywords as competitive as “trip to China” or “trip to China 15 days” is in the top 3 , while for more generic words such as “trips to Asia” or “cheap trips to Asia ”Occupies the first or second position . Site for improvement, in the case of many of the destinations that they offer, there is, but for these words in particular we would not have to see a drop in traffic, unless the search intention suffers a drop peak. And that is what is happening, although for the terms that contain “trip to China” the average position remains stable, the number of impressions has dropped, due to a lower search volume.
How to alleviate the effects of Coronavirus?
It is clear that doing SEO in the times of Coronavirus for a website specialized in travel to Asian countries, today, is not easy. These are external factors that are impossible to control, an image is worth a thousand words, and the ones above count for two… But you have to analyze traffic carefully and identify opportunities where they exist. In our case, what we did was:
- Identify those destinations whose landing pages have not been downloaded and optimize them .
- Generate new content around destinations that are safer , for example, countries like Uzbekistan, where no case of Coronavirus has been reported.
- Take advantage of the moment to design a web migration strategy , towards a new design, much more friendly and that offers the user a more satisfactory browsing experience. Right now, there is no point in optimizing destinations that we know users are not interested in, so we are going to use all available resources to be ready when things are back to normal. Because amateur travelers, after a long time without traveling, are going to come back with even more desire and we have to be in the search results, with the content they need to make the purchase decision.
- Pause the payment campaigns of those destinations that did not make sense to promote, keeping brand campaigns active. In this way, we save budget to invest when users are again interested in traveling.
These measures are intended to help us survive this difficult period, to be able to return with even more strength and recover all that traffic that we have lost due to the worst Google Update of the beginning of 2020, the Coronavirus …
Goodbye to old habits, Hello new opportunities
Every day we make thousands of decisions, depending on the context, they are more or less automatic processes (the famous System 1) or more deliberate (the reviled System 2).
Today we know that they are not binary systems, that they coexist, that is, that even when we are making more automatic decisions, we have an active control mechanism that monitors if there is something that requires more of our attention and when we are in deliberative mode, the Automatic processes also remain active, discarding options that do not meet standards that we believe are basic.
The Coronavirus has turned the most automatic processes upside down, has changed my habits (the refuge of the automatic) and makes me think about how to manage novelty … generating opportunities where, a priori, there were none.
It is a moment that brands can take advantage of to “infiltrate” the consumer’s life…