With entire nations on lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, business owners have more and harder decisions to make than ever before. Amid this backdrop of uncertainty, it’s easy to understand how SEO, internet marketing and developing your local marketing strategy can seem like a very low priority. After all, you have more immediate concerns closer to home, such as when and how you’re going to be able to reopen. While the full impact coronavirus has had on our way of life will likely not be fully understood for months or even years, the undeniable fact remains that businesses of all sizes have been thrust into a Darwinian proving ground where the most adaptable to the shifting business landscape, rather than the largest or “strongest,” will survive.
But there is some good news, and it’s twofold.
First, as with any pandemic, the measures being taken by government and private entities to limit and manage COVID-19’s spread and impact mean there’s a good chance we caught it early enough to help ameliorate the damage. While this means the actual business of business is either curtailed or completely negated for the time being, it can also be an opportunity to refine and hone your marketing campaign’s local SEO strategy to get potential customers’ attention, giving you more traction and lining up a hungry customer base when life resumes something more closely resembling what we consider normal.
Second, as you’re reconfiguring your business, there are powerful tools available to help you and your business thrive and look forward to resuming “business as usual” while spending less on your advertising budget. Here are five things you can do to keep your business healthy and attract a wider customer base for when the storm is over.
#1 Apply For Business Financing Assistance
SBA Disaster Loans
No, this isn’t an SEO task. However, the first step to making sure you’ll have customers later is by taking proactive steps to ensure you can keep your business functional now. From the SBA website:
“SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners, and renters. SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace the following items damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster: real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets.”
PPP LOAN AND PPP LOAN APPLICATION
As of May 11, 2020 the SBA is still offering the Payment Protection Program. Business owners are encouraged to sign up if they qualify.
Whether you’re a work-from-home independent contractor or working on behalf of a multistate corporation, an SBA disaster loan can help you get the resources you need to keep yourself and your employees are taken care of so they’ll be ready to take care of your customers when the time comes. To learn more about SBA disaster loans, click here to visit the SBA website.
*Reports are coming in that the SBA is a little back up at the moment. One company, United Medical Credit is offering fast direct business loans right now. How to get a business loan from United Medical Credit is really helpful.
Facebook AD Grants
Facebook is offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where we operate. We’ll share more details as they become available. Apply here for details. https://www.facebook.com/business/boost/grants
Yelp Is Offering $25 million to local restaurants and nightlife businesses that are seeing a massive drop in business as a result of the crisis.
From Yelp.com. “Today, we’re announcing $25 million in relief, primarily focused on supporting independent local restaurant and nightlife businesses, in the form of waived advertising fees, and free advertising, products and services, during this period. As part of this relief effort, restaurants and nightlife businesses that remain open will receive free access to Yelp page upgrades, including Business Highlights and Call To Action, as well as Connect, which will help them communicate timely information to their customers. Restaurants will also receive three months of free access to Yelp Reservations and Waitlist.
For restaurant clients that offer delivery and/or takeout, we’ll provide $100 in free search advertising. In addition to waiving advertising fees for independent restaurant and nightlife clients during this period when they’ve been most impacted, we’re also offering support for independent local advertisers in other categories that are struggling to pay their bills during this difficult time. ”
#2 Use Facebook tracking pixels.
Installing a Facebook tracking pixel on your website is a powerful tool that can develop even a modest audience into a large potential client base. By simply installing an extra bit of code on your website, you can enhance your reach 5-6 times over. Even better, once it’s installed, it does all the work for you, growing your audience while you focus on making sure your company is ready to serve its VIPs: your customers!
#3 Google My Business and other Social Media Channels
Now more than ever, it is important to keep your customers apprised of changes to your business model because of COVID-19 or other disasters. Google My Business or GMB, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp! allow you to talk to your clientele, giving you wider means to answer questions, post announcements and maintain communication with potential customers. This may include letting them know about altered hours, social distancing requirements for brick-and-mortar establishments, giving access to online menus and delivery schedules, which can help you manage their expectations. This is an important step because it lets your customers know they are still uppermost in mind and helps them find businesses that are still functioning during this crisis. Even better still, for the cost of a few minutes of your time each day, you can help customers find you as a “sure thing” in times where certainty isn’t exactly the word of the day, putting your company ahead of your competition in prospective buyers’ minds!
Why is Google My Business so important?
✅ 46% of all Google searches have a local intent.
✅ 93% of local searches feature Google My Business listings before normal search results.
✅ 68% of people contact a business directly from search results (without even visiting their site).
#4 Email Marketing Try MailChimp!
MailChimp has become synonymous with customer relationship management because so many people, from writers to multinational conglomerates, use it for their CRM. You can check out MailChimp for free, making it a good alternative to more expensive CRM platforms, and it delivers powerful functionality that allows you to get your message out to your customer base quickly and efficiently. This is a great option for letting a lot of people know about flash sales, sudden closures, potential health risks and other important information fast.
When using MailChimp or any other automated CRM for email marketing, you need to make sure you have arranged for “double opt-in” so as not to annoy existing customers or prospects with unwanted communications. Perhaps even more importantly, to comply with state and federal laws, you need to provide a way for contacts to opt-out of receiving email from you. California is particularly dedicated to cracking down on unwanted contact and can charge you even if you have no physical footprint in the state, so it’s worth your while to make sure these things are handled.
#5 YouTube Live Streaming For Your Business
YouTube is frequently overlooked as a marketing channel, especially by small businesses. However, a well-conceived and -executed video really is worth a thousand words, and these days, video marketing is a great way to get your message in front of a lot of at-home workers and people who, for whatever reason, cannot leave their homes. Better still, you can download the raw video clip from YouTube and reuse it on your Facebook business page, giving you a huge reach advantage and broader access to customers than ever before.
As businesses struggle to remain viable in an increasingly uncertain global economy, using every tool at your disposal to stay one step ahead of your competition becomes more crucial than ever before. If you’re not sure how these things work or need more information, Online Advantages is here to help with information and SEO services and tools designed specifically to benefit your business. By using these tools wisely, you can help make sure that when the all-clear is given and the dust settles, customers are beating a path to your door instead of your competitors.
But all of this is secondary to the single most important thing you can do right now: Keep yourself, your loved ones and your employees safe to the best of your ability, and try to maintain a positive mental attitude. The COVID-19 outbreak, like any other disaster, won’t last forever, and when it ends, we as a nation will be ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work.
Questions & Answers About Coronavirus & SEO/Digital Marketing
Question: Does my business still matter in this environment? –Miguel, San Jose, CA
Answer: This is a question a lot of businesses, especially those forced to close due to social distancing restrictions or government order, are wrestling with right now. However, now is the time to keep contact with current customers and start reaching out to new ones. If your business is changing its hours, offering curbside service or amending its practices to moderate the potential impact coronavirus may have on your employees and customers, let them know. If you have personal thoughts or messages for your customers during this time, say them. Above all, you should be utilizing every resource and tool at your disposal, such as updating your website design or content, to make sure when your business resumes normal operation and full staffing, you’ll be the one your clientele goes to instead of someone else.
Question: Why is SEO important for small businesses? –Adrienne, Portland, OR
Answer: Great search engine optimization impacts every aspect of digital marketing. Effective SEO and inbound marketing, including Facebook ads, Google My Business and Twitter deliver a higher ROI for less money than conventional media advertising in many cases. How businesses refine and change up their strategy during the pandemic may set the tone for their financial success months or even years down the road from now, so it’s worthwhile to adopt a growth mindset and consider every possible variable when planning both current and long-term marketing strategy.
Question: Why should you use SEO instead of other online marketing methods? –Robert, Lake Norman, NC
Answer: Right now, SEO is one of the best, cheapest and most effective forms of online marketing out there. It really costs nothing except the actual time and effort you put into keyword research, content creation and monitoring your social media. Not everyone can afford to hire a dedicated marketing director or a digital marketing agency, but anyone can learn to do their own dedicated SEO. While SEO is arguably the most important aspect of online marketing, it is by no means the only one, nor should you ignore other methods of customer outreach such as Google or Facebook advertising to grow your business profile. If you’ve got great, fresh content on your website and longtail keyword strings that lead back to it, you’ve got a great start on what you need to be successful.
Question: How do I market my business through the coronavirus? Should I not be mentioning that all the time? –Abdullah, Houston, TX
The coronavirus is arguably the defining moment of this generation, with an impact even 9-11 cannot match. Thus, it’s hard to get away from its omnipresence or to avoid mentioning it in some form, particularly if you have a physical brick-and-mortar business which has been affected by COVID-19. Still, it helps to encourage yourself, your staff and your clientele to stop once in a while and appreciate the good things which are happening. Post success stories your business has been pivotal in achieving. Spotlight your employees and thank them individually for their hard work and dedication. Remind your customers you’re still around, still fighting and still on their side. If you or your employees have pets, post their amusing or adorable antics! It may not have much to do with marketing on its face, but right now a simple smile is worth more than its weight in gold—and your customer base will remember later that when things looked bleakest, you cared enough to offer them a reason to smile.
Question: Is it appropriate for our brand to be actively tweeting, snapping and sharing content on social media while the world is amid a global pandemic? How should brands handle their social media marketing strategy during a coronavirus outbreak? –Piper, Las Vegas, NV
Answer: Right now, even thinking of social media marketing feels to a lot of people like fiddling while Rome burns. What people forget is that you have the power to break through the constant haze of bad news and trailing uncertainty. There’s nothing wrong with snapping or tweeting, or sharing content. People want AND NEED good news right now! They need to see wins. They want success stories, or a reason to laugh, or just a quick smile. Because everything’s so heavy, go light! Post a Friday evening sunset. Tweet about your employee who sings “Barbie Girl” while he washes his hands to make sure he does it long enough. (If you actually have an employee who does this and can get video, you might just win the Internet for an hour or so.) If your employees practice social distancing and have a bit of fun while doing so by doing the Oompa-Loompa dance when they get to their work stations, post it! Keep it on-brand, keep it professional, but right now, there’s enough serious in the world. Think of ways to show the positive, happy, fun side of your people and your business if at all possible.
Question: Will this affect my long-term SEO rankings? –Scott, Charlotte, NC
Answer: Our crystal ball is in the shop for polishing right now, but it’s fairly safe to assume that yes, search rankings will change dramatically over time. Some of your competitors may fold in the interim between now and resuming full operations, removing them from consideration in your field or area. Some will adopt paid ad strategies that look good on paper but fall flat in practice. The key right now is to put user experience and SEO copywriting practices into place which you can scale up as life shifts to whatever “normal” will look like after COVID is an unpleasant memory, so you’re getting the maximum benefit from your social media and your customers remember you’re around.
Question: How do I get traffic and attention to my online business? –Shani’qua, Sacramento, CA
Answer: Now more than ever, targeted keywords which direct traffic to a website for mobile or desktop users is important. Applying good SEO strategies such as linked keywords, tag clouds and social media which draw attention can help you shoot ahead of the crowd. The more search engine results pages you can get your business on, the better off you’ll be, particularly if you can capitalize on something unique that your business offers which no one else can right now. More than anything, though, keep doing what you do best: delivering the deliverables with excellent customer service. That plus good SEO will go a long way toward getting you out in front of the pack.
Question: How soon should you expect to see any results?
Answer: In most cases, organic SEO is a series of moving parts, like a locomotive. It takes time to get rolling at the speed and in the direction you want it to go. A throwaway tweet you spend ten seconds on may rank better overall than the ten-minute video you painstakingly created over a period of months! The key to SEO is to recognize each thing you do is a separate cog in the machine, which when done correctly all work together. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Search engines like Google may reward content based on signals which seem arcane or even ludicrous to you, but which users respond to. In general, it takes a few days to a few weeks to really know how content can be expected to perform over the long haul, and in-depth media like videos may take longer still! If you don’t think you’re getting the results you should from your content or SEO, try mixing it up with A/B testing, different keywords or changing visual elements. Then do it again with the new content until you’ve got everything dialed in to represent you, your company and your brand the way you want it. Think long-term benefit over short-term visibility and you’ll do just fine.
Every day we deliver new customers to businesses through our proven search engine optimization and pay-per-click marketing strategies. Our strategies have helped businesses, large and small, reach in-market consumers, making a true impact on the bottom line. We’re here to help educate you about search marketing and choose a strategy that’s right for you and your business. We’re constantly researching, testing, connecting, and finding other ways to stay on top of this always-changing industry so we can offer the best, most relevant advice to help you succeed. The blueprint for online success is simple. We do the heavy lifting while you focus on what matters most, your customers!