The current global COVID-19 pandemic is impacting almost every facet of life at this point. Schools are closed, down businesses are closing, pretty much every event has been canceled, people are staying home in a practice known as "social distancing", and entire countries have gone into lockdown mode. The overall economic impact of the outbreak is predicted to cost the global economy north of $2 trillion.

Needless to say, times are looking tough for many, if not most, businesses.

As you react and adapt your business to our new reality, you’re likely looking to cut any expenses in order to weather the storm. SEO is often one of the first items on the chopping block.

However, the reality is that staying the course and continuing to invest in your long-term SEO strategy will enable you to survive our current challenges, but also set you up to thrive once we come out the other end of it.

These are the six reasons you need to continue executing your SEO plan during challenging times for your business (or in case the global economy).

SEO Makes Money

Maintaining your business’ cash flow (or cash reserves) is priority number one during tough economic times. This is what keeps you afloat as others start to close their doors.

Few marketing channels generate revenue like search engine optimization.

The main reason is that SEO (and paid search ads) puts a website and its content in front of someone in their moment of need. After all, people don’t do a Google search if they’re not in need of something and that time.

Meeting the needs of your audience that’s driving their search is the most effective way to turn them from prospect to paid customer (or even return customers).

We’re not even talking about using SEO as a way to create brand awareness, generate leads or other top of funnel goals. Maintaining an SEO strategy that includes a focus on transactional search intent will translate directly into revenue.

Even if your overall number of sales or total revenue amount dips during the recession, continuing to generate cash via SEO will often be what keeps your doors open and employees working.

SEO’s Value is Tangible and Trackable

When belts are tightening one of the first places business owners look to cut costs is marketing channels whose performance can’t really be tracked. Many erroneously see SEO as one of these channels.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

As we pointed out above, a good long-term SEO strategy includes plans to bring in users at the bottom of the funnel. And as luck would have it, this is the part of SEO that’s easiest to track and evaluate (as opposed to top of funnel keywords and branding initiatives).

You can’t see which specific SEO keyword resulted in any specific sale but you can easily track the Google traffic, conversions and revenue for a given page. This information is available via the Source/Medium report in Google Analytics, under "All Traffic" in the Acquisition reporting:

Google Analytics Report highlighting All Traffic

This report will tell you the conversion rate, total number of conversions and total revenue from your Google traffic (assuming you’ve set up your goals and assigned them monetary value):

Google traffic report from Google Analytics

Traffic that comes from "google / organic" (this will usually be the first row of the data table) represents people who visit your site from Google search results, which makes the conversion data a calculation of the money you’ve made from SEO.

You can also see what keywords brought users to that page and where you’re ranking for those keywords. This data is available through the Performance report in your Google Search Console account. The table below the graph will list all of the keywords that result in your site’s listing in search results.

Performance on search results from GSC

Keeping track of this data is vital to maintaining your site’s position in search rankings, which is why staying the course and maintaining your investment in SEO and the SEO tools that provide this vital data will help keep your business running during a downturn.

WooRank customers with an active Project can easily track their important Google data using the available WooRank features.

Your Project’s weekly email digest will combine the Google traffic reporting from Analytics with keyword ranking data from tracked keywords in Keyword Tool. Data from keywords include:

  • The specific keyword

  • The specified Google domain the keyword is being tracked in

  • The keyword’s average ranking for the previous week

  • Average ranking for the current week

  • The difference between the two, i.e. how much your site has moved up and down the search results for that keyword

If you’re tracking your competitors in your Project, you’ll see those competitors side by side with your site in Keyword Tool, as well as in your email digest, for quick and easy performance comparisons:

WooRank Keyword Tool competitor analysis

Receiving this SEO data in simple and intuitive formats allows you to quickly process where you stand SEO-wise, freeing up time for you to react and adjust to changing circumstances and make the most of opportunities as they come.

SEO is the Best Bang for Your Buck

When slow business is making times tough, the budget you spend on marketing needs to work hard for your business. And few budgets work harder for your business than those spent on search engine optimization, making it one of the most cost-effective methods of bringing in new customers or leads.

While the sticker price for an SEO agency (generally starts at $1500/mo.) or consultant ($100/hr. and up) might make you blanch a bit, let’s compare that to prices of other, more traditional marketing channels:

  • Television advertising: It depends on when and where you advertise, obviously, but the cost of running a 30-second TV ad starts at $5 for every 1,000 viewers reached. However, that doesn’t include the cost of producing the commercial, which on average starts at $1,500 for a 30-second spot. And using an agency is going to add another hourly rate on top of that.

  • Radio advertising: Like with TV, the when and where of the ads will move costs around, but the cheapest you could expect to pay is $200 per 1,000 listeners reached per week for ad placements. So reaching a sizable audience can easily run you thousands of dollars per week. On top of that, you should expect to pay at least $1,000 to produce the commercial itself. Those numbers don’t include agency costs either.

  • Print advertising: As you’d expect, print advertising costs will vary widely depending on the publication’s circulation number, how often you want to advertise, and the amount of space taken up by your ad. However, you should expect a print advertising contract to start in the thousands of dollars while ad creative prices will generally start in the range of hundreds of dollars.

Other analog advertising mediums such as direct mail, telemarketing and billboards generally aren’t any cheaper.

"But I run Google Ad campaigns, which only cost a few dollars per click" you’re probably thinking right now. “And the total cost for these clicks is only a few hundred dollars per month, less than the quote from my local SEO agency.”

The problem with relying on pay-per-click advertising, and really any of the paid marketing channels is that yes, you can get good ROI from Google Ads and TV spots but once you stop paying you also stop generating revenue.

And in a financial downturn, that can be disastrous for your business’ ability to weather the storm.

Your Customers are Searching (A Lot) More

In unpredictable and volatile economic conditions, people turn to search engines to find answers and stay up to date on the latest developments. Especially when the news is dominated by stories of panic buying, scarcity and empty store shelves.

Just imagine how much traffic the sites that appear in the first results for "hand sanitizer", “disinfecting wipes” and “toilet paper” (all Amazon, by the way).

When people can’t find items in stores or hear stories about how difficult it is to find certain products, they’ll turn to Google for alternate sources of those products.

The same goes for informational searches as well. Things are constantly in flux and changes can develop in a matter of days, or even hours. People will be searching regularly for updates on affected industries, products, services and other topics.

This increase in search volume makes continuing your SEO strategy long-term even more important since even if you don’t target the transactional head keywords (such as "hand sanitizer" or “iphone”), long-tail keywords and informational keywords represent significant opportunities.

If you’re a savvy marketer, you can use SEO to position your business in a way that’s relevant to the current situation, even if the link isn’t so obvious.

A bicycle repair shop, for example, could publish content on how to get your cycling fix while social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak. An interior decorator could write a guide about how you can update your home’s styling to be more conducive to productivity for all the new home offices people are setting up.

Cooking blogs, in particular, have made use of this tactic by creating videos and guides to cooking quality meals from the various odds and ends you have sitting in your refrigerator.

The Competition is Backing Off

Your competition is in the same boat as you. In fact, the global economy is about to take an estimated $2.7 trillion hit, which experts predict will cause a recession. So you’re not the only business who is looking for ways to reduce costs and stretch spending.

And if you’re the only one who’s maintaining their investment in SEO, you’ll find yourself in a much easier and more responsive SEO landscape.

By "easier" we refer to the fact that there will be fewer websites that target keywords and topics that are relevant to your business. And those that continue to operate (but cut SEO spending) will slowly fall down the rankings as their content loses freshness and generates fewer links.

We also expect overall spending on paid channels to decrease as everyone starts cutting their Google Ads budgets.

These two factors will likely combine to make it much more likely that your website’s content will appear higher in the search results.

Plus, any changes you make are more likely to have an effect sooner, which is what we mean by a "more responsive" SEO landscape.

You could even see this time as an opportunity to expand your business by purchasing other distressed companies and/or their assets. Assuming you have enough cash on hand.

Maintaining SEO investment in the face of the dwindling competition will benefit your business not only in the short term during the downturn, but will also help position your brand once things start to pick back up.

A website’s trust and authority are built up over time by publishing high-quality content that is useful to users. By reinforcing your own trustworthiness and authority at the same time your competitors are neglecting theirs, you’ll be (probably several) steps ahead once the economy starts to recover.

Downturns are Temporary

Here at WooRank, we like to use the metaphor SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Meaning that while you can see quick wins and short-term gains, the majority of its value is seen in terms of several months of actively managing your campaigns. This means that when the current economic climate starts to show signs of improvement, businesses that cut back on SEO won’t be able to see the benefits as quickly as they otherwise could.

We don’t know when any given economic downturn will end, especially the one associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. But we know it will end and things will return to normal (experts are generally predicting the recovery from the COVID recession to start this summer or fall). If you abandon your SEO plan during the downturn, you’ll risk being left in the dust during the recovery.

On the other side, continuing to invest in your website’s SEO — by doing keyword research, creating new content and auditing your website — will reap benefits to your business for years to come.

The fact is, cash generated by SEO campaigns you start today could give your business the means to survive, or even thrive, during the tough times currently on the horizon.

Continuing SEO While Social Distancing

Hopefully, COVID-19 passes soon with minimal impact on people in terms of their health and financial wellbeing. Until that happens, we sincerely hope you are all staying healthy and avoiding contact with those who are in particular danger from the virus (those with underlying health issues, people 65 or older and those living in assisted living facilities).

If you haven’t already, please take the time to go through the Washington Post’s Coronavirus simulator to learn about how the virus spreads and what we can do to reduce its impact on people.

In the meantime, as we all seek to manage the economic impacts of the current outbreak, continuing to invest in and execute your SEO strategy will serve your business as an effective way to make it through downtimes ahead.