First of all, let’s be clear: Work during this time may seem secondary to staying healthy.

    It’s vital that people stay indoors and follow not only the guidelines in place for sanitisation and cleanliness but don’t venture out any more than they need to. We’re all in this together and we need to provide support to help one another and let key workers and medical staff on the frontlines do their thing.

    To that end, I genuinely hope as a nation and for people around the world that we can get through this Coronavirus crisis with as little loss and sadness as possible.

    If you’re unsure about what Covid-19 (coronavirus) then please watch this informative video:

    But, with so many people locked down in their homes and unable to work we have to think about what happens on the other side of the present pandemic.

    You can still be working. It may not make you money in the short term but it could ensure you have tools in place to do so when the dust settles.

    Online business will be more important than ever in the coming months. Whilst search volume is low for many businesses, (as it is right now) it is really the ideal time to make some efforts to help get your websites, services or products found for the time that comes after. In fact, some basic SEO and work now could pay back dividends in the future.

    How is Coronavirus affecting search?

    As you’d expect, this question can be answered simply with “It depends on what the website is providing.”

    Looking at my own clients and reading up on how other industries are behaving, it’s exactly in line with what you’d imagine:

    • Websites selling essentials are surging in search: Buying online is safer than a trip to the shops.
    • Necessary items like food, sanitation products and toilet roll (Oh, sweet, sweet toilet roll!) are selling more than ever and as store shelves are emptied, people are taking their searches online.
    • Travel & Tourism websites, as expected, are HUGELY down on traffic. Travel bans are rightfully in place and essential spending is coming before holidays and luxuries.
    • Health and Wellness sites are in demand. People are at home and unable to attend the gym but search for what they can do from the living room.
    • Recipe Sites are in demand: People are cooking because restaurants are closed.
    • Blogging sites are busy: Especially relevant content relating to the things that people are now doing from home, like cooking and exercise.
    • Non-Essentials are suffering: Any site that’s generally offering a luxury, non-essential item is not going to be making the sales it once was but may still be getting traffic.

    In short, the search is still there and in some cases, higher than ever but the search intent may have changed. More people might be searching (as they are bored at home) but there is less chance of them buying, especially if it’s not something they really need.

    What Can You Do?

    Assuming you’re pretty tech-savvy, you can take a look at your website from an outside perspective or get friends and family to do so.

    A lot of SEO is trying to work out what people are searching for and meeting that requirement. No one knows your business as you do but you may have never considered that someone who knows little about what you offer won’t know where to start when it comes to searching for what you provide.

    I’ve always approached SEO as if I don’t know anything about the company I’m working with. I ask lots of questions, try to understand what makes them different and try and make sure their website answers the questions that people searching for them would ask.

    I’ll avoid getting technical on this and talking about rich snippets or canonical tagging… Technical SEO can come later. Right now, you can look at your products or services and work out if all the questions an outsider might ask are answered on your website; Obvious things to you might be taking for granted and not included but may be part of the decision making process for a visitors to sign up, book in or buy from you.

    If you’re not sure what you can do then look to the giants in your industry: Do you think that Amazon would be doing so well if they’d not put a lot of time and research into how their pages are laid out to maximise sales, that every product has a rich and detailed description to increase the chances of selling and that elements like reviews and pictures fulfil the questions that are being asked… Heck, they even literally have the questions section.

    You may not be Amazon but you can apply those rules to your website by simply thinking about the questions that a visitor might have.

    If your present business model does not really allow for making these sales or getting enquiries then it’s time to adapt. You may even find a better way to keep your business going once pandemics are a thing of the past…

    Diversify To Survive

    I’m already seeing a lot of businesses change their strategy and providing online services: everything from restaurants now offering takeaways you can order via social media to Yoga instructors giving one-to-one online classes instead of group classes in person. Even local stores who are offering home delivery because foot-fall is at an all-time low are using their websites and social media for ordering.

    Almost all businesses can do more online and just because people are at home, this does not mean that there are no genuine needs for what you offer. Yes, extra precautions may be taken but what better precaution than not having to deal face to face, in person but rather do it online through the multitude of applications, video conferencing and web-based solutions available?

    People still need your services but you may need to adjust how you deliver them.

    There really is no better time to make these changes than when you too are at home with some time and a potentially questionable business future.

    Don’t Lose Heart Because Your Search/Traffic Volume is Low

    It’s vital that just because your products and/or services are not in demand now, you need to know that it will not remain this way. There will be a time that comes after where it will be business as usual; or more specifically, ‘new business as usual’.

    I firmly believe that even after the threat of Covid-19 is behind us, online marketing will be more in demand than ever due to people being a lot more careful about how and where they shop. If face to face services can be avoided then frankly, they will be.

    Like all SEO, site changes and content updates will not cause you to instantly rank for the keywords you’d like to rank for… It’s possible you may see some improvements relatively quickly and if so: fantastic! Generally, it takes a long time and a lot of work to get found for at least some of the key terms for products/services that you offer. For some terms, even with huge efforts, you’ll never be on the first five search engine pages because established businesses are hard to beat.

    For the most part, SEO work is just a cog in the wheel.

    … Yes, we want to create great content that answers a need or requirement and more importantly get you found in search and bring you new traffic. But we also want to create the best possible user experience on your website and provide a service that meets and exceeds visitors’ requirements. Keep up your other efforts on social media, via email or using the other various platforms you may be marketing on!

    Basic SEO You Can Do Yourself:

    Above, I said I wouldn’t get technical but I will tell you some of the biggest gains you can make to any web page:

    Meta Title/Page Title:

    Make sure you have this in place.

    Make sure they are relevant to the content of that page and make sure they are structured effectively. There are lots of guides on how to do this but if you’re unsure, ask me. This is the single biggest ranking factor on that page and the one that people get wrong or allow their website to auto-generate the most.

    Image of a Google Search Result for "benji sharpe" with the meta description highlighted in red

    Limit this to 60 characters and break it up with | separators.

    H1/H2/H3 Titles:

    Another big mistake people make is not using these or not making them relevant. A decent H1 title should be logical and follow the content of the page. Use lesser titles like H2s etc for pages or blogs to highlight what that section is about and give a search engine the understanding that you’re writing about a given subject.

    Meta Descriptions:

    These are not a ranking factor but are a clicking factor. These are the descriptions you see in search that describe what the page is about and why someone should visit. Use this as a brief description with a reason for someone to visit your site.

    Image of a Google Search Result for "benji sharpe" with the meta description highlighted in red

    Keep this to 160 characters, ideally with a call to action at the end.

    On-Page Content:

    You know, a good write up always helps but it may not require a full essay like this one!

    You need to let a visitor know more about a product or service but using bullet points is always a great thing when it comes to important info, stats or selling products because many people would rather read that than three paragraphs of text. More content does not mean better rankings but clear, concise content that answers questions, should.

    Naming Images & Adding Alt Text:

    This is an easy thing to do but often overlooked.

    Search engines are clever, but not quite at the stage where they can look at an image and rank it objectively based on the content. You have to help by adding a decent title.

    Tell search engines what it is about. For example: “Blue T-shirt with a flaming skull design” will do you more good than “B2347.jpeg”. Once you’ve done that for your images, go back and add an alt image description… This is essentially describing the image as if you were telling a blind person what that image contains. The above example might be: “A male model’s torso wearing a large blue t-shirt with a flaming skull printed on the chest.”

    Yes, it is time-consuming but you can do this yourself and it may mean you get traffic from Google Image Search for a product that might not be found otherwise.

    Image of man and emote with image name and alt image text fields being completed
    An example of the image name and alt image text in my website.

    … Those are pretty simple changes that anyone can do and they can always be improved later by someone who knows what they are doing. Improving content is always easier than creating it and you can always get someone who knows what they are doing to help…Perhaps a freelancer?

    Working As A Freelancer

    As a freelancer myself (with clients and people who are dependant on me) it is potentially a scary time but I believe that ultimately, people like me will be more in demand than ever when the threat of Coronavirus has passed.

    I see many businesses taking on a full-time member of staff who is often qualified and apparently experienced but when it comes to doing the job of online marketing; they are basically incompetent. I know that sounds harsh but believe me, these roles require a lot of discipline and understanding of various platforms, software and being able to read statistics.

    A typical day usually revolves around working on several sites, each with its own unique set of issues, from being content-thin to getting traffic but not making sales. My role is to identify the issues, address them (In line with Google guidelines) and ensure that site traffic and sales are on the up where possible. I’m often the first person to identify an issue and often this puts me at loggerheads with web developers, designers and sometimes the business owners themselves. It’s not easy being told that your website is not very good or needs a lot of work to improve it.

    But I’ve been in this industry since 2012… I’m in it every day. I work on custom sites, standard platforms like WordPress and Wix and have to switch gears between every business and its issues.

    I’m a copywriter, I use Google Analytics, Moz, Google Ads, Bing Ads, various Google properties, various CRM’s, dashboards and communication platforms.

    I’ve got to help with issues like getting your live chat working with your Google analytics to ensure enquiries are being tracked and then tie that into Google Adwords to ensure that the terms I’m bidding on for you bring the right traffic to the right advert and that goes to the right landing pages… and then become an enquiry… and that enquiry is then tracked.

    It’s a lot to think about (That’s not all of it believe me) but I’m not a genius. I’ve done this for a long time and understand what I’m doing. When I don’t, I Google it and learn what I need to do to make it better.

    Folks like me replace the employee who might take a full-time role with a company but at a fraction of the cost. We can’t do the hours that an employee does but we work smarter and harder and our business is tied to yours. If you succeed, the freelancer who is working with you is succeeding too. You won’t be paying holidays or sick pay though you will likely see better results… Because people like me are working on lots of projects for lots of businesses and have a better understanding, broadly, of how people search.

    That’s why freelancers are the future.

    Stay Positive

    More important perhaps, than anything you can do on your site, is to maintain a positive mindset.

    Stay Busy.

    Keep improving.

    … Being stuck at home does not mean you have to be bored and depressed. You can use this valuable time to get some new processes in place and actually improve your online presence.

    In fact, you may be able to find newer, better ways to offer your services or create processes to make laborious tasks easier… Like online meetings which will cut down travel times and make you more productive.

    Perspective in business and life is really what shapes us: When challenges present themselves it can seem overwhelming but trying to be positive and coming out swinging will make you the person you are… Use this time wisely and remember that wasting your time will not make you feel good.

    Simply having a go at something new will give you new skills and abilities that will be invaluable for the future.

    Look after yourselves during this difficult time and remain positive. If you need help, as for it. People like me will always lend a hand… But health and loved ones should always come first. Take care of the essentials and then get busy on your online presence.