Merkle's SEO Advice for Creating Content During Coronavirus
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are seeking clear information, reassurance, and notes of optimism in what they are reading. Above all, they are seeking answers at a time where uncertainty is everywhere. The best way to address these queries is to use data to identify trends and create useful, relevant content.
What Type of Content Should Businesses Be Producing Around Coronavirus?
Getting information to customers is a top priority, even as brands juggle the impact that Coronavirus is having on business. Content can be:
- News articles
- Dedicated webpages
- Homepage banners
- Emails to customer database
- Social media posts
- YouTube videos
Top Tip: If content isn’t housed on the homepage, make sure it is easy to access from the homepage
Consider following this structure within content:
Brands can reassure customers that their company is behaving responsibly to stop the spread of the virus. Maybe people are working from home or methods of production have been changed to reflect new government guidelines.
A quick-fire Q&A section might be useful in this case:
- Are products/services available online?
- Are there concerns over manufacturing and lack of stock?
- Are offers such as free trials still going ahead? Could they pose a health risk if this involves trying out a product or service in a home?
If it isn’t possible to offer products or services at this time, brands can let customers know they are working on new products, services or ways of running the business for when they are actively selling again.
Provide Contact Details
If people still have questions, who can they ask? Companies should make it clear where queries need to be directed (telephone, email, contact form, or social media) and identify the expected response time.
Which Tools Can Identify Trends During the Coronavirus Period?
Monitoring Coronavirus-driven changes to keyword searches isn’t easy. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush don’t pull data frequently enough to capture the ever-changing trends. In addition, Google Keyword Planner won’t be tracking COVID-19 related terms specifically as Google has banned advertisements for Coronavirus content.
Best Tools for Monitoring COVID-19 Changes to Search Queries
Google Trends has a new section on Coronavirus Search Trends by country. It can also provide more recent information around searcher behaviour and industry-specific concerns that do not include ‘coronavirus’ search terms, offering insights brands can use to inspire content. Unsurprisingly, EasyJet saw a peak in interest for cancellation search terms. This suggests that clear content around cancellations needs to be created and made easily accessible to concerned customers.
Google Trends: Peak interest for this term was during the Coronavirus period
Top Tip: Google Trends indicates relative interest rather than search volume
For business and brand-specific insights, turn to first-party data tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, or Adobe Analytics. Monitoring which pages have had a spike in clicks or impressions can give clues as to what people have recently been searching for within your industry. Brands can create new content based around these topics, or tailor current content to address the current crisis.
NewzDash is another useful tool for tracking bigger trending new stories, as well as local news features. The latter will be useful for local business wanting to keep up with the top stories in the community.
Top Tip: Businesses with local presence can follow best practices within Merkle's guide to Optimising Local Landing Pages During the Coronavirus.
New Schema to Help Search Engines Read Coronavirus Content
All businesses should utilise the new structured data for COVID-19 announcements that is now supported by both Google and Bing. This could be announcing the rescheduling of an event, or telling users that it had now been moved online. For a SpecialAnnouncement, Schema.org recommends filling in certain minimum fields, and the most recent updates include:
- Geographic regions added for a SpecialAnnouncement
- VirtualLocation added for online events
- Event value option: EventMovedOnline
Another useful structured data markup, InformAction, as seen on lner.co.uk site
Top Tip: Visit Schema.org for more information how to use this schema on your site
What Industry Trends Have There Been During Coronavirus and How Have These Industries Been Releasing Content?
FMCG Coronavirus Trends
Within the FMCG industry, brands that sell non-luxury, everyday products have seen a surge in revenue. This is evident with non-branded keywords related to essential products contributing to site traffic, for example Similarweb found the second-highest, non-branded keyword for Walmart in March was ‘toilet paper’.
However, everyday products such as beauty items are still in demand during lockdown. Boots have seen stark increases in traffic with keywords such as ‘face cream’ driving traffic to their site according to Similarweb.com.
For this reason, many brands in the FMCG industry have seen increases in traffic, and consequently, revenue.
FMCG client selling everyday essentials saw a sharp increase in revenue, while sessions remained stable
A large revenue increase in this industry suggests people are stockpiling due to a lack of certainty over whether businesses can continue to provide their everyday product during this time. Consequently, content is vital here to reassure clients that businesses can continue to offer them their product.
FMCG Industry Approach to Coronavirus Content
One FMCG client has added four pages dedicated to information, recommendations and FAQs about COVID-19. Separating information out in this way is a good idea if a business has seen a wave of interest in specific products.
The Coca-Cola Company has published several news articles outlining how they are handling the challenges of COVID-19. The article below neatly covers the health and safety of employees, remote working, and how they are ensuring products will remain available in stores.
Coca-Cola Coronavirus News Article
Andrex, who have convinced many of us to buy toilet roll with a Labrador puppy alone, have made use of the scrolling banner on their homepage to get surface-level Coronavirus information to their customers. As well as providing reassurance that their production is continuing amidst the pandemic, they are asking people to behave responsibly rather than to boost their own revenue through panic buying.
Andrex Homepage Scrolling Banner
This responsible angle is one that all FMCG companies should be aiming to adopt with their content; hard selling a product right now won’t help business reputation. Nobody needs stronger encouragement to buy more toilet paper.
Retail Coronavirus Trends
Businesses in this industry often sell products that are not so likely to be stockpiled. For this reason, many brands have seen a decrease in traffic to their websites.
However, other retail brands have witnessed different trends as search behaviours have changed during lockdown. For example, some sport apparel brands have seen website traffic rise owing to increased searches for sportswear as a result of people exercising more during lockdown.
Google Trends: Search interest highest during Coronavirus period for ‘running shoes'
The graph below illustrates how a cosmetics company has seen revenue increase compared to the previous month. On the one hand, essential items such as food and cleaning products are naturally being prioritised however, on the other hand, as consumers are kept indoors for months on end, they are using their free time to shop online for less essential items like make-up and sportswear.
Retail client saw a spike in revenue in March as stores were closed and people shopped online
Retail Industry Approach to Coronavirus Content
One retail client has kept COVID-19 information restricted to where it is relevant to avoid capitalising on the situation. A clear update is provided on the beauty services pages as these services are currently paused.
Topshop has opted to display Coronavirus reassurances on its homepage, with a link to a dedicated COVID-19 page. The ways in which they are helping customers continue shopping despite the lack of physical stores are immediately evident.
Topshop's homepage with Coronavirus update
Finance Coronavirus Trends
As the height of COVID-19 took hold in March, interest in specific financial areas grew. The graph below indicates unprecedented demand during the Coronavirus period for information relating to ‘shares’ (yellow), ‘invest’ (blue), and ‘fixed rate mortgage’ (red) across a twelve-month period. This presents a great opportunity to create content around such terms, exploring how the pandemic has changed the approach of investors.
Google Trends: Search interest highest during Coronavirus period for ‘shares,’ ‘invest,’ and ‘fixed rate mortgage.’
Finance Industry Approach to Coronavirus Content
One financial services client has tailored their usual articles to offer insights reflecting changes to the financial markets brought about by COVID-19, for example with regards to investing, risk management and asset types. They have witnessed a 28% increase in clicks and 21% increase in impressions for their Coronavirus articles when compared with the general financial insight articles of the previous month.
COVID-19 articles published between March 6th and April 6th attracted more traffic for this financial services company
Morgan Stanley’s articles are reassuring readers that they are viewing up-to-date content.
A recent Coronavirus impact article from Morgan Stanley
Barclays is using content to manage customer expectations with regards to getting in touch for financial advice.
Barclays’ ‘Coronavirus Help and Support’ page
Our main content advice to those in the financial industry would be to offer practical insights and company information only; don’t hard sell a financial service.
Travel Coronavirus Trends
Unsurprisingly, travel agencies and airlines are experiencing some of the worst effects of Coronavirus in terms of site traffic and revenue. Similarweb quoted on 28th March that most UK travel agencies have seen their site traffic experience a decline of 60% or more. In previous weeks, people were visiting travel sites in search of information on how to cancel or amend a scheduled trip, but the trend now remains downwards. Until there is a clear understanding of when global lockdown restrictions will be lifted this trend is likely to continue.
This general lack of interest in travel sites is reflected in the decrease in site sessions for one travel client.
Sharp decrease in sessions in comparison to the climbing search interest for Coronavirus
However, there is interest around travel advice. Rising interest indicates a trend of increasing ‘travel + advice’ search terms, often paired with a desire for information about a specific country.
Google Trends: Breakout and increased relative interest in official travel advice
Travel Industry Approach to Coronavirus Content
The above travel company has added one dedicated page, with a clear link to it in their banner on the homepage. They have managed customer expectations by providing recommendations for getting in contact, outlining how to cancel holidays and anticipating future queries about holidays later in the year.
Below are two examples of content published by two of the main UK airlines in the first weeks of April. For British Airways, note the clear internal links to query answers, external links to official advice, contact information, and date for when the page was last updated. In comparison, the Ryanair page was unlikely to satisfy any searcher; it displayed out-of-date information regarding travel to and from Italy, undermining their guarantee that they were following all guidelines. On top of this, the page displayed a broken breadcrumbs pathway.
British Airway’s dedicated page to Coronavirus in early April
Ryanair’s dedicated page to Coronavirus in early April
Above all, clear reassurance should be given that travel businesses (and their content) are staying up to date with the Coronavirus advice and guidelines from different countries. In this way, they can become a reliable source of official information for customers.
Stay Safe, Stay at Home, Keep Thinking About Your SEO Strategy
During this period of uncertainty, keeping an eye on industry trends to meet changing customer needs is essential.
Businesses should create content around the Coronavirus that is:
- Well-located on the site and in keeping with brand tone of voice
- Informed by insights from Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Google Trends
- Visible to search engines by using COVID 19 structured data mark-up
How businesses conduct themselves now is extremely important for brand reputation and business post-Coronavirus. So long as customers remain well-informed about the policies of businesses during the pandemic, and don’t feel pressured into buying products or services, they’ll still be there when normal life resumes.
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