Huge traffic dips, major traffic gains, certain industries aren't quite sure how to respond - is this the new normal or will these spikes level out? The search volume volatility is coupled with the fact that internet traffic is spiking nearly 50%, according to Akamai. Individuals across the globe are home, in front of their computers and mobile devices, and turning toward search engines for news, shopping, information, updates, and data.
Searchers are changing their habits, even with more time spent online. We're seeing increased demand for grocery related searches and productivity tools, whereas the travel and hospitality industries are taking a drastic hit in their search traffic and interest. Brand searches for two major hotel chains are seeing significant drop offs in the past thirty days and a more than 60% drop in search traffic since the same time last year.
Shifting Marketing Dollars
When traffic falls drastically in such a short amount of time and the demand for brand name searches is no longer there. Brands and companies need to stay relevant and in front of their target audience, even in times of uncertainty. This is where these companies can shift marketing dollars to paid remarketing campaigns to target visitors who have already visited their website, invest in strategic paid social and other push marketing efforts to remain top of mind. Additionally, content strategy needs to shift in an effort to capitalize on the change in search volume by targeting keywords that have seen an increased spike in traffic and interest. As illustrated below, "how to travel safe" surged in the same period of time. A change in content strategy to develop appropriate content would still draw searchers to the website and potentially make up for lost search volume around branded keywords.
Capitalizing on Opportunity
With the transition to work from home, businesses around the world are trying to figure out how to stay connected, see their teammates and clients, and use video to replace in person meetings. Individuals and businesses turn to search engines to determine what will be the best piece of software or equipment to implement as the transition continues with a remote workforce.
If we take a look at the major spike in Google Trends data around the search for "video conferencing" just over the past 90 days, the increase in volume is drastic. There is no way that major video conferencing providers were ready for the onslaught of searches and interest in their products and services for the new remote workforce.
That being said, these businesses are quickly trying to capitalize on the increase in interest and demand. Take a look at the number of paid search ads that appear at the top of SERP results for this specific keyword. These businesses were quick to react and shift their marketing dollars from paid search campaigns to try to convert the new surge in searchers into customers.
Missing An Opportunity
Throughout the State of New York, "Are fast food restaurants open today" skyrocketed 3950% according to Google Trends data. Yet, the content that appears on SERP results are news articles that may or may not answer the question. Local restaurants, offering carryout or delivery, and fast food chains are missing an opportunity to drive traffic from their content strategy or paid search advertising answering this question that New Yorkers are asking, which could drive business and traffic.
"How to cut men's own hair" has seen a 5x increase in search traffic with salons and barber shops closed. Salons and barber shops should be looking at relevant keywords right now to develop content that answers these questions. Position your business or brand as a thought leader by providing relevant information to searchers. Most of the major results to answer this question are videos. Your business could create a well optimized YouTube video to answer the question and demonstrate techniques. The YouTube video could lead to a "How to Cut Men's Hair" blog post with those keywords focused on in the meta title, description, H1s and content on the page. If your salon or barber shop offers an eCommerce store, you should link to the equipment and products needed or even create a bundled package of everything someone would need to cut their own hair.
Remain cognizant and aware of what consumers are searching, how you can provide them with the information (or product) they need which will pay dividends as soon as the barber shop or salon is fully operational. These investments now might not provide immediate return on investment financially, but are generating opportunities.
We need to realize that the new normal of individuals going online is likely to stay around for quite some time as we get past the initial influx of coronavirus related content and move into how consumers are changing their marketing approach to capitalize on their buyers being online right now. It's important to do the research and analyze the trends of search volume in specific categories as more people are confined to their homes, not planning vacations, not traveling and might be looking at more local information and insight as they make their buying decisions.
Think like your customers. What is it that they need or would find useful while homebound?
As news continues to share more information, guidelines change (what seems like) every hour, and the unknown weighing on many, businesses are moving at a fast pace to adopt business continuity plans, remote working, store closures, and more. The need to communicate remains paramount and perhaps the need to communicate multiple different times through many different channels. What your business communicated yesterday might have to change tomorrow. We need to be thoughtful, strategic, and fluid in our messaging, channels leveraged, and remaining on brand.
If we simply look at Google Trends for interest over time on search results across the United States, we see the interest growing exponentially. This is not surprising to anyone watching the news, scrolling through social media, or opening their inbox. Over the past three weeks, the news, search results, and the number of tweets has only escalated quickly.
From the many communications that RyTech has assisted in developing as well as the myriad of pieces of communication that we've received from vendors, suppliers, partners, friends, and brands, we've compiled our Top 5 Takeaways on Communications.
Top 5 Takeaways on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Communications
1. Communicate Pertinent Information. Everyone is being inundated with content and communication. Be thoughtful and strategic in what you are communicating and the need for your communication. In one day, I received 50+ COVID related email communications from small businesses to major retailers to large hotel groups. Make sure you're not communicating just to communicate, but rather that you are offering actionable insights, information that your audience needs to know, and reassure your audiences that work can still be performed (if possible).
If you are a law firm that has transitioned to fully remote work and there is no change in the quality, delivery time, or availability, there is likely not a reason to communicate that directly to your client base via email, perhaps a Facebook post would fill that need. However, if you are a bar or restaurant that has been closed by a state, you likely need to communicate on multiple channels to promote drive-thru and delivery service. You still want your audience to know how they can support your business.
2. Prioritize Your Channels. Where do you typically see the most return on investment with your communications? If you have an active Twitter account with large impressions and engagement, then you should prioritize communication there. Rather, if your email list is healthy with an above-average industry open rate, this should be prioritized. You might also find that you need communication to go out on multiple different channels; make sure your message is consistent but different language for each as your audience might be slightly different in each capacity.
Some social media channels (i.e. FB) allow you to edit your posts. If a previous post has information that is no longer relevant or out of date, edit that post and reshare it to your audience. This will prevent misinformation about your business from spreading. If you have claimed your Google My Business profile and hours of your business have changed, we recommend updating that frequently to keep those searchers out there with the right information.
3. Bandwidth for Responses. As you are sending out your stakeholder communication, make sure that you have the necessary resources and bandwidth to support the management of responses. With every social post, email, website content that is sent out to your audience, there will likely be a response. Depending upon your audience size there may be a flurry of responses or only a few likes and comments, you need to be prepared for comments, questions, and reactions. You want to make sure that you respond accordingly, appropriately, and timely. Don't let your audience wait for a response; try your best to respond in less than 24 hours. If your communications team isn't staffed for churning out this much content or managing responses, you might consider bringing on additional, temporary support.
4. Remain on Brand. In all of your communications, it is important to stay true to your brand. How you define your brand and/or your communications is unique to each business. Keep your branding alive in your posts, emails, and press releases. Use similar language that reflects your core, guiding principles. Focus on your message, word choices, and efficiently getting your main points across. Your brand is an asset at this time (and all times) and should continue to be utilized in that way.
5. Revisit the Pre-Scheduled. If your communication teams work ahead and pre-schedule social media posts, email newsletters, or other outbound communication, someone needs to make sure that each post has been reviewed to ensure it's still accurate, timely, and appropriate. What you don't want to have happen is a pre-scheduled tweet going out about an in-store event that's already been canceled or an email with untimely information confusing your audience. We appreciate the ability to work ahead, but it's also time to take a step back and make sure the communication is accurate.
Communication is critical during this time, but over-communication or communicating just to communicate is not a prudent course of action. It's also not wise to rush your communications. Make sure multiple individuals are involved in the writing, reading, and proofing of your communication. What sounds right to one person might be misinterpreted by another.
If you are in need of strategic assistance during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out to our talented team of professionals. We're in it together and here to help.