Businesses all over the globe are struggling with new challenges as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With consumers turning to the internet for the majority of their needs, it’s never been more vital to ensure your online presence is easily found and your business updates clearly communicated.
In this special edition of Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller outlines a checklist that businesses can use to meet the changing needs of consumers and improve visibility for local searches.
Bonus — We’ve adapted these tips into a free checklist you can download and share:
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Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going over crisis adaptation, and I first have to give a huge shout-out to Miriam Ellis, who really helped me package all of this up to deliver to you today.
If you’re not already following Miriam on Twitter, I highly suggest you do. She is a local SEO genius. So let’s dive right in.
Meet your customers where they are
You often hear this phrase in marketing and in SEO about meeting your customers where they are. This might be important now more than ever because the current landscape, it’s changed so much.
Listen to your customers & understand how their needs have shifted
In order to better meet your customers where they are, you really first have to listen and understand how their needs have shifted, how have their concerns shifted. What are they searching for now? Just really paying attention and listening online to your current target market.
One of the things I also like to suggest is listen to competitive reviews. Keep an eye on competitive reviews being posted on Google and other spaces to get a gauge of how things have perhaps moved.
Know where your audience is
This could have also shifted a bit. Whiteboard Friday’s OG, Rand Fishkin, launched SparkToro that does exactly that. So you can really deep dive into current data around what your audience is listening to, who they follow, all sorts of great stuff for you to leverage in today’s climate.
Connect with potential customers in meaningful ways
Now is a great time to reach out and engage with not only potential customers but current customer base and remind people that you are still here, you’re still serving them in various ways. So it’s really, really key.
Partner with relevant businesses
I’ve seen this do really well in some great examples of pivoting, where a fruit delivery company partnered with a bakery to include these free cakes within orders. What a great way to get some visibility for that bakery, and vice versa — they could do different things. I think it’s a great time to leverage those relationships and help one another out. I absolutely love that tip.
Communicate all changes and updates
Now the other big, big priority right now is all around communicating changes and updates to your website visitors. So what do you need to cover?
- Changes to hours is so important right now. It’s essential that you have that information readily visible to anyone visiting your website, if this applies to you. All forms of availability, video, curbside, no touch delivery, have that information available.
- Any expected delays and product availability challenges. This is a really great tip too.
- Sanitation and any adopted safety precautions.
- Payment methods accepted. This can be really helpful in the transaction.
- Any philanthropic efforts that you’re doing to help support people in need.
I’m seeing a lot of these show up in banners and readily available information for people visiting websites. I think it’s great to consider making sure that this information is easy for people to access.
Immediately communicate this information:
Set up online orders and catalog inventory/services
In addition to these things, set up online orders. At the very least, catalog your online inventory or services for people to still have that awareness of what you’re currently offering.
I would suggest if you’re a struggling business and you don’t want to go into a huge website build, you can absolutely check out and explore things like Squarespace or Shopify. I would have never thought I would be suggesting these platforms a year ago just because they’re not usually great for SEO reasons. But they can do a beautiful job of solving this problem so quickly, and then you can roll out V2 and V3 down the road when you’re ready to make those improvements. But I think just getting businesses off the ground is so important right now.
Add products for free on Google Shopping
This was such a neat thing that Google offered I believe several weeks ago, and it’s doing great. What it basically does is it allows you to list products for free on Google Shopping, giving you that extra visibility right now. So if you’re an e-commerce brand, definitely check that out.
Create maps showing delivery radiuses
Miriam had this great idea to create maps showing delivery radiuses, if that applies to you, so really giving someone visiting your site an easy to consume idea of the areas that you serve. Sometimes when you see the ZIP codes, it’s a little overwhelming. You have to do a little work. But that’s kind of a great idea.
Then this was mentioned in a recent GatherUp webinar by Darren Shaw — Routific. So if you are doing local deliveries and they’re getting a little out of hand, Routific is a company that creates delivery routes to make them most efficient for you, which I thought was so cool.
I didn’t even know that existed. So it’s a good little tool tip.
Double down on SEO and content marketing
I absolutely loved Mike King’s post on this — I think it was a couple weeks ago — where he explains why economic downturns favor the bold. It’s brilliant. There are incredible use cases around this, and we’ll link to that down below.
Someone who has impressed the heck out of me the last couple of weeks is Kristin Tynski — I hope I’m saying that right — over at Fractl. She is going above and beyond to create content pieces that are not only genius but are link building opportunities, apply to various clients, and use traditional journalism tactics to gather offline, unique data to present online. I highly suggest you pay attention to what Kristin is up to. She is a genius. Kristin, we have to meet sometime. I’m a huge fan of you. Keep up the great work.
Local & Google My Business
Now let’s dive into some GMB stuff. While this might not apply to you if you’re not a local business, I think there are still things to take away for larger companies that also either have a local listing or just to be aware of.
So here’s an example of Uptown China Restaurant, a local Chinese restaurant. It’s awesome in Queen Anne, and it’s going to be our example. So what’s the first thing?
Correct any GMB errors
Just correct any GMB errors. Make sure that the current data shown and information is correct and up to date.
Update hours to remove warning
Then this is probably my favorite hack of all, from Joy Hawkins, about this warning that we see on all businesses currently, because of the pandemic, that says hours or services may differ. You can get this removed simply by updating your hours. How incredible is that?
So I highly suggest you just update your hours. Joy also mentioned in this webinar I keep referring to, that was so good, she suggests using the hours that you are available to take phone calls. Google has never had an issue with that, and it tends to make the most sense. So something to think about.
Respond to reviews
Now is also a great time to invest and be engaged with these reviews. I think it’s one of the most overlooked PR and marketing tactics available, where customers exploring your brand, exploring your location want to know that (a) you care and that (b) you’re going to engage with a customer and that you have a timely response. So I think it’s important to respond to reviews, especially on behalf of the business side.
Confirm or reject any new Google My Business prompts
So we’re going to continue to see different things roll out. There were senior hours available to, I believe, grocery stores that popped up as an option. No-contact delivery. These things will always be changing. So I think it’s important to maybe put a reminder in your calendar just to keep an eye on are there any new options within Google My Business that I could activate or clarify. Google loves that, and it also helps fill out your listing better.
Update menu and product listings
What a great time to take some good, new photos. Update your menu items. I wish Uptown China Restaurant did this, and I might suggest it to them that they can add those offerings. They can add those things to really pop up on the listing and kind of make it shine.
Posts have always been really, really great for Google My Business listings because it gives you a big photo. It lasts for a while up here, I believe up to 14 days. It’s very prevalent when you see it. Now Google has also been offering COVID-19 posts.
There isn’t an option to add an image with the COVID-19 posts. It’s text only, but it lasts longer and it’s more prominent than a regular post. So it will show up higher in your Google My Business listing, and we’ve also seen it pop up in actual SERPs in the organic area. So pretty cool. Good to know. I suggest you doing that. You have control over the messaging. You can say whatever you would like. You can provide updated info, all that good stuff.
Use Product Posts
So a shout-out to Darren Shaw, who noticed this.
People are getting really savvy with product posts, which again it would show up in your Google My Business listing with a big photo and a description. What he’s seen people do is basically have a photo of a car with text on it that says “No-Touch Delivery” or different service options as the product.
Google is currently letting that slide. I don’t know if that will last forever. But it’s an interesting thing to explore if you really want that visibility if someone is struggling with their business right now, and you can kind of get that to pop up on the SERPs.
Enable text messaging
So I’ve heard from so many SEOs that this has continued to go up into the right during the pandemic, and it makes sense.
People want to just quickly get information from businesses. You can create a welcome message. So I highly suggest exploring that if that’s available to you.
Again, I think I’ve said this like three times, but update images. It’s a great time to do that, and it can really help make your stuff pop.
Share these tips with businesses in need!
Lastly, don’t forget to share these tips with businesses.
Understand that there are a lot of people in need right now, and if there’s anything that we can do to help, by all means let’s make all of that stuff happen. The fact is that you’re not alone. So whether you’re doing this work on behalf of a client, or you yourself or family or friends are really struggling with a business right now, there are different support groups and options as far as financial support.
We’ve created a free PDF checklist of all this information that you can download and share with any marketers, clients, or businesses in need:
Download the free checklist
I know we at Moz are going to be putting everything we have into helping you and others during this time, and so I created a form at the bottom of this post where you can fill in some information and let us know if there are specific problems that we could help with. We’re in this together.
We want to help you all as much as we can. I will be taking that very seriously and spending lots of time on replying or creating material to help individuals struggling. So please fill that out. Also, feel free to leave comments and suggestions in the comments. I think some of the best, most valuable takeaways sometimes happen in the comments where you’re either clarifying something that I said or adding something really great. I would really appreciate that. Just want to get all the good information out there so that we can help everyone out. I really appreciate you taking the time to watch this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and I will see you all again soon. Thanks.
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