Complexity: Entry Level

This article is suited to: Small and medium sized businesses owners, startup marketing executives and anyone looking at revising their SEO campaign spend.

We understand that this is an incredibly difficult time for many businesses, especially small businesses and startups. COVID-19 has changed the landscape of business in countries around the world. As a result, many are looking to make cuts in whatever areas they can. Unsurprisingly, as someone in digital marketing, I want to advocate for maintaining (or even starting) an SEO campaign even in lean times. 

Keeping an SEO campaign running may not be practical for all businesses, but it might be exactly what you need to stay afloat and adaptive as the pandemic progresses. Here, we’ll look at what can happen to websites that stop their SEO campaigns and what the benefits are, in both the short and long term, of maintaining an SEO campaign – this also applies to those who don’t have an SEO campaign and can afford to start one.

FYI, We Aren’t Talking About Big Budgets Here

drawing of figure riding on a pig shaped piggy bank while holding a coin with a dollar sign on it

I want to make it clear from the outset that we aren’t talking exclusively about large SEO budgets here. Many medium to small businesses working with agencies expect to pay at least £1000 per month, if not £2000+ depending on the scale of the campaign. In these leaner times, a modest budget of even £500 per month, which might be your regular spend or a reduction, can go a long way to supporting your business with SEO expertise.

What Happens To Websites Without SEO Campaigns?

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Digital marketing is a constantly evolving area and that means that keeping up with current trends as well as new best practices is a necessity, not just a nice bonus. SEO is a long term strategy so stopping an SEO campaign before completion will waste all that hard work. But that’s not all.

Websites Can Stagnate, Leading To Less Visibility

Google is like an ardent Instagram fashionista, it loves the new and bores of anything that stays the same for too long. Website stagnation can cause a drop in rankings, leading to less traffic and a reduction in online visibility for your brand.

When we are talking about website stagnation, we mean a lack of meaningful updates to your website. Many websites avoid this by regularly publishing new, meaningful, content, such as articles and guides, as well as refreshing their product/service pages regularly. Time management in lean times is often focused on retaining clients and spending more time on business management, so you’ll likely push other tasks like blogging to the back burner. That’s perfectly understandable but not good for your website or business.

Google, and other search engines, check in with websites every so often for new updates, to make sure that searchers are seeing the latest version of a site. It prioritises those with regular new updates that users are interested in, which means if you aren’t making changes but your competitor is, then search engines are going to prioritise them over you. 

With an SEO campaign, even a modest one, you can implement a valuable content and update strategy. It can easily slot into your regular schedule, either with an agency doing the leg work and you signing off, or you can take on the tasks internally under the guidance of an SEO expert. That way, you maintain your website’s visibility, which will help you make sales or get the leads you need for your businesses to stay afloat.

Errors Can Be Introduced, Causing Ranking Issues

If you’re running an SEO campaign with an agency or consultant, it’s because you don’t have the skills and/or time in house to carry it out yourself. Those with a breadth of experience know what to do to get your website visible to the right audience, and they know what NOT to do. Many small businesses have made the mistake of doing what they think is good SEO for their website but is in fact hampering their potential for growth. SEO is kind of like British English in that there are clear rules for spelling and grammar, but there are also a ton of contradictory rules and times when the rules don’t apply (and it often feels random!).

Errors can be introduced are anything from updating copy and creating competing pages to breaking the code of your site. While you might want to make updates to improve your website’s SEO stats or avoid stagnation, if you update your website incorrectly, or in an erroneous way, then you could end up doing more damage than good. 

That’s why maintaining your SEO campaign is key. You’ll be assured that anything done will be to the ultimate benefit of your website, as it’ll come from your agency or SEO consultant. Or if you are reducing your SEO spend, at least you’ll have an expert to check in with before you make changes to ensure they are the right changes.

Websites Can Lose Out (Big Time) When Algorithms Change

Google rolls out algorithm changes constantly, though often they are very minor tweaks here and there. Several times a year there are big algorithm updates, with at least 3 in the first half of 2020. These changes can have a huge impact on the visibility of your website, for better or worse depending on the aspect of the algorithm being changed and how prepared your website was for it. 

Algorithm changes are generally a positive concept, as the goal is to make the results more accurate to the searcher’s intent. But these updates are imperfect and large changes can fundamentally shift a site’s visibility. If a website is ready for the update or quick to react, they can make gains in rankings and traffic. If not, or if there are errors in the SEO on the website, rankings and traffic can drop or disappear completely.

Those immersed in SEO are often aware of potential algorithms before they happen. At times, Google will announce their updates but unless you are looking for this information it might not cross your path. SEO agencies and consultants will be aware and they’ll know how to react – as much as anyone can, as Google and other search engines don’t explain the exact specifics of the changes. 

By maintaining your SEO campaign, you will be alerted to updates that will affect your website, be it changes to local search, your particular industry or Google Shopping, etc. Even with a reduced SEO spend, you’ll be able to manage the shift when the algorithm hits and prevent making losses at a time when maintaining your online visibility is key.

Websites Won’t Improve, For An Even Longer Time

SEO is a long term strategy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t quick wins and errors that can be fixed for great results sooner rather than later, it’s just that on the whole SEO is a gradual process of improving your website. Think of it like a house remodel. You need to work from the foundations up, fixing walls before painting and ultimately furnishing the house. 

Some agencies will eat up budget chasing quick wins that cheat the system, but this isn’t advisable as these sites often get hit with penalties. It’s the equivalent of buying a new sofa or new windows for the house refurb first. If you have foundation issues and the house collapses or pipes burst, you have to rebuild AND replace that sofa and those windows. Double the cost to make less progress, in more time. 

Maintaining an SEO campaign, even at a reduced rate, will allow you to keep working on the previously identified tasks that are improving your website, rankings and traffic. You’ll also be ensuring a strong foundation for future development which will ensure you don’t get penalised during an algorithm update. If you don’t have an SEO campaign, this is why starting one in lean times is valuable (assuming you can afford it), as you will be able to do work that has an impact a few months later. If you wait a few months to start, then you will be waiting even longer to see results.

With an SEO campaign in progress, you can make vital changes to improve your website, ensuring future growth, and be looking ahead while competitors aren’t, giving you an edge on them for years to come.

Benefits Of Maintaining An SEO Campaign

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There are many benefits to maintaining an SEO campaign during lean times, whether that is keeping your spend as it is or reducing it to a more affordable level, if needed. The great advantage of SEO campaigns with digital marketing agencies and SEO consultants is that they are flexible; or should be if you are with the right people. Adapting to your current situation to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck, as it were, is imperative. It’s how I carry out all my SEO work in general, but it’s become particularly important during the pandemic.

Boost Rankings & Traffic By Adapting To Results Page Changes

Search engines update their algorithms regularly, and they also make changes to their search engine results pages (SERPs) too. These can be small changes like changing the colour of an AD icon or bigger changes like adding Answer Boxes or videos at the top of the page for a particular search term. These changes will impact your website’s visibility even if you are ranking on the home page. For example if you ranked number one, which appears at the page, but Google adds 4 Ads and an answer box, all of a sudden your number one ranking is half way down the page. 

To take advantage of these SERP changes, you might amend a high ranking page with the exact information needed to gain a Snippet or Answer Box. Doing this will make your website more favourable to the search engine, in turn increasing your rankings for other keywords, driving more traffic to your website and leading to more sales. Similarly, if a new term becomes popular and Ads appear at the top of a keyword you want to target but aren’t ranking for, you can skip the line by running an ad campaign, besting even the top organic ranking websites. 

All of this is only possible if you have an SEO expert on hand to tell you what changes have been made to SERPs, how to take advantage of them and when. There may be tasks you can carry out in house, but it is the SEO insights that will help you make the right choices, when they are most beneficial to your business.

Increase Visibility By Taking Advantage Of New (COVID-19) Search Engine Features

Digital platforms and products of all kinds had to make fundamental changes to help support their users at the start of COVID-19 and they continue to do so. For example, Twitter introduced COVID-19 moments and Google made changes to Google My Business to allow for pandemic business information changes

The latter is and was of particular advantage to small businesses of all kinds as it meant hours, days and delivery information could all be updated in ways that didn’t negatively impact search visibility. However, many brands didn’t and still don’t know about these changes. For those smaller businesses, especially those who’ve had to furlough or let the team members who deal with marketing tasks go, being able to make these changes would be valuable as it can prevent losing customers and keep potential buyers informated.

Your brand can improve it’s visibility in search engines, like Google, by giving it all the information it needs to show your website in as many relevant searches as possible. Obvious yes, but when search engines add new features and only some use them, only some brands benefit. Wouldn’t you want your website to be one of those that benefits? If you maintain your SEO campaign, you can be told about changes that will help your business and get assistance in setting them up quickly. 

(Temporarily) Shift Your Brand To Online Sales

The pandemic isn’t going away any time soon and this has meant uncertainty for many sectors, particularly those who rely on in-person shopping or events. At the start of COVID-19 when full lockdowns were in effect, restaurants were able to shift to delivery, even if they hadn’t been offering it previously – assuming they followed food safety guidelines. Local businesses used this to maintain their sales and retain staff for longer. Online sales, unsurprisingly, have rocketed up in 2020, making going online with your business a must for most.

Shifting your business to accommodate online purchases could be a valuable solution to the ongoing pandemic. This will look different for every business, and won’t work for all – I’m not sure an online plumber can help you effectively in an emergency. It will work for many businesses though, be it creating an online store, for plant shops or market sellers, or creating video content, for training sessions or cooking classes. 

If you maintain an SEO campaign, you will have the expertise needed to get this move to online sales sorted as quickly as possible and in a way that ensures you get the clicks you needed to make it financially viable. 

Continue To Make Website Improvements

Maintaining your SEO campaign will allow you to keep making improvements to your website. If you have issues that have been highlighted as key to increasing your rankings and traffic then you can’t afford to leave them unresolved. Even if you reduce your SEO spend you can still carry out these vital changes, even if it’s just a little bit slower than originally planned. Your agency or SEO consultant can help prioritise these tasks, getting them done one by one. Do this and you’ll start to see the benefits much sooner than if you stop your campaign and then have to restart down the line.

Let’s Talk About Your SEO Campaign

Your website needs an SEO campaign, even if the form it takes during more difficult times like during COVID-19 is different to what has come before. One of the benefits of the digital landscape is that there is a lot of flexibility, both in what you can do and how we, as SEO experts, can help you. Before you end your campaign, or if you are looking to maximise the budget you have available, get in touch and speak to us about your options.

By Nick Gomez

What To Read Next

What does SEO and digital marketing actually encompass? We look at the various aspects of digital marketing and how a digital marker fits in when it comes to business development online. Read: What Is Digital Marketing? to learn more.