How to Keep Your Business Relevant During Hard Times and Come Out a Winner

Runner crossing the finish line.

You’re in a race. You have nine other competitors, and you’re all running as fast as you can. But you are in last place. At this point, there’s no way you can catch up.

Suddenly, up ahead, you see the front runner fall. And then each of your competitors, one by one, begins to stumble.

You’re far enough behind that you can avoid the pileup. What do you do? Do you slow down, stop, or pick up speed and take the lead?

This is the scenario we’re in right now.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic is a blow to many businesses. But for the companies that can weather the crisis, now is the time to focus on winning the race in the search results.

Once this situation is contained, Google will still exist. Websites will still exist. And as I’ve said before, SEO is only done when Google stops changing things and all your competition goes away.

But what if your competition goes away — by putting the brakes on their marketing now or, unfortunately, by shutting down for good?

In this moment, you have a golden opportunity to completely change the course of your company’s success online.

I’m going to share with you three search marketing strategies you should focus on right now to come out a winner:

  1. Conduct a technical review of your website.
  2. Do a content review on your website.
  3. Forge key partnerships that can improve your business online.

1. Conduct a Technical Review of Your Website

You want to be sure your website’s infrastructure is running smoothly so that:

  • Search engines can crawl and index your content
  • Your website can handle incoming traffic
  • You create a good experience for your visitors

It wasn’t long ago that Google’s Gary Illyes said this:

i really wish SEOs went back to the basics (i.e. MAKE THAT DAMN SITE CRAWLABLE) instead of focusing on silly updates and made up terms by the rank trackers, and that they talked more with the developers of the website once done with the first part of this sentence.

Technical optimization is one of those basics you shouldn’t ignore if you want your site to perform well in the search results.

What to Focus on Now: Technical Optimization

Website performance: Your server’s speed and your page load time should be fast. If visitors and search engine crawlers can’t quickly access your content, you can lose potential customers as well as rankings and traffic. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool for more information about your website.

Robots.txt: The first thing a search engine crawler looks for on your site is a robots.txt file. This file is housed in the root directory of your website. It tells the crawler which parts of the site should and shouldn’t be crawled. This is mostly used to avoid overloading your site with requests. For more, see Google’s help file on robots.txt, its robots.txt tester tool, and our Robots Exclusion Protocol Reference Guide.

Schema markup: Schema markup helps communicate the meaning of your content to the search engines. This, in turn, can help make your content more relevant to a search query and enhance the way your search listing is displayed in Google. For more on this, see how to use schema markup to improve your website visibility.

Cloaking: Make sure your site isn’t involved in showing one version of a webpage to search engines, while another to a visitor. This is known as “cloaking” and includes things like hidden text or hidden links on a webpage. Google gives more examples of cloaking here. Sometimes website owners don’t realize the site is cloaking if it’s been hacked. You can use our free cloaking checker tool to find out.

Redirects: When you need to move a current webpage to a different URL, you want to make sure you redirect it properly. A 301 redirect is the way to go. Also worth a mention: Avoid sneaky redirects that can negatively impact your site. For help, read how to implement a 301 redirect.

Custom 404 page: When a person clicks on a bad link or types in the wrong URL for your site, a custom 404 page can help. By offering a custom message with links to popular content, a site map or something else, you can improve the user experience and keep people on your site. For more, see how to design a custom 404 error page, how to configure a custom 404 page on an Apache server, how to configure a custom 404 page in Microsoft IIS, and Google’s help topic on creating useful 404 pages.

For more on technical optimization, see our introductory guide to technical SEO.

2. Do a Content Review on Your Website

Right now, website owners should be reviewing every single page of content on their website for quality.

It’s not uncommon for websites to have old, irrelevant content from over the years. Add to that the fact that many publishers have adopted the “quantity over quality” approach to creating content.

Google is laser-focused on helping quality content rank, and not ranking low-quality content. Remember that Google has said that unmaintained sites are the lowest quality.

That’s because it’s hard to trust content that is many years old. This is especially true for “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL). YMYL topics are those that Google says can impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability or safety.

That said, evergreening your content is the thing to do now.

What to Focus on Now: Content Optimization

First, review the site structure. Google needs well-organized website content to determine relevance for search queries. Visitors need it for a better user experience. SEO siloing addresses the needs of both search engines and users. For more, see SEO Done Right Cares about Content Architecture.

Next, understand what quality content is. Review Google’s guidance on expertness, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T). Google has cited E-A-T on many occasions when talking about how to improve content, and potentially, rankings. You can view our complete and current guide to E-A-T as the first step.

Then, refresh the content. There are many ways you can go about doing this. First, you’ll want to start with SEO tools that show you the top-ranked pages and those driving the most traffic (for example, Google Analytics, our SEOToolSet or SEMrush).

You’ll want to categorize your webpages and prioritize the work:

  1. Start by reviewing the top-ranked pages. These are pages that rank in the very top results on Page 1 and drive the most traffic.
  2. Next, identify the rest of the pages ranking on the first page in Google’s search results, and driving good traffic.
  3. Identify the pages that are ranking on Page 2 and beyond that have the potential to rank better.
  4. Finally, find those pages that are not ranking well nor driving traffic, and are irrelevant or low quality.

For each of these categories, you’ll want to consider:

  • How to handle the content: Will it be a rewrite? How will you handle duplicate content? Will you combine like-topics into one in-depth article? Will you get rid of some content altogether?
  • How to optimize the content: For the pages that you want to give a boost, make sure they are optimized with the basics. For more see our Always Up-to-Date SEO Checklist.

Danny Goodwin over at Search Engine Journal has a good article on assessing a website’s content, and the results that SEJ saw from their content refresh here.

Keep in mind that building expertise, authority and trust takes time, so it’s important to get a head start on this process now.

As a side note: Google gave recommendations on April 1, 2020 for how publishers with COVID-19 information can optimize their content now.

3. Forge Key Partnerships for Your Business Online

Every business is in pain right now due to the pandemic. What partnerships or offerings can you forge now that are going to better position your business or brand online?

Strategies like this can help you:

  • Leverage another company’s (maybe larger) audience to get your message in front of more people.
  • Build your authority on the topics that are most important to your business.
  • Stay relevant and top of mind.

What to Focus on Now: Relationships and Opportunities

Pivoting your offer. Many businesses are looking at how they can still add value to others during uncertain times. Practically, this may look like a pared-down version of your services, tools or courses. Consider offering something free that you normally charge for. It could even be a complete pivot to cater to a new audience. For example, Tesla, Ford and Absolut Vodka are now creating things like respirators, masks and hand sanitizer to help out.

Getting more visibility. As we are now in a work-from-home economy, digital content truly is king. Think about how you can get your business out there by participating in podcasts, webinars, videos, guest posts, ebooks, press interviews, etc. Bonus for timely information related to your expertise and what people are going through right now. These activities will result in building authority, something that Google values when assessing a website. (See our E-A-T guide for more on building authority.)

Stay Relevant, Survive and Thrive

We’re all in this crisis together. Every business is being impacted, some more than others.

Right now is not the time to put the brakes on our marketing. We are in a position to make decisions that will completely change the course of our business.

Make the right choices that keep you going faster so that you can win this race.

For more tips, read Don’t Quarantine Your Marketing and my call-to-action for these times, Time for High-Growth Businesses to Drive Faster.

We can help move your business into a lead position through search marketing. Contact us today for a free quote.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay, Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn and other social networks from Bruce's author page.
Comments (3)
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3 Replies to “How to Keep Your Business Relevant During Hard Times and Come Out a Winner”

Its a hard time for us right now as a business, I will try to use some of the techniques from this article great read!!

So distributors have an opportunity to make themselves even more relevant to the channel, especially if vendors start pulling back support. Arrow ECS, for example, sent out a list of tips to help its partners during these tough economic times. VARs should know their customers total information technology spend and budget cycle and how a solution fits into that environment. Also, the distie recommends solutions with a short-term return-on-investment. No one s looking for two-year ROI right now.

Thanks Bruce,

content reviewing is definately on my list. I use ahrefs for older blog posts that have page 2 to 5 rankings. Then make improvments to content and seo and try to get them up onto page 1.

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