Search marketing in the context of COVID-19

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Last week, while trying to make sense of search marketing in the context of COVID-19, I came across a Warren Buffet quote that read, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”.

Now I’m not advocating being greedy, especially not at a time like this, but the sentiment of the quote got me thinking, both about where things are now but also where things will be in the future.

Of course, the ever changing nature of the situation means we don’t know what the future will be, but I think most if not all of us hope that it is not a lot different to what we would typically consider normal. So, assuming ‘normal’ is where we’re headed, I think the Warren Buffet quote offers a path back to normality and, dare I say it, opportunity.

Right now, lots of businesses are pausing marketing activities, cutting spend and ending third party relationships until a time when the Covid-19 crisis is over. While a totally understandable position to take, a complete cessation of marketing activity risks not only undoing the good marketing work put in place over the years, but also means losing momentum at a time when businesses may need it the most.

When markets revert to normal, they are likely to be more competitive than before, as each of us tries to regain lost ground and secure competitive edge. Whilst the hope is that all businesses weather the storm, the greatest opportunity is for those businesses that not only come through this intact, but that hit the ground running, which means not taking the foot off the pedal now.

But therein lies the challenge – how can any of us invest in marketing when we are so uncertain of the market?

The key to this is in three fundamental areas.

Protecting what you have already achieved is the single most important thing you should be doing at this time. The more that can be done to ensure that your performance does not fall back now, the more effective your marketing will be tomorrow.

Search demand often reacts to events and government policy in the same way that financial markets do.

Much like in financial markets, by using algorithmic analysis, data science, and good old-fashioned manual research, we can predict when search interest begins to show a change in demand.

Understanding how your key search terms are performing and being notified in advance of when those markets begin to show a return to normal will be paramount to getting ahead of the curve and the front of the pack.

As I have already spoken about in this article, many businesses are reducing marketing budgets and activities, including your customers and competitors – but it is not true of everyone. There are still businesses actively spending on Google – and there are still customers searching for a solution to their need. Yes, the volume of active searchers has dropped, but there is still opportunity out there. You need to maintain visibility in order to be in front of it.

A quick Google of your own key search terms will highlight who is still spending in these areas, and you might find some surprising results. When performing this exercise for some of our customers, we saw results from companies that never normally appear in the paid results. Since the usually present competitors have reduced or cancelled activity, a gulf has opened that allows these smaller businesses to appear.

This is also a time to do the house cleaning. Those case studies that have not been written, the new website designs and the refresh of content that never seems to get done – now is the time, in preparation for better days.

Sensible decisions

Of course, it is not going to be easy. Committing to marketing spend at this time might feel risky, or perhaps even greedy. But try to park those two words for a moment and think about an alternative – sensible.

It is sensible right now to be reducing all unnecessary outgoings. It is sensible to take advantage of government help in the form of grants and deferments. It is sensible to batten down the hatches to best ride out the storm.

But it is also sensible to look ahead. It is sensible to want to keep the lights on for when we come out of this. It is sensible to identify opportunity so that we can come back stronger. It is sensible to act now so that we can be in a better position tomorrow.

These are the steps we are taking at Vertical Leap. We are, where possible, maintaining marketing activities and spend, monitoring our key search markets and continuing with as much marketing as we can. If you would like to understand how we can help you do the same, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Chris Pitt profile picture
Chris Pitt

Chris is Managing Director at Vertical Leap and has over 25 years' experience in sales and marketing. He is a keynote speaker and frequent blogger, with a particular interest in intelligent automation and data analytics. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the guitar and is a stage manager at the Victorious Festival.

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