Throughout the pandemic, people have had to face challenges they never saw coming and make changes in all areas of their lives.
While I wrote this and more people are receiving the vaccine, the effects of COVID-19 will probably be felt for a long time yet.
A lot of those changes precipitated by the pandemic might transform permanent fixtures, as we've needed to reevaluate every aspect of our lives and businesses.
SEO pros are no exception.
One surprising offshoot of COVID-19 has been that more companies have realized the benefits SEO can provide.
Google Search interest in SEO spiked on the onset of the pandemic to its highest level ever and has remained strong as businesses try to keep relevant, visible, and plausible.
People Are Searching For Pandemic-Related Topics
Even after a year, COVID-19 is top of mind for many. We've all had many questions over the past year, and there's a lot we're still asking today.
Access to this accurate, timely knowledge is essential, which is why Google has prioritized making this easy for users to find.
If you look up various questions about the virus, Google will provide you with various reliable resources right on the first page, such as an overview of cases in your area, facts, testing information, how to handle the pandemic, and news updates.
Interest in topics that aren't necessarily related to the virus itself — hobbies, music, health, and outdoor activities, for example — also gained traction as lockdowns and restrictions have persisted.
People's lives have changed significantly over the past year, which has resulted in many picking up new interests and needing different tools to help them through.
More People Are Searching For Local Businesses
There's no doubt that local businesses have suffered due to the pandemic.
While keeping a business running is harder than ever, many people are still trying to support small businesses in their area.
Travel regulations and supply chain issues have made local businesses the safest and most convenient options for consumers, in many cases.
This isn't going away, either - an Accenture survey found that 84% of respondents plan to continue shopping in community stores or buying more locally sourced products than before the pandemic once it's over.
This makes local SEO an extremely important investment for small businesses.
You need to make sure you're showing up when people are looking for places nearby to meet their needs.
Local business information has changed rapidly and furiously during the pandemic.
For example, many businesses that allow people to visit their physical location have had to adjust their hours to make time for additional cleaning and reduce their hours of operation.
They may also have had to include additional information about curbside pickups and deliveries if they offer those services.
People are going to continue to look for businesses that offer take-out, BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store), and other contactless services.
Keep your Google My Business page updated to make it easier for potential customers to find what they need and do business with you.
Local businesses also need to ensure their websites are up to date and contain any relevant information about COVID-19 that can help users.
Keeping the website and online listings up to date ensures that Google can trust the information circulating about your business and that customers have a good experience when trying to do business with you.
Online Shopping Is More Popular
If you weren't shopping online before the pandemic, you've probably started in the past year.
At various times over the past year, nonessential stores have had no choice but to close up shop.
And even as those stores started to reopen, they've found that many people still feel more comfortable online shopping instead.
Retail stores may also have to limit the number of people allowed in at one time, reducing the sales they could make. Not only has online shopping been the safer option, but many people have found it's often more convenient overall.
According to the Global Connected Consumer Index, 28% more consumers are shopping online weekly than before the pandemic.
Why leave the house if you don't have to?
This makes now the time to open up an ecommerce store.
An ecommerce store makes it easier for stores to continue to do business even when many people aren't leaving their homes.
However, you can't just set up shop online and wait for the customers to roll in.
Check out these product page dos and don'ts and ecommerce SEO tips to help kickstart your online store's marketing strategy.
Evergreen Content Is Increasingly Important
With so many uncertainties, some may think that investing in SEO or doing the work themselves isn't worth it at a time like this - especially for businesses that have had to close temporarily.
However, the reality is quite the opposite.
Businesses can, and should, use SEO - especially content - whether it's new content or updating existing pieces even if they aren't performing as usual.
While targeting COVID-related keywords is important, it's not the only way SEO can help businesses.
Topics involving the pandemic might be trending right now, but they won't always be.
One of the best benefits of SEO is that it provides long-lasting results. This may sometimes seem like a challenge because it can take months to see results, but that can be a huge value at a time like this.
Evergreen content can help a business long into the future, and now is a good time to work on this.
The pandemic forced us to make changes, but it's also proved how important SEO is for businesses - especially small, local businesses.
As we rely more on the web than ever before, SEO is a crucial resource for businesses that want to be found and sell online.
Make sure that optimizing for search is part of your digital marketing strategy even - and especially - in times of difficulty.