How will coronavirus affect SEO?

Apr 30, 2020 by
How will coronavirus affect SEO?

There is no escaping the implications of COVID-19. It is the one crisis in modern history that has almost brought us all to the same level. Regardless of what industry you work in or how much money you earn, the coronavirus pandemic will most likely have had a major negative impact either on your health, your finances – or both. SEO is not immune to the complications.

Logistically, the almost complete cessation of foot traffic in many countries has led to a situation where companies are scrambling desperately to find ways to digitise their offerings.

Those that can’t risk a pretty bleak immediate future. With everyone at home, web traffic has increased and Google was remarkably fast on the offence when it came to doing something about it.

Google’s reaction

The pandemic hasn’t just had an impact on online search behaviour but on the type of content people are searching for. To help quell the spread of misinformation, the search giant created a system that provides users with information directly from authoritative government resources.

Google now also displays relevant health and safety information and a list of common coronavirus symptoms before any other organic results. This is an unprecedented move but these are (as we all no doubt keep hearing) unprecedented times.

Declining traffic

Even though so many of us are now working from home (or unable to work at all), there has been a notable decline in web traffic for most.

According to one study, over 1,000 SEOs were asked to share the kind of impact COVID-19 was having on their clients and 49% noted a decline in organic traffic.

When the outbreak first shifted into fifth gear, many commentators assumed that web traffic would increase for many businesses as more people would be shopping online and indeed, the online retail sector has seen some major gains.

Amazon, in particular, has made out like a bandit. However, with the world slowly shutting down and so many events being cancelled and businesses putting themselves ‘on pause’, there are few benefits for SEO marketers. Because being number one in the search results doesn’t mean anything if there are no sales.

What does it mean for SEOs?

SEO is, above all else, a marketing industry and marketing is often one of the first things to be culled or cut back during hard times. Ranking is not the end, it’s just the means to reach the eventual goals of sales and brand awareness and if a company is being forced to temporarily shut off its revenue stream then it’s no longer going to have the extra capital available to pay for SEO consultation.

Even the major online news outlets such as Forbes and Vice have struggled to gain any kind of organic traction simply because all anyone is talking about is coronavirus and it’s impossible for those sites to compete with legitimate government agencies and global health organisations for those key COVID-19 keywords.

For the foreseeable future, it would appear Google is putting its search stock in content from the most trustworthy and ‘necessary’ sources possible. That might be great for global health and information but it’s not exactly wonderful for SEOs.

It’s not all bad news

There have been some bright spots throughout all this chaos and negativity. For example, wellness brands have seen a significant uptake in organic market share, as have sites that rely on data and statistics.

So, there are at least a few sectors benefiting and even for those that are experiencing the opposite – at least we’re all in this together.

The only way we’re going to survive on the other side of this mess is if we help each other out – share our experiences during this time and work together to keep the wheels turning and the clock ticking. Because one thing is for certain, coronavirus won’t last forever, but Google probably will.