The last year has been tough; for people, for companies, and for the economy. It can be tempting to try and ignore as much of the news as possible, but when you are a marketing decision-maker, you need to be brave.
Often this is in the form of trying to maintain team morale and productivity levels, but it also comes in the form of making important choices that could affect the future of your business. And of course, you want this to be a positive future.
That is why we are here to say this: it can be a good idea to invest in SEO during a recession.
Marketing spend may seem like a natural area to cut back on when businesses are faced with a wobbly global economy, and in some areas this definitely makes sense. But not all are deserving of a cut, and some can actually benefit from increased investment (even if this is funneled from other areas).
We believe that SEO is one such area, and here’s why.
Invest to keep up with your competitors
Just because you reduce SEO spend, it does not mean that your competitors will.
That in itself is one of the most compelling reasons to stick to your investment. Yes, you may find that you need to revise your overall strategy to take into consideration a change in search behavior and user needs, but that does not mean stripping it away entirely.
The long term damage of winding back on SEO investment can mean a drop in visibility, rankings, traffic, and revenue. It can also mean a huge uphill struggle to get back to your benchmark performance before you dropped the spend.
For those who utilize paid ads (and the data suggests that CMOs are putting more of their marketing budget in this area), you may see increased costs for pay-per-click ads on the major search engines. This is because you will be battling for visits where you cannot get it through organic means, and this can be both risky and a pricey endeavor.
We like how Search Engine Journal explains it: “With organic SEO, you’re making a long-term investment into expanding and improving your website. New pages, articles and blog posts will be there for as long as you need them.”
The same can be said for technical SEO. Improving your site health now will help protect and grow rankings in search engine results pages, enabling better user experiences, accessibility while simultaneously helping to drive down customer acquisition costs.
Attract people who may be browsing before buying
There are some industries that will be hit harder than others during a recession, and even more so due to a global pandemic.
A good example of this is the travel industry. For fairly obvious reasons, travel is not possible for many people right now. Tour operators, airlines, and other holiday companies may think the best thing to do would be to pull the plug on digital marketing spend.
This was predicted by iPullRank back in March 2020: “Each recession impacts different markets uniquely, however, and it appears that the travel and transportation industries will be hit the hardest from the COVID-19 recession due to social restriction and emergency precautions.”
But what about the users who are looking for flights for essential business travel? Or the general public who is dreaming of a holiday post-pandemic. There will still be people browsing, even if they are not yet in a position to buy.
And remember, some people may be ready to buy, especially if they’ve increased savings during the pandemic, but they want to book a trip at a much later date. Many large travel companies only have dates through 2021 on their websites, so they are potentially missing a trick for those thinking ahead to 2022.
If you want to start working toward the future, the right SEO strategy is incredibly important to set those wheels in motion. Keyword research, on-page optimizations, technical SEO improvements, and new content creation will be vital.
You can give the people what they want
There are certain industries that will see a boom in demand during a recession, including the media. While there will be areas that will probably be less newsworthy right now (Broadway reviews, event listings, travel tips), there will be other areas that are much higher in demand.
Many people have a love/hate relationship with the news and media, but people also try to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out) which also includes knowing what is going on in the world.
If you are a publisher, this is an opportunity to get more stories in front of more people. Not only are there new formats to test out (read our post on SEO for Google Web Stories to learn more) but by giving people what they want in terms of content topics, you could be adding a nice sum to your ad revenue.
You may find one of our recent SEO eBooks helpful if you are looking for further information on building strategies for future success in publishing; you can grab your free copy here.
In the meantime, just remember that user insights are incredibly powerful, but so are the building blocks of your website to be crawled and indexed. Having the right SEO platform at your disposal is also a worthy investment in your overall SEO spend.
Our closing thoughts
“SEO is an ongoing effort that builds traffic over time. It takes a consistent methodology.” That is what you will find referenced over on Business 2 Community, and we couldn’t agree more.
While it is true that pausing SEO spend won’t undo all of your previous efforts – you will still retain some of the on-page optimizations you’ve done – you will not be making any forward progress. This is the part that is important, as SEO projects are expansive and involve multiple disciplines.
Because these disciplines are weighted to complement each other, you may see drops when you reduce or cut out any (or all) SEO investment.
Before making any quick decisions in the face of a recession, it is important to gather as much data as you can. See what competitors are doing, understand how the market may fluctuate in the coming months, and figure out if there are costs elsewhere in the business that could be a safer bet for reducing spend.