Do you remember that defining moment when you finally became an adult, and the shift in your responsibilities became so much clearer? No? Me neither.
Because change often comes out of nowhere!
Here’s the sitch (that’s short for situation, by the way). The end of 2019 comes around and you’re planning your game-winning strategy for 2020. It’s going to be your year and you’re feeling good about the marketing strategy you’ve prepared.
Then, three months later…SURPRISE!
Everything you planned for is suddenly getting flushed down the toilet, and to make matters worse, you can’t find any toilet paper because everyone is losing their minds.
Needless to say, it’s a very daunting time for us marketers. We need to quickly adjust the winning strategy that we put together just a few months ago because of this new reality that’s been thrown at us.
And to make bad news worse, many economists are even suggesting that a major recession is inevitable, and some are even comparing current events and trends to the Great Depression.
Unemployment rates in the United States are trending up rapidly, and many people are starting to wonder if this inevitable recession will indeed turn into a depression.
But relax. Grab a glass of water (or wine) and get comfortable, because you’re going to want to read what I have to say.
In this guide, I’m going to show you what you can do to get your business through tough economic times while using SEO and content marketing. I’ll even share some specific tactics that Venngage has used and continues to use to acquire customers with content.
We’ll use the following interactive infographic as a tool throughout this article, and I’ll make suggestions for how you can use the data to come up with unique content ideas to help reposition your products or services for the current climate.
Let’s hit it.
COVID-19 SEO Trends Interactive Infographic
|2020 Search Volume||Change % from 2019|
Table of Contents
Introduction: Developing Your Growth Marketer Mindset
- Digging into the critical data
- Analyzing the SEO keyword trends and identifying new content opportunities
- Returning to the fundamental needs of our customers
- The Content Ideation Framework
- How SEOs are currently pivoting their strategies in the age of COVID-19
Shifting Gears: Developing Your Growth Marketer Mindset
Now I’m going to tell it to you straight, ok? So don’t be mad.
It’s naive for us marketers to think that exclusively following the same processes that have worked for growth in the past, will still be entirely relevant today.
I mean, come on. Nothing is the same. When was the last time there was a global toilet paper shortage?
The impacts of COVID-19 on how we do business probably ain’t changing anytime soon, and we need to adapt now in order to make a positive impact on growth for the months and potentially years to come (I know, I hate it too).
This is why now it’s more important than ever to:
- adopt a growth marketer mindset
- pay attention to the data rather than following the herd and copying the same methods that every other business is following
- use that data to come up with creative ideas that will help us build the awareness we need in order to continue building engaged audiences that trust us
The only way to do that is to take the offensive and to reposition our marketing strategies in a way that takes into account what our audience needs right now. We can do this by providing them with the services and products that we have at our disposal.
Right now is the time for empathetic marketing. And that means, maybe it’s not a great idea to just slap on a “20% off Coronavirus Discount” and hope for the best- you folks know who you are, and it’s not cool.
The question that remains is: how can we successfully pivot our strategies and efforts to maintain growth and empathy, when in many cases it seems like there’s no opportunity for recovery?
This is especially the case among certain industries like travel and hospitality, where the impact has been particularly hard.
My goal in this article is to provide you with some tools and frameworks to help you shift the way you think about marketing, and to transition your strategy to an online content approach.
I’ll do this by showing you how to use search trend data in order to make better and more creative decisions with content, even in the most unpredictable times.
We’ll start by:
- Recognizing what we do know by digging into critical search and consumer behavior data
- Reflecting on that data and analyzing it to identify new opportunities for content creation
- Remembering the true value our products or services can provide, and what the fundamental needs and desires of our customers are
- Reacting to the patterns we observe in order to ideate and execute on creative content experiments
1. What We Know: Digging Into The Critical Data
Let’s start by understanding what we know.
At a high level, we know that the entire world is shifting into more of a remote work culture, and are practicing social distancing. Chances are, this will be the case for the foreseeable future.
We also know that because of this shift in behavior, internet usage and content consumption have increased dramatically, and in-home data consumption specifically is continuing to trend up, with a focus on information consumption from news sources as well as an increased usage in social networking sites and apps.
I, for one, have successfully managed to binge more hours of television in the last month, than in all of 2019. Something I never thought (or hoped) that I would ever achieve.
Google searches are especially on the rise and have increased by more than 8% in less than a month’s time.
For marketers, this is very useful data because it clearly shows us where our audience is now spending the vast majority of their time.
It also indicates that now it’s more important than ever for us to ensure that we’re available on these channels and platforms, producing relevant and engaging content that potential customers can consume.
But what we also know is that the type of content and more specifically the type of information that people are consuming is also changing rapidly.The way people are searching, as well as the types of queries they are searching for, seem to be highly dependent on the psychological impact that remote life is having on individuals.
I believe this graph depicts what I mean a little more clearly:
The team at Venngage has spent time analyzing and curating various types of search trends over the past few weeks to visualize some of the biggest changes in search data. You can now use this tool to help you make more informed and more creative SEO and content marketing decisions.
It is clear that certain industries are more negatively impacted by the pandemic than others, like the travel industry. As we use the interactive infographic to drill deeper, we get a clearer picture of various search queries that have significantly dropped in interest.
Not surprisingly, many keywords related to flight deals and airline tickets are on a steady decline, as well as terms we associate with travel, such as luggage-related terms and travel insurance-related terms.
Take a look at this graph I whipped together to demonstrate the specific change in search volume for the keyword “Carry on bag”. Notice that in March of 2019, the search volume actually trended up from February. This makes sense since many people take time off for Spring Break in March, and it’s also the start of conference season.
Of course come March 2020, many cities and countries begin lockdown protocols and we see an immediate impact on searches for that keyword:
We can see similar patterns in a number of industries and related keywords that indicate that fewer people are leaving their homes. Searches related to nearby restaurants, coffee shops or various live events and ticketing are also experiencing a steep decline.
In the health and fitness industry, there are also major declines in terms related to gym memberships and nutrition or diet-related terms. Likely because people are less concerned with their appearance since they have nowhere to go. I, for one, have certainly increased my snacking rate in the past month and have barely changed out of the one pair of sweatpants I own.
For many businesses, this data is highly concerning and correlates significantly with major drops in revenue.
But, if we look at where the spikes are generally occurring, this is where we can start to collect some “clues” that can help guide our content strategies.
When we look into which keywords in various industries that are on the rise, this is where we can see some very clear patterns, and where we can start to come up with some hypotheses.
Increases in home workout plans, gym equipment and healthy recipes are seeing very steep inclines. In some cases, simply removing the “nearby” from a search query provides us with a very different overview of people’s general interest.
What we can infer is that more people want accessible content that still enables them to maintain a healthy lifestyle at home.
This also shows us that in many cases, interest is actually just shifting within industries rather than disappearing all together. People still want access to fitness, the only thing that’s changing is how they get access to it.
In the travel and tourism industry, we are seeing increases in virtual tours and experiences. But on top of that, many terms that indicate people are confused and looking for reassurance, such as queries about whether flights will get cancelled and cancellation insurance are generally trending up.
And although live events and entertainment are no longer an option for the vast majority of the population, there is a major increase in virtual reality based keywords. Queries related to virtual concerts, virtual museum tours and food delivery as well as beverage delivery are increasing.
Many content creators and SEOs rely on keyword volume averages in order to prioritize what content to create, and which terms to target. But that data may not be as reliable anymore, since major spikes and drops are heavily impacting that data.
Everyday new information is being released about the current pandemic, and as a result, consumer behavior is changing rapidly.
By paying close attention to the trends in SEO keywords or search data in general, and by recognizing the patterns that are emerging from new spikes and dips in search interest, we can get better at creating relevant online content that people want access to.
2. What We Can Learn: Analyzing the SEO keyword trends and identifying new content opportunities
Now we have a better understanding of what some of these search trends are, and the general online content consumption trends. We can begin to analyze the data in order to develop some hypotheses for which content to create, and how we might reposition that content.
I want to start by walking through an example using some of the data from above to outline how you might be able to approach the ideation process. Specifically what I’d like you to focus on is what can be inferred from the data.
At this stage, we are only trying to form hypotheses, not come to concrete conclusions. Inference will help us to ask more questions, and thus reveal more opportunities we can explore with our online content later on.
Search Topic Interest Fluctuations
The first layer of data I want to dive into is the change in topic interest by month. Let’s explore the Health and Fitness topic bubble first:
What can we infer from the changes in size of interest at a high-level?
Well, we can see that interest is generally higher for this topic in January. This makes sense since January is when New Year’s resolutions spike up and people begin to prioritize their health and wellness. Many people start searching for new gyms nearby, or workout plans, etc.
Then comes February and people start slipping on their resolutions.
If we compare the search data between February and January we can see specifically where interest starts waning:
What happens in February that might give us some indicators of other potential spikes and dips?
Well, Valentine’s day is in February and so we can again infer that the reason health and fitness related terms are dropping, is because people are indulging in nice meals, wine, chocolate, the finer things in life.
In other words, their time is being spent elsewhere and therefore we can further infer and increase in some other topics like Live Entertainment and Restaurants, and likely see spikes in SEO keywords related to gift-giving, dining out and events.
And sure enough, the interest bubble in February for Live Entertainment and Restaurants starts to climb up. This is all quite normal, and expected behavior. We can see the patterns reflected in overall SEO keyword volume data as well.
But then comes March. This is where the normal inferences we might typically make start to get a little bit muddled.
As we know, this is largely due to the appearance of new COVID19 cases in North America and the rapid spread of the virus.
If we look at historical SEO keyword volume data and search trend data, we start to notice some very new and unpredictable patterns, and we can see that general search interest is down 23% from what is considered normal.
What this means for marketers is that in many cases the processes we were using in the past, and the goal forecasting we’ve done based on our own historic baselines is no longer a reliable source of information.
Now let’s assume that a restaurant that appeared in Google for the keyword best restaurants near me was generating a lot of business and foot traffic. A closer look at that keyword would indicate roughly a 45% drop in search interest.
With many cities and countries forcing the population into lockdown, the option of going to a restaurant no longer exists.
And so the follow-up questions we should be asking ourselves is, “What are people searching for instead?”
Again, we can infer that if people are no longer going out to restaurants, chances are they want the restaurant to come to them. In other words, delivery may be an option. So when we start digging into related terms like food delivery this is where we can start to find opportunities that could help us close the gap in loss.
And sure enough, this keyword demonstrates more than a 30% increase in interest within the same time frame.
So we can once again infer that the desire for restaurant quality food is not dropping at all, but the means of acquiring it, or the channel that we rely on to acquire it is changing.
What this means for our hypothetical restaurant is that perhaps the new goal might be as simple as trying to introduce better takeout and delivery options, and create content that educates our audience that this is now an option.
But what do you do if it’s not just a matter of a distribution shift, like in the case of the restaurant example? What if there is simply no longer a use case for your product or service?
3. What We Should Remember: Returning to the fundamental needs of our customers
If you haven’t heard of the Jobs to be Done framework, I’ll summarize it for you briefly:
People don’t buy products. They hire them to get a job done.
These jobs are not the same as use cases and they do not take into account demographic information. Those are components that can be layered on top of jobs to be done.
Jobs to Be Done VS. Use Cases
Let’s take a relatively straightforward product: hand sanitizer. The job that this product fulfills is to provide people with an on-the-go solution to keeping their hands clean especially when they don’t have frequent access to a sink and hand soap.
Before COVID19, the use cases for that job and the demographics for that job would have been more widely relevant to people in the healthcare industry for example. Of course, for the most part, jobs don’t really change, but people’s situations and surroundings do–in other words, the use cases and demographics change.
As a result, focusing on marketing our products based on their jobs to be done provides us with far wider and more dynamic opportunities for scaling and growing the adoption of our products.
In COVID19 times, the situational differences for hand sanitizer are now:
- That the general public wants access to a more convenient way of keeping their hands clean.
- They are self-isolating, and as a result have more time to partake in self-fulfilling activities.
- There is a shortage of supply.
This means the market for this product has expanded exponentially, and new use cases are emerging. More people are interested not only in receiving hand sanitizer, but also in learning about it and how to make it, as well as its effectiveness. In other words, they want content about that subject.
But what about products and markets that have taken a negative hit due to COVID19? Well, it’s a bit more challenging to identify the use cases and demographics that can help us, marketers sell the initial job to be done. That being said, the jobs rarely change–instead they may just become a bit broader.
A product with a less clear path might be something like the Luggage and Suitcase industry. What is the foundational job to be done on a product like a suitcase?
Well, you want to be able to store all of the things you need in a safe and efficient way, for easy transport. With less people traveling on airplanes, the use case of “carry-on luggage” has certainly changed. But does that mean people no longer need to store their belongings and have an easy way to transport them? Not at all.
Rather, all that has changed is the use case.
If we look at a keyword like carry-on bag, for instance, the drop in interest is quite pronounced. But if we look at search terms that include various use cases that still take into account the fundamental job of “storing of ones belongings”, we start to see a different pattern:
We can see a notable drop from March 2019 to March 2020. More than a 100% decrease in search volume and interest has occurred:
Clothes storage, DIY furniture:
I did a quick search of some terms related to the original job to be done of our carry-on bag based on my assumption that since more people are staying home right now, they might be taking on more creative and home organization related projects. I also lumped in many DIY furniture related terms, as I had previously seen some cute projects on Pinterest that used luggage to create unique coffee tables and outdoor furniture with built in storage.
I grouped these terms to track the changes in search interest over the past few months.
Sure enough, the grouped terms here are starting to trend up and have actually seen close to a 50% increase in interest and search volume, compared to the previous year’s trends:
What does this mean for marketers who are still working in struggling industries? It doesn’t mean that there is no longer a job that your products provide a solution for, it simply means the use case has shifted.
In fact, when looking at the cumulative change in search volume from 2019 to 2020, the change is actually pretty minor.
Look for yourself:
So, by continuing to identify where people are spending their time, you can start to make up the gaps and transition into new markets and use cases.
You can make people aware of these new use cases with the content you create.
Because let’s face the facts, folks (say that 5 times fast): the world is still searching, more than ever. They are just shifting between industries.
We all know the law of thermodynamics states that:
“Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, only rearranged.”
Well the same could be said about the law of content consumption. People don’t stop trying to consume content, they simply change what they consume.
4. What We Can Do: The Content Ideation Framework
Understandably, becoming a content ideation genius takes time.
Lucky for you, I have some suggestions to help you build out a content strategy (using a framework I refer to as GRAP) and content ideas using the data we have explored above.
The GRAP Framework
GRAP is a simple acronym to help you remember the fundamental parts of building an effective content strategy. It stands for Goals, Research, Authority and Promotion.
Without those four things, getting results from your content will become quite difficult.
Goals refers to the specific aim of your content.
Not all content is created with the same purpose. In many cases, marketers see content marketing as a very time-consuming process, and many don’t consider it as effective as having a sales team focusing on outbound cold-calling and emailing.
However, as I’m sure you’re aware, sales efficiency has been gradually decreasing as fewer businesses and consumers are looking to buy into new products or solutions.
Right now, being able to create content for inbound acquisition is crucial. We’ve discussed how more people are spending time consuming content now than ever before, and being able to curate the right experience for people’s needs is necessary.
Understanding whether your content is serving the purpose of brand awareness, of traffic generation or for conversions will help you get the most out of your efforts.
Research refers to understanding the data behind consumer behavior, so you can make better decisions with how you optimize and distribute the content.
When you have a clearer understanding of what people are looking for and what people are spending their money on, you can get a better understanding of where to build your authority.
Authority refers to how your brand is perceived by search engines and social platforms, as well as by your audience.
For instance, a personal trainer who creates videos, blog content, nutrition plans, and who has a large following will certainly have more authority than a trainer who rarely puts out relevant and useful information for their audiences.
The more authority you have, the easier it will be to be seen by new potential clients.
Of course, none of that matters if you are not actively distributing your content which is why promotion is also a necessary part of the framework.
Promotion refers to actively working on making your content visible.
Whether it means optimizing it for search engines like Google, and prioritizing link building, or it means gaining more Instagram followers by driving as many reshares of your posts; without promotion, it’s unlikely that you will see the value from your content creation efforts.
You can learn more about the GRAP framework and building an effective content strategy here.
For now, I want to focus on the content ideation process for the very unique situation we are currently facing. That situation is to identify crossover content opportunities using the SEO keyword data in the data visualization above.
Cross-Over Content Ideation
I recently listened to an interesting podcast from Mixergy. I’ll let you listen to the episode for the full story, but here’s a quick recap:
Michael Alexis is the founder of a site called TeamBuilding.com, but here’s the catch: he originally had a company called Museum Hack. Now Museum Hack used to be a company that would provide in-person museum tours for different companies to help with team-building etc.
Naturally, as COVID-19 came along, museums started closing and as a result nobody was going to museums.
So. Here’s what he did.
He used search data and consumer data to pivot the business to virtual team building, since he anticipated an increase in need for virtual or remote team building (hence TeamBuilding.com…in case you didn’t figure that part out).
And guess what? The business is still running strong.
This is the perfect example of the concept of Cross-Over Content (COC for short….( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)). By paying attention to the data, and knowing the jobs to be done of your product or service, you can still provide the solution to that job by pivoting the way you communicate that job.
So how can we do this?
Well, I’ve put together a template to help you because I’m a really nice person.
I’m going to stick with the example of carry-on suitcases, simply because you already have some context on this subject and also I’m lazy and don’t want to build context on a totally different example.
Since we already did some research on the drop in searches for carry on bag-related terms, and we also know there is an increase in DIY and Storage related terms, I’ve used these as examples in the template above. Here’s what it looks like:
As you can see, the first column shows us search terms for the “Direct Industry/Topic” our business is in (in this case, let’s assume I sell luggage).
I’ve identified some of the main queries that drive sales to my luggage store from Google and Amazon. So I’ll plug in the average monthly search volume and compare it to the search volume for each of these terms in the last 30 days.
This data is very similar to what is outlined in the data visualization above, but you can also use Google Keyword Planner to guide any additional research.
That column to the far right indicates the change in interest in the last 30 days compared to the standard monthly average. Notice that the luggage category in general for the keywords I have listed has seen almost a 50% drop in interest.
As you can see, this is where I have listed what I’ll call our “Cross-Over Content Keywords”. I’ll let you figure out the acronym for that one on your own…
What this tells us is that the selected SEO keywords within the topic of DIY and Storage have seen a 34% increase compared to the average.
You’ll also notice that I have a section at the bottom for “Content Formats”. This is yet another layer that you can add onto the content variations you create.
I’ve used infographic as an example because it has seen a 50% increase in interest over the average, and also because Venngage is an infographic maker and let’s face it, I’m using this as an opportunity to show you the value of infographics with my content.
See what I did there? Pretty smart, right?
Anyway, once I have gathered and documented some of these trends, I can start to figure out what type of content might help shrink that gap and make up for some of the loss in interest I’ve experienced with my fictional luggage company.
Following me so far?
What we can do next is move onto the ideation part of the template, which looks like this:
Now the next part of that template looks something like this:
Notice in the “Content Proposal” column I’m just using my research and the data to make logical combinations, and pitching possible ideas for content as well as suggested titles for that content.
In this example I’ve decided to create an infographic explaining how to create a closet storage system with carry on luggage.
Related Guide: How to Create an Infographic in 5 Steps
You’ll also see that I’m specifically including combinations of the keywords from my research, so that I can optimize that content to appeal to the terms people are searching for.
I’ve also indicated the promotion strategy that will ultimately help me build authority on a specific channel. In this example I plan on pitching DIY influencers on Pinterest. Why? Because my research has indicated that Pinterest is seeing an all-time high in usage and that one of the categories that is specifically seeing an increase is the DIY content category.
In fact, DIY home decor is one of the top recommended searches when you type in DIY on Pinterest:
By focusing on this data and research I can make more predictable decisions with my content.
The last part of this template looks like this:
Here I can list out any relevant examples or inspiration links, and I can format my content recipe to calculate the new potential search volume for the Cross-Over Content I’ve come up with.
Using the grouped search volume for the words that are trending up, compared to the overall search volume of the dropping luggage terms, I can hypothesize that this angle of content might help significantly reduce the loss in traffic I was previously experiencing.
5. What We Have Started Doing: How SEOs are currently pivoting their strategies in the age of COVID-19
I’ve provided you with some data as well as some tools to help you on your journey to analyzing how to make better content decisions.
But even so, it can still feel like an overwhelming process. So I decided to ask some SEOs in my own network to share some specific steps they’ve taken to pivot their own content strategies, and to share some of their observations as well.
1) Ross Simmonds, Founder and CEO at Foundationinc.co
“Since the pandemic kicked in, we shifted our strategy to focus on creating more of everything. More video. More podcasts. More landing pages. More blog posts. Rather than scaling back, we ramped up.
The key insight to guiding this decision was the reality that even during the 2008 crisis; search queries continued to rise. A lot of brands pressed pause on their content during the pandemic and in many cases for good reason–but I think the data will be in favor of those who continued to create.”
2) Victoria Taylor, Marketing Generalist at Wishpond
“We realized that people need problems to be solved, not products to be sold, so we created the Coronovirus SOS Marketing video series targeted towards service providers and e-commerce owners, gathering experts from our team and other brands to share real-life tactics to keep business going even in isolation.
We took it a step further and revisited our sales team training so they were aware of what type of ad campaigns and marketing tips we could provide current and new clients to fit the climate. It allowed us to gear up for during and post-COVID situations, finding new techniques, workflows, and software to improve our customer experience, and sales 10x better than they were before COVID-19.
We used the pandemic to take a deep look at how to improve our marketing, team, and strategy because we had to face the facts and move forward or get left behind.”
3) Jeremy Moser, Co-Founder at uSERP
“As a brand mention agency in the midst of a pandemic, we have pivoted heavily from quantity towards increased quality. Publishers are slower to respond, content calendars have shifted, editors are backlogged, and acquiring branded link mentions for clients at a high-volume is less likely right now. To combat this, we’ve started increasing our quality full-stop, from targeting stronger authority websites, developing evergreen content, and building long-lasting relationships.
Thankfully, this boost in quality has been well received by existing clients, and is helping to draw in new prospective clients, too.”
4) Brian Dean, Co-Founder at Exploding Topics
“The #1 change I made early on was a temporary pause in blog post publishing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with publishing during a crisis. The issue was more about promotion. It didn’t feel right to be pushing my latest blog post during a legit crisis.
The result was a slight dip in monthly traffic. Which is normal whenever you stop publishing. But it only dipped by 5% or so thanks to SEO.
But I’ve eased up on that now that things are starting to open up. I personally think it’s fine now to look at content and SEO as “business as usual”. In fact, people crave non-COVID content right now.”
5) Amanda Milligan, Marketing Director at Fractl
“When COVID-19 hit, we did two things: Pivoted whichever projects could be altered and assessed if new content could be created with a COVID-19 angle based on their industry.
Some in-progress projects had data that felt old because it was pre-pandemic, so we had to rerun surveys or refresh the information. In other cases, we asked ourselves if the content was still relevant, and if it was, we changed the way we pitched the media. (An example of this working is coverage we got on ZDNet about a survey we ran in January.)
We noticed publishers still wanted COVID-19 content after quarantine happened, so we assessed what new content we could create that made sense for our clients’ industries. For example, we asked students how they felt about the changes made because of COVID-19, and the results got reported on CNBC. The right mix of timeliness and value can be very successful right now.”
6) Mark Lindquist, Marketing Strategist at Mailshake
“In response to COVID, we’ve taken the opportunity to look hard at our marketing budget to see how we can spend smarter. That’s changed a few things about our content strategy that we think will benefit us in the long term.
The first is around reducing our cost-per-article written. Included in our cost-per-word was the time our writing team spends researching a topic and creating an outline. Now, we put together the outline. This reduced our cost-per-article by 25%, and gave us more control over the sources used and the content of the article itself.
Second, we turned our attention from creating new content to updating and consolidating our existing content. We have a handful of articles that get a lot of organic traffic but are over a year old. We also have content that is at the top of page 1 or bottom of page 2 for high-volume keywords. Finally, we have a long tail of content that gets a little organic traffic but effectively targets the same keywords as other content.
Those three groups of content represent a huge opportunity to increase organic traffic and improve the conversion rate of that traffic to our email list and demos booked.
By updating high-traffic content to include more natural opt-ins and CTAs to schedule demos, we’re squeezing more value out of the pages that get the most eyeballs.
By updating content that’s close to ranking for keywords, we’re giving that content the best chance to increase it’s position.
And by consolidating and redirecting old content that doesn’t have an organic traffic opportunity, we’re getting focused on ranking for the keywords that will move the needle.”
7) Alex Birkett, Senior Growth Marketer at Hubspot and Co-Founder of Omniscient Digital
“By and large, we’ve continued doubling down on the same content strategy that gets our clients sustainable wins. I call it the Barbell Content Strategy. This means that the largest bucket of our content marketing investments goes into stable, predictable bets, typically high intent keyword-driven content.
Then we have another investment bucket for ‘high volatility’ content that is geared towards garnering attention, social shares, or backlinks (typically this bucket is about 20% of our content). We’ve shifted our approach to that bucket by being adaptable and publishing content that is suitable to the times, i.e. we’ve written a lot more about remote work for one of our clients in the retail software space.”
8. Levi Olmstead, Director of Marketing at 2ndKitchen
“I’ve spent much more time on Google Trends, as well as surveying our core audience personas on what COVID-related problems they are having. It’s like the wild west for content marketing right now, one big land grab for brand new, high-volume keywords across all industries that are related to COVID. It’s a great opportunity for smaller brands to drive awareness and lockdown very relevant keywords and topics for their brand.
A few examples we’ve published at 2ndKitchen include an entire series helping breweries and wineries offer curbside pickup, how to offer delivery, how to sell alcohol online, how to ship alcohol, how to make a reopening planning, etc. All of these are very relevant to our core audience, have search volume, and can tie messaging back to our product.”
9. Matthew Barby, Senior Director Acquisition @ HubSpot & Cofounder of Traffic Think Tank
“Since COVID19, our customers and potential customers (like many businesses) have shifted their focus much more to the short term. There’s an emphasis on maintaining cashflow and maintaining customers more to than investing for the future and acquiring new business – which makes a lot of sense. Alongside all of this, many businesses have a lack of visibility on how they’re coping and performing during the global pandemic compared to other businesses similar to them.
At HubSpot, we tried to pivot some of our content strategy to focus on providing some answers or resources around those areas. To do this, we launched a broader campaign called, Adapt 2020. One part of the campaign is focused on delivering regular educational webinars and articles to help businesses with the changing landscape that they’re operating in – for example, we ran series a of content on Selling Through Uncertainty as well as Remote Enablement.
Then next part of the campaign was to provide live benchmark data for a range of different businesses. We aggregated data across 70,000 of our customers and showed the trends across a range of business metrics against a pre-COVID19 benchmark. Examples of data points we look at are:
- Website traffic trends.
- Sales email sends and open rates.
- New deals created and closed.
- Website live chat initiations.
There’s a load more alongside the above examples, and we’ve split all of the data by region, industry and company size to give a more granular look at how everything is trending. Finally, we made sure we did an audit across any of our existing (pre-COVID19) planned content and paid ad creative to ensure it was still tactful in the new climate, getting rid of anything that could now be seen as in bad taste.
The overarching focus for our messaging internally to the teams is that we want to completely avoid using the crisis for a financial gain. To take a direct quote from an email that was sent to our whole company, we described it as “[…]not using it as a hook/trigger event in emails or other communications to prospects or leads designed to promote our products.” And secondly, we made sure we limited our email sends, content and social strategy to publish only content that would be seen as helpful and non-self-promotional.”
Remember: focus on the data
What’s important to keep in mind during this seemingly unpredictable time in the world, is that search data can help us get better at predicting shifts in consumer behavior. It’s also important to keep in mind that many products have pivoted their primary use cases in the past, or have been adopted for very different purposes.
As marketers, we have the power to change the narrative and to shift people’s actions. It’s up to us to empathize with our audiences and use that power to help improve their lives. As long as you remember to use data in order to drive creativity.
Because even if the President makes a claim that injecting Lysol is a good idea, the data will likely tell you otherwise. And if your claims don’t line up with the data, chances are you will lose a lot of respect and trust from your audience.