At the start of 2020, the world was caught off guard with the news that a novel coronavirus was identified. Today, the virus that is later called COVID-19, has spread across the globe, infecting millions of people and killing hundreds of thousands more.
The global pandemic has crashed economies and overwhelmed healthcare systems, emptying public spaces and filling hospitals beyond their capacities. It has disrupted society on a scale that no one has ever imagined, placing more than one-third of the global population in some form of a lockdown.
In Singapore, it has forced the city into a circuit breaker period, separating people from their workplaces and kids from their schools. It forced us to stay more at home and away from our social lives, thus introducing a new normal that no country was ever prepared for.
After exhausting trillions of dollars in the attempt to control the virus, treat people, and provide relief to those who have been most affected, how is the world faring in the fight against COVID-19? When are we going to win? By the time we do, how are we supposed to go back to normal—or can we ever?
One thing’s sure, though, it’s never been business as usual and may never again be.
How & When Will the Pandemic End?
A few years earlier, several health experts have warned us of the possibility of a global pandemic, including Bill Gates in his 2015 TED Talk. If you thought these warnings had the world preparing, it’s actually quite the opposite—the hypotheticals became reality and the ‘what if?’ has escalated into ‘now what?’
Some think that COVID-19 will never end, in the sense that it’s here to stay unless we completely eradicate it. Sure, a vaccine will eventually be on the way, the world will flatten the curve, and the virus will, later on, run out of people to infect. But, from now on, COVID-19 will always belong to a family of viruses we know—the coronaviruses—which may reappear seasonally, maybe more in the colder months.
At some point, we will have to go out of our houses, go to work and school, otherwise, economies will collapse. But, an acclaimed sci-fi writer hopes that it wouldn’t be business as usual again because business as usual is what led us to this crisis.
What does this mean for businesses? As an SEO agency in Singapore, we will elaborate further.
Part I: Living the New Normal: How Businesses are Dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic
Being a global trading hub whose economy relies heavily on trade, it has been difficult for Singapore to balance business as usual with public safety amidst the health crisis.
The impact of the restrictions is the hardest for startups and small businesses that rely on consistent cash flow. But, at least those that have taken measured approaches to protect employees and developed immediate action plans to mitigate the ongoing effects of the pandemic have higher chances of survival.
As of this writing, many businesses have suspended operations, moved to remote working, and continuously updating their plans for business continuity, disaster recovery, and crisis management based on the current situation.
Below are some lessons you can learn from these forward-thinking businesses:
How Your Business Can Survive the COVID-19 Pandemic
• Implement a People-First Policy
At the onset of a pandemic, your employees will start to worry about their safety and that of their family, rendering them unable to focus on their work responsibilities. Therefore, if anything, your first priority should be their safety and well-being.
It’s crucial that you monitor the development of the situation and provide your employees with the support they need. This may include work transfer to alternative sites, transport services, provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs), or financial assistance where possible.
• Invest in Technology & Infrastructure to Support Remote Work
In addition to the above standard strategies, the government has also encouraged remote working. This is seen as a more viable option for the service sector, including digital marketing agencies in singapore.
However, Internet connectivity and infrastructure may pose a challenge in communication and employee tracking. As such, your business should provide tools, equipment, and alternative communication channels that will allow your personnel to work remotely and collaborate effectively.
• Maintain Communication with Your Community
Like with any natural catastrophes, customers are generally more empathetic towards disruptions that are beyond a company’s control than they are towards those that are perceived to be preventable—system glitches, for instance. But, they, at least, want to be in the know.
For instance, if your supply chain is affected by the restrictions on travel and there are delays in deliveries, they will have to know. You can maintain open communication channels to address concerns and disseminate frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) to save time for both parties.
• Communicate with Empathy
As a digital marketing agency in Singapore, we always talk about how communicating with compassion and empathy is crucial to maintaining customer trust, boosting employee morale, and maintaining market stability.
It is during these times when you will realise how working with digital marketers is crucial in crafting consistent and timely messaging to reach out to your audience. They can also help you identify opportunities for social media engagement and draft your initial responses to the crisis.
• Establish Crisis Management, Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Plans
If there’s anything the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that in such emergency situations, we have to deviate from our standard policies and procedures to protect the welfare of our customers and employees.
You should challenge and stretch your boundaries to accommodate the needs of your workforce and often it means revising existing policies, taking into account advisories, resources, and health safety measures prescribed by the government. This should help you avoid publishing conflicting materials that may lead to confusion and fear in your community.
What Now? Why You Should Care About SEO & Social Media
It’s no longer news that the COVID-19 situation has left us in instability and many businesses feel the pressure to cut down costs to stay afloat.
But, they should know better than retreating from their SEO and digital marketing efforts as more than ever, remaining relevant and maintaining a strong digital presence are crucial in leading your business through the crisis and eventually, to the other side.
These trends are mirrored elsewhere, including in Singapore. Searches for topics about travel and hospitality has dwindled significantly at the time when users are staying more at home and practising social distancing.
Digital Marketing Opportunities During COVID-19
While you should acknowledge the threats, you should also not overlook the opportunities that this crisis can give you—and by opportunity, we don’t mean profiting from others’ difficulties but rather, making your products, services, and expertise more accessible to your target audience.
You should also look into the situation as a wake-up call to revisit your strategies and see how you can make your business more resilient to future crises.
Part II: How to Adapt Your SEO & Marketing During a Crisis
As we are practising social distancing, we have more time to spend online. It is reported that at the end of March, Internet usage has increased by 50-70%.
Therefore, you should use this time to focus on creating high-quality content and excellent digital experiences to meet their needs. Positioning yourself in front of your target audience should benefit you in at least two ways: maximise your sales potential now and lay the groundwork for conversions in the future.
Optimise Your Website
A great place to start fine-tuning your online presence is by optimising your website. Below are a few things to focus on:
- Simplify the navigation
- Review and update website content to maintain relevance
- Add a pop-up banner on your homepage to provide visitors with updated news and information (e.g. temporary closures, open lines of communication, shortened business hours, etc.)
Update Your Google My Business Page
Speaking of which, you should also update your GMB page to let your audience know about any changes to your business operations. The following are some of the updates you should include:
- Adjusted hours of operation
- Temporary business closure
- Extra services that you’re providing for the community (e.g. online consultations, door-to-door delivery, etc.)
These updates will appear on your business profile on Google Search and Maps.
Create Content that Builds Trust
A study found out that consumers are 131% more likely to purchase from a brand after consuming educational content. Such an urge remains strong, even a week later, with consumers still 48% more likely to buy from the brand that provided them with engaging and informative content.
With so much uncertainty, consumers will ask questions and you should take this opportunity by churning out educational content that answers them. This, in return, should help you build trust and integrity, which would later translate into conversions.
We’ll discuss further how you can adapt your content marketing strategy to the present situation later down the article.
Maximise Email & Social Media Campaigns
Besides website content, email and social media are great channels where you can reach out to your audience.
Keep the communication going by sending out content that shows you understand the gravity of the situation. Some of the topics you can focus on include business updates, healthcare guidelines, as well as stay-at-home tips on how they can make the most out of their time at home. Empathy goes a long way in trying times!
Ramp Up Security
If there is anyone who could be trying to take advantage of the present situation, it’s the hackers. Research from the Check Point Software said that cybercriminals are exploiting interest in the pandemic to spread malicious activity, most of which are COVID-19 themed spam campaigns.
With security being an utmost priority, we always advise our clients in SEO to monitor their log files for crawl errors. This should reveal if spambots are trying to infiltrate a website.
Other Tips to Secure Your Website:
• Implement SSO – SSO or Single Sign-On is an authentication scheme that allows users to use a set of login credentials (e.g. username and password) to enter separate applications for added security.
• Secure Your Site with SSL – HTTPS is a ranking signal that indicates a website is secure for visitors. It protects sensitive information such as credit card numbers and browsing history among others. Therefore, make sure to implement HTTPS on your website.
• Update Plugins – Old plug-ins and apps make you more vulnerable to hackers. Make sure to update them regularly to keep you from becoming an easy target.
SEO & Digital Marketing: How to Optimise Your Content During COVID-19
In these unprecedented and changing times, trust is the most valuable commodity. What you should be prioritising now is getting your content to the top of the search engine result pages (SERPs), because that is where people will turn to for answers.
If you want people to buy from you, they must first trust you; the best way to build and strengthen that trust now is to continue creating SEO-focused content that talks about topics that resonate most with your target audience.
Ways to Shift Your SEO & Content Strategy to Maintain Relevance
• Research Keywords – The COVID-19 situation has altered our needs, concerns, and search habits. Therefore, you’ll want to revisit your existing SEO strategy and keyword research to understand which terms are currently getting the most traffic.
Remember, the keywords you have been working around for the past few months may not be the same ones that matter today.
• Audit Your Upcoming Campaigns – Speaking of which, if you have already built your pipeline of content, you will want to audit and update it in a way that would show empathy and compassion for your audience in times of crisis.
You don’t want your campaigns to be insensitive to the situation, do you?
• Write Useful & Engaging Content – Taking into account the keywords that are most relevant today, write something that will be relevant and useful to your readers in the present situation.
As people stay more at home and are unable to go about their typical lives, use your content to help them be productive at home and inspire them to plan about the future. The goal here is to give them something to look forward to.
• Prioritise Local SEO – Lastly, now is the best time to strengthen your local SEO strategy, you can work with your SEO service provider in Singapore to rank for geo-specific keywords.
For an SEO agency in Singapore like OOm, it means long-term keywords such as SEO services in Singapore, digital marketing agency in Singapore or the likes. With the restrictions on travel today, local traffic can be particularly high.
If you’re investing in SEO and content, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. Our digital marketing experts at OOm can help you create relevant and fully optimised content. We provide a complimentary SEO site analysis which can help you discover the most relevant topics to your audience, detect technical site issues, and optimise your website for better performance.
Part III: Beyond the Pandemic: Adopting a Gradual Restart Strategy
Business process functions across almost all industries are severely disrupted by the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you want to survive through and beyond the crisis, your organisation must respond rapidly to ensure continuity now and in the future.
Why Disaster-Preparedness Matters
On the Global Health Security Index, a report card that grades each country based on its pandemic preparedness, the US is rated 83.5—the world’s highest. A first-world country, the US is supposed to be the readiest of all nations, but when it is finally tested by the virus, it has failed.
The virus is testing the resilience of even the most well-equipped healthcare systems. Being more transmissible and fatal than flu, the most effective way to contain such a pathogen is to aggressively test and identify infected people, isolate them, and obsessively trace those they have had contact with. This is what Singapore, Vietnam, and South Korea did to tremendous effect and which the US failed to do so.
Unless the US stops downplaying the severity of the virus, a science paper predicted it might have to keep social distancing well into 2022 until a vaccine could stop its spread.
These go to show how an immediate response to a pandemic is a matter of life-and-death situation and how a nation’s response to the crisis will influence the impact of the virus.
What Will Happen Post-Pandemic?
A gradual easing of the lockdown is most rational—with stricter measures remaining for those deemed most vulnerable. Mass testing and contract tracing will be part of the long-term strategy while the worldwide search for a vaccine continues.
Until such time, winning against COVID-19 means making sure we lose as little as we can and as for businesses, it means adapting a gradual restart strategy and surviving in the post-pandemic era.
Final Thoughts: How the COVID-19 Crisis Emphasises the Value of SEO in Singapore
The COVID-19 pandemic is bound to change our ingrained habits. Given how the virus is transmitted, it will take time for the world to readjust to the new normal. Fears about travelling, commuting, and even working in the office will remain and it will take time, maybe years, to trust the world and its functioning again.
For the meantime, you can look into bolstering your SEO and digital marketing efforts to maintain relevance and position yourself as a valued resource in your audience’s time of need. This strategy may not result in an immediate sale but it will contribute to your brand’s success in the long-term.
As COVID-19 continues to impact businesses worldwide, we will continue to see how and where SEO can help in overcoming marketing challenges.
With that in mind, we urge you to delve into a comprehensive SEO strategy. As an SEO service provider in Singapore, we are able to help you grow your business during this pandemic.