Tips on how to use SEO to make the most out of a recession for your business and Web site.
by Brian R. Brown April 3, 2008 6:58 PM PDT Earlier this week I talked about how a recession may be the best thing for SEO. Let's revisit that bold statement and also how to make the most out of a downturn in the economy using SEO.
There will be firms and people within the industry that will feel the same pains of a recession that everyone else will. I'm certainly not claiming that you can sit back and coast in to success. In fact, the statement is less about SEO firms and practitioners, and more about SEO as a tool.
If you are in-house and have been struggling to get the resources or attention you need to make SEO a priority, then this may help to increase the urgency of SEO. Or if your firm provides SEO services, then you may be able to use the concerns and challenges that will come with a recession to get the attention of the decision makers to illustrate how SEO may be a more cost-effective solution.
A recession or economic downturn will lead consumers and businesses to reduce their spending as their confidence in the economy, their business, jobs, investments and/or retirement weakens. While there may be a subset of the market that "quits buying," what we are really talking about is a reduction in spending. There will still be necessities and essentials that must be purchased. Beyond that, we may expect to see purchase adjustments or a scaling back.
Rather than buying a new home, some may decide to fix-up or renovate what they currently have with new window treatments, carpeting, or paint. Or maybe they'll add a home theater to not only enhance their home while also reducing the costs of going out for entertainment.
Businesses might forgo expanding into new office space, but invest in new office furniture that better maximizes the current space, or convert unused space into offices or meeting rooms.
Those who eat out a lot may cut back, but may invest in new kitchenware and a cookbook or two to maintain the excitement.
Others might cut back on their daily coffee run by buying a new coffee maker, a couple travel mugs, and a coffee grinder, and instead, buy coffee beans from their favorite java joint as a way to cut back without feeling deprived.
After all, when things get tight, we know it, so we also try to find a happy medium to lessen the pain.
Along with a reduction of spending and a re-prioritization on necessities, businesses and individuals alike will more likely become more selective in the purchases that they make. Depending on the specific needs, they may look for the best deals or a certain level of quality, and in either case, may take longer to make a purchase decision and undergo more pre-sales research than normal.
This may affect the words they use to search, so now is an excellent time to refresh your keyword research. Especially look for modifiers that connect with your target audience--what drives them normally: price, quality, selection, reliability, etc.? To do this, you can turn to the free versions of tools like Keyword Discovery, Wordtracker and Google Trends.
Once you have your target phrases, be sure to integrate them into title tags and on-page content to optimize for searches, as well as in the meta description for that extra call-to-action within the search results. Along with optimizing current content, now would be an excellent time to create a section that calls out to searchers based on these types of searches if you don't have it already, e.g., Discount Electronics, Reliable Laptops, and Fuel Efficient Cars.
Next, reach out and connect with your existing customers, and hopefully win new ones. If you don't have an RSS feed for your products, or deals, now would be an excellent time to implement one. Get creative, e.g., offer one hot deal every day or week that is only announced through your RSS feed--when it's gone, it's gone. Of course, don't forget to optimize the subscription page for this feed to begin with.
Don't forget blogging. If you don't have one, get your blog up and running, and provide great tips on how to get the most out of your products or even how to extend the life of them. Use it as a way to create blog posts around heavy searched-for phrases, but keep them relevant to your area of focus. Most of all, keep it fun and upbeat when times get tough.
Every site should be doing this all the time anyway, but now more than ever, create useful information that helps all users of your type of products. Make sure that the content isn't just specific to your products, but to the category in general. The goal here is to create the best, hopefully the definitive, guides on how to select, use, maintain, or anything else related to your category of products.
When you create the best guide on "How to select the best laptop for business travelers," for example, you'll naturally attract links from others, and some of those who come to read your guide will decide to look at your selection of laptops, hopefully you'll have some of them tagged or designated for "business travelers." And you'll probably find it much easier to weave in these powerful search phrases that are less specific to a product and more about a problem your site visitors have or the specific solution they are seeking.
As you are coming up with these blog posts and new content, take a step back and look at what you have to offer from a different angle. Focus less on up-selling from competitors or lesser products, and identify how your products serve as an ideal step down from something else. As an added bonus, a little creativity can go a long way here and lead to intriguing, eye-catching headlines that draw people in.
Finally, use this as a time to gain free advertising. The various media will of course be reporting on the impact of a recession on those within the community. Be the go-to expert in your field with your creative ideas to help people stretch their dollars, which may also earn you some media time and a link back to your site for the rest of your tips from their site.
Ironically, most of these are the same ideas that I'd offer up under any economic condition. It's all about using your Web site in an optimal manner to connect with those who are most interested in what you are offering. Online, those are the people who are searching--they're actually telling you "here I am." Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? It's also about creating a dialogue with your customer and providing additional value, before and after checkout...and that's good anytime.
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