Effective Digital Marketing Strategies During COVID-19

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Most of our clients are in segments of the economy are re-establishing themselves during COVID-19.  Most of our clients are facing a changing business environment in the Summer of 2020, and are taking this opportunity to review online marketing opportunities to take advantage of pent up demand for goods and services.  Many of the market changes will be permanent, and some will change as the COVID-19 pandemic (hopefully) goes away.

Here is a list of the strategies that most of our clients use and general guidelines on how we are using them during this challenging time.

SEO

We consider SEO to be the foundation of most digital marketing plans.  The exception would be very focused niche B to B (business to business) firms, but most of our clients get the majority of their website conversions from the organic search traffic generated by SEO efforts.

Content and UX (user experience) are 2 of the main keys to success in SEO.  Better content that addresses the current needs of your customers will not only help to boost your rankings but conversions as well.   Mobile load time and UX are especially important and the use of AMP (accelerated mobile pages) has improved rankings for many of our customers.  Google is now using machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) to evaluate content and user experience.  Bottom line-it is becoming impossible to spam a vast and powerful machine learning algorithm.  The only way to optimize your site is to provide a solid user experience and a message that will help conversions.

Many companies have curtailed SEO efforts due to budget constraints during COVID-19.  The majority of our clients are continuing their efforts and while search volumes have decreased for most goods and services, they have seen traffic and placement improvements during the pandemic.  This is a great time to improve your rankings and show that you are in business to stay to inspire confidence in current and future customers.

SEM

SEM (search engine marketing) is defined by Wikipedia as “a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising.”

For most advertisers, this involves the use of Google Ads, Google Display, YouTube Ads, and Bing Ads.  These platforms have seen adjustments in strategy due to COVID-19, but have continued to deliver strong results throughout the unprecedented market conditions of 2020.

Google has installed smart bidding and smart campaigns, both of which are designed to simplify bidding and set up but still deliver superior results.  Bing has been a good resource for clients marketing locally, especially to an older demographic.

Remarketing allows you to continue to market to website visitors with display and text ads after they have left your website. This works by tracking visitors through cookies and creating new ads on related sites.  Remarketing increases conversions by improving brand awareness.

Many of our clients have cut back paid search during COVID-19 due to reduced search volume, inventory issues, or budget constraints.  Those who have continued have generally seen higher CTR (click-through rates), lower CPC (cost per click), and most importantly higher conversion at a lower CPA (cost per acquisition).  If you have the budget and the ability to serve customers, you should consider continuing with SEM campaigns.

Local Search

A lot of businesses work exclusively or mainly with clients in their market areas.  Google My Business listings are the first way that local customers find local businesses.  Mobile searches for goods and services close to where the prospect is searching are extremely valuable.  Google My Business is also easy to update with photos and information on your business.  Keeping the listing up to date is important as customers find you and learn to rely on the results of their searches.  You will also find that your Google My Business listing will rank more prominently if there are local links, or citation sites that support the NAP (name address and phone number) that is listed on your website.  Please ensure that the NAP on your Google My Business listing also matches the information on your website. 

Online reviews are very important as well. You’ll want to inspire customers to write positive reviews on places like Yelp and Google My Business (GMB for short).   Clients are typically using review services like Birdeye and Podium to promote reviews on their sites.  For a comparison of these services, see the evaluation from Software Review.

Reviews are key, especially since the start of COVID-19.  How your business is serving customers in this challenging time is important to future customers.  Local search of who is open and who is not is important as well.  Please ensure that your information on GMB is accurate and that you continue to seek reviews.

Landing Pages

Constant review of landing pages and content is key to the success of any digital campaign.  Having the right CTA, and tracking how consumers are using the page are the keys to successful landing page management.  Google analytics offers most of the tools you may need, but Crazy Egg will give you the ability to create a heatmap of how website users are viewing your content. 

The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of your landing page is not just bringing customers to the business, but how many and how much business they do with your firm.  Integrating your forms with products like Salesforce can help you to track the actual dollars sold from your landing pages.

One of the most important features of late on landing pages is how services are different because of COVID-19.  What special measures are you taking to ensure social distancing, and are you providing special services to help those who cannot use your business in the normal way?  Speak openly and honestly about the challenges you are facing and how you are overcoming them.  This is what customers want to know.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great tool for staying in touch with your existing customer base and generating leads for new business.  Staying in touch with your existing customer base can increase sales through the top of mind awareness with customers who already know you and the referrals that they can generate.

Email marketing is affordable but requires constant vigilance in listening to customers and those in your company that works with customers to understand what is relevant to your customer base.   Effective email marketing requires constant vigilance on the stats for open rates, clicks, opt-outs and spam reports to be sure that the content that you are providing is relevant to your audience.

For many of our clients, we write email versions of content that we feature on blogs and social media.  You can use email to drive traffic to landing pages on your website or to social media.  Email marketing can help you to shorten your sales cycles and keep customers engaged.

Your loyal customers want to know that you are still there, or will be there soon.  Email is the perfect platform to use to let people know all is well.

Social Media Marketing

There are so many social media platforms now.  The average business cannot cover them all effectively.  The time constraints of keeping up with social platforms can also be a challenge.  Some of our clients curate some of their content. When you curate content from others, many will curate content from you.  Finding strategic social partners is key.

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram all feature ad platforms that can be used successfully and relatively inexpensively depending upon the customer base that you wish to reach.  Social influencers can also be huge for products.  If you are like most businesses, you do not know where to even begin with this task.  Services like Upfluence can help you to find influencers and get your product info out there to a specific audience.

The current market conditions have kept a lot of people in their homes, and the use of social media has gone up dramatically.   This can be a solid platform to build brand awareness and reach a new audience for your products.

Video

Recent statistics show 87% of all online marketers now use video content of some sort.

A lot of this comes from increased traffic on places like YouTube and Vimeo. The key is not just to have video, but to post compelling and relevant messages that address the concerns of your customers.

Every business has a story to tell.  It could be the people, the methods of doing business, the location, or just a willingness to share events that are of interest to your customers. 

When you can tell a story about your business and document how you solve problems for your customers, you will have compelling videos.  Keep videos short, and be sure to optimize them properly on YouTube to gain placement on SERPs.

One of the things we have all missed during shelter in place is human contact.  Video is the next best thing to being able to look a customer in the eye and tell your story.  Usage of video channels is up dramatically in COVID-19, please use this to your advantage.

Conclusion

The old adage says that “if you stop marketing, you die”.  There are elements of truth to this, but many businesses have been forced to stop marketing spends just to survive or take care of their employees or other pressing needs.  That being said, please do what you can to keep your brand alive during this challenging time.  When COVID-19 fades away, and it will, someday, there will be pent up demand for most goods and services.  The marketing strategies outlined here will help your business to be positioned to take advantage of the permanently altered economy that will emerge from this global pandemic.

Eric Van Cleave is the CEO and Digital Marketing Director for TIV Branding

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TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at info@TIVbranding.com.