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My Local SEO Clients & COVID-19 Business Survival – Online Ownership

I am not going to sugar coat the last few months under lock down and COVID, it has been bloody tough. I have also been quite shocked at how other marketers have been unable to adapt to the COVID challenge that businesses faced and still continue to try and push the same old techniques: Rank for Keyword, Product Ads etc etc

Anyone that knows me or who has worked with me knows that I have never worked at ranking keywords (yes that is one tiny part) or building links. My single aim for all clients is getting them in front of the customer during their purchasing research and ultimately making that purchasing decision with the client.

Perhaps this thinking helped me to adapt to COVID challenges and a total flip overnight in helping clients keep their businesses afloat.

It has not been easy and I have not made any profit since March and I have done a lot of free fixes for businesses. I recognised the difficulty ahead on the night Boris made his lock down speech. Having had a restaurant and hotel in the Lake District during foot and mouth in 2001 I was determined not to let my clients go under like I did back then when the tap was turned off overnight.
 

COVID Business Survival & SEO

I am going to share some of the problems and how Online Ownership managed to pivot or not pivot for a variety of clients I work with.

Hotel Industry

I work with two luxury resort brands in Asia. On the plus side we had a month to get our thinking caps on. On the down side each province had their own lock down dates and regulations to content with which made planning and implementing difficult.

There have been casualties, one brand new resort that had only been opened the year before could not sustain the staffing costs during lock down and has to close permanently, finding a buyer wont be easy for them either. Another brand new hotel in Bangkok took the decision to close for two months, not an easy time for staff either.

Problems

What We Did / Still Doing

This was also an opportunity to focus on long term local brand building.

Video content created for lock down users – cooking and recipes, cocktails, wellness sessions.

I am profoundly pissed off with Google who played the “we want to help businesses” and worked on new features for Google My Business listing, however they never allowed any of the existing or new features (Google Posts, Products, Descriptions, COVID-19 Posts) to be made available to hotels.

So much so, that I urge the hotel industry to dump OTAs and take back control from Google – this is the perfect opportunity and it may never happen again.

PS: I do give Google credit further down in article, they are not all bad.

Event Furniture Hire & Sales

This was a scary one, but one of the clients I am most proud of helping.

They are one of the largest event furniture hire companies in the country, from 1 chair to 100,000 chairs – events are their bread and butter. Over the past two years they slowly moved into sales of commercial furniture for restaurants, cafes, hotels etc

As the events industry collapsed we had to figure out what we could do to keep this business afloat. One warehouses rental is 50K

Problems

What We Did / Still Doing

As social distancing became a search query, we pivoted to social distancing furniture (canteens, staff areas, social distancing crowd control) – the NHS ended up hiring 5000 stretch barriers and key facilities started ordering social distancing accessories and furniture for staff areas, canteens etc

As different things open up we are actively marketing for this – garden parties (up to 30 people) beer garden.

However we have pretty much written off the events season.

After the success of the social distancing hire, we created a range of social distancing products and accessories that could be purchased. Key businesses did not want to be tied into long term hiring and decided to purchase the items.

Breaking into Home & Garden was scary given the fact that every high street brand, amazon and ebay was the competition. So as any good SEO would, we ignored the short tail and created every possible combination of products and furniture sets from garden, conservatories, balcony, patio, home bars.

As lock down is easing we are again targeting restaurants, cafes, coffee shops with social distancing products.

By working on every conceivable type of furniture set and material type combination we have sneaked in on the home and garden market, with the ability to create furniture combinations where large retailers sell the same products and in standard variations.

The sales side is now covering all business costs as well as bringing back 4 of the 6 furloughed employees.

Who knows you may even be sitting on one of their chairs in your garden now!

This is a fairly new local SEO client and new site which still had a lot of work to complete. There is also no end in sight for Gyms at the moment.

The saving grace (if you could call it that) is that they concentrate more on personal training both individual and small group, nutrition and lifestyle. This is not your normal running machine, weights kind of business.

Problems

What We Did / Still Doing

The gym quickly transitioned clients to their new TV channel for home workouts, guest nutritional sessions and also introduced wellbeing sessions to help people cope with lock down anxiety.

I still had work to complete, but now looked at current and available content and how this could be used for the home workout searcher.

Fun Fact: The Joe Wicks home workout sensation honed his skills and workout sessions at this gym.

Yes – this was not going to create any new members, this is a complete brand building and local awareness campaign ready for when they are allowed to open their doors again.

I have also used the coaches down time to get them to provide additional in depth info, FAQs for current and future content.

Vascular Surgeon

This business was closed because all medical facilities were reserved for COVID treatment – which is slowly opening back up now.

Problems

What We Did / Still Doing

It was agreed that we would transition content from treatment to prevention and managing pain at home because new patients could not be treated in medical facilities.
 

This was a mix of brand building and a humanitarian concern for patients suffering from vascular conditions.

This was a nightmare in capital letters.

Just before COVID hit Google Maps decided to split the county (state) that this business operated in – Google basically did not recognise the county any more. Together with this Google My Business rolled out a local update which changed the positions in local pack for local search queried vs non local search queried terms, even if the user was physically located in the area ( Taxi vs Taxi & Area)

This was the algo insanity that ensued, well into lock down.

Credit To Google

I am very luck to be a Google My Business Product Expert, but this does not mean you can willy nilly email a program manager – I had to build a case that there was something seriously wrong going on and building a case to show that all service area businesses in this locality were suffering and something was afoot.

After compiling the report, begging and a few tears, it was forwarded on and things returned to more stability – thank you to all concerned.

What We Did / Still Doing

Apart from dealing with the above algo issues, how could we find new ways to get clients – home delivery was born.
 

And although traffic and business is still stagnant, there is enough to keep the fleet on the road.

The algo fluctuations also reminded me not to put all your eggs into the Google Basket and get out there into the local community and direct advertising.

This business has to close as it is a close human to human contact business and are slowly opening back up.

Problems

What We Did / Still Doing

It was decided that we would concentrate on providing information for people to manage their condition and pain from home.

We also looked at providing emergency medical treatment information for a range or conditions.

This was to increase brand awareness locally and with the business being closed the client got stuck in with some great content.

Take Away for SEO’s

The biggest thing is to talk to your clients to help them grow – offering an SEO package based on x amount of keywords will not help your client during a crazy turn of events, it also restricts you from looking for opportunities and really helping a business grow (in good times).

Paid marketers, you need to also start talking to clients and their needs – continuing on with the same old paid advertising and not changing your methods or campaigns to suit changing events is disingenuous to the client and you are only thinking of your invoice, not the clients survival.

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