Digital Marketing During a Downturn

While the world is in full lockdown mode due to COVID-19, marketers find themselves in uncharted territory.  How will the coronavirus affect consumer spending habits?  How deep will the economic downturn be?  And how long will its effects last?  We don’t yet have the answers but we can draw comparisons from other economic downturns.


Economic interruptions, like the current global pandemic, can create profound challenges for digital marketers.  In the long term, we can expect a recovery, but it’s not clear whether that will take weeks, months or years.  In the short term, it is reasonable to expect businesses to set strict guidelines on discretionary spending.   This often involves postponing big purchases and clamping down on expenses.  Unfortunately, marketing budgets are often among the first to be slashed.  But indiscriminate cutting of a marketing program can create unintended consequences that persist into the recovery phase.


While it is wise to cap spending, maintaining visibility in your market is essential for the long term health of your brand.  So, if you’re forced to cut the marketing budget, then use a scalpel instead of a hatchet.  Adjust your short term strategies, but keep focused on long term viability.  Like all previous downturns, there will be a period of growth and recovery.  Once things return to normal, you want to be positioned to accelerate out of the blocks.  Otherwise you run the risk of being outpaced by competitors that stayed active during the downturn.


While Competitors are Slashing their Marketing Budgets…

Counter-intuitively, an economic slowdown may be an ideal time to focus on digital marketing, especially on activities that improve your domain authority.  While your competitor’s websites sit idle, you can invest in core activities that boost your standing in Google’s ranking.  Done correctly, you’ll make it miserable to for your competitors to catch you once the dust has settled and the economy sparks back to life.


Unique Opportunity to Improve Your Domain Authority

In the best of times, it is difficult to move the needle on Google rankings.  But when competitors slam the brakes on internet activities, it presents a unique opportunity.  You can stealthily outdistance them by focusing on web activities that contribute to long term growth.  Fortunately, there are several opportunities for improvement that don’t require a large injection of marketing dollars to accomplish.  The following SEO tips are perfect for marketers that are riding out the global pandemic while working from home.


Focus on Written Content

Shoring up web content is a strategic starting place.  Analyze top ranking industry websites for content you may be missing on your own site (if you’re looking to impress people when they ask, you can confidentially tell them you’re performing a “Content Gap Analysis”).   Next, identify your pages that suffer from “thin content”.  Since Google tends to favour longer pages, you’ll want to target word count around 500-1000 words per page.  But be careful not to pander your writing to Google.  Instead, write high quality content that is helpful to your website visitors.  You’ll be rewarded by Google for writing valuable pages that answer people’s questions about your business.  Once your “pillar pages” are in good shape, then turn your attention to spin-off pages or business blog posts.  We could all use a dose of good news amid the doom and gloom of the coronavirus pandemic, so be sure to share your good news stories and innovations.


Linking Strategies

It’s called the “world wide web” for a reason.  Creating high quality backlinks is another core strategy to enforce your domain authority.  This can be a tedious process, but it shouldn’t cost you anything other than your time.  If normal business operations have stalled, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, then seize this distraction-free opportunity before it disappears.  Reach out to suppliers and customers to explore whether they can link back to your website.  Find high quality directories and associations that will list your company.  Also, scour your content for internal linking opportunities.  As a rule, pages that contain closely related material should be linked together.  This helps Google understand the relationship between pages and underscores their importance.


Social Posting in Times of Uncertainty

COVID-19 Social Media Report


Stay social during the outbreak.  Your customers are overwhelming working from home.  This means they are likely checking social feeds more often than they would be at the office.  Regular posting portrays strength during troubled times by showing your customers that you are resilient in the face of adversity.  Keep your posts fun and informative, not “salesy”.  This approach will keep your business top-of-mind while projecting the health of your brand.


Mindset of Customers During the Pandemic

Put yourself in the mindset of your customers. There is a lot of uncertainty out there.   Your customers are likely feeling concerned, maybe even panicked.  Some clients will have the knee-jerk reaction to freeze all purchases.  While others will try to ignore the pandemic and carry on as normal.  But most folks will ride out the storm with cautious optimism that things will return to normal soon.  Either way, be empathetic to your target audience in your messaging.


Is Your Website Open for Business?

COVID-19 Storefront Sign


Where is everybody during home quarantine?   Online!  While in-person storefront traffic is at a standstill, your web traffic may actually jump.  So, have you made it easy for visitors to interact with your company?  Purchase your products or services online?  Find the information they are seeking?  Now is the time to roll out the red carpet and improve user experience on your website.  This way, you’ll leave your competitors in the dust while you cater to customers evolving online needs.


Getting Ready for the Recovery

Smart business owners will invest in their online presence during this economic interruption.  Survivors will be strongly positioned once the recovery is underway.  Treat this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to surpass competitors by focusing on the long term health of your brand.  By improving online experience, and making your website Google-friendly, you will emerge from this crisis in better shape than you entered.


Final Thoughts on Digital Marketing During the Downturn

Whether or not the current situation turns into a full-blown recession is unclear.  But digital marketers need to be nimble by adjusting strategies and tactics based on the assumption of a prolonged economic slump.  But when the upturn finally comes, you’ll be in excellent position to respond quickly.   Companies that freeze marketing until the pandemic ends, will be at the mercy of better-prepared competitors.


Not Sure Where to Start?

Contact the digital marketing experts at NetGain.  Our doors are always open (except when we’re on a pandemic-related lockdown).  But not to worry, our staff is safely working from home.  We’ll be pleased to make ourselves available to discuss how we can help market your business during the downturn.  Just send us a quick note to get started.