COVID-19 dramatically impacted consumer behavior, from the widespread fear and anxiety caused to the very real impact of an extensive period of worldwide lockdown and social distancing. Naturally, many consumers utilized Google more extensively to research COVID-19 updates including business closures, hour changes, and reopenings.
Customers now have a whole new set of considerations and needs when they are searching for information they need to make decisions that just last year were simple and routine. In turn, Google responded quickly to help both local businesses and healthcare facilities better communicate with their customers by adding new social distancing attributes, COVID-19-type Google Posts, and secondary hours.
In a recent post, we examined the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on new social distancing terms and the specific keywords consumers use to search locally. “Contactless delivery,” “curbside,” and “drive-through” have now all become part of the vernacular of local consumers.
Brands are being challenged to keep pace and adopt these new terms into their local SEO. This raises a critical question all brands should be bearing in mind, does your online presence for each location meet the needs of shoppers as the pandemic continues on? In this blog post, we will share 4 SEO best practices from our local SEO expert, Chad Klingensmith, Senior SEO Strategist at Rio SEO, to help keep your Local Pages relevant and trustworthy. Let’s dive in.
1. Optimize site content and local landing pages with relevant social distancing terms.
How has life and the process of doing business with you changed for your customers? Consumers want to know what to expect of brands as we transition through various stages of reopening (and possibly locking down again, as the current climate evolves).
Incorporate verbiage related to:
- Drive-up or drive-thru
- Curbside pickup or delivery
- Contactless payment and delivery
- Online and phone ordering
- Virtual services such as banking, appointments, or consultations
- Telehealth and telemedicine services
- In-store sanitation
- Non-medical masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer
- Social distancing and physical distancing
Help your customers understand exactly how to do business with you today, and reassure them with information about the steps you are taking to keep them safe. Not only does this verbiage improve the user experience, but it also better communicates to Google relevancy for related search queries.
2. Update your meta tags.
Meta tag optimization has been a foundational strategy from the inception of SEO. Google still weighs the keywords in title tags and H1/H2 header tags as SEO signals. The keywords in the meta description tags are not a ranking signal but how they appear in the Google SERP results can impact if users visit a webpage or not.
For example, if your local business offers drive-through services, make sure to include phrases such as “drive-through” or “curbside pick-up” in your meta tags and H1/H2 header tags. This will improve both user experience and improve SEO rankings for people searching for phrases such as “drive-through bank” or “curbside food pickup”.
3. Create new content specifically for Coronavirus-related content.
Some updates warrant a media release, such as changes to store hours or staffing practices. In other cases, you may want to provide in-depth information about an update posted to your local landing page.
For example, you may briefly mention that you have implemented new store sanitization processes on your local pages and link to a central repository on the corporate site for those customers who would like to learn more.
This enables you to leave “breadcrumbs” of information around the site pointing to your lengthier pieces. In this way, you can avoid overwhelming readers while also feeding the needs of some for in-depth information—and sending all of those positive signals from your keyword-rich long-form content to Google, as well.
4. Implement schema to help Google understand your relevance to specific queries.
We’ve long been advocates for using schema markup to improve your visibility in search with expanded results, where available. Proper schema helps Google understand the relevance of your site’s content to specific query types and topics.
Late in March, Google announced a new type of schema designed to help businesses call out COVID-related announcements on their webpages:
As of the time of publication, this is still a beta feature; there may be changes in the requirements or how the announcement appears in search as Google experiments with the format. However, this is a great way to highlight information about facility closures, events rescheduling, new services, and more on your listings in organic search.
Another important schema markup for COVID-affected businesses is the “Has Drive Through Service” tag. This may be applicable for food service businesses, banks, medical testing facilities, and more. Learn more about drive-thru schema here. This will improve the relevancy for drive-through services and may even show a rich result.
Don’t Forget These Other Impactful On-Page SEO Optimizations
Think of your on-page experience from the perspective of COVID-affected customers.
- What questions do they have about your business right now?
- What unique needs can your products and services solve for them?
- What concerns or anxiety are customers experiencing around shopping or visiting your physical location, and how can you mitigate them?
- What specific questions, terms, and words are they using to seek information?
Your site analytics and local search reporting can be rich sources of insight to help you understand your customers’ new journey—and your new opportunities as a result.
You should also keep using high-quality images with an optimized filename and alt text as well as video to help customers understand the new experience you’re offering.
Take advantage of a free local audit today to see how your local presence has changed. Then check out these other local SEO resources:
- Read How to Use Organic SEO to Rank in Google’s Local 3-Pack
- Download the case study on how Local SEO Best Practices Deliver Major Cost-Per-Click Reductions
- Read 10 Local SEO FAQs for Brands with 1000+ Locations
- Stay up-to-date with our latest COVID-19 resources