Episode Overview: As coronavirus cases surge throughout the U.S., state governments are rolling back reopening plans and the likelihood of reinstating shelter in place orders are increasing. With another SIP looming, it’s crucial for businesses to take the right steps now to ensure their operations remain uninterrupted. Join host Ben as he speaks with Searchmetrics’ Vice President of Services Tyson Stockton about how to best prepare for another potential shelter in place order.
- The first SIP caused shifts in keyword search demand, variances between shifts and device type queries. On the human side, stay at home orders impacted workflows and processes, causing shifts and changes.
- SEO has become more important as major industries like the airline industry has partnered with Google to increase additional search demand data to alleviate the economic downturn.
- As the U.S. shifts toward another SIP, it’s crucial businesses monitor their keyword performance, namely the performance of keywords before the first SIP, during SIP and post-SIP.
- Keeping motivation high among contributors is vital as the pandemic drags on, and another SIP order will likely have detrimental effects on your team’s morale. Strike a careful balance between encouraging them and pushing them toward success.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Tyson Stockton: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to a special Shelter in Place Edition of the Voices of Search podcast. Today, we’re going to talk to you about what we’ve seen related to the COVID-related shelter in place orders, and how you as an SEO can and should be preparing for another shelter in place if it should happen. Joining me today is Tyson Stockton, the vice president of services at Searchmetrics. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO, content and client success organizations. And outside of shepherding their largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, he’s going to talk to us about how COVID has impacted the SEO community, and how you can be preparing for a potential another shelter in place.
Ben: Okay. Here’s my conversation with Tyson Stockton, SearchMetrics’ vice president of services. Tyson, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Tyson: Thank you, Ben. Let’s hope it’s not a full repeat of what we’ve gone through already.
Ben: Look, I don’t want to be recording this episode, Tyson. Obviously, we’re talking about what should SEOs do if there is another shelter in place. We’re based here in the United States, Searchmetrics is a German company, and our audience is all over the world. But the reality is at least here in the United States of America, we saw a pretty significant slowdown in the coronavirus and all of that since Memorial Day has gone away and now we’re seeing coronavirus cases starting to spike again, which means it’s time for us, both personally and professionally to start thinking about what would happen if there’s another shelter in place. So let’s look at some data and think about what happened before to just set the ground. When the original shelter in place and the coronavirus outbreak happened, what was the impact on the SEO community?
Tyson: It’s a good question. There’s a couple of different buckets of impacts. I think you have on one hand the search behavior, which I would also group in with that, changes to ranking relevancy intent as actual search behaviors involved in changes. You have shifts in the keyword search demand. You have variances between shifts and device type queries. So you have those kind of more tactical elements. Then you of course, have the kind of human side and just dealing with different working conditions, maybe impacted teams.
Tyson: But I think glass half full from this, we’ve gone through it. It’s been a really evolving landscape. To me, if I think of it from an SEO perspective, I don’t really differentiate between leaving shelter in place opened up, not opened up. It’s like regardless, we’re not operating in the same world that we were six months from now, and I think that’s going to continue. So on the positive side we’ve been through this, we know a little bit more of what to expect, we know some of the challenges. I think we’re actually probably more prepared to not lose any stride in this if there is a increased second wave or whatever you want to call it.
Ben: Yeah. It’s interesting that you mentioned the way that you think about the changes are to device types and some user behavior. I actually think of the changes being relevant on an industry-by-industry basis. And there’s also sort of a macroeconomic thing. We saw ecommerce did really well. B2B SaaS did just fine in terms of overall business performance but SEO being a contributor to that. On the flip side, the travel sites. Anything related to hospitality, obviously negatively impacted because the search demand has decreased. So as we think about how the previous outbreak of the coronavirus and shelter in place impacted SEOs, I think of it very much as it depends what industry you’re in, depends what type of business you’re running.
Tyson: That’s an excellent point. It actually ties back to some of our previous conversations. Recently, we were having some conversations around how you can use search data for business strategy and elements like that. And recently, touching on your point of the travel and airlines in particular, Google has been partnering with them and actually providing additional search demand data for the airlines to then be choosing their routes, and frequencies, and volumes and things like that. So really that’s kind of a proof point of our past conversation and how it’s actually happening within airlines.
Tyson: But I think that’s also something that is interesting for all of us is because this search behavior data is such a front line and immediate window into the consumer world, is the opportunity for us as SEOs to continue to evangelize search data beyond the tactical search application or SEO application of it. I think it’s really interesting, and taking the airline industry and using it to plan their flights and things like that. I think is a great illustration of how with a potential and additional shutdown from this we’d expect more ripples throughout the behavior, and relying back on the search data is ways to help navigate through that. I think it’s going to be extremely beneficial.
Ben: So Tyson, we saw the shelter in place. We understand that on an industry-by-industry basis, how we were impacted. Obviously, there’s changes in user behavior. Over the few months where people were washing their hands, and staying at home, the coronavirus was sort of minimized to the extent that the United States was able to do it and hopefully the rest of the world as well. We started to see people go outside more as we started to get the virus more under control. Talk to me about what we’ve noticed from an SEO perspective as the world has started to reopen. What has changed? What went back to normal? And how was SEO impacted from the quick reopening?
Tyson: Yeah. So connecting back to the conversation from yesterday, there’s been changes in Google’s ranking some of these terms, depending on what they’re deeming as being relevant to it. To your point on hand sanitizer, that was actually one of the top keywords that moved up this last week for fda.gov. So they’re currently in position [inaudible] for hand sanitizer. Also, surprisingly because of the number of people that are searching hand sanitizer together, Google is determining that there’s a relationship between hand sanitizers. So for the keyword just hand, the FDA’s Drug Safety and Availability session on advising consumers to not overuse hand sanitizer is ranking at number 18. So we’ve seen this kind of macro relevancy shift on some of those terms that companies are actually getting some significant gains. You could take another similar example with the cdc.gov and they’re ranking in the fourth position for US map.
Tyson: So it’s like now there’s this annotation or this association to when someone just searches US map, well they want to know what the corona cases are in the U.S. They don’t just want a map, they want to know corona cases in it. So there’s this evolving intents that Google will continue and the algorithm will continue to adjust. So if we talk about reopening post all these abrupt acute changes in search behavior, we’d expect to see more of this volatility of keywords and where they’re ranking. Then how we use that really in our understanding of the world of SEO and how to succeed.
Ben: I think that Google should implement a public service announcement that whenever anybody types in the word hand, they should say, “Go wash yours.”
Tyson: Yeah. Just put it at featured snippet at the top directions.
Ben: Yeah. Not even a feature, a full page takeover, go wash your hands, everyone. Go wash your hands and put on a mask. That said, Tyson, the reality is the coronavirus is raging. We’re seeing spikes in different places here in California, specifically in Southern California. We’re seeing pretty drastic increase in the number of cases as the world starts to or the United States just to reopen. I think there’s a real possibility that we’re going to see another shelter in place or we’re going to have some sort of restrictions. What’s your advice for SEOs to deal with a potential second shelter in place.
Tyson: Get your camping gear ready and be ready to go outside and go camping this summer-
Ben: Your mobile hotspots.
Tyson: Yeah. Invest in a good hotspot and a good battery. No, but I think in all seriousness, I’d really take to heart a lot of the topics and things that we’ve covered throughout this. I think during these times and these abrupt shifts insurance behavior, you have to be really closely monitoring your keywords and you need to be monitoring them for two main purposes that have significant weights now than they would in let’s call it like normal times. And one is the changes in search demand. So we covered that in webinars and also previous conversations here where at the beginning of this, we saw this panic and these spike on terms like freezer dried foods. And then people realized, “Okay. I can actually still get fresh produce.” Fresh produce and delivery options are increasing sort of that search demand aspect.
Tyson: And then there’s also a how’s Google shifting its interpretation of intent by the different users signals that they’re collecting as this goes on? I think one other just anecdotal example of this is one of the significant winners from this last week that we actually left out of the episode yesterday intentionally because I think it’s more of just an outlier that we’ll see drop back down, but GoFundMe had a huge, crazy increase this last week of 155%. And then when we dig into, well, what actually was changing in it, there’s one URL that is now a 404 that they took down and all of these different keywords around online movies, movies online for free. It was all just on this random campaign URL that I’m assuming was not exactly legal because it’s taken down now.
Tyson: But seeing that kind of abrupt shift and then digging into what the actual event was, this is something that’s sustainable that cool shifted in the 10, or was there just a huge back linking in demand to this URL, which I’m assuming had free movies that you can download from the GoFundMe link. And then it gets picked up, but then it’s dropped. So then anticipation is a week from now, we’re going to see those rankings of GoFundMe come right back down to earth.
Ben: I think there’s a couple of things to consider. Obviously, there’s the change in user behavior and yes, we’ve gone through this before. There’s also the environment that we’re operating in from a work perspective, from a professional perspective. And, yes, SEO rankings are going to change and yes, the way that people are interacting, prioritizing mobile because people are on their phones because they’re at home taking care of their kids more when there’s a shelter in place, all of those things we need to consider, this is going to be a time of crisis if it happens. If the coronavirus continues to escalate at the rate that it’s going, but I don’t want to sound all the alarms and be the boy that cried wolf. But I do think that we need to keep in perspective that people’s lives are affected and that this is not just a keyword optimization exercise, but a real world crisis.
Ben: When you think about advice for SEOs, balancing some of their work priorities, and then also understanding that people’s lives and behaviors are changing, what advice do you have there in terms of how to change their priorities and what’s on their plate?
Tyson: I would say kind of in two-folds. One would be more to the managers and the leaders in the organization keep in touch with their teams. Motivation can be challenging through these tough times, depending on what people have going on at home, what risks they have, things like that. So there’s definitely just the human element of being aware of what your teams are kind of going through and being mindful of that. And still finding that balance between pushing and encouraging them, but also not wanting to let them get burned out. And then for the more individual contributors, I think that’s a lot of people probably are finding themselves in situations that they’re working longer hours because they’re at home by the computer. And with that, you have to remember to give yourself those breaths, those breaks, so then you can keep up the progress.
Tyson: And we said, “Hey, it’s summertime, barbecues, all those things going on.” But this is also the key time to get those big projects, the big technical projects kind of shipped out when you’re not in a code freeze and things like that. So you do have to be mindful that some businesses are in a challenging position. Maybe they have limited resources availability, but really just kind of making sure that you’re keeping the momentum, keeping the progress, but not kind of running that risk of burnout, which I think whenever you throw on these kind of challenges or these situations on top of the regular stresses of work, there’s a significant piece that you have to take seriously.
Ben: Yeah. You cannot successfully optimize your search campaigns if you are not alive. So wear a mask. I know it’s not a political statement even just to be nice to the people around you, wash your hands, take care of yourself. And if there is a shelter in place, lets all play by the rules. Tyson, it’s good to record this podcast with your mask on. There’s a Zoom conference and we’re not in the same room. You can take the mask off now. Now is okay.
Tyson: Okay. Okay. I wasn’t sure what was going through this screen here?
Ben: All right. Well, jokes aside. Tyson, thank you for being my guest. Hopefully we don’t get to the point where we have another shelter in place, but if we do, at least now we know how to prepare. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, the vice president of services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is Tyson_Stockton, where you can visit his company’s website, which is Searchmetrics.com. Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests.
Ben: You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter and my personal handle is Ben J. Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning.
Ben: All right. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.