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Winter Is Coming: SEO During Economic Downturns

I started my agency in 2008. That year, I attended the SMX conference at the Javitz Center in New York City. It was during this conference that the Dow plunged, suffering its worst points loss in history. I sat looking at the New York skyline, expecting to see stockbrokers jumping out of windows. Fortunately, I didn’t see any. As I continually checked my phone looking at the plummeting stock indices, my brain was panicking. Why did I start a business in what was beginning to look like the worst economic situation of my lifetime? I found out that direct marketing, specifically search engine optimization, not only weathers economic downturns, it thrives in them.

Why Does SEO Do Well in Economic Downturns?

When money is scarce, people want the money they have to work harder. In marketing, few channels work harder than search for most products and services. This doesn’t mean that search is a panacea, or that it is for everyone. In fact, I wrote about why search might not be for you here.

I frequently tell a story about my days managing Gateway Computer’s search marketing, both paid and organic. Our program was extremely successful. We had a better ROI than any other channel, including print and television. The marketers and Gateway saw our results and decided they needed to shift their marketing budget to search. Almost all of it. I did a dance and prepared to show Gateway what search could do. It worked for about 6 months. Then the bottom fell out. Without the assist of television, radio, and print, the search volume for everything went down. I don’t care how good your search marketing is, if you don’t have search volume, you don’t have customers. In the end, Gateway was bought by Acer and I lost the contract. But I’ve never forgotten the lesson that search doesn’t live in a vacuum.

How to Prepare for SEO During Economic Downturns

Whether you are an agency or an in-house SEO, there are things you need to do to prepare your decision-makers for an economic downturn. If you don’t prepare, there is a good chance that you’ll get cut with the rest of the marketing budget. When the economy takes a turn for the worse, the key to keeping decision-makers on board with their search marketing efforts comes down to effective tracking and communication of value.

The first step is to make sure that you and your client (or boss, for you in-house folks) are up-to-date on how the campaign is performing. If you don’t know the lifetime value of a customer, now is the time to invest in finding out. If you are still looking at last-click metrics for search, you need to adopt attribution modeling. I just did a two-part series on attribution modeling for SEMrush that can give you some good insights on the nuts and bolts of creating an attribution strategy using only Google Analytics.

Take a look. As a search marketer, you are only as valuable the decision-makers perception. Your goal should be to become irreplaceable. That means that you need to communicate your value early and often. You need to celebrate every win. You need to let the decision-maker know that even if someone comes in offering to do the job cheaper (they will), your results are going to more than make up for any additional cost they incur by employing you. But to do that, you need to be on the same page with the decision-maker. To be on the same page, you have to agree on what the results are.

Goals Are the Key to Reduced Churn During Downtimes

Once you agree on what the results are, you can start setting smart goals for what the results will be. And once you can set smart goals, that’s when you can become irreplaceable. If you can set realistic goals that the decision-maker agrees to, you can set yourself up for long-term success. Set the goal and get the decision-maker to agree to it. Get it in writing, or in an email. This is a main component for running SEO During Economic Downturns.

Read the article in it’s entirety on Search Engine Journal: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-during-economic-downturns/304119/

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