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20 March 2020 / Opinion

5 ways to adapt your search strategy in uncertain times

Paul Norris / Head of Search Strategy

The events of the last week have had a dramatic effect on millions of people’s lives. Uncertainty over health, childcare, work, food and the wellbeing of loved ones has dominated all of our thinking over the past few days.

It has led to a shift in what we’re turning to the internet for help with.

The Prime Minister’s speech on 13th March 2020 served as a catalyst for many to search for “working from home essentials” with searches such as “computer chairs” increasing by 185%. As a nation, we also considered our options for emergency deliveries, including “wine delivery” services, which nearly tripled in just a week. We learn a lot about ourselves as a nation in times like these.

As people’s searches change to reflect new (increasingly home-based and socially distant) situations, it’s important that marketers adapt to the shifts in search behaviour.

Here are a few ways to navigate the next few weeks and to prepare for when we emerge from the current situation.

Identify and capitalise on emerging trends

Monitor your search query reports closely - look for increased use of convenience and supply modifiers as availability and fulfilment is valued more.

The graph shows that searches containing “near me” start to fall as “online” services pick up.

If your business offers quick deliveries (and can still fulfil them), ensure it’s prominent in messaging, listings and on-site. Searches for next and same-day delivery will only continue to grow.

Listen to your visitors - use your Site Search reports and Hotjar polls

Your on-site search function is an absolute gold mine in times like these - demand and behavioural changes from your visitors are picked up directly. Use the Site Search report in GA (found under Behaviour on the left-hand side) as a listening board.

Surface the most searched-for products/services on relevant high traffic pages. Rethink, test and measure your carousels and other key product/service listing elements where relevant. Enabling Hotjar (or similar) polls can also enable you to get more specific insight.

Shift budget into investment channels

If you’re pulling back on sales activation because demand’s dropping, look to move that budget and resource into medium and longer-term activity that will pay dividends when demand picks up. With the previous points in mind, conduct a meta-data review and weave more highly valued services such as next day delivery into titles and descriptions. Has content taken a back seat? There are some definite benefits to content strategy, planning and creation with the headspace you’re afforded when working from home.

Bypass dev queues and do what you can from your CMS

Prioritising your activity in a busy dev queue can be difficult at the best of times. If dev time is booked up because the team is completely promo and sales activation focused, do what you can. Are you able to edit content and optimise existing pages in the CMS? Can you create new landing pages in your CMS without tech intervention? If so, now is the time to utilise those capabilities.

Maximise performance where demand is strong

Identify where demand remains strong (or has even picked up) and do what you can to capture and convert it. Your top landing pages and product reports are a good first port of call and can provide you with some quick wins. Segmenting and analysing site performance by product/area/service (depending on your sector) can help you identify and capitalise on bigger emerging trends. If you’re a retailer, think about splitting out essential and non-essential products.

This graph shows that searches for hand sanitiser are up 1173% after 13th March 2020.

We’re here to help however we can. If you have any questions, please either send over an email to [email protected], or send us a tweet or LinkedIn message.