Episode 187: 4 Tips for Your Business in COVID Times

Roger: Welcome to Local SEO Today. I’m Roger Murphy and we also have…

John: I’m John Vuong.

Roger: And we want to welcome all our listeners today. We’re going to be talking about some great tips and tricks for business owners, entrepreneurs in this world, in this time of Covid and you know, really look at the landscape and see what practices, what tips and things that you know, you can do to get your business back on track. Obviously, we’d like you to subscribe to the podcast. We do this regularly. We bring good topics, news that you can use on a regular basis to you so thank you for listening today and share it of course with your friends. So John, today tips and tricks all around Covid and SEO and of course our superpower here at Local SEO search is getting businesses ranking well on google search but in this time of Covid there’s been so much going on so maybe we could talk a little bit about the landscape of really business and Covid and what people are doing, how they’re searching today?

John: Yeah, definitely it’s been…last couple months have been very challenging for small/ medium-sized businesses especially if you are in a storefront location, high traveled area and there’s not a lot of traffic going on because you’re locked down or there’s you know, requirements for safety, right? And…

Roger: Limited hours.

John: Limited hours, there’s less travelers, right? If you relied on foot traffic. There’s so much going on and as a business owner we talk to hundreds of them on a regular basis and this is what we’ve heard and this is what…why we believe we’re bringing a lot of value to you as listeners so the first thing I want to talk about is how has it really impacted you as a business owner during this pandemic I mean you’re not getting the same amount of people coming to your store location or…

Roger: If you’re a store, yeah.

John: If you’re a store or calling you for your product or service like you used to so there’s been a decrease in potential customers finding you or seeking out your product and service so as a business owner you’re always trying to figure out, “What can I do to bring back that type of flow the the leads or the the customers again?”

Roger:That’s right.

John: Because that’s the biggest challenge, right? Are those customers actually looking currently or has their behavior changed so you have to uncover that, figure out what’s going on in your specific industry, in your region, in your local industry, right? Because it all starts there. Once you kind of uncover what’s really going on and put yourself in the mindset of your customers, how are they seeking out your product and service today? Not just months ago, not a year ago, right now.

Roger: And I just heard on the news the other day and this is almost a barometer of the economy and what are the patterns of what people are doing in terms of business, working remotely, etc. But coffee shops and Mcdonald’s for example their breakfast sales are way down but it only makes sense less people are traveling. They’re working remote. Coffee sales whether it’s your Starbucks and Tim Hortons, etc. They’re also down so the idea of what that just says to you and I…and of course we see it in our business as well. If people are not on the road and not traveling to work they are now in front of a computer most likely or a majority are working from home and they have something in front of them known as their laptop, right? Or their desktop.

John: And if you are a coffee shop in today’s day and age and you spent a ton of money to get that prime location and you rely heavily on foot traffic or workflow, like workplace flow what can you do differently? If you’re in it for the long term and you feel like this is a short-term blimp, what can you really do to actively try to get more customers, what can you do to like engage with your audience so that…or loyal customers so that they will continue coming back to you when things open up again, right? We’re going to talk about that as well so…

Roger: Yep, so in terms of we’re seeing in the big picture and I think everyone can appreciate this that if you can’t go to stores or you’re cut back you are doing many things online now you’re searching, using the internet, you’re using google, you’re using the different search tools and you’re buying and that really we’re talking about…we’re talking about businesses and we’re talking about business owners that want to reach the customer that is ready to buy and we’re seeing it and usage of the internet and google, John is way up.

John: Exactly, people are spending, consuming way more time in front of a computer doing their own due diligence, vetting and of course that means there’s other opportunities if you’re a business owner and it’s slow. Instead of you know sitting there waiting for things to happen, sit in the shoes of your customers or your prospects. How are they now searching for your product and service, right? You need to get in the mindset of you being a customer of your own product and service in today’s day and age it’s more important than ever to understand that journey, understand what’s going on in terms of that flow, the behaviors that go on in the mindset because people are still willing to spend. However the behaviors have changed like even for example myself included we don’t go to restaurants like we used to. We used to go out and a couple times a week if not a couple times a month, right? The last time I did that was prior to the pandemic and maybe when things opened up a little bit in September which was once or twice that’s it, right?

Roger: That’s right and if you need certain things you are more apt to be searching on the internet for it and then booking it or ordering it online and of course everyone’s hearing that too…that I even got something in the mail from the post office and I’ve seen it in news articles about condominiums buildings are overloaded and swamped with packages that are coming in. Post office is saying they’ve got backup locations where they’re going to be sending you to pick up your parcels. That’s the world we live in right now so how do you as a business owner and that’s a good point, John you’re making how do they…how do you as a business owner harness that knowledge knowing that people are online for your product but also a lot of our business clients that we work with today are service based too so more and more people are just going on their tablet, going on their device and they’re searching for what they need remotely.

John: So as you know, internet is very important. Speed has been very vital a component of navigation but as more and more people are searching online you need to take that into account as well how fast is your website, if everyone’s else’s bandwidth has been decreasing because of the load on the server level so you gotta understand what’s going on in your situation, right? How are people shopping today so yes, they might not be driving or they’re not going into the office. Are they visiting your site? Is there loyalty? Have you built that relationship where you’re collecting data and is it too late to do that if you have already existing list? Can you market to your existing audience with gift cards or other promos or delivery services because they’re active, loyal customers, right? Like think about how do you still stay engaged while them not actually being there?

Roger: That’s right, like one of our favorite restaurants we go to is offering and I’m ordering directly through them because I want them to get all the money not you know, going necessarily to food services or you know, these food handling places but they’re offering a discount if you come and pick up the order so there’s lots of little things you can do to enhance or engage and I will say also John, it’s interesting you know, just we’re talking this particular restaurant has very nice packaging and it’s environmentally friendly but it is you get a nice package a nice parchment or you know, a bag and they’ve got a…that’s covered up especially with this little sticker on it and it really looks like they’ve taken a lot of care putting them the meal together for take away so little things you can do and you get home and it’s hot and it’s fresh and you know, then you you serve it up yourself so to speak so you’re helping your local business owner but you’re also you know? I know what I’m responding to which is the food, the packaging, pickup it’s in…its quality and it’s in good condition when you get it back to the house so little things like that make a difference.

John: That’s amazing. Yeah and so how do you make the experience even better and greater so that packaging made a difference but in there maybe even put a letter or piece of marketing material to thank them for being so loyal and hopefully allowing you to enjoy the food but also understand that we’re here, we’re gonna be here for the long term and let them in on like when we open I would love for you to come back, tight? Like these little things of personalization will go a long way for you to continue being sticky to them as a business, right?

Roger: Exactly. One more thing John I forgot to mention they threw in a little dessert treat for everybody. They knew it was three. We had three entrees so they gave a little in a little container a little piece of cheesecake just a little one just a taste and it was like ah at the end of the dinner. You know, these little things now are back of my mind for next time we go to order. It’s like, “Oh, yeah you know what such and such table… 12 tables. Oh, they do such a nice job so it’s interesting.

John: It’s very memorable, right?

Roger: Yeah, it really is yeah.

John: That’s awesome so let’s get back into SEO so as you know, marketing has changed the way you advertise and get informed customers have changed so as you know, trade shows travel. A lot of these bigger conferences have been cancelled completely. Everything has been digitalized to more Zoom meetings or Eventbrite. Online kind of conferences. Paid media has been one of the go-to places for a lot of business owners but that means hyper competitive and bidding prices have increased quite substantially because everyone’s jumping on board right now and then how are you able to find people in businesses? More like it’s a lot harder because everyone’s jumping on board, right? So you need to really plan things accordingly as opposed to just you know, not planning things, right? So what we’re going to talk about is some of the tips today on what we feel would be grateful for.

Roger: Exactly and to those point…to that your point John, with these tips what we’re doing is we’re trying to you are as a business owner you’re trying to improve the quality the content of your website because google their philosophy is only the very best websites with the most trustworthy, relevant results make it to the results page called page one search results and of course that’s what our…that’s our again I mentioned earlier our superpower. @e are great at being able to help our clients get that you know, authority and trust in google’s eyes but this is for the business owner. What things they can do themselves but knowing everything we talk about today is to…for you the business owner to answer the criteria that google expects to earn better and higher ranking and search results so we got…

John: Exactly, so yeah so I think we’re going to start with number one which is we always talk about this which is content but it’s very important more than ever today and understanding what your customers your users who are actively looking for your product and service want and expect today and content comes from different formats, right? Which is written, images, audio and video and what’s expected today is all four not just written content because people want an experience. They want to feel comfortable whenever they build a website to actually see what they’re getting themselves into. They want a visual representation of what it looks like when they come and see your store, right?

Roger: Right. They consume it so many different ways but again it’s true we all love to watch videos so that’s an important component as well as the quality of this content.

John: Exactly so make sure that you’re studying your customers and what do they want more than ever. It’s more of the experience, the journey, right? So if you can let them in on what changes you’ve made, how you’ve made them, what’s the new process and procedure, right? How is the new intake? What’s going on? That…what measures did you put into play for this pandemic during this Covid. We’re new world, right? Like let them in on what you’ve done because a lot of people they invested a ton of money on PPE you know, glass shields and a lot everything, right?

Roger: Sanitation.

John: They’re not….they’re just letting people in on it, right…on the website because this is the first place people check you out on and that’s where you can build a really strong connection. When you know, if they’re not certain on where to go, who to turn to so really focus on building a really good content piece. It could be imagery, it could be banners, sliders, blog whatever it may be, video just start producing really high quality content.

Roger: And to your point, John even in this Covid world we’re talking about sanitation or being you know, disinfecting because whether you’re a service person going to someone’s house they in their mind if they go to your website you need to have some sort of banner some sort of current content to explain to them, “Here are the steps we’ve taken to protect you. We can now provide this service and you’re protected.” Some of our clients that are in the you know, dental field, healthcare…what efforts have they done to ensure that any patient that comes through their door, that all the different protocols have are set up so this is you as a business owner, these are things you’ve got to do because these are the this is the content you need to put out there because this is what people are looking for and it could be the difference between them calling you versus another provider of that service so…

John: Exactly and it’s expected today, right? As a new customer I don’t want to just go to just any dentist I want to go to a dentist that’s prepared, that’s gone through you know, training the staff invested a lot of material and everything else to make sure my experience is safe. So what do you have to do as a business owner, educate inform let people in on what’s going on with your business, right? So that they feel welcome and then they feel like you’re you know, you’re actually doing something that will make a big difference in their lives.

Roger: Yep and that’s…that is speaking to Covid particularly and but we we’re all living in this Covid world but the other point John too is beyond that the quality of the content that the business that you as a business owner are have you researched and you’ve put onto your website. There was a study that by conductor that said any business that delivers educational content and that could be answering or sorry asking and answering questions that people that your consumer your potential client is looking for. If you offer up educational information you become more trustworthy so think about that. It is work but if you go out there with the intent of educating your potential client they leave your site with more information than when they came there that builds your brand.

John: Exactly, you want to make it as easy and as seamless as possible for them to not go anywhere else, right? Because they’ve…you’ve answered everything on their checklist for them to make a decision, an informed decision and then they’re gonna actually take action, right? So you know, and of course there’s that means make it easy. Call to action, make sure the form is simple make sure your you know, telephone is present all that other good stuff so that was good on the content piece, number two we’re gonna talk about like being proactive and really just updating your presence online so maybe I’ll start with just updating your Google My Business or any of your assets from your website to your Google Asset, to your social assets to let people in on if you do curbside pickup now, if you’re offering extended hours or shorter hours, if you are prepared for Covid. There’s different you know, attributes that you can include so just updating your users, customers, prospects about what’s going on in your business.

Roger: Because that’s a good point because it really dovetails with the first point, John of this content. The Google My business is what google considers your landing page it’s your one of the social media channels so the idea of updating your Google My Business page and John, there’s things that you can put in there that last for a week at a time so you post regularly to that and again as you say, update your hours update any information that they might want to know about so it’s easy to do business with you.

John: Exactly and if things change, right? Because now you’re pivoting or you’re taking on a new service, right? That you’ve never offered before. You can let people in on what’s going on in your business so it’s another channel, another it’s like a newsletter kind of piece, right? Where you can actually inform your prospects or your active brand people that know you by name like another place for them to easily find information of what’s going on in your business and hopefully that resonates with clicking on your website and some other features like the map feature call you, etc.

Roger: Yeah and just as a thought depending on your business virtual consultations where you used to maybe go somewhere with zoom and we’re on zoom of course today we’re recording on that but this is a…this is a platform that worldwide people have embraced right away so the idea of you as a business owner if you let’s say can offer things over zoom for them. Maybe it’s if you’re a counselor you can do counseling by you know, confidentially by zoom or as you say facetime or a private consult so to speak. Let people know that these services are available this could make the difference of them giving you a call.

John: Exactly so number three is again we’re gonna circle back to content again but it’s all about scheduling and planning it because as you know, everyone’s busy as a business owner and right now as a business owner you probably have this extra layer of stress on how am I gonna get my next customer, how am I gonna have enough revenue to pay for my staff or pay for rent or pay for my product and if it’s a restaurant you don’t even know how to anticipate the flow of buying inventory and then actually getting it to the customer because you can’t anticipate how many customers are gonna come to you on a regular basis, right? And it took you years to figure that out, right? There’s so many things to really consider today but I do want to touch on like the scheduling piece of content because I feel it’s a good time to actually look at your business and reflect on it to figure out, how you can actually plan it for the next three months even month to month, week to week but month like three months, right? But you have to ask customers you have to ask to figure out what they want and plan it for special occasions like Christmas is not going to be the same as Christmas years prior, right? So how do you plan it so that you can captivate the audience who are now seeking your service or product but using these you know, digital means.

Roger: Yep, so that’s the idea and there’s something too John, that we should mention business owners need to know a good even landing page on your website. The average has 1900 words or more so thin content is quote the enemy you’ve got to really look at the quality, the depth. It’s got to be well researched and this is what you get rewarded because of your clients going to read it and because google sees it and it’ll help your ranking too.

John: Exactly and it also makes that you people are actually gonna stay on your page longer and navigate through there, right? Because if it’s a thin piece of one paragraph not only will it not rank on google but people are not gonna actually stay on your website after that reading that one paragraph it’s like an overview, right? You need to go with substance you need to go in depth with quality, right? So scheduling a content calendar with substance well-researched, well-referenced information will make a big difference in your business moving forward.

Roger: For just it…so are these people watching our podcast today and listening today, John know we schedule for all of our clients a thousand word blog edition every month with quality you know, content that is added and this builds your authority, builds your trust maybe we should we touch on EAT right now, John. Does that make sense to just sort of add that in here?

John: Yeah, so Expertise, Authority and Trust is a key component of building a good website, content piece but ultimately what I feel is in terms of the content piece you need to add your own personalization to it and you have to understand your customers to a point where it might not just be written content you might have to invest in really high quality personal pictures or high quality video, right? Because that’s expected of you today. Which means yes, you may have to invest a little bit and but your phone has really high quality picture you know, cameras today, right? So it’s at your disposal it’s all about just doing something about it, right? And really talking to your customers, your ideal customers of what they expect so you know, when you talk about we doing blogs on a monthly basis, Yes, we do a lot of keyword research, we do a lot of keyword mapping, semantic keywords all that stuff in terms of like planning it. Google trends understanding how behaviors have changed post-Covid so it’s important for you to start doing this to uncover opportunities, undercover gaps that you’ve missed, right? To really deliver good compelling information that your audience members actually want to absorb, right?

Roger: And the truth is as a business owner small business that they’re you know, that’s who we really kind of are speaking to today but you have the ability hopefully to pivot and to make any adjustments you need to make because it’s a different world than what it was nine months ago. We’ve been living with this Covid. I think for whatever we’re you know, months and months now so the ability to look inward and as you say John, learn from your customers to see what they want, makes you know and the ability to pivot as a business owner and get this content out there. It’s going to pay dividends for you.

John: Exactly so the last piece of advice we have for SEO tips is really just in the line of IT but it’s all about security, right? Because right now as you know, more and more people are in front of a computer than ever, right? So how is your website protected, how is your hosting provider protected with redundancy, right? There’s a lot of vulnerabilities a lot of people are spending or finding ways to hack or you know, put malware in your website and you know, infect your website and steal confidential information because people have a lot of free time on their hand, right? So they’re resorting to fast easy ways to access money and the biggest thing is trying to you know, steal information so that they hold you ransom for it, right?

Roger: And it’s known as an what we’re going to talk about is the ssl certificate and this is something that google picked up on and really it’s been shown for almost feels like two years now John, but it’s basically in the address line if you see a lock it said that designates that this is a secure site and what it means is that any information that is that goes out back and forth is encrypted and it gets scrambled so that it is maybe not impossible but it certainly way cuts down on the the ability for hackers to get in but there are sites out there still John and I saw one yesterday. It is unsecured and it says that right in the line so that really says something to users of that site to go wonder why why would I want to go into this site seeing that it’s not secure so as a business owner it makes total sense get this security certificate.

John: Yeah, so it’s very similar to like business insurance or home insurance, right? You need to secure it so that you…you’re not vulnerable to hacks, right? Another thing that we’ve encountered the last couple months is a lot more you know, if we are using wordpress for instance a lot of plug-ins get overlooked, right? If you’re…it’s not being used or it’s not updated on a regular basis so it becomes vulnerable to attacks, right? Because usually these plug-ins, the reason your phone gets updates, your computer OS always gets updates. It’s because they see a vulnerability, they see there’s an opportunity for a hacker to come in and steal information or take control of that device so very similar to your website you need to ensure that everything you have within your website gets updated to the newest version. It’s either a paid plugin or non-paid plugin. Get your developer if you are doing it yourself make sure you’re updating it to the highest you know, release and make sure it doesn’t impact the way it looks, feels, moves and you know, your operation of the website so of course if you’re not you know, a website designer developer resort to someone that you’ve actually used prior to make sure that it’s updated.

Roger: Find an expert because the last thing anyone last thing you want is your site to be hacked because it just…it affects. Business is tough enough today to not have this sitting on top of it that your site can’t be accessed or it’s been…it’s got hacked so…

John: Yeah there’s a lot of vulnerabilities and the key now is finding redundancies making sure that you have the ability to always stay present making sure you have a reliable hosting provider, making sure your website is robust enough to be able to handle the bandwidth and activity where people are now spending more time in front of a computer searching, navigating so that means making sure your website is fresh, updated, new it’s always good to take some time to revisit your website properties. All your assets and update it just like how you would update the decor of your physical store or move things around clean it up a little bit, right? Very similar, right? A lot of people just buy a website or build it and sit on it for five ten years thinking I’ve already invested money, right?

Roger: That’s it john we have you know, we have met people that have websites that are five years old that is an outdated site that has…does not have the proper and latest security plug-ins plus it doesn’t look that you know, the world’s changed so look at the the design and the look and feel. Consumers want to see a professional looking, latest version of you know, representing your business not some old-fashioned you know, site that’s looks kind of wonky and it doesn’t have all the proper user experience.

John: Exactly, it’s all about just being relevant, right? And being…sit in the shoes of your customers and what they expect is fast loading, reliable, clean look, easy navigation, crisp images and the content has to match that persona of the person that’s actually actively looking , right? So how often are you actually revamping your content to learn about your customers to speak directly to them if you’re not doing this on a regular basis especially if it’s been five years since you haven’t updated your website you’re gonna miss out on a ton of opportunity because things I’m sure in your business have changed in the last five years. How do you let your customers know what it has changed and if you’re not recreating new imagery or content it’s very difficult for them to know and read.

Roger: The channels and the places where people are searching today. Especially during times of Covid. SEO for or your website and doing the proper work. It’s never been more important than it is right now so….and John this…these tips today. Yeah, they’ve been terrific so I think that this has been a terrific little information session. Any other thoughts?

John: Well, thanks a lot Roger. I think it was great insight.

Roger: I thank you for today. Yep and I appreciate everyone listening today and please subscribe if you like the content we do this on a regular basis and we’ll hear you, see you again, you’ll hear us again at Local SEO Today so thanks for watching and listening.