The best advice my mother ever gave me was, “You cannot change what happens to you, you can only change how you react.” She was referring to whatever social “tragedy” I was overreacting to at the time. But now, in an economic landscape dramatically altered by COVID-19, her advice rings especially true.

We cannot change what has happened, but we CAN control how we respond.

Many businesses and service providers that have traditionally operated face-to-face now need to move to an online approach, in order to stay competitive and reach their customers.

Around the world, entrepreneurs are rising to that challenge:

  • Restaurants are moving to delivery and pick-up based models with online ordering.
  • Artisans are shifting their energy from displays at events to ecommerce sales.
  • Theatres are hosting remote workshops and digital readings of new works.

If your customers can’t find you online, you no longer exist.

Your customers are stuck at home. They are glued to their devices for the vast majority of their waking hours. Their whole lives have gone digital. If they can’t find you online, you no longer exist. Which means…

Your online presence IS your business

If that notion fills you with dread, you’re not alone. But you can make a big impact on your online presence with the resources you already have, if you know where to focus your efforts.

  1. Get active on social media. Social media traffic is the new foot traffic.
  2. Add a blog to deliver COVID-19 updates without getting lost in users inboxes.
  3. You’re going to need to do some SEO on your website.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. Put simply, SEO is the practice of improving your online content to help your business rank higher in relevant online search results (like Google).

When your physical doors are closed, optimizing your site turns on a neon sign telling your customers that your online location is OPEN. If your site isn’t optimized, you could be missing out on a whole customer segment you didn’t know existed.

Reaching a wider audience online could be the difference between closing your doors for COVID-19, and closing your business for good.

Doing this work will not magically put you on the first page of Google overnight; it is time that you’re investing into long-term returns. That being said, certain tools offer short-term benefits and I’ll dive into that shortly. First…

Related: Beginner’s SEO guide — Search engine optimization for small business websites

How does SEO work?

There are a lot of things that factor into how your site ranks:

  • Accessibility and mobile friendly design
  • Security (e.g. SSL encryption and secure code)
  • Readability (e.g. it doesn’t sound like a computer wrote it)
  • Keyword rich domain names
  • Page names and headings
  • Text and links in the body of your site
  • Image description and alt tags

Related: GoDaddy guide to SEO for business

You can optimize your site manually

But it’s hard. You will be doing a lot of research and a lot of guesswork.

The algorithms Google, Bing and other search engines use are closely guarded secrets. To complicate things, they’re updated constantly to account for industry best practices and changes to the digital ecosystems they’re a part of.

That being said, there are stable principles in place. You can do the work of learning those principles and finding those things, but…

SEO tools do that work for you

Tools take the guesswork out; organizing the elements of your site that need to be optimized so you can make edits one place, alerting you when something could hurt your ranking, and parsing how your site is performing when the algorithm changes. All of this boils down to saving you precious time.

Which SEO tool should I use?

This depends on your hosting platform. Most site builders have a tool to ensure your content is set up for success in the search engines, but they usually require some setup. You’ll need to designate what keywords you want to rank for and where you operate your business to start.

Built-in SEO tool for GoDaddy Websites + Marketing

Business sites on Websites + Marketing have a built-in tool to optimize each page. Read the full instructions on improving your SEO in Websites + Marketing.

Yoast SEO for WordPress

I recommend Yoast SEO for WordPress sites. If it isn’t already included in your plugins list, you can install it for free. Click Plugins on the left, select Add New, search for “Yoast SEO,” and Install.

Pro tip: If you don’t see the Yoast Icon in your top navigation, you may need to enable it. To do that, go to your Plugins list, scroll to Yoast SEO and click Activate.

Once you Activate Yoast SEO:

  1. Click the Yoast icon in your top navigation to open your Yoast SEO dashboard.
  2. From the dashboard, select configuration wizard.
  3. Answer the questions in the wizard clicking Next until you reach the end.
  4. Click Done to return to your dashboard.

Editor’s note: Make sure you have some time set aside to answer the questions in the wizard. This step will likely take some time to be done well.

That’s step 1 of the 14 critical steps to getting Yoast set up for your business. Complete all those steps and you’ll be well on your way to a website that works for you, not just because of you.

Remember when I said some tools offer short-term benefits? That blog post walks you through enabling features that can amp your engagement now.

  1. Connecting your social media: Critical steps 4-6 explain how to enable Open Graph, fill out your social profiles and configure the settings for your various business profiles. Doing this will align all your posts, across all connected platforms, to your branding. This lends your content credibility and encourages engagement you can control and track.
  2. Filling out your metadata: Critical steps 7-13 walk you through setting your titles, meta descriptions, tags, etc. This information is key to how Google understands which searches should pull up your content.

If you haven’t set these things until now, you might see a dramatic change in your ranking the next time Google and Bing index your site.

Want to learn more about what Yoast can do for your site? Yoast Academy offers additional resources for people looking to up their SEO game.

Now’s the time to think local

COVID-19 has ignited many communities to push supporting local businesses, if you have the flexibility to spring for Local SEO, I’d suggest adding that extension as well.

Local SEO takes Yoast a step farther, helping you optimize specifically for your location and submitting technical data for you in the background.

Related: What is local SEO? Everything you need to know

If that’s not an option for you just now, a good start is adding geographically-based keywords to your content.

Where I live, we refer to the two main metropolitan areas, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, and the surrounding communities, as “the corridor” or “Eastern Iowa.” Businesses that operate in both the city of Chicago, and the surrounding suburbs, often use, “Chicagoland.”

Get to know how your customers search for local businesses and include those keywords in your page titles, headings and tags.

SEO is a muscle

Working that muscle will be hard at first, but regular repetitions will make it easier over time. As with any exercise regimen you will see gains and plateaus. Thanks to COVID-19 you, or your employees, may be left to fill time once dedicated to live customer interactions. Direct that energy toward improving your SEO. It will pay off in the long run.

Related: Improvements you can make on your website during COVID-19 downtime


You can do this!

If you need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

Above all, have faith in yourself. We have faith in you.


 

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