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How To Use SEO During A Recession

How Marketing Works During Recessions:

General marketing theory typically dictates that marketers must balance efforts to trim costs and keep short-term sales high to support long-term ROI during a recession.

This normally happens by prioritizing which products to market, finding new and innovative ways to drive affordability and relying heavily on brand loyalty.

However, it's important to note that research into marketing during recessions typically happens during or just after an economic downturn.

For example, not long after the early 1990s oil price shock recession, MarketSense conducted a study that found that companies who ramp up marketing during recessions can grow short-term sales by up to 57%.

Following the dot com recession in 2002, McKinsley found that companies who make strategic marketing choices during downturns tend to increase their stock market valuations relative to their former peers post-recession.

In the midst of the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, the Wharton School of Business demonstrated that companies that consistently advertise during recessions had a better chance of survival.

What's more, a 2013 study conducted by the Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing found that companies that emerged from the 2007 to 2010 recession more successful than they entered had invested heavily in building an online inbound marketing funnel.

In the most recent battery of marketing recession research during the COVID pandemic, the Harvard Business Journal found that focusing on marketing toward loyal customers and people aware of your brand will help maintain cash flow during a recession.

How Marketing Works During Recessions Infographic

Why Invest in SEO during a recession?

Things have changed a lot since the last key study into marketing during a recession.

In 2023 people have a search-first mindset, meaning they turn to search engines for information on products and services.

For example, Google processes up to 5.6 billion daily searches, meaning that 70% of Earth's population refers to organic search results when making all kinds of decisions, including price-sensitive ones.

SEO Daily Google Searches

Although the advice is to advertise more during a recession, you've got to remember that almost everyone will try the same thing.

However, SEO reduces dependency on paid channels by enabling you to establish organic rankings that drive revenue long after paid ads have burned through your marketing budget.

This is why 89% of marketers surveyed by Econsultancy said that organic search will drive more revenue in the future.

What's more, a Backlinko study found that organic search results have a 28% click-through rate (CTR) which far outweighs paid ads which have a mere 3% CTR.

If that's not enough, ranking first on the SERP for organic results will increase CTR to 31%.

SEO Click Through Rates

SEO also enables you to reach brand-new audiences cost-effectively.

It also empowers your website to convert more visitors into leads and sales, all while lowering your overall marketing costs.

In the future, when we look back at the 2023 recession, experts will say the companies that emerged stronger from this recession invested heavily in SEO.

How To Use SEO During A Recession:

You first have to know that SEO in a recession is survival of the fittest.

This is because your competitors will strive to do almost anything to reduce your visibility on the SERP.

One thing that almost no one will tell you is that businesses are now looking at SEO through the lens of their consumers.

This means that any strategic SEO decisions need to be made with consumer behavior in mind.

What's more, during a recession, the one thing that stays the same is Google's search algorithm.

Contrary to logic competitors don't and will stop marketing just because people are spending less.

Therefore, calling a halt to SEO strategy would be criminal to your short-term survival and long-term ROI objectives.

However, there will be some dinosaurs in your competition marketing department who will cut back or revert to outdated marketing strategies.

This represents a key opportunity for you and your business to grow your market share.

So what are the practicalities of SEO during a recession?

Here are five steps to follow for successful recession marketing:

  1. Get familiar with consumer behavior

  2. Optimize your website with keywords

  3. Optimize your website for conversions

  4. Build more backlinks

  5. Monitor your rankings regularly

1. Get familiar with consumer behavior

There's no denying that, for most industries, recessions lead to consumers spending less and an overall reduction in demand.

But that doesn't mean spending stops altogether.

In fact, businesses that remain successful know that pivoting to changes in consumer behavior during a recession is key.

According to Harvard Business Review, consumer behavior in terms of price sensitivity can be categorized into four groups:

  • Consumers who change their spending habits quickly and stop spending altogether

  • Consumers who feel the crunch but are slow to cut back on spending

  • Consumers who are pretty well-off and may change some spending habits

  • Consumers with high disposable income who barely change their spending habits

All of these groups spend varying amounts within the following product and service categories:

  • Essentials such as food and bills

  • Small indulgences like takeout coffee or fast food

  • Desirable but unnecessary purchases such as beauty treatments

  • Unnecessary luxuries like a new phone or a vacation

When a recession hits, you can expect the spending habits of all consumer groups to change except for those with a high disposable income.

Not only that, but their habits will change across all product and service categories as they re-prioritize their spending.

Why is this important for SEO?

Because when consumers' spending habits change, so does the way they search online.

By understanding the new ways that consumers are searching for your products and services online during a recession, you can adapt the content of your website to better meet their needs.

This means highlighting deals and incorporating keywords into your website that better reflect how consumers are now searching.

2. Optimize your website with keywords

Speaking of keywords, the next step you need to take is re-evaluating the keywords you use on your site.

Keywords are important for two reasons:

  • Consumers enter keywords into search engines to find products and services.

  • Search engines look at the keywords your website uses to determine when it should be served in the search results.

By implementing the right keywords on your website, you can ensure Google presents your website to consumers when they're actively searching for your products and services.

Take a look at tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs to find keywords and understand how many times they are searched per month.

Once you've identified the optimal keywords for your business, implement them in important places on your website, including:

  • Webpage titles and URLs

  • Page headings

  • Paragraph text

  • Page meta descriptions

  • Image alt tags

  • Blog posts

Get more SEO guidance here if you're new to keywords and how to implement them.

Pay particular attention to keywords that incorporate price sensitivity such as "sale," "affordable," and "value."

3. Optimize your website for conversions

Using SEO to get consumers to your website during a recession is one thing. But once they land on your site, you need to turn them into customers.

When a user takes action on your site, it's known as a conversion.

Examples of conversions include filling out a form, calling a phone number, or making a purchase online.

The stakes are high during a recession, and every website visitor counts. Converting site visitors into customers is how your SEO investment will pay dividends, both during a recession and long after.

So, what can you do to increase the conversion rate on your website?

First, make sure every web page includes a call to action. This could include buttons that say "Book Now" or links within the text of your web page to an order form or payment portal.

It could even be as simple as including the phone number of your business and advising website visitors to call for more information.

Secondly, pay close attention to the experience website visitors will have on your website.

Websites that are difficult to use or understand have drastically lower conversion rates than simple, fast websites that are easy to navigate.

4. Build more backlinks

If only SEO was as simple as having a great website and filling it with keywords.

Unfortunately, Google uses lots of factors to determine whether your site should rank higher than your competitors.

One of the most crucial factors is the number and quality of websites that include a link directly to your website.

Also known as backlinks, these links from other websites tell Google that your site is respected and authoritative. You can almost look at them as "votes" from other websites, informing Google that your business is worth delivering to users on the SERP.

So, how can you get these backlinks? Let us count the ways:

  • Register your business on relevant online directories and include a link to your website

  • Ask your business partners to include a link to your business on their websites

  • Write guest articles for blogs within your industry and include a link back to your site within the article

  • Find an affordable digital PR agency that will help publish articles about your business on news websites

5. Monitor your rankings regularly

Once you've implemented keywords and started building backlinks, it's important to track the impact your SEO performance is having on your business.

If you haven't already, now would be the time to set up a Google Analytics account. From there, you can track your organic search traffic, website conversions and lots of other useful data. Another useful tool for tracking your organic search performance is Google Search Console.

Plus, they're both completely free.

As you implement recession SEO strategies on your site, you should start to see your organic rankings on Google rise, your traffic levels grow, and your website conversions and sales increase.

The best part?

Not only will these results carry your business through a difficult economic slump, but you'll continue to experience revenue boosts long after the recession is over.

Start Your SEO Journey Today:

Interested in learning more about SEO? Check out our other blog posts for more SEO tips and guidance, whether you’re a total beginner or looking for more advanced SEO techniques.

Alternatively, if you want to reap the benefits of SEO but lack the time or expertise, get in touch with us today. At Innovation-X, we’ve got all the digital marketing knowledge needed to boost your website traffic, leads, and sales.


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