The Sharpest Tool™

COVID-19 | Leveraging SEO and Google My Business During the Crisis

Cheryl McRae
Josh Smith
Holly Holder is the Director of SEO for home services at Scorpion. She highlights the priorities your business should be focusing on for strong SEO performance that will help your customers find the information they need during COVID-19.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another special edition episode during the COVID-19 pandemic of episode of the sharpest tool. My name is Josh Smith. I'm your host and the vice president of marketing for home services over at scorpion. I'm really excited today because we have Holly holder, who is our director of SEO for home services here. Joining us on the show today to talk about a pretty important topic. So Holly, thanks for so much for joining us. Thanks

Holly Holder (00:27):

For having me, Josh. I'm excited to be here.

Josh Smith (00:29):

Yeah. Well, why don't you give our listeners a little bit of an insight and into your backstory, what it is you do at scorpion from services?

Holly Holder (00:36):

Sure. So I've been working at scorpion, uh, in the SEO realm for the past almost eight years. I have worked directly as the director of SEO for home services for the past three years, working with our clients to create, you know, strategies that work for them so they can get the right business, get in front of the right customers. It's just, I love looking at search intent, what's going on in the industry and seeing how we can utilize what's happening in the current space for our customers specifically in home services. I mean, I have a background working with lawyers as well and other types of businesses, but my heart is with home services and just seeing how we can help everyone create the ultimate website experience, user experience, SEO, organic experience for our clients so that they can see optimal results.

Josh Smith (01:25):

That's definitely something that I know is SEO has always been a hot topic. It's a hot button topic for everybody. We've seen it go through the ebbs and flows over the years. What would you say? Just kind of, for those who may or may not be as familiar with SEO, the process, what it's about, maybe their current marketing provider, hasn't done a good enough job explaining exactly what it is. What is SEO and why should we care?

Holly Holder (01:47):

So SEO stands for search engine optimization and essentially it's sort of the last, uh, we almost call it the last free form of marketing in the sense that you don't have to pay to have people click on your search result. You know, ideally you're doing the right things on your website to get in front of people. Um, and it's different than paid ads and that you don't have to pay if someone does click on your search result, um, it includes local SEO ranking and what Google calls, the map pack that, you know, list of three listings you often see when you're doing a search in Google maps and anything below that, but involves content blogs, everything kind of works together on your website to create a user experience that allows people to find you. And, you know, you present the information on your website to tell people what you do and you hope that Google finds that relevant and then you rank and get businesses kind of the long and short of it. But you're right. It is always changing. I mean, when I started doing this almost eight years ago, it was completely different the way that we did things and it's important that you're staying on top of whatever the latest trends are so that you're not falling behind because what, you know, what was true last year, even six months ago is not necessarily true today.

Josh Smith (02:57):

Awesome. Yeah. Well, what would you say are like the top three things that business owners should be focusing on when it comes to their SEO and today's landscape?

Holly Holder (03:06):

So in today's landscape in light of kind of everything going on with, you know, the coronavirus and everything, uh, definitely the landscape has changed and people are doing a lot more informational searches. They may not have the money to spend right away on things. So they're doing a lot of searches for DIY or how to fix it themselves, which, you know, may or may not work out well for them, but people are trying to save money or they don't want necessarily to have unnecessary people in their home if possible. So they're trying to look for a lot of information first, or maybe they are wanting to call someone, but they really want to do their research and make sure that they're abiding by cleanliness standards and things like that. And, you know, people have changed their hours right now. Like a lot of businesses have had to kind of pause, uh, on their operations or adjust in the way that they do things. I mean, even, you know, your little local coffee shops, they've adjusted the way they do, you know, online pickup and things like that. So different for home services, obviously they're in a central business and so they can continue to run, but many have had to adjust their hours and you need to keep that updated on your Google, my business profile on your website, let people know that you are open and operating because not everyone is. So I think that's super important as well.

Josh Smith (04:19):

Yeah. So you definitely have to obviously provide correct information. It's going to be kind of step number one, there, you had mentioned the sanitation stuff. So letting people know you're taking measures to protect our health. And then you mentioned just an age of information right now. So obviously providing helpful content for consumers right now, amid the COVID-19 situation, which is makes total sense to me. What would you say is kind of the current state for home services SEO during the crisis right now, let's just kind of dive right into it. We've talked a lot about on this podcast, particularly paid search and some of the social metrics and things like that. Let's dive into SEO. What's what's going on with SEO right now.

Holly Holder (04:59):

So SEO across the board, organic traffic, we would even expect this right now that traffic and leads have seen a little bit of a dip, but generally speaking for many people across various industries. I mean, I think just the whole economy in general is seeing a bit of that fluctuation. I think, especially in the last few weeks as everything has gone from kind of zero to 60 rather quickly, we may see a little bit more of an evening out now that people are adjusting to a new normal, my mail. I am, I think a lot of us are, so people are becoming more comfortable, potentially dealing with things in their home that they've been putting off and kind of taking the next step beyond just initial panic or, you know, kind of understanding what they need to do to adjust to this new schedule. So beyond that, don't now people are like, I was kind of saying, people are searching for how to fix things themselves, or they're looking for general information about indoor air quality, perhaps.

Holly Holder (05:53):

And if adding a certain filter, an air scrubber to their home could help with, you know, overall health and things like that people are searching for now. Uh, again, we've seen a huge increase in DIY searches for a lot of our clients. And I think that it's important for us to be adjusting because things are changing daily. So here at scorpion, as far as how we're handling SEO, we're definitely taking it day by day because updates are coming out frequently from Google about how to keep your GMB page updated, you know, what are best practices. And I think just everyone at home is sort of living day by day, too. So yeah, people are looking for a lot of information. It's a good time to provide kind of that free information for people because it's going to build trust down the line when they do need to call someone, or if they, if they've surmised that it's too complicated of an issue for them to fix people, do value.

Holly Holder (06:46):

Having that free information. I know a lot of different businesses are providing, you know, free opportunities and incentives and things like that to help people during this time. It kind of shows that you care as well, that, Hey, you know, you don't necessarily have to call us. Here's a helpful video on how to fix a water heater issue or a toilet that maybe be, or something like that. It's, it's building that trust, which I think is really important. Now people are nervous and they want to know that they can trust you to provide that information. And, and then they may call.

Josh Smith (07:14):

Wow. Yeah. You know, I, I know GMB has been making a lot of changes to their, to the platform as well. Guru's been making a lot of changes to the Google, my business platform, and they just released a feature from not mistake it last week that allows businesses to push out COVID-19 related posts to their GMBs things like hours of operation, temporary closures changes of how the business operates and the restaurant fields such as like takeout delivery, call for details, that sort of thing, updates on how the is being managed as it relates to safety and hygiene and ultimately request for support. So if there was any indicator that all those things and keeping those up to date is important to Google when it comes to SEO. I think these changes can kind of point us to that fact yeah,

Holly Holder (07:57):

Really good point, especially to, to be, uh, for business centers, to be patient with some other changes outside of the hours, hours, address, name, phone number, things like that are critical obviously to your business. And you can post helpful what we call GMB posts on your listing to let people know that you're open and things like that. But Google is definitely emphasizing healthcare businesses right now, as far as any other changes that need to be had. So it's important, you know, if you're looking to verify a new listing or anything like that, inmate sometime there may be some complications with that because there, you know, Google is trying to take care of their staff as well and kind of look out for them. So, but yes, they do have something we've been doing here at scorpion is posting, you know, letting people know that, Hey, our businesses are still open and posting a nice little graphic for potential customers to see their clients are still operating in there to serve them that stomachs and that you can do.

Holly Holder (08:48):

They even have a very simple, you don't even have to have a graphic. They have a spot when you go into your Google, my business, when you log in and you go to create a post there's an option to do a COVID-19 update, and you can just write in some texts there as well and keep it really simple. So they're trying to make it as easy as possible. I think people to adjust and yes, they have the temporary business closures or temporary hour adjustments as well too, which helps people. So you don't have to say that you're close forever.

Josh Smith (09:14):

Yeah. Awesome. That's that's obviously really, really good information. Uh, how would you say a search has been impacted the most during this time?

Holly Holder (09:21):

I think just knowing that the intent people are maybe more at the top of the funnel, the Martin, what we call the marketing funnel, as I'm sure you've, you know, we've talked about before that people are in that informational stage, they're doing a lot more research now. So it's a professed to get in front of people with blogs. Again, helpful videos. If you have a YouTube account or even just, if you have videos that you're filming on your iPhone and you can send those to whatever marketing people you're working with and get those posted somewhere view telling people how to fix simple things. A lot of people are searching for, we mentioned earlier, indoor air quality improvements, maybe water filtration systems, because you know, it's harder to go out and buy you. Weren't buying water bottles as much or they're sold out. So people are looking for alternatives to that and emergency services.

Holly Holder (10:07):

If you think about it, if people are more wary right now, they're more likely to call if it's an actual emergency versus if it's something that they can sort of wait on, like obviously in your toilet running and you need your air conditioner working or your heater, because it's still a bit chilly out right now and people are home. So now more than ever, they can't escape necessarily. So they're needing these things fixed quickly. And since important, if you do offer emergency services to make sure that you're, you know, making that very clear on your website again, on your Google business description or on a post to letting people know that you're here for them, despite everything. Cause I don't know that home service businesses are still a central.

Josh Smith (10:43):

Yeah. You know, you mentioned that a number of these kind of already, but I'm curious if there's anything else that comes to mind that you've seen in terms of what's most important to consumers right now during this time, we've obviously talked a bit about the DIY stuff, emergency situations, some sanitation practices. Is there anything else that you've found search trend wise to be really valuable and important for business owners to know?

Holly Holder (11:05):

So not only are people obviously looking for information, people are unfortunately out of work or time poorly laid off or just not making as much money as they usually do. Uh, just due to their certain job situations. So people are looking for, if you are offering a coupon of any kind or maybe you're offering a free service call during this time to help people out, that can be something really advantageous to promote. Because again, money's tight for a lot of people right now and promoting your, we kind of talked about this already about what measures you're taking to help prevent the spread of COVID because honestly, that's on everyone's mind if you're having someone in your home, you want to know that are they wearing booties when they come in your house? Are they wearing masks? Are they wearing gloves? What kind of sanitation measurements are they taking when they're working and afterwards? And some people have a total peace of mind when you come to their house. They're not at all concerned about what that might look like.

Josh Smith (12:05):

Yeah. What are some things that from an SEO perspective would be advantageous for a business owner to focus on during a time of crisis,

Holly Holder (12:12):

Something we've seen a lot of business to start to do some did it before, but definitely an increase in people offering virtual assessments where people can get, you know, a webcam like this or over the phone, um, and kind of explain the issue and get virtual help to better understand too, if maybe it's something that can be fixed without having someone come over or then, you know, just knowing better what you're working with. That's something that people are doing and is a huge help for a lot of people. Again, any specials that you're running, if you can, at all afford to, you know, maybe remove the service fee, things like that, people are definitely going to, in most cases, choose the option that maybe cost them a little bit less money during times like this, because they're, you know, you have a budget to stick to.

Holly Holder (12:58):

And then just also how you might be taking care of people in the community. Like if you're involved in helping deliver groceries to the elderly, we have a client that is doing something like that, where they're, they're using their trucks to help deliver goods to people in the community who can't get out at all. So anything like that that you might be doing that shows, you know, that's genuine obviously, but strong people that you, that you care and things that you're doing to help out, not just your customers and not just your business, but your community because people right now, again, they want to see that it's more than just about making money or, you know, that you're kind of like chasing people down to get business. They want to know that you care. And so if you're doing anything like that, definitely pass that on to your marketing team so they can highlight that. And that's just awesome to see as well. I think during a time like this,

Josh Smith (13:45):

I feel like you do have the segment of people who are very kind of wary during this time when it comes to business owners and how they operate and peoples, you know, for the most part people's, uh, opportunistic engine or radar starts to go off when you have somebody who's seeking this as an opportunity just to make money off of customers. And so I think it's something to be very aware of just to your point of, you know, you gotta, you gotta break content. That's going to ultimately help somebody with no investment on their part. And that's going to help you. If not anything in the short term, SEO has always been a long-term game, right? So it's something that's building you up for when things do return to normal on the SEO side.

Holly Holder (14:26):

Definitely. And even if you have a blog that, you know, say starts getting traffic for a search, like how do I, you know, fix my water heater myself, or, you know, my hot, not getting hot water help by getting that traffic to those pieces of content, whether you're running a social campaign with it are getting regular blogs, you're writing your own blogs that can help bring traffic to your site. And then that inversely can help with your SEO overall. Cause it's, it's a whole package. It's not just, you know, your service pages or, you know, your backlinks or whatever. It's everything. And Google looks at all pieces of that to kind of see the full picture of who you are as a business and what you do. And so again, if you're getting traffic from your blogs, that's great. Just because they're informational doesn't mean I'm going to lose out on customers will know it's going to help your SEO for your primary keywords as well. And like you said, it's going to help people in the meantime. So then maybe they don't end up needing to call someone right now, but they're going to remember your name when they do need to call whether it's now or after the crisis has sort of passed.

Josh Smith (15:24):

Yeah, definitely. Well, what steps currently scorpion taken right now to act in the SEO side of things, uh, based off this information that you just talked about.

Holly Holder (15:35):

Yeah. So we are working closely with clients to make sure that if they are open during this time, we have no banners created on the website that let people know right away that, Hey, we're, we're open and operating. And these are the measurements we're taking. A lot of times we're working with clients to create pieces of, uh, like a page of content on the website about the COVID-19 safety measures they're taking. That can be really helpful if you don't have a page or a blog on that yet something to consider putting together. Just cause again, it adds that extra layer. If you have a button right at the top of your site that says COVID 19, people can click and immediately be put at ease, seeing, oh, they're aware of this and they're not just pretending like it's not happening. And these are the things they're doing to cope, you know, and as well as focusing on, uh, emergency repairs, I think our big thing right now for us, uh, we've kind of been focusing on indoor air quality up until this point.

Holly Holder (16:30):

But now I think emergency is really where it's, that where a lot of people are needing help quickly. Indoor air quality is definitely something for, you know, people have maybe a little bit of extra money to spend on something like that, or they just want that extra feeling of safety. Now you do have to be careful when you're writing content like that, that you're never promising that anything like that is going to help prevent the virus from entering your home or help cure or anything like that. You do have to be careful with the language that you use to never have any misleading content because Google can be, you know, want to be just extra cautious with that right now. And all the posts that we're doing and content we're also doing Google, my business posts, which I touched on a little bit earlier, but creating a nice little graphic that says, you know, we're still here to serve you. We're still open and we're posting it on our client's business pages. So that it's up to people to see when they do, you know, if they land on their Google, my business profile, it's a quick, easy way for people to see that they're open and that they are considered a government essential business.

Josh Smith (17:30):

Definitely. So this, honestly, this is really, really helpful information overall. I think there's a few things that I'm seeing based off what you're saying. We're saying there is a decrease in some areas in some respects when it comes to search volume overall, you know, it was interesting. One of the stats that you were sharing with me prior to was, uh, with respect to the average rankings of a client kind of in, across the country that we're running. And we're not necessarily, we're seeing a dip in traffic in some areas, but not necessarily a dip in rankings, which just showcases that behaviors changing, not necessarily the dynamics of Google's algorithm. Is that, is that fair to say? Yeah,

Holly Holder (18:09):

That's totally fair to say. I haven't seen major drops and rankings. If anything, things are moving as usual, we're still seeing improvements for a lot of keyboards we're working on. Um, I think it's just definitely been a drop in traffic because people are taking care of the essentials in their life first. And if you know this, isn't one of those essentials they're going to wait. But again, hopefully now that things are calming down a bit, people will start to realize, okay, I'm adjusting and we're figuring this out. And these are things that we do take care of. And, um, I think it's just important for everyone to keep in mind that this is happening to everyone. So if your business is experiencing, you know, a bit of a downward trend in traffic or leads, do everything you can, but recognize that your competitors are dealing with the same thing.

Holly Holder (18:56):

It's not like, you know, we're the only ones going through this. Everyone's kind of going through it together. So I think that's important to keep in mind. And, um, just knowing that every day it's changing, but that, you know, ideally whoever you may be working with that your marketing team is on top of that because it's fluid. It's always going to be changing. It's not something we can predict day in and day out. So I think that's all that we can do from an SEO side of things, as we see, I think that's something else important too, is that sometimes the traffic drop will be for, you may look at your stats and see a drop in traffic, but it may be for blogs that are no longer ranking and you really do need to look and see what are the blogs that were ranking? Was it, were they super valuable, helpful blogs, or maybe was it some very niche specific term? That's not actually super relevant to us anymore. And that's okay that, that dropped off because then that can skew your traffic. Uh, when you're looking at something like Google search console or Google analytics. So that's also important to look at too, that it's not necessarily an indication of a drop off in traffic to your site that is super, super beneficial. Then you've got to look at it all carefully and analytically.

Josh Smith (20:05):

Yeah, absolutely. Bye. This has been awesome, Holly, I really appreciate you taking the time to be able to share all this knowledge with us. What would you say, just kind of in closing, we've talked about a lot here. What would you say is one piece of advice that you would give business owners when it comes to their SEO during this crisis that we're facing right now? What should they do?

Holly Holder (20:24):

Yeah, so I think overall SEO has always been about the customer and Google very much has always wanted people to create content and create websites that are easy for customers to use, provide valuable information are authoritative. And again, it's the whole picture, you know, who are you as a business and a rather than just trying to get rankings. So that hasn't changed. It's still all about the customer. And I think it's just a season of how do we provide even more information to customers? How do we let them know that we're open and operating? How do we let them know the measurements we're taking Tina to protect them? It's because again, it's up to the customer. If they want to click through and call you, there's plenty of options out there. So what are you doing, you know, to kind of stand out and how are you promoting that?

Holly Holder (21:17):

Or are you just kind of waiting on the sidelines for this pass? I think it's important to definitely not give up on SEO during this time. Cause again, it's, it's a long game thing and now more than ever, we need to be in front of people with the correct information and just helping people. I mean, I think that's important part of SEO is we want to connect customers with the right businesses. And so how can you help people? How can you provide people with what they might need during this time to again, build customers for life.

Josh Smith (21:44):

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Holly, for taking the time, really appreciate your insights and all this.

Holly Holder (21:49):

Yeah, absolutely glad to be here.

Josh Smith (21:51):

Awesome. And for everybody listening definitely hit the like button and subscribe button wherever you might be listening at. So you can continue to get more of these updates and this content here also definitely head on over to the resource page that we have at scorpion surrounding all the COVID-19 stuff. We got a lot of knowledge, trends, resources, and data there for you to digest, to be able to incorporate into your marketing campaign. If you have any questions, the are scorpion client, definitely chat with the marketing manager about anything that we talked about today. So you can be fully assured of everything that your team is doing for you in this particular area of SEO from all of us here at the sharps tool. We'll talk to you next time. Thanks.

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