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The Pandemic Effect:
Five Search Optimizations to Help Your SEM Efforts This Year

Feb 24, 2021

There’s ample evidence that the pandemic had a huge impact on search behavior in 2020. These changed search behaviors coupled with our new current realities can help bring a renewed focus on your search marketing optimization efforts right now. Below we outline five simple optimization tips that can assist your SEM programs and yield immediate results today.  

Dayparting Optimizations for Paid Search

The pandemic forced many employees to work remotely instead of in office buildings. With many more employees working from home, online usage soars several extra hours per day. Utilizing Hour by Day search data, there are clear shifts in searching behavior, which represent an opportunity for continued expansion of your SEM efforts. Simply put, pre-Covid Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm has now become Sunday through Saturday behavior, spanning 6am to as late as 10pm. These extra hours, both before and after our typical spikes in search behavior, represent a golden opportunity for search marketers. Squeezing extra conversions from these hours, altering site copy based on hour of day and day of week are just some of the added optimizations you can tap into within your search marketing toolkit.

Device Targeting Optimizations for Paid and Organic Search

Similar to the changing search behaviors we are seeing daily, there is also a shift on devices. We see an increase in desktop search usage during previously “normal” business hours coupled with spikes in before and after-hour search usage by tablet and mobile devices. Additionally, mobile searches are continuing to increase more than ever before. What does this mean for you? We recommend considering device-specific paid search campaigns to target and reach specific searchers. Tip: don’t forget at-home assistants like Google Home and Alexa, which are also on the rise. Scan Google Ads Search Query Reports for “OK Google” centric voice searches to help provide intel on what searchers are looking for, which can determine how to optimize your FAQ pages on your websites. 

Geotargeting Optimizations for Paid Search

SEM programs targeting business prospects as part of their B2B efforts have seen a drastic change in their geotargeting efforts as a result of the pandemic. With businesspeople working remotely, geotargeting corporate offices and event locations using hyperlocal targeting strategies must pivot away from these tactics. Most employees endured a 20+ minute morning commute, so casting a wider geotargeting net to hit those at-home employees would be worth exploring.

Negative Keyword Optimization for Paid Search

A tried-and-true tool in the search marketer’s toolbox, especially since an estimated 15% of search queries are searches Google has never seen before, utilizing a COVID-centric negative keyword list and conducting this exercise more frequently will help provide maximum efficiency for your paid search programs (source: Google Data, July 2019). Further, restricting your site from showing on COVID-19-centric websites for your display campaigns is another way to ensure your ad is not showing adjacent to pandemic centric content as well. Please find below a partial list of negative keywords that should be added to each of your paid search programs:  

“coronal”

“coronaviruses”

“infection”

“PCR”

“Rapid Tests”

“Moderna”

“Pfizer”

“coroa”

“pandemic”

“epidemic”

*Interested in a complete list? Don’t hesitate to reach out here.

If you missed our post a few weeks ago about our take on Google’s announcement regarding their match type keyword changes, we feel this optimization should be a priority for search marketers.

Continue to Invest in Website Optimization and Site Health for SEO

Many marketers pulled back their media spend during the pandemic, which in our opinion, left a golden opportunity to occupy market share in their respective industries. However, we understand that these are extenuating circumstances. If you needed to pull back investments in paid media, an increase in organic search optimization could take its place. While we believe that SEO efforts should never let up, COVID-19 has taught us that now would be an ideal time to increase your content production, content optimization and website health efforts. This is especially true based on Google’s recent news about the upcoming Core Web Vitals SEO update. Check out our most recent post sharing our thoughts on why being prepared for these changes is important.

Optimizing the user experience and site health is vital. Ensuring a clean user path from page to page and a fast, optimized user experience is a must-have for SEO; it will help you maximize the SEO traffic that you received from your increased content production efforts. 

Summary

There are many search optimizations that one can learn from the unfortunate circumstances that the pandemic has brought upon us. Right now, search marketers have the unique opportunity to dive into their efforts on a minute level, to continue to drive maximum results for your clientele. Good luck and stay safe. Lastly, happy optimizing for the last time (for now)!

This is the final post in our three-part series featuring search marketing updates. We hope you enjoyed them!

Cyrus Karimi

VP, Search & Affiliate Marketing

Media Horizons