In order to answer that question, we must first understand just how central SEO is to the continued success of any business. The fact is that the current Coronavirus global pandemic is reshaping the way that business is conducted. The fact that many countries are enforcing lockdowns and businesses have been forced to close their doors while the virus is brought under control is forcing businesses to pivot towards an online model. For many organizations, this is a matter of simple survival.
Restaurants, for instance, have been forced to accept online orders for delivery merely to keep their heads above water while they ride out the storm. For other business such as car dealerships and even movie studios, the Coronavirus will have longer-lasting implications – it is likely that their business models, the one relying on showrooms and used car lots and the other on theatres will have been disrupted to an extent that will see those outlets fade into the sunset, or at least be present in far smaller numbers than had been the case prior to the impact of the Coronavirus.
However, it is worth noting that even before the Coronavirus forced companies to reassess their communication strategies and marketing outreaches eCommerce was on the rise. The growth in eCommerce has been staggering.
In 2016 eCommerce sales were worth 2 trillion dollars worldwide. In 2019 that had risen to nearly 3.5 trillion dollars – and research suggests that this momentum would have continued unabated – even if the Coronavirus and self-isolation had not forced consumers to rely on Internet purchases. Logic would suggest that the growth of eCommerce in 2020 (and for the foreseeable future) will outstrip the year on year growth of eCommerce over the last 5 years – if only because more and more consumers are now comfortable with the channel and what it can provide.
There is an inevitable corollary to this growth – and that is that companies are going to be forced into a shark tank of cut-throat competition. And SEO is going to have to play a pivotal role in allowing them to survive the intense competition of the post-Corona business environment.
Those companies that can leverage the power of SEO to achieve high visibility on SERP rankings are going to be the companies that will survive – and in many cases flourish, those that ignore the ever more important role that SEO plays in achieving these sorts of results will almost inevitably fall prey to competitive pressure. The number of queries from Internet users in search of goods and services is only going to increase. The old adage that ‘the perfect place to hide a dead body page 2 of the Google results’ is going to be the guiding principle behind SEO practice.
If one takes a dispassionate look at the numbers one gets a good idea of just how important SEO is. The average number of Google searches per second is 40,000. That means that there are 3.5 billion searches every day. And a staggering 1.2 trillion per year. The SEO game is very much alive.
eCommerce is going to continue to snatch market share from bricks and mortar establishments – that much is almost inevitable.
So, is SEO dead (as many pundits have claimed) or have the goalposts shifted? To strain the sports analogy further, the tactical intent of any game that involved goalposts is to win. And those companies that put SEO at the center of their online content strategy are going to be the companies that will win the game.
However, SEO practice is continually evolving (and has been for decades) – what might have seemed best practice only a year ago might not be as effective today. SEO practice is forced to move in lockstep with the evolution of websites and other Internet real estate. The reasons that SEO practice must evolve is due to a large extent to the fact that the search engine ‘Gorilla in the Sandpit’ – Google continues to refine the algorithms that it uses to rank search results. Skilled SEO consultants need to be at the top of their game if they are to cope with the rapid-fire changes – and the best of them need to be able to anticipate how changes will impact the effectiveness of an SEO strategy (and the content of a company’s online real estate).
In the past, the practice of SEO was, in essence, simpler. Add some keywords to blogs, to websites, make sure that metatags, make sure that content is unique, make sure that title tags are in order, optimize images and research your keywords carefully (among other things).
The online world is changing quickly. Today, voice search, augmented reality and machine learning are shifting those goalposts. Let’s take voice search as an example. It is anticipated that by the end of 2020 around 50% of searches will be made by simply speaking to machines. Witness the increasing popularity of Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. This is going to change the way businesses are forced to employ SEO. The norm is going to become long-tail keywords and a less formal approach to content – content will have to take on elements of a conversational tone.
Information is power – and that power is increasingly in the hands of consumers who are using the Internet to source information on products and services prior to making their purchase decisions. in fact, research shows that over 80% of consumers will search online before they make a major purchase. However, the Coronavirus lockdown has revealed something else – it is not only major purchases – it is purchases of essentials such as groceries and even purchases of a discretionary nature such as movies, video games, alcohol, ice cream – the list is essentially endless.
This trend is going to continue. These spur of the moment purchases are going to supercharge the eCommerce share of the retail market. Those companies that can harness the power of Internet sales by riding the wave of SEO evolution will be those that stake their claim to being on the winning team.