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As the novel coronavirus continues to spread rapidly around the world, it has impacted how people work, socialize, and shop. In the presence of these changes, marketers want to make sure they stay abreast of the latest developments in the world of search. We encourage all members of our community to pay attention so that they can be confident that they’re creating the best possible impression with their marketing efforts and take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. Here are some interesting changes that we have seen over the past few days.
The changes we see from Google are immediately apparent when you search for anything related to COVID-19. The SERP focuses on the latest news and information from the WHO and the CDC and purposely ensures the low-quality results, such as conspiracy sites, remain off the first page of results.
Google has taken similar steps for YouTube search results, focusing on promoting top news results to ensure that users receive accurate information.
Google has also partnered with government agencies to create high-authority websites to help communicate accurate and helpful information directly to people making relevant searches.
Google’s carefully selected coronavirus SERP demonstrates the importance of high-quality information, particularly as it pertains to this disease. If your industry has been directly impacted by the closures and quarantines, make sure that any information you post related to the crisis will pass Google’s standard for high-quality relevant information.
As search continues to mature, the search engine appears to increasingly rely on authority, expertise, and trustworthiness when ranking content. We encourage our community to make sure their content meets these standards, and this shift in Google’s SERP presents a clear demonstration of their importance. As brands look to build a strong digital presence during and after the coronavirus crisis, they should continue to increase their focus on providing this level of dependability.
In addition to its efforts to steer information towards high-quality data and news, Google has also continued to uphold its ad quality guidelines. This includes making sure that people do not profit from the crisis, limiting people’s ability to create ads related to the virus or products commonly associated with the pandemic, including masks or hand sanitizer.
Google has guidelines to prevent people from ‘capitalizing on sensitive events’, and they have been enforcing this regulation during the coronavirus situation. They claim to have blocked tens of thousands of ads already since they began to enforce these rules. Brands cannot make ads that promote medical content or that might mislead customers.
– Google’s Sundar Pichai on March 6, 2020
Structured data helps search engines better understand the content on a website so that information can be accurately portrayed in the search results. Recent updates have targeted the pandemic and the resulting need for information.
In the face of the movement restrictions and to comply with social distancing, many organizations have canceled or otherwise modified their events. Schema.org has added properties to help these organizations inform people about rescheduled dates, the canceling of the event, or the movement of the event online.
If you need to update the status of an event because of the coronavirus, you should not make any changes to other properties of the event. Instead, simply update the status to make sure people can connected the updated event information to the original event. For example, if the event is canceled, you would write:
If the event will be postponed, remember not to change the start date. Most of the schema will look the same as the canceled example above, except the status:
When you have an official start date, then you will go back and update your start and end date information within the schema, letting people know it has been rescheduled.
On the other hand, if your event has moved online, you can use the markup to make it clear where users should go. The schema will read:
Schema.org has also taken steps to promote markup designed to get more helpful information out to citizens regarding the pandemic and how it impacts local populations.
Specifically, they want relevant websites to use schema for special announcements related to the coronavirus that come from:
You can find the Schema.org markup for special announcements here.
If you had planned on hosting an event or fall into one of the categories listed as having important, highly relevant information about the pandemic, take note of these markups. They will help you communicate more effectively with the general population.
In addition to the limitations and guidelines from the major search engines, we have also seen other retailers take steps to navigate the times of the pandemic. Specifically, retailers like eBay have placed restrictions on the ability of sellers to list items related to the pandemic, such as masks, hand sanitizer, and wipes. Costco, in response to the large amounts of panic buying seen in the days and weeks leading up to the quarantines, has also placed limitations on the ability of people to return items, such as toilet paper and soap.
We also recommend for our partners to remember that just because businesses are closing does not mean that consumers have stopped engaging with brands online. Although people might not have the buying power they once did, they are still interacting with each other and organizations through social media and internet searches. You’ll want to be sure you’re keeping up the right amount of online engagement with customers.
Whether you can offer free shipping, temporarily free subscriptions to a service, or simply commiseration and opportunities for people to keep themselves entertained while stuck at home, finding ways to help you connect with your customers will provide you with the strongest marketing strategy for right now.
As people across the country and around the world work to understand how to navigate this current health crisis and what it means for them moving forward, the world of search has experienced some changes. Understanding the changes we have seen from major search engines and retailers can help brands make the best possible decisions about their engagement with consumers and building a positive future for their brand.
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