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COVID-19 marketing

How COVID-19 Has Changed Four Key Components of Marketing

As the second half of 2020 begins to pass us by, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on throughout the global community. The longevity of the pandemic has left thousands of industries struggling to find an appropriate position in the marketplace that will allow them to sustain themselves alongside daily tragedy.

The pandemic is far from over, but publishers and marketers are beginning to sift through the aftershocks of what COVID-19 has done to the web. Here's a quick look at the decline in conversion growth during the first few weeks of the pandemic in the United States:


COVID-19 marketing Data from Neil Patel.

The negative impact on online industries left marketing teams scrambling to figure out how to do more with less. But with more people online than ever before, there are plenty of new opportunities for companies to figure out what exactly the new normal means for them.

The CMO Survey, a firm that tracks marketing insights, conducted a special COVID-19 survey that details current lessons learned from the pandemic from marketing leaders in the United States — and there's some good news. Most marketers agree that the new strategies they've adopted during the pandemic will continue to bring their companies opportunities long term.

There is one common theme to keep in mind as marketers navigate the rest of 2020 and beyond, and that's the unparalleled importance of building trust. That same COVID-19 CMO survey found that marketers identified trusted relationships as customers' highest priority over the next year. To meet this demand, marketers expect that customers will value a trusted relationship with a company even more than the lowest price.

With the concept of building trust as our pillar for post-pandemic marketing, let's look at how marketers and publishers can pivot their strategies to build trust and retain customers in four important areas: organic SEO, e-commerce, subscription services, and ad revenue.

COVID-19 marketing

Optimizing Organic SEO

While you may have experienced a dip in conversions or website traffic when the pandemic took over, search engine traffic has actually increased since the pandemic began. What's changed is what users are searching for. In the early months of 2020, it was no surprise that sites dedicated to health and wellness experienced an increase in search traffic of more than 300%.

According to Google Trends, people searching for the term "SEO," short for search engine optimization, spiked in January and February, and has continued to perform higher than usual throughout the year so far.

COVID-19 marketing Search traffic for the term "SEO" over the past year. From Google Trends.

Even if you haven't seen any increases in your search performance so far this year, there are several important reasons to start investing in a search strategy during this unprecedented time. Adopting a robust search engine strategy can be a low-cost investment that yields valuable rewards. Unlike campaigns that usually have a hard start and end date, strides in organic search growth in particular can last indefinitely.

Like every other strategy in the COVID-19 era, marketers should focus on an SEO strategy that builds trust and adds value to their readers. You have heard plenty of times by now that these are uncertain times, and when things are hard to predict, users end up looking for more answers. A study from Conductor found that consumers were 131% more likely to purchase from a brand after reading quality, educational content early on in the user journey.

Publishers who take the time to recognize this shift in user behavior, and meet this demand by providing audiences with educational and problem-solving content, could see swift improvement in their search visibility. When creating new, human-centric content, an easy strategy to keep in mind is the E-A-T method. E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, and trust, which are key pillars that Google's crawler will consider when indexing sites for organic search.

Keeping your readers top of mind when creating content in 2020 could increase your performance on search long after the pandemic is over. Articles with a well-performing track record can hold tightly to their spot in Google's top search rankings. According to data from Ahrefs blog, only 1% of pages in Google's top 10 positions were less than one year old.

COVIDe-19 marketing Chart from Ahrefs blog.

If organic SEO wasn't a priority before, take the unique circumstances of 2020 to build out meaningful evergreen content that could serve your readers for years to come.

COVID-19 marketing

Embracing E-commerce

With people living their lives almost entirely online in 2020, the explosive growth of e-commerce during the coronavirus outbreak has been no surprise. But the expansion has indeed been massive. The percentage of retail sales via digital channels typically goes up 1% each year. In 2020, it shot up to 28% after COVID-19 began to spread. According to NYU professor Scott Galloway, that's a decade worth of growth that occurred in an eight-week time frame.

It's also no surprise that major retailers like Walmart and Target, who sell stay-at-home essentials like workout equipment, benefited the most from this growth. To no one's surprise, Amazon reported a 40% increase in sales during the early stages of COVID-19.

Publishers previously have leveraged affiliate partnerships to get a piece of the e-commerce pie, but with readers looking for more online alternatives for their retail experiences, now is the time to dive even deeper. Readers are looking to sources they trust to make all of their choices, even if it's just what mascara to buy next.

For example, Hearst UK began offering product sampling for e-commerce campaigns in December. When the pandemic hit, those campaigns became hugely popular for beauty brands that could no longer appeal to their customers by storefront.

COVID-19 marketing Image from What's New in Publishing.

BuzzFeed says the native shopping experience is a long-term revenue solution that increases trust with their audience.

Major social platforms have also made the shift to in-app retail experiences. The summer of 2020 brought about the launch of Instagram Shop, a native shopping section of the platform that allows users to browse product recommendations based on the accounts they follow. Instagram Shop will of course offer Facebook Pay, the social giant and parent company's own payment solution.

For the majority of publishers who aren't mega sized like BuzzFeed, taking advantage of native social experiences like Instagram Shop is a good way to diversify e-commerce efforts and build new brand awareness that might not have been previously available before.

The acceleration of e-commerce in 2020 should entice publishers of all sizes to weigh the benefits of any e-commerce component, whether it be native buying, affiliate partnerships, or product reviews. It's a sure bet to increase revenue diversification and, when done effectively, build loyalty with your user base.

Sweetening Subscription-Based Models

Subscription-based models were in the midst of an uptick even before the global pandemic. Over the years, the tug of war between platforms and publishers reached its peak and has left users desperate for a modern user experience that's high performing, high quality, and clear of massive ad takeovers. Marketing in the COVID-19 world hasn't changed this. In fact, 50% of subscription model businesses have continued to grow just as fast in the pandemic world.

However, the COVID-19 climate has nudged publishers to be a bit more flexible with their subscription and premium offerings. Due to persisting financial constraints among most audiences, publishers who try to increase costs or decrease offerings could lose loyalty permanently. Expect readers to be quick to withdraw their alliances if they feel their money and time is being treated unfairly.

According to data from the Subscribed Institute, companies that made it easy for customers to make changes to their subscriptions were able to grow their customer base faster than their peers. Plus, companies that offer users an option to suspend their subscription have a 5% lower churn rate.

Providing a pleasant experience doesn't mean losing out on revenue, either. When journalist Ryan Nakashima of Bay Area News Group experimented with separating out an ad-free access option to one of their news sites for just $4 more a month, the results bore fruit.

COVID-19 marketing Subscription options for MercuryNews.com, from Poynter.

"About a fifth of new digital-only subscribers choose to pay more for ad-free, many with no discounted trial, and many have upgraded their existing plans. Email campaigns to existing subscribers are seeing strong uptake and we have thousands of ad-free subscribers now," Nakashima wrote in Poynter.

The users who chose the ad-free option also consumed 1.2 more pages per day than other subscribers, proving the point that if you put customers in control of their own experience, the payoff could be big.

COVID-19 marketing

Adjusting Ad Spend

When COVID-19 tightened its grip in early 2020, the digital ad world felt the effects immediately. According to an impact report from Influencer Marketing Hub, brands are expected to decrease ad spend by 69% in 2020, and 65% of brands noticed a decrease in revenue once the pandemic hit.

There is no way around it, COVID-19 is a devastating blow to monetization strategies for companies and publishers of all sizes. Now, as the web adjusts to life in the new normal, there are ways to adapt to the new ad-buying climate.

Digital marketing expert Neil Patel found that the dip in advertisers has made online ads less expensive. Small businesses and publishers who are able to maintain some ad spend could see a bigger return on investment than ever before.

COVID-19 marketing Chart from Neil Patel.

Unfortunately, most publishers won't be able to continue on with the exact same digital advertising plan that they had before 2020. Like every area of marketing during COVID-19, it's important to pivot and recognize industry shifts brought on by the pandemic.

For example, social media has undergone a bit of a reawakening during the pandemic. Social platforms experienced growth unlike they have in recent years as most of the world began to spend their lives almost entirely online. Facebook's digital ad revenues are expected to grow 4.9% to $31.4 billion, thanks to growth from Instagram. Facebook's share of the online ad market is also expected to increase from 22.7% in 2018 to 23.4% in 2020, according to the American Marketing Association (AMA).

The massive grip of the social ad revenue market isn't new, but the latest pandemic spike has marketers shifting to new digital and social expectations. The AMA also reports that marketers have increased their social budgets by 74% since February. Since the shift to social, for the first time ever, social media's contribution to company performance rose a startling 24% since February.

Keep in mind that the theme of building trust with your audience during uncertainty rings true even when considering your monetization strategy. According to data from IAB, 63% of advertisers are adjusting their messaging to mission-based and cause-based marketing. So however you do choose to rework your advertising strategy, continue to make your users' experience a top priority.

COVID-19 marketing

Publishing During a Pandemic

To build trust in the COVID-19 era, publishers must be agile and nimble enough to pivot quickly. This isn't always easy as companies deal with devastating economic blows, smaller teams, and new uncertainties each day. Taking on a new content strategy alone is a tall order, not to mention adjusting ad plans, considering new revenue streams, and increasing SEO efforts simultaneously.

At RebelMouse, we keep up with industry changes — including those incurred by massive world events like the coronavirus outbreak — so our publishers can focus on creating content that resonates with their readers no matter the climate.

Shortly before COVID-19 hit, we adjusted our approach to page speed to ensure we power the highest-performing sites on the web. Once the pandemic took hold, we created a live-blog solution so publishers in our site network could distribute updates to their audiences quickly and maintain visibility on search.

Our publishing platform and creative agency has a modern solution for every pandemic pain point. If you're struggling to make sense of what happened to your business during 2020, request a proposal today and let's start working together to improve your site performance, web traffic, SEO strategy, and any other area of your digital marketing that needs support.

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Our team of traffic-obsessed developers recently implemented some performance optimizations to enhance our platform's integration with AMP, and that has improved the average response time for our clients. This means that users are able to access your AMP pages more quickly, which, in turn, improves your site's traffic from Google.

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On RebelMouse, if you assign an alt tag to an image in Entry Editor, that alt tag will also become the image's file name. Briefly, alt tags describe images for search engines, and also allow people using screen readers to know what the image is without actually being able to see it. Adding your desired search phase to every alt text field, and in turn every image file name, will reinforce its relevance to Google's crawler, bringing you one step closer to the top of search returns.

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That's why we are excited to let you know about Google Search Console's Insights feature. According to Google, this new data view will help content creators and site owners answer the following questions:

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Maximize Your SEO Potential With RebelMouse’s Entry Editor

Take a peek into how our proprietary technology helps sites surge on search

The RebelMouse platform features a rich search engine optimization (SEO) toolset that guides writers and editors to think about the right search phrase behind every story, as well as how to focus on small but meaningful modifications designed to improve organic search performance.

Our SEO technology centers around best practices for search, including detailed metadata that will help Google's site crawler identify, index, and rank your content quickly. It often leads our clients to experiences traffic surges that look like the following after launching on our platform:

how to increase search traffic

Here's a look inside our proprietary technology that helps our clients experience quick search boosts that turn into long-term SEO wins.

The Search Tab

how to find the right search phrase

Every new article presents a new opportunity to win on search. RebelMouse's Entry Editor features an SEO tab that's designed to help you optimize every post to give it the best shot at winning a targeted search phrase. Here's a glimpse into how it guides editors through a perfected search strategy before the "Publish" button is even clicked.

Define Your Search Phrase

search volume data

It can be tricky to nail down which search phrase you want to win. Within the SEO tab, you can brainstorm your ideas in real time. Through the creative usage of APIs, we ensure writes and editors are armed with the right information when optimizing content for SEO. In the example above, the drop-down list is suggesting search phrases that are already performing well on Google. The number next to each recommended phrase is its monthly search volume.

This helps you determine which phrases are easy to win, or perhaps too competitive to strategize for, on an article-by-article basis. Click here to read more about this feature.

Optimize Your Slug to Match Your Search Phrase

submit url to search engines

The SEO tab in our Entry Editor is designed to repeat your desired search phrase throughout your content so that Google's crawler has every chance to index it correctly for search. With this methodology in mind, it's a best practice to have your article's URL slug match your desired search phrase. From the SEO tab, you can click the Optimize Slug button to automatically match your URL slug to the search phrase you want to win. Click here to read more about this feature.

Pick Smart Recirculation Links

seo outlinks

After you've defined your search phrase and optimized your URL slug accordingly, you can select highly relevant links to add as related content to the end of your article. We call these Around the Web (ATW) links. The SEO tab allows you to pick the best links from your own site, as well as from around the web, which leads to truly amazing traffic boosts. This is a proven SEO practice that's rewarded by Google. Since your article will link to pages already winning your search phrase, it can increase your own post's relevance score in the eyes of Google's crawler.

We automate the surfacing of both ATW and internal links for you, so it's as easy as ticking a handful of checkboxes to add them to your post. We've also done the math, and the data is clear: Adding ATW and internal links to the end of your articles can increase traffic coming to your posts from Google by over 300%! Click here to read more about this feature.

Craft Metadata Before Publish

what is seo metadata

When it comes to Google's site crawler, providing clever metadata is one of the best ways to contextualize your content for search. From there, Google's search algorithm will rank your site for search queries that it determines are relevant to your content. Our SEO tab allows you to write your metadata right from within our Entry Editor. Plus, our character counter will help you make sure that your SEO headline and description match Google's best practices for metadata text length.

It's important to make sure your metadata is clearly written in a succinct way so that Google can quickly understand the nature of your content. Click here to read more.

The RebelMouse Particle Assembler

how to optimize an article for seo

RebelMouse's Particle Assembler is a content creation tool within our Entry Editor that makes it easy to transform your posts into media-rich micro pieces of content, which we call particles, that can both be shared individually and crawled separately on search. Our Assembler functionality gives your content more legs, which means more chances to generate more traffic.

The following steps demonstrate how you can use our Assembler to optimize an article to win a search phrase.

Use Particle Headlines to Reinforce Your Search Phrase

how to write headlines for seo

Assembler is accessible via one simple click in the formatting toolbar of our Entry Editor. From there, an organizational layout will be inserted into your article that will help guide you through building out the particles that will shape your Assembler. The best way to think of Assembler is by treating it as an enhanced list format. If your article is about vegan cooking trends, each particle can feature a new trend. But Assembler does not need to be a simple list. It can also cover the main points of your article and feature user-generated content or even related stories.

Assembler is a helpful SEO tool because it can generate a unique URL slug for each particle, maximizing your article's ability to get indexed by Google for more than one key search phrase. Click here to read more about this feature.

Make the Most of Google's "People Also Ask" Module

how to optimize for people also ask

Particle headlines are also a great way to make use of Google's "People Also Ask" module. This will help you identify search patterns of users who are interested in your search phrase. By tailoring your particles to those patterns, it's likely that your post will move up in Google's search rankings. Click here to read more about this strategy.

Add Media to Every Particle

alt text for seo

Each particle is another opportunity to add relevant media to your post, and Assembler makes it easy to add alt text to every image you upload. Alt text is very important for accessibility and can also have benefits for SEO. Briefly, alt text is text that is added to an image to describe it to search engines, and also to allow people using screen readers to be able to know what the image is without actually being able to see it. You can easily add alt text to any image in RebelMouse from our Entry Editor. Adding your search phase into every alt text field will only bring you one step closer to the top of Google Search's first page.

Make the Most of Our SEO Toolset

RebelMouse's proprietary technology works for any kind of site, whether you're a brand, a new media company, or a legacy publisher. SEO doesn't have to be something that only developers and analysts can understand and augment. Our product is designed to put the power of search in the hands of content creators, editors, and social curators, too.

Start winning on search with every publish. Request a proposal today and let's start working together.

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