5 Search Marketing Skills That May Save Your Life

Amy Hebdon

Author’s note: We live in a time of clickbait and sensationalism, so I want to assure you the intent of this article is to help you handle real-life challenges.

I’ve been teaching self-reliance and preparedness principles for 20+ years, since before Google Ads or Analytics even existed.

Search engines have dramatically improved our ability to prepare for crises, and I hope this leads you to take action that will keep your family safe.


The entire world is feeling vulnerable right now.

We’re searching for ways to protect ourselves and our families from real and potential threats.

searches for emergency preparedness

During these times of stress and uncertainty, we imagine visceral scenes from disaster films.

Inevitably, elite athletes and the military will survive an apocalypse.

Meanwhile, those of us with desk jobs are destined to become zombie appetizers.

This doesn’t have to be the case.

As a search marketer, you have a very particular set of skills.

That’s right; your experience in research, strategic thinking, and performance optimization can help you survive.

Here are five hard-earned skills you already have that make you better prepared for real-life disasters than you may have realized.

1. Go Niche & Local, Not Broad & General

You know in your core it’s better to focus on specific, long-tail, localized content than overly broad ideas.

“Emergency preparedness” is a broad umbrella term that includes thousands of scenarios:

  • Urgent injuries, accidents, or illnesses.
  • Loss of power, heat, water, food, or shelter.
  • Natural disasters such as storms, fires, and droughts.
  • Human-caused disasters such as terrorism or violence.

That’s not a complete list of possible disasters, and just writing those out is a little depressing.

But different emergencies require different plans, and parsing out actual scenarios beats the aggregate “all emergencies.”

For example, a 72-hour “go bag” can help you escape danger when your home is suddenly no longer a safe place to be.

But if you’re stranded at home after a hurricane, a backpack isn’t going to keep your family fed while you wait for the power to return. (Here are some ideas for cooking without power.)

People who focus only on generic “emergency advice” can end up unprepared for the real threats to their families.

5 Search Marketing Skills That May Save Your Life

Websites like ready.gov/plan give you a great starting point. (While the sites I’m referencing are largely U.S.-based, the advice can be adapted to most locations.)

First aid kits, water, and flashlights might be obvious necessities.

What about feminine hygiene, pet food or items for people with sensory needs?

You’ve already got a research process for keywords. Apply it to your safety planning.

You of all people can go deep in these exercises without experiencing burnout or research fatigue.

Build a list of specific scenarios that may affect you and your family, given your geographic area and personal circumstances.

Then identify the resources you’d need to be prepared for each.

It still may feel scary and overwhelming because of how personal it is, but the more specific you are, the more equipped you’ll be to handle each situation.

2. Aim for the 80/20 Rule (Not Immortality)

You know that speech you memorized to explain to prospects why “being #1 on Google” is not a reasonable or productive goal?

It’s time to give a modified version of that speech to yourself.

The end goal of preparedness is not to guarantee survival under any worst-case scenario.

That’s not possible, which makes it a bad objective.

Once you accept your own mortality, you can let go of the idea of preparing for the absolute worst – which includes an infinite number of unlikely challenges – and focus your energy on statistically likely setbacks within your control.

zombies vs flood

  • You’re more likely to miss a paycheck than you are to get bitten by a zombie.
  • You’re more likely to need an extra can of noodle soup than a bunker full of MREs.
  • You’re more likely to have to walk a mile than to navigate your way home from the Amazon rainforest.

Where you live and what makes you comfortable are huge factors.

But use some judgment and risk-assessment in your preparation.

All goals are not created equal, and they can’t all be accomplished at once.

Good marketing goals prioritize business growth over vanity metrics.

Good emergency prep goals prioritize basic survival over contingency plans for outliers.

Pareto’s law suggests that you can cover 80% of potential threats with 20% basic preparation.

Start there.

Further prep is optional, but will have diminishing returns with increasingly unlikely scenarios.

You can disregard expensive or impractical advice that’s unlikely to drive your primary KPI of surviving plausible disasters.

You’re not required to stockpile trekking poles just because an internet stranger put them on a “must-have” equipment list.

Own your process.

3. Conduct a SWOT Analysis… of Yourself

Many marketers use a SWOT analysis to assess their clients’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

This matrix helps businesses strategically evaluate their advantages and risks in a given landscape.

It can do the same for you.

swot analysis grid

You can even find survival-specific SWOT tools to audit your own disaster readiness.

As you review the sections based on internal factors (strengths and weaknesses), look at something that isn’t addressed enough in preparedness analysis: attitude.

Why Attitude Drives Preparedness More Than You’d Think

Preparing for emergencies can feel terrifying, futile, unnecessary, impractical, or wasteful.

If you don’t think it matters, you probably won’t take any action.

Even if you do think it matters, there’s a good chance you’ll run into challenges that slow or stop your progress.

Some common resistance points:

  • It’s too expensive.
  • It’s too abstract.
  • I don’t have enough space.
  • I’m too nomadic.

All these problems are solvable, in that if you want to find more peace and security, there are steps you can take.

For instance, if your home (or room) is small, you can use vertical storage solutions or space below beds.

I knew a large family living in a small New York City apartment that kept a year’s supply of food.

One way they conserved space was to build a homework desk using sturdy #10 cans of food for desk legs. This might not be the right solution for your family, but something will be.

For families with limited finances, research ways to stretch your food budget or affordably build your food storage (both of these links are great references).

When you decide you’re an exception to the rule, it’s easy to get stuck and stay stuck.

But if you commit to finding solutions for your family, you’ll be able to.

4. Leverage Technology & Automation

Is there anything digital marketers love more than eliminating repetitive tasks with rules, scripts, or automation?

It’s time to channel your inner geek for real-life survival.

Technology has a bad rap when it comes to emergency prep, and a lot of guidelines are outdated.

Notice how many checklists still include having a roll of quarters for payphones in case of emergency.

Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s true that disasters are unpredictable, but as we’re experiencing with this pandemic, not every emergency automatically shuts down power, destroys your devices, and deletes your online accounts.

Even if you find yourself offline during a disaster, you can still use digital resources to prep, plan, and backup documents in advance.

calendar event to plan practice run with emergency kits

Here are some tech-based ideas that can make planning and organizing easier:

  • Store copies of important documents on thumb drives or to the cloud. For less sensitive information, like photos and contact info, create folders with shared access.
  • Sign up for emergency alerts and follow advice to get “tech-ready.”
  • Set calendar alerts and reminders to rotate food storage, check batteries, practice evacuations, and evaluate plans.
  • Consider investing in smart tech to keep you informed and connected even when you aren’t home.

5. Maintenance & Optimization Are Ongoing

As with search engine marketing, managing your preparedness efforts is an ongoing process, not a one-time event.

Food and medicine expire. Batteries leak. Kids outgrow their extra clothing.

Despite knowing this, many people expect preparation to be a “set it and forget it” activity, rather than an ongoing part of life.

Optimizing Prep & Plans

My favorite working definition of optimization is doing more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

A huge challenge of preparing for emergencies is that it’s hard to know what actually works since most supplies and plans aren’t regularly used.

Waterproof matches, 4,000-calorie bars, and emergency tents go untouched.

Plans are theoretical.

According to FEMA, 60% of American adults have not practiced for a disaster in the last year.

Because you work in an industry that changes frequently, you know that staying current is often the difference between success and failure.

You can commit to being in the group that not only makes a plan but practices it regularly and even optimizes it for greater efficiency.

Evaluate your preparation through practice, drills, and even short trips.

After a few weekend getaways, you realize that you don’t need to bring four paperback novels – something you didn’t realize when you were imagining yourself poolside with nothing else to do.

I’ve found I can easily go a few days without a travel-size conditioner, but having extra napkins or paper towels on the road is essential.

As you get more practical experience, ditch what’s not needed in your pack and plans.

Add what’s missing.

Maintaining Efforts & Storage

Maintaining food and supplies is easiest when you store items you actually use.

In general, avoid unfamiliar products that will expire and get thrown out unless the “right emergency” happens soon.

The FIFO (First In, First Out) method is a popular way to rotate your storage of supplies and food – keeping them fresh and eliminating waste.

food competing to leave the fridge

Regular meals can combine perishable and shelf-stable foods – having an extra supply doesn’t mean you have to stop eating fresh produce!

(Interestingly, a lot of people have this resistance, even if they don’t regularly eat fresh foods.)

Don’t get intimidated by expensive, specialized products – you generally don’t need items with a 30-year shelf-life if you have a good rotation system.

An Important Caveat

In the context of advertising, real-time search marketing has huge advantages.

Your customers can find products and services at the moment they need them.

You can increase marketing budgets when sales are low or pause campaigns when supply is low.

However, this “on-demand” model doesn’t work during a crisis.

The best time to prepare for a setback is well in advance, ideally when supply is high and demand is low.

This is fairly intuitive; you can’t Google “what to do when my power goes out” during a power outage. You can’t order a fire extinguisher during a fire.

And yet…many people wait for disaster alerts to”trigger” them to get ready.

Don’t be one of those people.

The COVID-19 induced toilet paper shortage reminds us that people will panic-buy during a crisis, causing a decreased supply even when there’s no disruption to production or distribution.

It’s easy to criticize people for hoarding and creating artificial scarcity, but plenty of disasters will create true scarcity and limit your access to supplies when you need them the most.

Putting off preparation means that even if provisions are available in a disaster (and again, they often aren’t), you’ll be competing for limited resources with first responders and vulnerable populations.

Take yourself out of the competition by planning in advance.

Action Steps to Take Now

You can leverage your search marketing skills for emergency preparedness, enabling you to:

  • Research risks and identify solutions.
  • Create a realistic emergency plan and share it with others.
  • Evaluate your own readiness and commit to overcoming resistance.
  • Organize / digitize essential documents; schedule review sessions.
  • Regularly maintain and optimize supplies, storage, and plans.

As with all strategy, the right tactics and next steps for action depend on current conditions and long-term objectives.

If you’re in quarantine or isolation when you read this, now isn’t the right time to build a reserve.

Here are a few specific action steps you can take today from the comfort (or chaos) of your home to prepare for future setbacks of any size:

Put your skills to use and be ready to survive (almost) anything, including everyday life!


Image Credits

In-post map image: CrisisHQ.com (via Web.archive.org)
In-post SWOT image: Wikipedia
In-post food safety image: Statefoodsafety.com
Screenshots and photo compilations by author, March 2020

A 10-Point Ecommerce SEO Checklist for 2020

Kristopher Jones

With a brand new decade ahead of us, now is the perfect time to reevaluate your ecommerce website’s SEO strategy.

A Google, Bing, or Yahoo search is the beginning of a shopper’s journey to your site, and proper SEO techniques will ensure that you make the best first impression.

Though the world of SEO can be incredibly complex to navigate, especially for ecommerce sites, the following checklist will ensure you are moving in the right direction.

Ecommerce Technical SEO Checklist

Technical SEO is the foundation for any successful SEO strategy.

Follow these steps to ensure your technical SEO is on point:

1. Ensure Your Website Can Be Crawled & Indexed

If a search engine can’t crawl your website, it can’t rank your content.

Specifically, it can’t rank your products in search results.

Your site’s indexability, crawlability, speed, content, schema markup, and overall user-friendliness are all essential components of technical SEO.

If these elements are correctly set up, the rest of your ecommerce SEO strategy will fall into place.

2. Resolve Pages with 4XX Errors

Google Search Console is an incredibly useful tool for all websites.

Once your site is verified, your first step should be to address any pages that come up with errors.

These are broken pages that Google is unable to crawl, often due to an out-of-date sitemap, out-of-stock products, or a temporary server error.

3. Double-Check Excluded Pages

You also want to check your excluded pages, as Google cannot index them due to the code in your robots.txt file.

Though this list is often comprised of pages you don’t want a search engine to crawl anyway, such as the cart or customer profile page, you should double-check it to ensure no essential pages are blocked from crawlers.

4. Add Schema Markup to Your Site

Schema markup is a batch of HTML tags that allow Google to display the price, rating, availability, and more product details right on the search results page.

Adding it to your site is easy, and it’s vital that you do so.

It ensures that your products are more appealing on the first page of results and in the shopping tab of Google.

You can view your current schema markup setup within the products report of Google Search Console.

Ecommerce Keyword Checklist

Once your technical SEO is sound, you will want to evaluate your current keywords and see which pages are ranking for them.

5. Target Specific, Sales-Driven Keywords

One of the biggest mistakes ecommerce business owners make is targeting the wrong keywords.

Many go after the terms with the highest search volume related to a brand.

Though they look great in research, it’s the more specific, lower-search-volume keywords that will bring in the conversions.

For example, “2017 Subaru Crosstrek rims” may not have an impressive volume compared to “Subaru rims” or “rims.”

However, the more specific term will lead directly to your product page, and searchers will find exactly what they are looking for.

6. Focus on Keyword Intent

You want to ensure the keywords you are targeting reflect the right searcher intent.

Google’s RankBrain helps to determine if a query is informational or transactional. As an ecommerce site, you want to ensure you’re targeting transactional keywords.

You can identify what type a particular term is by searching it in an incognito window to see what results pop up.

If the query directs you primarily to product pages, you’re on the right track.

7. Don’t Compete with Yourself

Once you have figured out your transactional, sales-driven keywords, try to ensure multiple pages are not ranking for the same term.

If two pages rank for a specific query, Google will not know which to display first, or at all.

You don’t want to put in all that effort researching your transactional keywords only to have users directed to the homepage instead of the product page.

Google Search Console can show you the ranking position, clicks, impressions, and CTR for your website’s pages to determine if there’s any self-inflicted competition for specific keywords.

Ecommerce Content Checklist

Quality content is certainly not a new factor when it comes to your rankings.

Though long, in-depth content may not initially be your top priority as an ecommerce website, your rankings will suffer if it’s pushed to the backburner.

8. Avoid Duplicated Content

Google is continuously promoting unique, high-quality content, and websites with duplicated content are going to pay the price.

If 60% of any page’s information matches another, Google could consider it duplicated.

From an ecommerce standpoint, if you have individual product pages for the same item, but in different colors or sizes, those pages could be deemed duplicates.

Consolidating all of these options onto one page will not only solve this issue but ensure your site is responsive and user-friendly.

9. Improve Any Thin Content

Google is also on the lookout for pages with thin content.

If a product page doesn’t contain a detailed description and images specific to the item, it may not be indexed.

The reasoning is that Google does not believe the page will satisfy the user’s search intent, as there is little information to provide.

Go through your products to ensure all of the descriptions, images, specs, and other essential information is clearly defined and available to visitors.

10. Mobile-First Indexing

For at least 90% of websites, Google now uses mobile-first indexing to determine your ranking based on the content of your mobile site, not the desktop version.

With mobile searches largely outnumbering desktop searches, you want to ensure your website and products are optimized for these devices.

Make sure you have detailed, visible content on your mobile site so those with intent to buy can find your product effectively.

The best way to tackle this is to have a responsive ecommerce website.

This will allow your site to adapt to the screen size of the user’s device, making mobile-first indexing a minimal concern.

Conclusion

Ultimately, you should walk away from this article with the following in mind:

  • Do not underestimate the role that technical SEO plays in your site’s rankings. Technical elements such as crawlability and schema markup are essential to your success.
  • Do not mistakenly target your SEO keywords. Know the difference between transactional and informational queries, and target terms that will increase sales.
  • Do not ignore thin or duplicated content on your website, as it can drastically decrease your site’s chances of ranking effectively. The mobile version of your website should also be properly optimized for Google’s mobile-first indexing.

By focusing on these three main areas, your ecommerce website will be an SEO force to be reckoned with this year.

More Resources:

Google Recommends Ways to Pause Businesses in Search During COVID-19 Pandemic

Matt Southern

Google is providing guidance to businesses who wish to pause their online activity as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow.

These recommendations are geared toward helping businesses pause online activity while minimizing the impact on search rankings.

Google says this advice is applicable to any business with an online presence, though it’s especially relevant for those who have temporarily stopped offering products or services online.

Here’s What Google Recommends

If your business hasn’t permanently closed, and there are plans to eventually reopen, then Google recommends keeping your site online and limiting the functionality.

You can do this by marking items as out of stock or restricting the cart and checkout process.

Google recommends taking this approach because it minimizes any negative effects on a site’s presence in search results.

Here’s a full set of action items:

  • Disable the cart: This is the easiest way to pause business activity without any impact to a site’s visibility in search results.
  • Inform your customers: Make sure customers are aware of what’s going on with your business by displaying a banner with the appropriate information.
  • Update structured data: Adjust the structured data for things such as products, books, and events to reflect their current status (out of stock, cancelled, etc.)
  • Check your Merchant Center feed: If you use Merchant Center, follow the best practices for the availability attribute.
  • Inform Google: Use Search Console or sitemaps to ask Google to recrawl your pages and display the latest information.

Here’s What Google Does Not Recommend

Google explicitly does not recommend disabling your whole site.

“This is an extreme measure that should only be taken for a very short period of time (a few days at most), as it will otherwise have significant effects on the website in Search, even when implemented properly.”

Instead, limit your site’s functionality as this will ensure both Google and customers know your business is still around.

Customers may still want to browse and read about products they intend to buy later.

However, if you decide to go against Google’s recommendations and disable your site, here are some options:

  • Return an informational error page with a 503 HTTP result code if you need to urgently disable the site for 1-2 days.
  • Provide an indexable page as a placeholder if you need to disable the site for a period of time longer than 1-2 days.
  • If you quickly need to hide your site while you think about what to do next, you can temporarily remove it from search results using Search Console.

For further guidance, see Google’s blog post here.

FAQ

What if I only disable my site for a few weeks?

Disabling a site even for just a few weeks can have negative consequences on Google’s indexing of your site.

Can I just remove all non-essential products and services from my site?

Yes, that is fine.

Can I ask Google to crawl less during this time?

Yes, you can limit crawling with Search Console, though it may impact the freshness of your search results.

Can I block a specific region from accessing my site?

Google does not recommend that you block an entire region from temporarily accessing your site.

LinkedIn Suggests 4 Types of Posts to Share Amid COVID-19 Lockdowns

Matt Southern

As activity on LinkedIn ramps up during COVID-19 lockdowns, the company has published tips on what businesses should be posting.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a dramatic shift in the past month when it comes to the content people are interested in reading about on on LinkedIn.

In January and February, the top two hashtags on LinkedIn were #marketing and #leadership. So far in March, the top two hashtags are #coronavirus and #COVID-19.

The number of articles about coronavirus increased by 17-times on LinkedIn from February 1 and March 17.

So far, the biggest topics include advice on:

  • Remote working
  • Social distancing
  • Crisis management
  • Business continuity
  • Online learning
  • Collaboration
  • and more

Searches for “remote working” alone tripled on LinkedIn Learning in the month of March.

To keep up with this sudden shift in user interests, here’s what LinkedIn suggests posting about.

What to Post on LinkedIn During Lockdowns

Share Your Experiences

LinkedIn recommends sharing personal stories, as they can inspire and help others who are going through the same thing.

As an example, try composing a post by answering the question “what really helped me?”

In answering this question you can approach it like a conversation with a colleague or friend discussing what your new work day looks like.

Did you recently have a video call that would have otherwise been an in-person meeting? Share that experience along with insights you gained from it.

Conversely, you can create a post asking others to share their experiences.

Asking a question like “how do I boost team morale?” can encourage others to share their unique insights and contribute multiple points of view for others to learn from.

Discover & Comment On Relevant Conversations

LinkedIn recommends searching through hashtags to find information and conversations on topics that are interesting to you.

Going back to the video conferencing example, you can search #videoconference and comment on posts with your advice on how teams can have more efficient meetings.

Note that you can follow and join conversations for topics by searching for a hashtag and clicking the “follow” button.

Be Yourself

You don’t always have to post about work-related topics, LinkedIn says.

In fact, some of the most successful posts come from professionals who discuss topics such as:

  • Lessons learned in their personal lives
  • Showing appreciation for their team
  • Sharing words of encouragement
  • Spreading kindness
  • And so on

Above all, don’t overthink it, LinkedIn says:

“When posting on LinkedIn, don’t overthink it. The key is to be genuine, which makes you more approachable and better reflects who you really are.”

Share Your Thoughts on (Trusted) News Stories

Staying informed and sharing the latest news from trusted sources is another way to foster engagement and conversation with your LinkedIn community.

LinkedIn notes that its team of editors are working to surface trusted news featuring reliable updates from experts including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still Unsure?

If you’re still unsure of what to post about on LinkedIn during this time, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

“… if there’s a challenge you’re facing, you can rest assured that others are probably facing it as well. Better yet, there are also people out there who have overcome it, so don’t hesitate to ask your community for help if you need it.”

Sources: LinkedIn Official Blog, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog

FAQ

What should I post on LinkedIn during COVID-19 lockdowns?

Share your experiences, comment on conversations, give kudos to others, and share the latest news stories.

Are people posting about coronavirus on LinkedIn?

Yes. The number of articles about coronavirus increased 17X on LinkedIn from February to March.

Google SEO 101: Updating Your Google My Business Listing

Matt Southern

Google‘s latest ‘Search for Beginners’ video on YouTube is an introduction on how to use Google My Business.

This is actually the last video in the Search for Beginners series, though Google says it will continue to add new content to the Google Webmasters YouTube channel.

Given that the information in this video series is geared toward beginners, as the name suggests, what’s covered may already be known to experienced SEOs.

If you’re new to local SEO, or want to refresh your knowledge of Google My Business, here is a quick recap of the video.

Who is Google My Business For?

The video starts off with a brief introduction to Google My Business, which is a free tool that helps local businesses manage how they appear in search results and Google Maps.

Google My Business is only for businesses that serve customers at a physical location.

So businesses that strictly operate online cannot claim a Google My Business listing.

Service-area businesses are also eligible to claim a listing as long as they have a permanent location of some sort that is staffed during opening hours.

How is Google My Business Useful?

Google My Business helps people find your business through search results and Google Maps.

It can be used to maintain accurate information about a business in search and maps. It can also be used for engaging with customers and attracting new customers.

Google SEO 101: Updating Your Google My Business Listing

According to Google, businesses with a verified Google My Business listing are twice as likely to be consider reputable.

Editing Information in Google My Business

You can edit information that appears in Google My Business after claiming your listing.

Google My Business allows you to edit the following pieces of information:

  • Business name
  • Business category
  • Hours of operation
  • Phone number(s)
  • Website URL
  • Photos for your business
  • Opening date (applicable to new businesses that haven’t yet opened)
  • Physical address

Google SEO 101: Updating Your Google My Business Listing

Important Note
This video happened to come out at an awkward time, because the ability to edit Google My Business details is restricted at the moment.

All edits have to go through Google’s review team, which is currently limited due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

See: Google My Business Temporarily Removes Features Due to COVID-19

Eventually, things should return to normal as far as editing Google My Business listings goes.

See Google’s full video, as well as a complete transcript, below:

Let’s talk about how you can change your Google Maps information in search.

If you own a store, or a business with a physical address where you see customers, you can claim the listing on Google My Business.

Google My Business is a free tool that helps you manage how your local business appears on Maps or Search.

If your business serves customers at a particular location, or within a designated service area, Google My Business helps people find it.

Google My Business is useful for maintaining accurate information about your business in Google Search, for interacting with your customers, and for attracting new customers.

Verified businesses on Google My Business are twice as likely to be considered reputable by users.

It’s very important that you keep your business information up to date so that customers can find you.

Sign in to your Google My Business account to edit your business’s details. You will only have editing access if you have first verified your listing in Google My Business.

The details you can edit in your Google My Business are: your business name, your business category, your hours of operation, your phone numbers, your website URL, photos for your business, your opening date, and the address.

And that’s it. This video concludes the Search for Beginners series. However, there are many more videos coming up to the Google Webmasters YouTube channel.

FAQ

Who is Google My Business For?

Google My Business is only for businesses that serve customers at a physical location. So businesses that strictly operate online cannot claim a Google My Business listing.

How is Google My Business Useful?

Google My Business can be used to maintain accurate information about a business in search and maps. It can also be used for engaging with customers and attracting new customers.