Besides the obvious effects the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the everyday lives of everyday people and big industries, such as travel and hospitality, it’s sometimes easy to forget how drastically and harshly different sectors within marketing have had to adapt to the ‘new normal’. The behind-the-scenes SEO industry, for example, has had to become a hybrid machine of this brave new world of pandemic-driven user activity and behaviour, while still maintaining the same levels of interaction and familiarity across user bases.
Senior SEO Consultant Franco Lucchetti discussed this with us, and the challenges found in having to adapt his everyday way of working to suit this new level of online activity, brought about by numerous worldwide lockdowns over the past year. Marketing and the world of search are, by nature, pretty volatile environments themselves, and are used to ‘normal’ being redefined by new search cultures and demographic behaviours quite regularly. However, not even these active industries could have predicted what 2020 would represent to those who had to adapt to survive.
ICS: What have been the biggest challenges for you/your company in 2020?
FL: As SEOs, we constantly face many challenges, especially if we manage the whole SEO process for big firms. But there were two main challenges last year; the first one was the second Core Update that Google announced in May 2020 (The second highest after the Medic one).
Do you remember the Medic update? For those of you that, like me, do SEO for a finance or medical website it was a big one.
So, we had to review our strategy that was in place at the time, and change it very quickly to maintain the levels of engagement we were currently seeing. As you know, you can only work backwards when an algorithm changes.
The second one, was, of course, the Pandemic itself, that hit some industries very hard, like travel.
When something happens like this, especially if you can’t refer to something similar that has already happened, foreseeing the future can become tricky. What you can do is just look at the short term without losing sight of the bigger picture.
ICS: What has been the greatest opportunity for you/your company in 2020?
FL: Opportunities always come from challenges and from something that you didn’t consider and foresee.
It is often the flip side of your current situation. Because they push you to think differently and implement something in your professional strategy or in your life that you didn’t have in mind in the first instance.
But this is good. Because it improves your own self and, even if it pushes you outside of your comfort zone, it forces you to explore new ways of thinking, and to explore new opportunities or new roads that you might have not considered taking beforehand.
For me, the greatest opportunity came from challenging myself to take a different approach to working, and to study new ways of searching that users are now performing post-pandemic.
Because this has and will change the world further, and user intent changes based on what they have experienced.
For the companies I was looking after, the aim was to challenge and improve the SEO strategy as a reaction to the pandemic, and all it has affected regarding user behaviour. In a way, I think that this is a great opportunity for all of us that work in Digital.
We, as SEOs, help users to quench their thirst for information by directly providing them with the content they want to consume.
Our job is to also help companies who sell and produce this content to reach the right users at the right time. I think the greatest opportunity the pandemic brought was to adapt our thinking to the new reality, and subsequently shape our strategy for decades to come.
ICS: What changes has your industry experienced that you feel will carry on/accelerate in 2021?
FL: Users have started to realise and react to the fact that the times we are currently experiencing will have a big impact on their life for years to come. Companies have realised its potential to produce new customers and behaviour based on this new normality.
And this it is even more clear in the digital industry. It will bring huge acceleration towards consuming and experiencing products and content online, purchasing even more online and e-commerce websites, with retail illustrating the majority of acceleration.
New fields and industries will become more essential, and new industries will continue to be born in the future.
One of the industries I work in, travel, based on what has been experienced globally lately, will definitely benefit from this new user behaviour when they look or book for a vacation around the globe. New questions will be asked, and we have to intercept those signals.
ICS: What skills do you think you'll be using most in 2021?
FL: Data Analysis, Big Data, Machine Learning, and utilising more statistical models to predict customer behaviour.
Basically, an analytical mindset will be one of the key things. UX and SEO will be more important, and we’ll need to work with them closely to provide the best experience possible to users that visit a website.
ICS: For those new to digital marketing in your industry, what are the key skills they should work on acquiring? What are the best tools/sources of experience?
FL: Understand data, study predictive modelling and statistic methods to predict the best outcome possible, and use this new insight for your strategy.
This for anyone who works and/or wants to start a new path in Digital.
Also, study how Google changes quickly (If you work in SEO) based on user behaviour. And, if you work in more technical SEO, improve your skills by implementing new technologies among your skills.
ICS: What are your tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
FL: Take breaks from the screen and from your work periodically. Choose a day/s or time of the day you want to do other things aside from work, like sports, and do it. It helps you to focus when you get back to work. Live your free time fully.
ICS: What's the best advice you received in your career so far?
FL: Follow your passions. If you want to do something or change something in your job, do it. Be confident about yourself and what you have learned.
I would also add, for those of you who work in SEO, follow your intuitions, don’t be trapped by dogma, or other people’s opinions. There is no guru in this field, just your ability and willingness to learn and try new things.
Taking advice from an experienced professional in the SEO industry is about as valuable and vital a gem you could take when adapting your business to the new online world. Although, it’s clear that Franco believes that you should perhaps be more reliant of yourself and your own knowledge, in order to get your business through the pandemic peaks and troughs.
Recognise. Adapt. Learn. Repeat. Franco recognises that Covid-19 presented, and continues to present, the industry with some never-before-seen circumstances and challenges. However, the knowledge gained from tactically overcoming these issues culminates into skills that can be utilised to maintain and propel a business for years to come. If you're looking for SEO advice, check out our services to see how we can help!