How brands can utilise SEO to withstand 2023

Lowering the price of your product or service may seem like the best move in a recession, but brands can instead harness their search data insights to boost value and stay connected with changing customer needs.

In this piece Chris Pitt, Managing Director at Vertical Leap, discusses how and why brands must be present and patient. This is the way brands can weather any kind of storm.

2023 will be full of economic challenges including the cost-of-living crisis, the war in Ukraine and the continued effects of Covid. Often the response for brands is to race to drop the price of their product, or to make cutbacks - and that usually includes marketing. It then becomes a matter of which part of the budget to cut; and since brands already overlook and underinvest in the power of search, it puts that allocation at risk.

But to skimp on search marketing is to miss the huge opportunities it presents to brands. As consumer expectations change, how can marketers utilise SEO to withstand the next 12 months?

Recognise search’s broad benefits

Search provides the chance to measure, predict and respond to consumer behaviours and needs. It therefore has the unique power to provide brands with insights, feedback and requirements from customers. It’s practically a real-time gauge of shifting market sentiment.

We’ve seen the likes of Google harness search to reveal trends emerging since the cost-of-living crisis began. Cheap holidays, second-hand clothes and low-priced restaurants are all in demand. With cutting-edge analytics, brands can turn these insights into immediate actions to rapidly adapt to consumer demand.

Crucially, search also allows marketers to understand and reflect consumer values and expectations. Society is constantly evolving; yesterday we wanted organic meat, now we want plant-based alternatives.

The rise in popularity of sustainable products is a great example of why brands must prioritise SEO. Numerous big brands are overlooking this audience because they haven’t yet understood the shift in many consumers’ values and expectations. When consumers search for sustainable clothing brands, boutique brands are the ones shown to operate in this space by appearing first - and gain market share.

Reframe the value of search

Brands are striving to glean insight into a turbulent financial picture. For example, retailers including Tesco and M&S beat sales expectations in recent results announcements. This shows consumers are still spending but it’s hard for brands to identify who has money and who hasn’t.

Search can help. Understanding how consumers are paying for products and services, along with what they really care about, is paramount. Brands across all sectors from travel to hospitality need to use search to navigate and understand the further upheaval 2023 will bring.

But search marketing must be viewed as vital throughout the whole funnel, not just the lower end of it. Seeing search through this lens acknowledges the wider opportunity: it is so much more than just a way to measure last-click brand activity.

It’s actually a key opportunity for brands to be present for the consumer in all the ways they need and desire. Messy, unpredictable, consumer journeys have made marketing strategy more challenging - but this just increases the need for maximum visibility. Brands must be present and boost awareness, so they appear in non-brand search results, too. Then they can be discoverable in the long tail, mopping up behaviour-driven as well as demand-led search.

It’s not enough just to be known: brands must be seen.

Witness the snowball effect

SEO success takes time, effort and resource to work and is often put to one side in favour of other channels. Search can appear at the beginning to be making little impact. Be patient. Allow momentum to gather and the tiny snowball will turn into a search avalanche.

Once it’s picked up pace, it’s very hard for consumers to ignore and brands will be rewarded with clear results. As proven in the pandemic, businesses such as KFC and P&O Cruises, which continued to invest in SEO, fared better than others that didn’t.

Get search right, and the snowball keeps rolling even in the furnace of financial trouble.

By Chris Pitt

Managing Director

Vertical Leap