Our special guest for Episode 349 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast guest Jon Henshaw, founder of Coywolf, a site that publishes webmaster resources and digital marketing insights about SEO, social, content, productivity, and entrepreneurship. Host Erin Sparks spoke with Jon about what digital marketers should be doing to help their clients in this time of crisis. Here’s what we learned:
Jon Henshaw: His Background and Experience
Jon Henshaw is the founder of Coywolf, and of course everyone always wants to know why he gave this name to the company. A coywolf is actually a type of coyote descended from previous cross-breeding between coyotes and wolves. They represent a combination of the best of both species, with the result that they are very intelligent and extremely adaptable to all kinds of environments, including suburbia! Before Coywolf, Jon was founder of the very successful Raven tools for SEO and internet marketing, which he sold several years ago. Everyone still raves about Raven! But Coywolf is really a big side-hustle for him because his main gig is doing SEO for a major broadcast media company that shall remain nameless… But Jon’s goal as an SEO is to get content to rank organically, meaning not paid. So what you see after the ads on a SERP are the organic rankings. His goal is often to get a piece to organically rank in the number one, two, or three position out of millions of pages of content. It’s challenge he loves, especially the tinkering and experimenting to see what works in the ever-changing search engine landscape.
How SEO has Changed in Recent Years
SEO has changed in that Jon sees it as now overlapping with most other digital marketing practices. There’s hardly any part of digital marketing that SEO doesn’t touch. It’s relevant to every kind of marketing a company does, digital or otherwise. In the last five years, companies have been figuring that out and they’ve been including SEO into most of the decision-making processes. If you look at the most successful online publishers that are out there, the reason why they’re doing so well is because they’ve incorporated SEO into their process because somebody who is really good at search engine optimization is also a strategist. They are someone who understands all the different channels and how, if you approach them in certain ways, then you can win a lot bigger than just having a good paid ad. You can make that content rank for free. And if you do, then you can get a lot of traffic and significant increase in your revenue.
What is the Role of Marketing in a Time of Crisis?
Jon has thoughts on this, which he is quick to preface with the caveat that we are all in completely uncharted territory with this coronavirus pandemic and have no idea how it’s all going to play out. And whatever recommendations people make about your marketing efforts may or may not match up to the resources you have available in a mostly shut-down economy.
There are a lot of things you can do right and a lot of things you can do wrong. It’s not too difficult to tell the companies who are trying to keep their brand alive but are making the wrong moves, saying the wrong things, making missteps in their messaging by being tone deaf. And then there are brands doing nothing at all who should be doing something. It’s a tough balance to strike in the midst of all this because your brand might send out the right and appropriate messaging about the pandemic and yet some consumers will still lump them into a negative category because they’re sick of hearing about coronavirus and COVID even thought it was appropriate messaging that they should be doing. And you can’t control or predict how the consumer will react. It’s a sticky situation and impossible to tell what’s the right thing to do.
What makes the most sense for a brand trying to maintain visibility with their customers would be messaging around how the company is trying to help—how they’re helping their own people, how they’re helping their community and, if relevant, this how we’re helping you as a customer or potential customer. So smart marketing right now would be waiving fees to access your platform (if you can afford it). Let people use it for free and when the pandemic is over and they leave, that’s fine. But if they leave with a good impression, they might come back, and you’ve captured their email. And for existing customers it will increase brand loyalty, especially if they’re in danger of leaving because of financial duress. It’s a win-win if you can afford to do it.
It’s also just the plain fact of the matter that some companies aren’t going to survive. Others may scrape through but really can’t invest in marketing during the crisis. This creates opportunities for companies who can stay in the game to pick up customers from those other companies. Not in an evil, predatory, vulture kind of way, but just picking up slack that’s there. This can get pretty tricky ethically, so you’d want to be careful. But with the costs of paid media and PPC coming way down, this could be a good strategy if you do it without being a jerk about it.
If you’re a digital marketer scratching your head about what you should be doing, conduct some research. Spend some time online not as a marketer but just as a human being and consumer and see what others are doing and how it affects you. You have to figure out how what you attempt to do will hit people. Come up with an idea and test it and see how it goes. Another thing to realize is that with consumers having so much time at home, they have more time than they would usually take in making a purchase decision, so take advantage of that and do those comparison pieces that show why your company is better than your competitor and really make the case. People have time to consider more information.
Connect with Jon Henshaw and Coywolf
Twitter: @henshaw (https://twitter.com/henshaw)
Mastodon: @Jon (https://henshaw.social/@jon)
Coywolf blog: https://coywolf.blog
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