Now that we’re late enough into the year, we’re starting to really see the big picture of 2020 and what it entails in trends throughout the business world. We want to break down the data of how COVID and the craziness of 2020 has impacted SEO. And how you can prepare for 2021 to set yourself up for success even if some of the uncertainty continues.

Who Searched in 2020

In 2020, Google Trends reported that the starches for SEO took an interesting journey. We detail it in our article here. We saw a very steep drop in traffic for those looking for SEO in early March, and it slowly climbed back throughout the rest of the year. 

However, Internet search traffic in general skyrocketed in 2020. Study after study shows that internet and streaming use jumped anywhere between 50-70% during the first half of 2020 as people stayed inside due to the initial threat of COVID. An article by the Wall Street Journal showed that broadband use soared in mid-March as we all got used to what we call “business unusual”. Business and classrooms moved online. Streaming services increased as people  juggled what to do when there was nothing else to do. 

The very nature of consumer search changed in 2020. We broke it down in an episode of Search Sessions with Yext earlier in the year. However, many of the trends continued. Searches for things in health, news, groceries, and everyday items jumped. However, in areas like luxury items (jewelry) or travel fell and have still yet to recover. That means many things considered “non-essential” have seen a steep decline in both paid and organic search traffic. We saw that reflected in many small businesses we service in these types of specific industries that people no longer searched for.

The overall picture for 2020 search looks very different depending on the industry. For SEO and digital marketing in general, we saw growth at the start of the year as people wanted to jump  start their business on a high note. We saw it drop in March and April. Then steadily grow through the end of the year. Once things stabilized and some business began to open up and grow again, those services that some cut off started to grow again. Things like digital marketing that some might consider disposable now became lifelines to help bring in customers once again. Those who continued with their campaigns throughout the pandemic and lockdown, or pivoted their business model to bring in traffic in other ways like e-commerce saw much better growth and fared better than those who just tried to weather the storm.


How COVID changed Business

We mentioned “business unusual” earlier in the post. Essentially it’s all the adaptations that business has needed to make in 2020 in order to just survive. At the very least, budgets got cut. At the maximum, businesses had to shut their doors, move online, or completely adapt their business model.

As we head into the busiest shopping time of the year, many still aren’t certain how the year will shake out. With climbing COVID cases throughout most of the world, will customers stay home? Will e-commerce win out? Can businesses make up lost revenue during this time where people are finally in a shopping mindset? Only time will tell with most of these questions, but it shows the continued uncertainty of the year.

COVID has forced two separate business revolutions, if you will. 

  • It spearheaded a focus on local business. 
  • It jump-started e-commerce for millions of businesses, pushing progress about five years into the future.

Focus on Local

Local business matters more than ever before. Both due to the fact that people want to help those in their communities that might be struggling. And due to the fact that most events and vacations got cancelled this year, people became much more familiar with their own area. They found their needs satisfied by businesses near them. People spent a lot more time at home this year, so it matters that they can  get their needs met by those also close to home. 

Local business optimizations matters more than ever before. That’s local SEO, business directories, map packs, and more. People searching locally means getting found locally is crucial. And we’re not just seeing this in the United States. This local focus has grown internationally. Nearly everyone in the world has been affected by COVID, and it’s reflected in local search trends. Getting found is so much more than SEO. It’s making sure you have a Google My Business profile and that it’s updated regularly. It can be getting listed on other key directories that matter to your industry like Yelp or Thumbtack. It’s also getting involved in your community and helping to build your brand authority. All marketing practices help into building your all-important local presence.

E-commerce Kickstart

Mostly influenced by a hesitancy to leave the house, especially at the beginning of COVID, consumers went online. Like we mentioned earlier, internet use spiked during 2020. And it wasn’t just because of work and school from home. People started to shop and get what they needed through the internet as well. Many businesses that had to shut their doors suddenly needed to find a way to continue making money, so they shifted online. We featured one business, Majestic Meat, that never before sold anything online before COVID. They had to lay off workers and considered closing their door forever. Until one weekend, they built a website, and started to sell their product online. Within a few days, they had to hire their employees back and started to ramp up production to higher than ever before. Read the full case study here

This is just one success story of thousands we learned of during 2020. Businesses that never before had an e-commerce presence had to pivot their strategy and suddenly make themselves available online even to survive. And even as the economy reopened and routines somewhat normalized, most consumers continued to search online. Even if they could go into the store, consumer behavior changed. And there’s no sign that it will be going back. People want to search online. And businesses need to take that into account as they plan out their SEO and 2021 plans.


Why you need SEO especially in 2021

2020 brought a whirlwind of change for every individual around the world due to COVID-19. While most individuals feel alone or distant from others, technology has given individuals the outlet to grow closer to resources near or available to them. With search engines providing individuals with more updated search results, SEO has become more important for businesses to have in 2021 more than ever. SEO has no longer become a nice addition to add to your businesses marketing strategy. It has become more of a way for consumers to gather information, research, and shop in 2020. In 2021, there are more valuable reasons as to why your business needs SEO now more than ever.

While no one knows what 2021 will bring to SEO, there are ways to help prepare for what’s to come. Here a list of things that are important to prepare for your business’ SEO strategy in 2021:

Get Into Local SEO

If you want your users to know your business exists, it’s important for your business to adapt to an individual’s ongoing needs. Especially to local community members within your businesses area. 46% of all Google searches feature a local intent. Let your customers know where they can find your business and the variety of options available to them.

Voice Search

When we’re on the go, not able to use our hands, or just lazy, voice commands help give an ease of accessibility. 27% of the global online population is using voice search on mobile. In fact, it’s projected that the percentage of households predicted to own a smart speaker by 2022 is 55%. For SEO, it’s important to consider the keywords people may use through voice commands rather than typing out their search results. 

Video Marketing

Now that more individuals spend more time on their phones, certain ways of viewing content have become more popular than others. Videos capture people’s attention and can be one of the easiest ways of explaining a topic faster and easier than an image. 54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support. Adding a social media strategy to your SEO plan may be something to look out for in 2021.

High Quality Content

For SEO quality tends to matter more than quantity in content writing. The better content you create the more people will keep coming back to read what you have to say. For your articles to be higher quality in content, don’t focus on short content with lots of keywords. Having a natural way of writing with the right amount of keywords brings your content the most success. When you have higher quality content, more individuals and influencers are likely to share and promote your brand.


Why SEO Matters

COVID-19 has carried on longer than anyone had originally expected or hoped. While there may be declines in search traffic, due to events such as COVID-19, there are many reasons why your business should still be interested in using SEO in your marketing strategy.

Importance of SEO Strategies

When it comes to SEO, it’s important to remember that COVID will not always be the topic of search discussion. While it is still a major topic, and an alarming concern, in the future it will not be the focus of search results. The customers you currently attract through organic traffic can be your greatest tool in learning more about your SEO audience. The visitors your business currently receives are likely to be highly qualified and seeking for your products and services directly. Learning more about viewer’s search patterns and interests can help improve the direction of your business goals and strategies.

In a track meet, while most people would prefer SEO to participate in the sprint relay, SEO is more likely to succeed in the long relay such as a marathon. SEO takes time and improves more when you put in the input, effort, and work. COVID gives individuals the time and opportunity to focus on what needs to be done to improve their SEO strategy over time. It may be hard to know when the right time is to start implementing an SEO strategy for your business. With search engines becoming more common in today’s age with COVID, it will only become more normal and useful to individuals as time goes on. Having an SEO strategy or plan is more important than ever to get started.

Importance of Content Within SEO

Having up to date content keeps your readers interested and intrigued with the trends and topics currently popular. Especially with COVID, your customers will want up to date information. While it’s important to stay current, also seek for evergreen posting topics that bring relatability and insight within your industry and stay relevant for longer periods of time. Having timeless and easily relevant content within your niche helps to improve your SEO strategy and rankings over time. Especially through unexpected times such as COVID-19. By implementing this strategy, your content will never feel out of place or irrelevant to your consumers. Read here about SEO friendly content resources your business can create.

Small Business SEO

COVID-19 has closed and limited individuals to choosing where they can and would like to go. From travel restrictions, forced lockdowns, to staying 6-feet apart from one another, COVID has been an adjustment for everyone. When COVID-19 forced businesses to close or shut down for some time, it made individuals grow to support smaller businesses. Consumers are more likely to search for smaller businesses over bigger brands to help support small business owners. When a small business doesn’t have an online presence, there’s no outlet for a consumer to find or interact with the small business.

Local SEO gives businesses the opportunity to showcase their available services in times where frequent choices to common resources are limited to individuals. Local SEO tactics such as using “near me” or “open now” give individuals the advantage of using your services and products. When a small business doesn’t give accessibility to their products or services, they’re more likely to miss out on potential customers. Local search is a very important factor for your business to have during COVID. 

SEO is important for small businesses to use to help stand out amongst its competitors. Without reviews, content, or updated information for your SEO to improve, you’re just another website in your industry’s list. Building trust and reliability through SEO gives consumers a valuable reason to keep coming back to your website. As a bonus, SEO is the most cost effective option your business could choose from.


There are countless SEO strategies that will always continue to change over time. Some will continue to hold significance, while others will fade over time. With the slower pacing of COVID-19 and financial burdens 2020 has brought, SEO can prove to help your business become more visible and credible to those who need and search for your business the most.

Going into the new year, make SEO a marketing priority in your business strategy. If you think your business needs help with it’s SEO strategy, visit Boostability’s SEO services to see how we can help your business grow in 2021.


Jared is the co-founder and CTO of Boostability.