Search marketers are volunteering services, support to help small businesses get through COVID-19
Consulting, web hosting, budget coaching — marketers are extending help to ease the strain on businesses.
“Small businesses often get squeezed and forgotten about, but are hugely important for the economy,” said Chris Green, head of marketing innovation at Footprint Digital, “and at a human level, knowing what to do at a time like this is tough.”
With the coronavirus outbreak shifting consumer behavior and severely impacting the day-to-day operations of businesses across the world, some digital marketers are going beyond their traditional roles and offerings to extend free, no-commitment services to businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Developing new strategies. “I am serving as a ‘matchmaker’ between small businesses who have been impacted by the coronavirus and digital marketers offering pro bono marketing services,” said Lily Ray, director of SEO at Path Interactive, adding that the idea came to her when she noticed there wasn’t a good way for people in need to connect with marketers volunteering their skills.
“[I’m] simply trying to help businesses survive this current crisis,” said Valerie DiCarlo of SEO Web Consulting. Independent marketers like DiCarlo and agency marketers, such as Geoff Jackson of Clubnet Digital, who began supporting local pubs and restaurants in the UK last week, have been extending free consulting services with the aim of helping businesses transition to or improve their online strategies.
Digital marketing consultant Pamela Lund, president and CEO of That Pam Chick, Inc., is offering free budget and business mindset coaching to SMBs.
Helping businesses stay online. Some SEOs are offering technical support that they hope will keep businesses online and potentially increase their visibility.
“Many small independent businesses lost all of their cash flow overnight,” said Dallas-based consultant Joe Youngblood, “while web hosting and management are not terribly expensive services their costs suddenly became burdensome to many.” In response, Youngblood has established Gain Local, a small business relief program offering free WordPress hosting and management as well as free Google My Business management.
Search professionals with specialized skill sets are finding creative ways to help: Shay Ohayon, owner of the Schema Mark App plugin, is providing Schema markup audits for impacted businesses and is hopes to make more business owners aware of what structured data can do for their organic visibility.
Plenty of helping hands. Are businesses taking them up on their offers?
“To be honest, business interest was a little slow,” said Footprint Digital’s Chris Green, who has set up Helping Small Biz Online to enable business owners to find his services, noting that “I still have roughly 5-10 volunteers for each business that comes to me, so it’s slow going.” Green’s sentiment was echoed by many of the marketers who spoke with Search Engine Land.
“We’ve had some interest for sure, but nothing too major,” said Geoff Jackson of Clubnet Digital, “I think the issue is getting in front of the businesses impacted that would be willing or need to consider something to tide them over.”
Open invitations. “This isn’t a business development thing and I’m not charging anything,” said Lund, echoing the sentiment of the other marketers offering their services gratis.
“I intend to keep this offer going as long as possible,” said Ohayon. Part of the fear regarding the pandemic comes from that no one knows how long it will last. As such, many of the marketers who spoke with us responded similarly to Ohayon, stating that they would continue for as long as they could or until there is no longer a need.
Driven to help. “Companies are legitimately concerned if they can survive the fallout from this,” said DiCarlo, “and frankly, we are all in that same canoe.” DiCarlo was not the only volunteer to express a sense of solidarity with those she is seeking to help.
“In 2001 when the dot-com bubble burst, I lost my job at a startup and spent eight months scraping by on unemployment in expensive Southern California,” said Lund. “Those experiences left me with a lot of money anxiety,” she added, explaining that one of her motivations was to help others feel less anxious about money during this time of crisis.
Others cited the search community’s response as what drove them to action: “I’ve been totally blown away by how supportive our community is — the time/effort people are willing to put into this (even though their circumstances aren’t brilliant at the moment) is amazing,” said Green, adding “the whole experience has been really affirming that way.”