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Tracking SEO Performance in a Post-Pandemic World As Habits Get Back To Normal

To say the least, 2020 was an unprecedented year.

While the pandemic brought on considerable challenges for many businesses, for others it created new opportunities.

With more people shopping online than ever before, many eCommerce businesses (and nearly all of our clients!) saw their revenue skyrocket. According to Econsultancy, global eCommerce sales rose to $26.7 trillion in 2020 – an unprecedented milestone. As online sales soared, many began to accept these levels of growth as the “new normal.”

But now that we find ourselves in a post-pandemic world, many are seeing their explosive sales from 2020 leveling off as people can once again shop in stores and are happy to get out of their house. It leaves some of us questioning what we should be seeing with year-over-year growth. Sound familiar?

In this article we’ll arm you with some helpful information to 1.) better track and understand your SEO performance, and 2.) sleep better at night.


Want to listen to this story? OuterBox's CEO, Justin Smith & President, Jason Dutt review on the Search Authority Podcast


What To Do If Your YoY Metrics Are Down

1) Stay Calm and Look at The Situation

As a marketer or business leader, it’s only natural to ask questions as you start to see decreasing revenue and traffic metrics year-over-year. Remember that 2020 was an anomaly. For many businesses who saw a boom, it was a gift. And one to be very thankful for in a year that many other businesses struggled. Just because your KPIs are down YoY, it doesn’t mean that your SEO strategy isn’t working. It just means you have to level-set your expectations and recalibrate now that we are operating in a post-pandemic world.


2) Focus on Your Keyword Rankings

While hard-hitting metrics like revenue and website traffic will always be critical, your keyword rankings are more indicative of your actual performance RIGHT NOW, given the current climate, as opposed to revenue and even traffic. Because SEO is a strategy designed to support long-term growth (think of a stock chart), using your keyword rankings as a benchmark to track your overall performance is more informative when looking at YoY results. Remember, more people were searching that same keywords last year this time, so even if you have better rankings now, you may have less traffic.

The goal is to capture as much of the market share that exists at any time. And right now, because of lower search volumes, the market share is smaller than last year.

And consider this – if you didn’t rank high in search, sales would be down at an even greater percentage YoY.


3) Compare 2021 Results to 2019, NOT 2020

Since 2020 was such an unprecedented year (we said it again!), we find that it’s more relevant to compare your revenue in 2021 to 2019. By looking back at a pre-pandemic time period, you’ll be able to establish a more relevant baseline for comparison purposes.

As an example, below we’ve pulled some sample data from a client. When we look at their revenue from May, we see that YoY revenue is down 26% from 2020. When we look at May 2021 compared to May 2019, however, we see that revenue is up 57%.

Revenue down 26% when comparing 2021 to 2020

SEO Results

Revenue up 57% when comparing 2021 to 2019.

By adjusting the lens of how we’re looking at our KPIs, we’re able to make more relevant comparisons to better inform our strategies going forward.


4) Paid Search Costs Are Rising

With more and more businesses jumping into eCommerce and online advertising, cost per click prices are rising YoY, making rankings organically more important than ever. In fact, paid search prices have been on the rise for the last 10 years and show no signs of stopping. The strategy of supplementing organic traffic with paid traffic (at least long term) is one that will prove to be very costly and considerably lower your profit margin.

CPC Statistics

In many industries the CPC (cost-per-click) has almost doubled when comparing YoY numbers.


5) Keep Pushing Forward - More Changes Are Coming!

Google rewards websites and businesses for continually optimizing their website, providing a better user experience, new content and staying up to date with algorithm changes. We already know Google has plans to rollout major algorithm changes this summer, so it’s important to have an experienced agency by your side.

Remember, trying to get your rankings back once they fall is much more difficult, expensive, and time consuming than maintaining rankings and increasing rankings from your current positions.

As mentioned above, more and more businesses are getting into eCommerce and online marketing, meaning not only has paid search become more competitive (driving up the CPC), but SEO has become more competitive, too. At OuterBox, we’ve received DOUBLE the requests for new SEO clients in 2021 compared to 2020. Right now SEO is more competitive than its even been and your SEO campaign should reflect that, being as aggressive as possible to grab all the market share you can get!

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