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COVID-19 is driving customers online, placing fresh emphasis on brands’ online channels. Here’s how to adapt your digital presence for the current situation – and beyond.

Internet users worldwide are predicted to spend 1.25 billion years online in 2020. At least they were, before the coronavirus lockdown started.

In China, time spent online has increased by 30% since the start of the crisis. In Italy, it’s 11%. Further increases are likely as global restrictions continue.

With shops and offices closed, businesses have been forced to adapt to the new digital way of life. Because global consumers are clear: they want brands to play their part in tackling the crisis. Only 8% want advertising to stop, but 75% say they want brands to keep them informed.

To communicate effectively with your customers during this period, you’ll need to adapt your digital presence. Here are the key considerations for reviewing your digital presence:


For many brands, your website will be the most important online asset. Customers will use it to find out how you’re tackling the crisis – don’t rely solely on email or social.

A few weeks into lockdown, most brands have already made changes. These include updates to available services, deliveries and returns policies. Where possible, they’re building in e-commerce functionality. And they’re highlighting health precautions to help customers feel comfortable ordering online.

After an initial flurry of COVID-19 messaging, it might be tempting to tick this off the list. But new research shows that 47% of global consumers want brands to go further, e.g. by supporting hospitals through donations of money or equipment.

Concerns vary by market, too. For example, 90% of Germans expect brands to protect their employees and supply chain. Whatever your contributions, make sure you’re communicating them. Your community wants to know.

Brands are also using their websites to entertain and inform audiences. Nike’s created a page to support their Play Inside campaign and engage customers. This includes useful articles for customers, an invitation to compete in the “Living Room Cup” and links to relevant products. Offering free courses is another popular tactic – and of course, removing content that’s out of step with the current times.



Search engines are an important part of your customer’s journey. Ranking in first place on a Google results page will earn you around a third of clicks. Once you drop onto page two, it’s just 1%.

Recognizing this, Google’s released a swathe of new features and recommendations to help businesses keep customers informed during the coronavirus period. It’s worth taking advantage of these, as well as updating your title tags and meta descriptions to reflect changes to your business.

86% of UK marketers are pausing or reviewing their marketing campaigns. Marketers around the world are facing the same situation. This unexpected downtime could be a good opportunity to review the (often overlooked) technical elements of your SEO strategy. As it can take several months for SEO efforts to bear fruit, it could put you in a stronger position once the crisis has passed.

An SEO audit is a good place to start. This will help you boost your organic rankings by identifying technical and on-page factors that are holding you back. Fixing technical issues (like missing hreflang tags) makes your site easier for Google to index, and your content easier to find. And correcting on-SERP factors like missing meta descriptions eases your customer’s journey to the site.

For international websites, simply translating keywords is a false economy. International keyword research is a much better investment, because it digs deep into user intent to target your audience more effectively. For practical examples, read our explainer blog here.

International SEO is a medium-term investment in your site. It won’t bring in sales overnight. But building (or strengthening) your foundation now will ensure your brand voice is heard as the crisis continues – and beyond.



As SEO takes time to bear fruit, it’s tempting to turn to PPC as a quick fix for getting your digital presence off the ground. But there’s a catch.

PPC ad volume is down by over 50%. This may present an opportunity to quickly bring in leads at below-average cost, although the devil’s in the data. Competition for high-demand keywords (like “bread maker”) remains high, while Google’s restricted ads around outbreak-related keywords. You’ll need to look carefully to find opportunity.

Taking a more long-term view, some marketers are also using PPC to build (or maintain) customer awareness. This means that when restrictions ease, they won’t be starting to fill their upper sales funnel from scratch.

However you approach PPC in your markets, remember to review and update your ads so they’re in line with changes to your services and tone. And make full use of ad extensions to maximize the amount of copy at your disposal.



People are spending more time online, and this of course includes social media. But it’s not business as usual – their behaviour is rapidly changing. Here are some of the main trends around the world.


Video has been an online juggernaut for several years. The coronavirus crisis has further accelerated the trend.

In February, YouTube usage soared across several of the worst-affected countries. Italy saw 20x growth in the volume of content watched. Germany ranked second, with 11x growth over the same period. Live-streaming increased by 37% in China during their coronavirus outbreak.

However, this figure varies greatly by generation. Millennials and Gen Z are most likely to turn to video. And even without professional production studios, creating video content is important to younger audiences – 18-29% upload their own material.


Unsurprisingly, people of all ages are consuming more news content. For Gen X and baby boomers, 72% are tuning in to coverage more regularly.

There’s a growing demand for social media content to be fact-checked too. Around two-thirds of users would like social media companies to do more here, with demand highest from WeChat users. Stay ahead of the curve by attributing factual information and safety messages to the proper sources.


Social media ads now feature 27% fewer images that show social interaction. Instead, running water and washing hands dominate. For international audiences, consider that hygiene advice varies. For example, wearing face masks is more widespread in some markets than others.

A good social media strategy moves your relationships with your customers forward. It gives you crucial feedback you might not otherwise hear. This means a post-and-ghost approach isn’t wise. Invest in community management and talk to your audience. Prioritize engagement over sales and show your customers you’re here to help.



The global picture continues to shift rapidly. Adapting your digital presence will help you realize short-term wins and set yourself up for long-term success. It’ll also allow you to stay connected to your customers and refine your strategy as things progress.

Which resources do you need to keep your global business moving? Which challenges are you facing in communicating with your international markets? We’d love to hear from you – and we’ll aim to answer your questions in an upcoming post. In the meantime, we’re here to help.

Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash