What SEO agencies can do while marketing budgets shrink during COVID-19


In these strange times, many of us are now spending most of our time at home. This has meant that consumption patterns have changed dramatically, with significant impacts on businesses.


For many businesses, revenue is down, patronage is down, and even online organic traffic is down (unless you’re selling toilet paper).

Understandably, businesses are looking to cut costs wherever they can, and their marketing budgets are in the firing line.

So what should SEO agencies do to navigate these stormy waters?

Here are our top 3 strategies for staying above water and building strong client relationships during COVID-19, so that your SEO agency can emerge out the other side even stronger.

Reassess costs

Assess all business costs and decide what are must-haves for you to continue to service your clients:


  • Costs that are not delivering value right now should be cut or minimised, to ensure that you have as much headroom as possible to keep staff salaries secure.
  • Assess your finances and come up with a contingency plan – what will a 25% or 50% drop in revenue mean for your agency. What actions need to be taken now to make sure that you have sufficient financial reserves to push through a recession?
  • Reach out to your suppliers and renegotiate terms – you may find that suppliers will offer value-adds or longer credit terms.
  • Assess your tools, do you need them all? Consider trading subscription tools for free ones to save money.

Focus on adding value

Your clients will also be closely reassessing their costs, and questioning if they need SEO now, or whether to invest in marketing at all. For some clients, the answer might honestly be no. But for those clients who will benefit from a shift in SEO strategy, agencies need to support them to build a crisis marketing plan that:

  • Assesses strategic changes in their industry.
  • Evaluate new opportunities that could help clients to pivot their business model (e.g. cleaning products instead of make-up).
  • Sets out customised and personalised strategies that will help clients to get more bang for each marketing buck.

Instead of dropping prices, offer to add more value than ever for existing or potential customers – such as free hours for website audits, some free on-page SEO optimisation, competitor audits and so on.

Most importantly, manage your client portfolio efficiently – make sure that your team is working as efficiently as possible. Remember that your clients need you now more than ever, as you are a business partner who can help them get through these difficult times.


Build stronger client relationships

There’s nothing like going through tough times to bring people together. By demonstrating value to clients, and building stronger relationships through the downturn, SEO agencies can build client loyalty that will pay dividends in the future. To build trust and loyalty:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – set up phone calls and video calls to keep your clients in the loop about campaign progress.
  • Explain any changes to your work processes and how you’re ensuring quality and productivity for your client’s projects and campaigns.
  • Focus on how you can get their business through this and demonstrate how you can assist.
  • Be honest and give them advice that truly serves their interests right now.
  • Demonstrate your value by sharing your deep knowledge and expertise, whether it’s recession psychology or a pivot in marketing campaigns to suit the current times.

Above all, be proactive and act like a business partner who’s focused on supporting the client.

Lead with empathy

Finally, lead with empathy, for both staff and clients.

This is the time to show staff that you genuinely care for their wellbeing. This could involve being more flexible with work hours; acknowledging people’s differing family and caring responsibilities, or making sure that staff have ergonomic work stations set up at home. Above all, communication is key. It’s better to err on the side of over-communication. Schedule regular team catch-ups, as well as individual check-ins to make sure that staff are managing their workloads, and feel supported to achieve their goals. Make sure that staff are kept in the loop on business decisions, to minimise insecurities. Keeping up team morale will do wonders for staff productivity and loyalty.

For customers, empathy means dropping the hard sales approach and showing customers (and potential customers) that you are here to support them.

By making the most of the challenges that COVID-19 is throwing at us, SEO agencies can learn and grow through adversity. 

To share your tips for what SEO agencies should do to manage the downturn, contact us here.


Author: Jessica Williams

Author: Jessica Williams

Founder & Director - Phoenix Agency

Jess Williams is the Founder and Director of Phoenix Agency, an SEO agency that has enjoyed great success in helping clients achieve incredible results.

With over a decade of experience in the SEO and digital marketing space, she has helped advance some of Australia's most well-respected brands and fastest-growing companies.

 With the successful results of her clients as a driving force, Jess and the Phoenix team make it a priority to transform your website into a sales powerhouse while completely empowering and educating you along the way.