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Overcome the Coronavirus Crisis in SEO Agency and Keep Your Team Busy

With the virus situation happening around the world, we are facing the biggest economic crisis in Internet marketing history.

The majority of companies were affected and reported a decline in their revenue and the number of clients. Unfortunately, SEO agencies, freelancers, and copywriters aren't an exception.

For many SEO teams, it's time for hard decisions, restructuring, and adopting new processes. Just like many other businesses out there, we were thinking about how we can improve the situation for our clients and those who need it most.

Even now, people want to read valuable content. That's why all our clients get 10 additional NLP credits for 2 months to make their content more visible in Google. 

We're also kicking off a directory that lists SEO copywriters ready to deliver great content. (If you're a copywriter and you want a new source of clients, sign up and get listed here.)

The coronavirus ricochet

(Too) many businesses lost their income sources and will report a loss in the upcoming months. If they manage to get through the purge. Clients operating in industries related to tourism, events, food, commutes, entertainment, and many more are on this unfortunate list.

Those who had a little bit more luck lost "just" a chunk of revenue and are facing a spectrum of dismissing employees.

The thing is, you shouldn't agree on failure because people around are suffering. Do your employees and clients who rely on you a favor and make sure you stay in business.

How to minimize the virus' impact on your SEO services?

The most affected industries are predominantly lucrative SEO and Google Ads customers. That's why most agencies are losing the most prominent clients.

According to the research from JP Morgan from 2016, "half of all small businesses hold a cash buffer large enough to support 27 days of their typical outflows." Taking into consideration what's happening now, that's genuinely terrifying.

Within-industry variation in cash buffer days

Fewer clients usually effects in less job to handle by the same team, hence there are a few options to overcome the spare time problem:

  • utilize emerged resources by creating more content,
  • acquire new customers from less affected branches,
  • layoff some of the employees,

It's difficult to say which option is best, but even in the time of crisis, getting rid of committed teammates should be the last resort. 

The fulfillment of time slots by content creation

Tasks around Search Engine Optimization can be divided into two groups: link building and on-page optimization activities.

While acquiring backlinks is usually costly in terms of money, optimization, and content creation tasks require a time investment.

Link building

The links acquisition process usually requires significant financial resources. It doesn't necessarily mean paying for backlinks directly, but even white hat techniques require some funds.

When you look at activities around backlinks acquisition, you will find:

  • guest posting that requires time-consuming relationships building,
  • conducting some kind of studies and research to guarantee content uniqueness
  • Creating elaborated content associated with sophisticated topics.

In a typical scenario mentioned activities work when done rightly. Currently, we are facing unusual circumstances, in which all link building techniques seem to be less effective.

The other option requires to use black hat methods, and that one entails the direct payment for getting the link. Spending the client's budget on expensive processes decreases your agency's profit margin.

Optimization and content creation

Content creation is often a high cost if your agency outsources them to some third parties.

But if you choose to keep it internally and assign your SEO specialists to content instead of link building, you can save some money here. That would keep your team busy and increase the profit margin for those services.

Here's a short guide how to build content in the most SEO-friendly way:

The question is: what if your current clients are not interested in content?

First of all, you need to understand that it is okay to sell.

Look into your clients' portfolio. You will get a sense of what type of companies are still doing well. Be creative in creating a low budget or no-budget campaigns to attract clients from particular industries.

Maybe it's time to pivot your affiliate strategy? Or to create or buy services related to less affected niches?

Go to your Linkedin. Use your email list. Ask your clients for a referral—maybe they have friends in the same industry who may benefit from your collaboration.

The point is, there are still people out there who need your support. Choosing not to sell because it's "not okay" is not helping anyone. Especially you and your family.

You can also list your company in our directory for SEO writers and get a new source of leads this way. (We're working hard to launch it in April.)

Why invest in content marketing during the coronavirus crisis?

  • People spend more time at home. They are busy with their kids, homeschool, remote work, tv series, and… browsing the Internet. They are looking for educational and entertaining content more than ever. It's a chance to get additional pairs of eyes on your content and grow your email list.
  • Producing great content that ranks high in Google keeps your team busy and fulfills spare time gaps effectively.
  • The profit margin generated from content creation can be used to facilitate the agency's financial flow.

Assessing resources

If you decide to put more effort into sales and content creation (or anything else that you think can be a safe board right now), you need to act now.

It's not easy to keep your head cool and make reasonable, data-driven decisions while trying to keep your business floating, but this is what we all have to do right now. 

Regardless of the adopted strategy, as the team leader, you must evaluate your key resources: bank account and client portfolio.

  • Clients' portfolio – I bet you have received a lot of calls and emails regarding the current crisis already. It's essential to check the clients' list and try to assess which of them are impacted the most. How many of them will potentially resign from your SEO services next week, next month, and next quarter? How can you help them?
  • Savings – You will probably have to use your preserved capital and the smart disposition of the money is key. Spend them only in cases when the expense helps keep your company going. Secure salaries for the team for as long as possible and think about your expenses. Some tools will be nice-to-haves; others will be revenue drivers. Some consultations you invested in may now be just an additional cost. Maybe you'll have to switch to fully remote to avoid office costs too. Make the reality check and act accordingly. 

Relationships with clients

While scrambling with your problems, be aware that your customers are fighting their fight and difficulties. The spectrum of crisis affects them as much (and sometimes even more) than you. Try to keep professional relationships, be lenient, and understanding. Many clients will ask about putting your services on hold.

In cases where it's reasonable, don't hesitate to agree on decreasing or suspending the budget. For many businesses, it's pointless to spend a budget on marketing right now, hence for SEO as well.

When possible, propose different types of services or pivot the marketing strategy. If such a tweak in your agreement doesn't make sense, put your collaboration on hold. At the same time, set the date to evaluate the situation and have a talk in a couple of weeks. With this kind of approach, it will be easier to bounce back and retrieve the customer.

Whatever happens, don't burn the bridges. Be polite. Be empathic. Stay in touch and appreciate their hard work. 


I'm aware it can be a hard time for you and your team—this way or another. Whatever happens I want you to remember those three main takeaways:

  • It's okay to sell right now. You and your team need it. Find new channels, push harder than ever, and be supportive of your potential customers. 
  • You may need to tweak your business model to keep your company going. Be honest with your team members. Switch to content creation as a primary service if you must.
  • Be understanding for your clients. If you've worked with them for a while, you know they have good intentions. Even if they delay the payments and choose to leave you for now. Talk with them to solve this situation and stay in touch.

The last thing: I would like to assure you that Surfer's team works harder than ever to provide you even more accurate data and new features (including free options) to facilitate your endeavors. We're doing our best to make sure our tool is your revenue driver and not a source of unnecessary cost.

Thank you for your support and for reading this article! 

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics