Escape to the Country?

How remote working impacts your SEO agency

Reflecting back on 2020, it is safe to say it is a year unlike anything that we ever expected. For many people, the early days of January were filled with the hope and optimism that comes from not just a new year but a new decade. A world of possibility seemed to lie before us.

And even as the creeping awareness of Covid-19 snowballed into growing concern, none of us could have envisaged how the next few months were going to turn out. 

Much has already been written about these difficult months, and the many different impacts of lockdown as well as the virus itself. But in this article we want to explore some of the social changes triggered by Covid-19, and their potential impact on SEO.

Remote working is here to stay

In the first UK-wide lockdown, people were told to work from home wherever possible. There were many different reactions to this. For some, it was a blessed relief to be able to continue their livelihoods whilst remaining safely indoors. For others, who may sometimes have worked from home anyway, it was just a case of more of the same. For yet others, perhaps particularly those with children to homeschool, it was a whole new ball game that needed a considerable period of adjustment.

We covered some helpful tips for working from home in our article Five Top Tips for Working From Home.

However, the enforcement of remote working has opened up Pandora’s Box. An estimated 90% of businesses have been using some level of remote working during the pandemic, and it seems inevitable that this will continue even after the crisis is completely over. According to the London Chamber of Commerce, 13% of London-based businesses said that working from home would become standard practice. Some, such as Twitter, have already announced that employees can “work from home forever”. 

Focus groups conducted by YouGov for The Independent found that most workers expressed a preference for some form of remote working in the future. One of the main reasons cited for this was to avoid an unnecessary commute, which frees up time to do other things such as exercise, domestic chores and family activities.

So it appears that remote working is likely to be a key feature of employment in the UK for the foreseeable future. But this opens up a new world of opportunity for many people. 

Because if you can work from home, does it actually matter to your employer where that home is?

Why escape to the country?

The pandemic has triggered something of a sea change in people’s views of “home”. In parallel with the growth in remote working, there has been a surge of interest amongst city dwellers in moving to the country. Both estate agents and careers advisory services have reported huge increases in the numbers of people wanting to leave cities and move to the country. 

But why?

Well it’s not necessarily about downsizing or saving money. House prices in some country villages can be just as high as in some cities. 

Nor is it always to relocate to a completely different area, as many potential city escapees appear to be house hunting in villages that are still within reasonable commuting distance from their current city. 

No, the main reason that people seem to want to relocate is quality of life. There are both push and pull factors here. Many have described becoming disillusioned with city life during lockdown. The cafe culture and gentrification which has transformed many inner city areas sadly ground to a halt during lockdown. Which made many city dwellers realise the potential shortcomings of the urban jungle and long for something more.

Alongside this re-evaluation is the pull of the country, with its promise of a quieter and less frenetic way of life. More living space, a garden, the opportunity to get out and about more and to interact with a local community – as well as hopefully being closer to family and friends – is proving irresistible to many people. The pandemic has caused them to examine their priorities and decide to start making the life they want to live.

How has Covid-19 affected what people search for?

In July, Google circulated a notification to all its site users about the increase in searches for work at home jobs. This is a rare thing for Google to do, and reflects the significance of this social trend. The reason Google did this was to raise awareness of the SEO opportunity afforded by the unprecedented times in which we are living.

Similarly, during lockdown – particularly the early days – there was a range of things for which search queries spiked. For example:

  • Covid-19 information
  • Government benefits/financial support schemes
  • Remote working
  • Social distancing guidelines and hygiene products
  • PPE and making face masks 
  • Home workouts and haircuts
  • Online learning
  • Wine delivery

So the next question is, what kind of things are the city escapees likely to be searching for? 

The SEO implications of escaping to the country

We are living in changing times and SEO is more important than ever. As social trends change, this will impact on the profiles of your target audience. So it will be vital to keep on top of these changes and their effects on what people are searching for and how they are doing this. 

Search itself has become a much more central aspect in the lives of many people during the pandemic. The Internet is now vital to many more people, including the older generation. 96% of the UK population is now online, and 87% of these online users have also now shopped online. This makes the UK the largest B2C eCommerce market in Europe, and presents a golden opportunity for digital marketing. 

Add to these numbers the fact that search platforms – including voice search – are continuing to grow and improve, means that the significance of getting SEO right is clear.

So as well as continuing regular keyword research for your product or service, ensure that you also keep up to date with social and industry trends and general search trends:  Google Trends can be useful here. Now is the time to grow your expertise in predicting user intent, and pitching your SEO accordingly.

And don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Whilst keeping moving forward in the above ways, don’t neglect the basics of SEO that still matter, and will continue to do so. In terms of your content, focus on high quality, trust and authority. Couple this with ensuring that your site runs efficiently; for example is mobile-friendly, quick to load, and with no broken links. 

Yes you may need to act quickly and make changes to move with the times, for example chasing the city escapees. But you also still want to provide long-term value to all your customers, wherever they are in the life change process. 

At some stage, things will return to some semblance of normality. There will come a time when even those who have uprooted will discover that, for them, that becomes the new normal. And you want to be with them on every step of their journey to help them reach their desired destination.