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SEO and the greatest post-pandemic currency — trust
June 25, 2021
Public trust has been on the decline for some years now. It’s been slowly drifting away from major institutions and government buildings; off the high streets from banks and stores, and away from the news sources on our TVs and laptops in our homes.
The pandemic changed the way that customers view brands and what it is they really want from them. Ultimately, people want brands they can trust. The complexities of the last 18 months — the huge sense of uncertainty on a global, emotional scale and the continuing spread of disinformation online — now means that trust is at a premium. It has become critical to a brand’s identity more than ever before.
The years running up to the pandemic had already seen a shift in our expectations of brands. The rise of conscious consumerism, and desire for products we purchase to be politically aligned with our values, meant we’d already begun to see brands as more than just companies to purchase from. COVID-19 marked a fundamental shift in every aspect of our lives, and brands were no exception.
Many saw brands as an important part of the response to the crisis. According to an Edelman 12-market study, 62% of people felt that their country needed help from brands to make it out of the crisis, and 55% felt brands responded more quickly and effectively than governments. This also worked as a crucial barometer — a test of a brand’s true character — with 71% of people feeling if they perceived brands as prioritising profit over people during the crisis, they would lose trust in that brand for good. Much was also made of “The End of the Influencer” and celebrity endorsement; in fact, medical experts became the most trusted type of spokesperson, with 78% of people rating them as credible spokespeople for a brand’s pandemic response. Fluff and froth was out, and expertise and trust were in.
Trustworthiness is at the heart of SEO, and that fact is reflected in Google’s quality rater guidelines. Introduced in 2018, they present a timely match to this shift in consumer thinking. Pages are rated and served based on their expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T), gauged by the content’s author expertise, and the site’s reputation and backlinks. This means it’s never been more important to have an SEO strategy that’s tailored to these factors. If a brand’s identity is built on trust, its digital presence — including SEO — needs to support this.
Pharmaceuticals and healthcare find themselves in a particularly interesting place amidst this conversation on trust. Pre-pandemic public trust in these industries was at an all time low (research in 2019 showed that only 57% of the public trusted ‘big pharma’), with the pandemic offering a unique opportunity to re-build that trust; suddenly the vaccine and pharma was the way out of this crisis. That rebuilding of trust is not without its complications, but some reports suggest that there has been a rise in healthcare trust, with 40% of consumers holding a better view of the industry since the pandemic began. If the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries are to capitalise on this time to rebuild and forge forward they need to reflect this strategy in every aspect of their brand, especially when it comes to organic search.
Trust can be a delicate beast. And in a world that continues to move at an unexpected and sometimes chaotic pace, who we grant that trust to is important. So if it’s granted to you, then it’s worth finding a way to keep it.
By Sophie McKay, SEO copywriter @ performance-io