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  March 20th, 2023 | Written by

3 Marketing Channels You Shouldn’t Scale Back in a Recession

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When a potential recession is looming, it’s only sensible to explore which spending commitments your business could scale back on. But with past lessons learned and many brands pledging to continue their marketing spend throughout 2023’s predicted recession, business owners should consider the downturn an opportunity to hone in on those core digital marketing channels that need to remain strong and resilient.

But which digital marketing channels are best at delivering a strong return on investment in times of uncertainty?

Gareth Hoyle, Managing Director of search marketing agency Marketing Signals, looks back at how businesses approached marketing activity during previous recessions, and which channels he believes should be the focus of increased activity during a recession:


  1. Cutting back on SEO could give your competitors a boost

In times of recession, consumer spending habits often change, which is why effective Search Engine Optimization campaigns are essential for brands to get a better understanding of these variations to continue to attract new and existing customers. SEO relies on quantifiable keywords and search volumes to break down what your target audience is actively searching for online.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Google searches for food, electrical goods, clothing, e-learning and even insurance shot up year on year. So even during a worldwide health catastrophe, people were still flocking to Google for answers, questions and products.

SEO provides businesses with the opportunity to rank higher on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). When done correctly this will increase the amount of relevant traffic a site can earn, and as a consequence, will also drive increased revenue – all at an unrivalled ROI compared to other digital marketing channels.

So, for an ambitious business looking to grow their online revenue, scaling back on SEO means curtailing the impact of the marketing channel with the highest ROI. The combination of an ever growing level of consumer demand (search volume) coupled with relevance, measurability and scalability make SEO one of the most effective digital marketing channels, regardless of how the wider economy is performing.

If you are still unsure then you should ask yourself this: If you decide to cut your investment in SEO activity, what will the future look like for your brand online? The answer is those competitors that continue to invest in SEO will be moving ahead of you while your business either stands still (or worse moves backwards). Furthermore, how will you feel about having less organic visibility and a shrinking share of voice for the most competitive keywords? Remember this also: in terms of online marketing, standing still is in some cases going backwards very quickly – sometimes you may be investing just to maintain your current position in competitive markets. Thus, imagine what would happen if you stopped investing in SEO entirely (or even just reduce your spend).

  1. Increase your brand awareness and site authority through Digital PR 

A solid link-building strategy is a prerequisite for good rankings, as search engines use links as the primary means of determining how authoritative a site is within any given industry. In other words, the better links you have, the more credibility you’ll have with Google, and the more organic traffic and sales you can potentially drive.

Of course there are many different types of link building strategies you can pursue, however, the one that is likely to drive the most authoritative links is Digital PR. Links from Digital PR activity, if executed well, will include top tier coverage from a mixture of national or local press, plus trade and industry publications. These links will last the test of time and will help drive traffic to your site, as well as boosting your overall domain authority.

One thing to note with Digital PR: it often drives the best links to a site, and as a consequence it often costs the most to execute. However if you follow this argument logically, by reducing or stopping your Digital PR activity, you stand to lose (or reduce the impact of) the most important link building channel. Moreover, during a recession could be the ideal time to exploit the fact that there is potentially less activity from your competitors. Remember journalists whether local, national or trade still need content to fill their column inches with, regardless of the state of the economy.

  1. Utilize PPC campaigns to keep your brand competitive on search engines

In dark financial and economic periods, the level of comfort and trust that people have in Google shines through. And with 54.4% of all clicks coming from the top 3 search results on Google, having the right PPC ads is essential in order to maximise the commercial opportunities open to digital marketers

Let’s face it, whether people are spending or not during a recession, they’re constantly consuming information online, and by proxy, your ad campaigns. Who can resist such a simple but effective way of keeping your brand name at the forefront of search engines when other companies are looking to shrink theirs?

By continuing to advertise via Pay-Per-Click during a downturn you can push your business forward and potentially get ahead of your competitors who may have reduced their click budgets. How many chances do you have to capitalise on an opportunity like this and continue growing your brand’s momentum?

In times when consumers are eager for simple and straightforward answers to their searches, your tight but informative content can improve your Quality Score on Google, providing you with ads that may appear more often.

For internal business practices and overall account structure, being able to split your target keywords into smaller groups will also give you more understanding of which terms work best and where you may need to reassess your game plan.

Short-term thinking vs long-term business goals 

No one can blame a business for looking for short-term cash saving measures like cutting their marketing spend. That said, the problem lies in how to regain that momentum you had pre-downturn once you’ve made cuts, and how you’re going to catch up with the brands that pushed on in order to achieve those long-term goals.

Like anything in life, it’s the future rewards of sticking to a clear path that provide you with the fruits of your investment. With modern consumers willing to change their allegiance to brands that exude strength and consistency in uncertain times, scaling back your marketing spend could mean you fade into the background compared to other businesses who may continue to invest in marketing activities.

While nobody is asking you to start marketing more aggressively, this potential downturn should be considered a time of reflection that allows you to keep the best channels at your disposal running smoothly.

If your business can remain in sight of the consumer, the strength and authority of your band will shine through. In turn, you’ll be on the path to greater success on the other side of this recession, while your competition misses the boat entirely.