Are Recessions the Best Time for SEO? Here Is The Truth, The Whole Truth

By many metrics, most countries’ economies are chugging along at an unhealthy clip.


Take the U.S., for example. The latest readings on some key economic indicators are, quite frankly, worrisome—three banks recently closed curtains on their operations, home construction is still sagging, and GDP has certainly seen better years.


Folks, a recession is incessantly banging on our doors. And the thumping is only getting louder.


Amid an imminent economic downturn, it’s tempting to want to cut your digital marketing budget the first chance you get. Slash a few blogs here, cancel a few writing contracts there. Honestly, we wouldn’t fault you one bit if you did. After all, that’s what everyone is doing: jumping the Titanic before it hits a mammoth, fate-sealing iceberg.


But what if the impending iceberg is grossly exaggerated in terms of size and potential impact? Or perhaps it's a much-needed redirection towards a healthier, perkier SEO journey?


Before you jump ship, let’s consider all the possible angles to this conundrum—so you can make a truly no-rush, well-informed decision for your SEO budget and strategy.


Hold Up, What Does Recession Even Mean?


In terms of pure popularity, the only word that can go toe-to-toe with "recession" right now is probably "X" —yep, Twitter's new, albeit controversial, name. Yet only a few can give an accurate definition of a downturn in the economy. Even economists and analysts themselves are in discord.


Broadly, there are two schools of thought:


1. Rule of Thumb. A recession is two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP), aka growth.

2. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) definition. “A significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.”


Either way, the results for brands and marketers remain the same: diminishing activity, declining consumer spending, team downsizing, and constricted budgets. The outcome? Opportunities to strike gold with SEO are proving harder to come by.


Google’s Current Algorithm: Just for Better, Never for Worse


No one wants to get behind on their quarterly or yearly results. Not even the billion-dollar colossus that is Google.







In a bid to keep their finances tight at all times (thanks: COVID 19), the behemoth has resorted to filling a huge chunk of SERP with ads. That means organic listings have fallen further down the pecking order. Oy!


The good news is, there’s still room in SERP to make your brand’s presence felt and known. Go for it; like really go for it.




Don’t be; it’ll make more sense in a moment.


How Does a Recession Affect SEO?


Honestly, it doesn’t.


The main difference is that Google might increase the number of unpleasant advertising it displays to maintain its revenue. That’s all.


Since SEO is not a digital marketing expense that instantly brings in top dollar, individuals believe they can reduce it without immediately noticing a decline in business revenue. However, the opportunity cost is enormous.


Being an online brand, you shouldn’t fully ditch your SEO strategy. Not when the majority of brands rely on it for about 30-50% of their website traffic and earnings. The opportunity cost of skipping SEO during a recession when others are slashing their digital marketing budgets is the bigger problem. If anything, you should be ramping up big-time.


Said differently, SEO is often the first thing to be cut when recession strikes, which means everyone else is doing the same. Brands that maintain a polished, well-thought-out, evolving SEO plan during a recession will fare much better than those who let theirs down in the doldrums.


Do People Even Click On Organic Listings?


Ok, busted. You got me dead-on, back against the wall (happy now?).     


Just kidding.


63% of people may have clicked on Google Ads this past year, but there’s still a respectable 37% who have steer clear of them. If your tactic is a PPC-only plan, you are turning a blind eye to millions upon millions of users. Remember the tiny-teeny detail about Google being the top dog in the search engine space, commanding over 85% of the market share? Enough said.


Why You Shouldn’t Deprioritize SEO During Recession


We get it. There’s incredible pressure out there to flow with the masses and go on a cost-cutting spree to save money and “weather” out the recessionary times.






But, if SEO is first on the chopping block, you might want to think again.


When economic anxiety is reaching fever pitch and you’re increasingly pressed for every dollar, you can take respite in the fact that the SEO industry never, ever hits rock-bottom. If anything, it’s most effective during times of extreme financial difficulty.


Here’s why.


1) Customer are Earnestly Looking for Trustworthy Brands


When things are tough, people tend to become a little less certain about who to believe, which makes sense. Think about the messaging we are exposed to at times like this.


Any sane person can become infuriated by sponsored social media posts, flashy banner ads, or overly loud 30-second TV spots. Regardless of how people behave, Google continues to be quite constant and trustworthy for various reasons.


People simply trust Google, for better or worse. Google’s endorsement carries a lot of weight when your potential customers are looking for the goods and services you have to offer. You’re missing out if your website isn’t at the top of Google’s list.


2) Scaling the Top of Google Rankings is Easier


Yes, I’m stating the obvious.


To reiterate, SEO budgets and strategies are often the first to be shown the metaphorical middle finger when economic worry sets in. But the logic of this fear-based mindset just doesn’t parse. There’s no more critical time to reposition your goods and services to market shifts, continue to build awareness, and generate leads.


During this period, most marketers advertently take a backseat—yes, even your fiercest competitors—patiently waiting for something, anything, to give. And since a recession can sometimes drag on for too long (lookin’ at you, The Great Depression), their grand return to the scene might be further than they think. SEO is a game of quality and quantity—keep whipping up stellar blog posts, and the lack of competition will see you rank quicker and higher.


3) SEO Guarantees the Best Bang for Your Buck


This is crucial, especially in a time of economic hardship when every dollar must be carefully considered and spent with at least some expectation of return.


SEO is cost-effective, not cheap. What does this mean? Your highest return on investment will come from a focused and successful SEO approach when compared to your typical marketing and advertising expenses.


Your brand must be seen by people who are actively searching for what you have to offer. That is the only expectation for the money you spend on SEO. These are excellent leads who are prepared to make a purchase; all they need is the proper supplier.


4) SEO’s Impact Will Remain Long After Recession Has Ended


It might not seem like it today, but recessions are nothing permanent. They do have an end date. For context, the Great Recession of 2008 lasted for no more than one and a half years.


This, too, is temporary. It shall pass. The economy will eventually stabilize, and normalcy will reign supreme once again. People will start doing the stuff they enjoy, and both you and your entire team will resume operations.






The fear and uncertainty you’re experiencing now will only be a memory in a few months. If the words recently uttered by Stephen Stanley, chief U.S. economist at Santander US Capital Markets, are anything to go by, a recession is unlikely to happen in 2024. As such, getting ready for when life will return to normal is the best thing you can do for your SEO strategy, and, by extension, your company.


Keyword optimization, link building, and the like are long-term investments. A SEO writing agency worth its weight in gold can help position your website at the summit of Google’s mountain in six months, a year, or five years (assuming you keep up with it, of course). Therefore, even though the future may be uncertain at the moment, start planning your SEO strategy now.


5) Brand Awareness Is Pretty Much a Given


Boldness pays; always has, always will. With your competition having chickened out and retreated to their cocoons, the field is yours to rule. Now, you can reach your target audience the best way you know how, show them what you’re made of, and deliver your message with aplomb.


Even if they don’t become buyers now, brand awareness will surge just in time for when consumer confidence returns. And who will they shop from, engage with in zest, or refer to interested parties? Certainly not the brand that spent several months (or longer) in the freezer.


To Cut or Not to Cut SEO During a Recession? The Answer, We Believe, Is Unequivocal


Forget everything else you’ve ever heard about this topic. Block your ears from all the beguiling noise and senseless conclusions. The answer has never been clearer.


The truth is, SEO is the one piece in your digital marketing juggernaut that is truly indispensable; remove it and the whole system crumbles, never to be the same again. Don’t let the current topsy-turvy economic conditions or the associated people’s opinions fool you into committing a dreadful error. A little patience, and a generous sprinkle of proactivity, can make a world of difference to your strategy. Or should I say your lifeline?


Still not fully convinced? Over to you Robert Schuller and your (cough) overly cliché adage: Tough times don’t last, tough people do.


So can we help with your SEO amid this challenging economic climate? Absolutely.


Do we weave keywords? Sure. But using a content marketing agency like Zoey Writers to do that is like hiring a Harvard Ph.D. to teach your four year-old how to add. We can do much, much more—all with a firm eye on your budget so we don’t add insult to injury. Yes, we care that much.


Let’s get your business noticed, for good. For sustainable SEO, get in touch today.


Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash. Thank you Stern!