How to Survive a Recession … In Search

Doom and gloom abound in the economic world and the Debbie Downer syndrome is spreading like a flesh-eating virus. I hate it when we run out of money. So many things are just better with money, don’t you think?

If I get one more e-mail forwarded to me from a CEO that contains the phrase, “tightening the belt,” while “preparing for a slowdown,” I may just check into rehab for the rest of the year and wait this one out.

On the other hand, many people believe search will benefit from economic strife, but that doesn’t mean you should (or can) ignore what’s happening around you. With “how to survive a recession” searches topping the charts this week, I present to you five ways to survive and economic slowdown…in search.

1. Take It Up a Notch

I know this should go without saying, but with less money in the till, competition is going to get stiff, really fast.

Now’s the time to get working on all those projects you’ve been too busy to do. Revamping your dashboards? Get on it. Intern season is coming up, so help can be cheap.

Think about taking on extra work that may not “fit” with your best-laid plans. Within a week, I’ve gotten calls from three big money clients looking for consultants and agencies, all looking for more help with search, analytics, and online advertising.

2. Take It Easy on Your People

This is a tough one. You may have a layoff or two. Maybe your business plans have changed. Perhaps you’re thinking this is a good time to cut back on those nice little perks your employees have.

Fine, do what you must. Just remember: whatever goes down will eventually come back up, and stupid mistakes in the human resource category will come back to you. If you have to lay people off, do it all at once and let the good people know why you’re keeping them.

For heaven’s sake do not send a series of e-mails reviewing how difficult things are and how uncertain the future is. They already know how bad it is (presumably they can read) and this is no time to go existential.

3. When One Door Closes…

Rejoice in the new economic conditions in the search world. If you live in the agency, SEO, or consulting world, keeping an eye out for new opportunities. Knowing what people will spend money on, even during hard times, can mean the difference between keeping the business in the short term or becoming yet another victim of the economic crisis.

People want to spend more money in areas that generate revenue in a recession. Brand building is important, but right now it’s all about the money and finding hidden gems.

4. Adjust to Change…Quickly

We do our best work when the pressure’s on. Well, some of us do. Others cave like Benedict Arnold in a meeting with the King’s entourage.

Adjusting to a changing environment is one of the toughest things a professional can do. We’ll have consolidations, mergers, and acquisitions. Separate the good from the bad internally (go back and read the do not portion of Number 3), provide coaching, and adjust your timelines so that critically important objectives can still be met with the least amount of resistance.

5. Go on Vacation

When the going gets tough, the smart and tough ones get going on vacation. That’s right, I said it: remember to take a break. Economic panic and pressure are the leading causes of stress-related search deaths (well, it might be) in the world.

Europeans seem to have this practice down pat (big vacationers) while we Americans continue to kill ourselves year-round. Figure out a time you can leave it all behind, prepare yourself by solving time-critical problems beforehand. Oh, and if it will make you feel better, bring the BlackBerry with you.

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