How to Handle Paid Media in the Midst of COVID-19

If you take a look around the global landscape, the effects of COVID-19 are everywhere. The virus has changed the way we live our daily lives, affecting how we manage work and school, how we communicate with friends and family, and even our ability to resupply our homes with essentials such as food and clothing. The effects on how we do business have been even more severe, with many brick and mortar companies shuttering temporarily and sending over 22 million people to the unemployment lines; meanwhile, countless others are working remotely.

Interestingly enough, COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the internet landscape, as well. With more people working – and playing – at home than ever, web access has increased; However, the way people are utilizing the web has shifted, leaving many industries scrambling to digest the resulting changes to the Google SERP. Perhaps most notable are the shifts in paid media.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Paid Search & Display Campaign Metrics

If the current pandemic continues on its expected course, we are somewhere in the middle – which means we’ve had well over a month of data to delve into regarding the SEM response. In a multiple-industry study over five different networks – Google Search Ads, Shopping Ads, and Display Ads as well as Bing Search and Shopping Ads – expert analysis of COVID-19’s impact on PPC has revealed some notable shifts. Changes include:

Click through rate increases.

Across most industries, the average click through rate (CTR) has increased since February – most notably on Google Search Ads. Keep in mind that an increase in CTR may not be a positive sign for some industries such as travel and tourism, as clients may be reaching out to cancel reservations.

Cost per click drops.

Many industries show a drop in average cost per click (CPC) rates as competition diminishes; this is most notable in industries that have had to close or pivot to delivery such as restaurants and retail. However, professional services that have become overly dependent on online sales have seen modest jumps in CPC as they endeavor to seize clients spending more time online.

Conversion rate impacts.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has negatively impacted many businesses’ ability to convert sales leads into customers as consumer spending has dropped and brick and mortar businesses have closed. Others are finding a way to adjust to business online.

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What Does This Mean for You?

Obviously, COVID-19 has changed the way we handle business, whether in-person or online. With all the uncertainty surrounding the plans to move forward as we continue to deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic. After the crisis ends, it can be tempting to either bunker down and wait or jump ship entirely. However, neither inaction nor drastic action is advisable.

Instead, it’s time to fine-tune your PPC campaigns. Spend time now honing your online presence and working to build awareness of your brand and your offerings. Look to increase your marketing leads, but don’t expect conversions to increase overnight; you’re simply building for the future, letting potential customers know you are here and ready to serve them once the business landscape levels out and they are ready to begin spending again.

Key PPC Marketing Steps

As you’re addressing your PPC spend in the wake of COVID-19, keep a few actionable insights in mind. Adjust your focus to include these tips:

1. Invest in your upper marketing funnel.

Your upper funnel consists of those potential customers who may still be performing research about the products or services you offer and are not yet aware of your brand. Experts expect the buying process to be lengthened during this time, meaning potential clients will spend more time than ever in the top two levels of your funnel. Staying top-of-mind for these clients as they navigate through the funnel means you’ll be first on the list when they’re ready to make buying decisions later in this crisis.

2. Build remarketing lists.

If you’ve seen your CTR and page views increase, but haven’t noticed a spike in conversions, focus on remarketing. Potential clients in the research stages are likely to revisit your page later; focusing PPC search ads campaigns on them will keep you at the forefront during the purchase stage. Similarly, targeting those who have contemplated a purchase but left items in the cart can show returns as users continue to spend more time than ever online.

3. Test new creative.

Many marketers are using this time to make changes to images and messaging in an endeavor to test their effectiveness on the target market. If you’ve been contemplating a change, perform A/B testing to get a true feel for which changes you’d like to make long-term. Using an existing campaign, change one key creative element and run it alongside your existing ad; monitor the performance, note the changes, and determine if it’s a change that shows long-term benefits.

4. Shift away from mobile.

Yes, we know this seems to go against nearly every development that’s come down the Google pipeline in the past few years. However, mobile search traffic dropped by an unprecedented 25% in March as most of the globe spent their days at home. Adjust your PPC bidding strategies to reflect these device shifts and consider utilizing Google’s smart bidding strategies.

5. Expand to other channels.

As we mentioned earlier, internet traffic has shown a sharp increase since the end of February as people find themselves online more than ever. Spread your marketing campaign to include more visually engaging channels such as Facebook, YouTube, and the Google Display network. Engaging customers now makes them more likely to spend later.

For more information about what COVID-19 means for paid search or SEO in your industry, feel free to reach out. We’ll provide you with a mini-audit to help steer your marketing choices in the right direction to last through this crisis and beyond.