Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The essential guide to PPC marketing during COVID-19

By Noel Hernandez, Digital Marketing Consultant – PPC, Fountain Partnership

It’s important in a time of crisis that businesses have the agility to adapt to deal with any situation. The same is true when it comes to your marketing strategy – flexibility is key. But what role can PPC play in helping to navigate the unknown?

Covid-19 is a great example of how consumer behaviours change in a crisis. In an unpredictable scenario such as the one we are currently in, where things are changing – and fast – every industry has been affected differently. Some industries remain strong, while others are doing even better than before the crisis.

Here are our top tips about how to adapt and survive in a crisis

Look for new opportunities

This is not about profiting from disaster or shoehorning a product or a service you don’t provide, but about finding out whether your client can offer something that may resonate with the public in the current climate.

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that consumers should use contactless payments rather than cash as a way of limiting the spread of the Covid-19 virus, contactless-related terms began to trend on Google worldwide.

By considering keyword expansion around those terms, adapting ad copy to write new related content for landing pages, and promoting this in their web-based content, businesses in this sector could generate more leads for a service they already provided.

Remain positive: use negatives

As with making sure you are targeting new trends and specific terms through inclusion of keywords, you also want to make sure that you are excluding certain audiences.

In the case of retail, if your competitors are closed it could lead to your market being flooded with new customers looking for near variants of your product or service.

Be warned, this could cost you in media spend! Particularly if you have not excluded terms that they search for that you do not offer a close enough variant of. And if your own shops are also closed, you definitely need to exclude terms such as: “nearby”, “stores open that sell” etc.

On the subject of exclusions, it’s also a good idea to control where your Display and YouTube ads are showing. With so many children currently at home due to nationwide school closures, it’s important to evaluate your YouTube ad placement as children can  often click on ads meant for parents. There are lists on ad platforms available where you can find comprehensive directories of YouTube channels specifically for children which you could exclude.

Ramp up re-marketing

This is possibly the most valuable activity that you can focus on – and not just during a crisis!

Customers are still visiting your website, perhaps more than ever, with more people behind a screen in a world struck with closures, quarantines, and work-from-home provisions. But remember, these visits won’t necessarily result in a lead or a sale!

Be sure to check how much of the market your campaigns are reaching (reach/ frequency/ search impression share/ click share) and find out if this has increased or decreased. It could be that the crisis has meant your competitors have temporarily left the market so you can capitalise on less competition and lower cost-per-clicks (CPCs). Check auction insights reports or any other competitor tools to help to inform this decision.

As always, analyse the data you do have, as this can guide you on the best way to tackle the situation.

You’re going to need to move the goalposts

For many of us, goals have changed. As Aaron Orendorff of Common Thread Collective says:

“CPMs have hit lows, harkening back to Facebook and Google’s golden age. The problem is that a low CPM doesn’t mean a high ROAS… That’s because tough times make for hesitant buyers.”

Using your usual reports to compare revenue or Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) month-on-month or year-on-year will make little or no sense. It might be a case of you’re still doing great given the circumstances, even if your return on investment dropped from 600% to 300% compared to the previous year.

Before you think about switching off

Be proactive about testing and trying narrower targeting before considering pausing everything. Try turning audience targeting from ‘Observation’ to ‘Targeting’, so that you are only targeting in-market audiences with your Search campaigns.

That way you will guarantee a continued reach to your most valuable audiences while maintaining a low spend and increasing your chances of conversion.