There’s no company that isn’t affected by COVID-19. Whether it’s lower than usual demand or a supply chain that’s unable to keep up, every business must adjust the way they advertise to the people who buy their products and services.
Customers understandably have high expectations that companies will provide value and act responsibly during this time. And with “the new normal” changing almost constantly, 71% of consumers say that they want to hear from businesses that can help them navigate this crisis, according to a joint study between Google and Ipsos.
We spoke to some friends at Google to get some actionable advice. If you experience changes in demand for your products and services, or volatility in your PPC data, here are some of the best practices they shared to manage your marketing campaigns through unusual times.
Phase I: Surveying the landscape
While you keep an eye on shifting trends, there are ways to alter your business plan, update your strategic approach, and adapt to the current situation so you can be there for your customers. Google has useful resources available to help you navigate this uncertain time.
Plan your way forward
To know where you need to get, you have to start by figuring out where you are. Google recommends answering a few basic questions about your business or client, and the impact of COVID-19 on operations and marketing.
- How have you been impacted by the current environment?
- Do you see demand for your particular products/services increasing or decreasing?
- How are you reframing your business models and digital marketing practices?
- How has your marketing budget shifted as a result of COVID-19?
Once you have the answers, you’ll be able to take steps to alter your strategic approach.
Use Google’s knowledge bank
There are a number of tools and resources developed by Google that can help you study the marketplace and understand consumer behavior.
- Google Trends can help you stay on top of the latest customer needs.
- Check out Google News Lab for a curated list of global trends.
- See how marketers are responding to Search trends in this Think with Google article.
And as you re-engage with your customers, you can also explore additional resources on Google My Business, Performance Planner, and Smart Shopping and YouTube campaigns.
Phase II: Assessing the situation
Once you’ve answered some core questions about the state of your business or your client’s, you’ll be able to start piecing together a strategic solution. What that entails will depend on multiple factors — demand, availability, visibility, geography, and more.
Here are four categories of situations that businesses find themselves in today.
A. Businesses at risk
These are companies in financial or operational trouble who need help staying afloat. Many are at risk of furloughs or layoffs, or likely to shut their doors.
- Travel has come to a standstill, including major airlines like Delta
- Hospitality brands like Hilton have all but shuttered their properties
- In retail, even a major brand like J Crew had to file for bankruptcy
B. Businesses facing some challenges
Some companies are experiencing threatening situations like supply chain shortages or decreased customer demand, and are unable to meet normal revenue targets.
- Apparel e.g. clothing, shoes, sporting goods
- Outdoor gear like camping equipment
- Independent food & beverage outlets
C. Businesses that have pivoted
These companies have realized the need to adapt to the new normal, and are building awareness as they shift to producing something new.
- Alcohol manufacturers switching to production of hand sanitizer
- Fast fashion companies producing masks and other personal protective equipment
- A yoga studio moving to a virtual delivery platform
D. Businesses in demand
Companies that are fortunate enough to be doing well are experiencing higher demand for their products. They want to discover newer ways to connect with and help customers.
- Many CPG segments, including meat and packaged foods
- Home entertainment e.g. gaming consoles and streaming services
- Technology that enables remote work and productivity
Phase III: Building a new strategy
Depending on which category your business or client falls under, it might now be time to start putting together a paid search plan.
Keeping the current business situation and new marketing goals in mind, here are six common tactics you can use.
Negative Keywords: Use negative keywords as a safeguard against undesired clicks that might drive lots of cost but no conversions.
Broaden Keywords: The way users are searching for your business may have changed, which is why it’s important to capture those shifts in search behavior through broad match keywords. If you’re using Smart Bidding, use broad match keywords to let the system discover new opportunities for conversions. You’ll still want to keep other match types and regularly review new search terms with tools like Optmyzr.
Branded Keywords: When bidding on keywords with your brand name, adjust goals for Impression Share or use tCPA/tROAS.
Fine-tune it with Optmyzr: Use the Keyword Lasso tool to discover new keyword suggestions, or the Negative Keyword Ideas tool to find keywords that are causing wasted spend.
Dynamic and Responsive Search Ads: Show ads on new relevant searches your keywords may be missing out on, and adapt ad content to more closely match user search terms.
Promo and Site Extensions: Make offers stand out and take customers to the right page.
Fine-tune it with Optmyzr: The Ad Text Optimization tool allows you to search for phrases or words across campaigns and instantly edit them. Use this to quickly and consistently make bulk changes as your messaging needs to reflect the rapidly changing conditions in the world.
3. Bids and Budgets
Budget Reallocation: Move unused parts of your budget to the ads that need it most.
Raising Budgets: Raise the budgets of campaigns that are performing well to drive more traffic.
Performance Planner: View and understand the implications of different budget scenarios.
Fine-tune it with Optmyzr: Conversion Grabber lets you increase Impression Share by raising bids for high-converting keywords that are missing out on traffic due to low ad rank. The Optimize Budgets tool can help you quickly re-allocate budgets based on how different campaigns are doing against your goals.
4. Target Constraints/Goals
Goals: Evaluate your new business strategies and confirm target goals. Set performance targets and customize settings to your unique business goals.
Fine-tune it with Optmyzr: Use the Optimize Target CPA & ROAS on campaigns with automated bidding to increase conversions and Impression Share. You can also see converting ad groups that use other automated bidding strategies.
5. Account-Wide Best Practices
Attribution: Capture all signals using Data-Driven or Non-Last Click Attribution.
Conversions: Only include conversions that are relevant to the business.
Fine-tune it with Optmyzr: The Rule Engine allows you to create data-based strategies, like removing non-converting keywords related to COVID-19. Or for a fun way to keep your account in shape, try the Workouts that combine multiple optimizations to achieve a specific objective.
First-Party Audience Lists: Add all RSLA, Similar Audiences, and Customer Match lists to Smart Bidding campaigns.
Fine-tune it with Optmyzr: Use the Customer Match List Updates tool (under Optimizations > Utilities) to keep your audiences in sync between your business data and Google’s audience repository.
Phase IV: Measuring the impact of your new investments
Once you have a new strategy in place, it’s important to keep a close eye on your campaigns to make sure they’re doing what you want them to. Even with automation, human context is critical to regular adjustments and optimization.
Here’s what you can do.
- Determine what you’re measuring. If you’ve set new marketing objectives, your conversion actions should reflect these operational changes to optimize effectively during this time.
- Set new rules for measurement. Create or import a new conversion to align with updated business goals.
- Make sure to keep an eye on attribution. If you’re using data-driven attribution and conversion volume drops below the threshold, change to the non-last click attribution model that’s best for your business.
- Fine-tune based on your situation. If your business situation changes, make sure your values and approaches change, too. Align measurement setup to smart bidding best practices.
We hope these insights from Google enable you to make the right decisions for your businesses and clients. For any additional support, our friends at Google recommend that you visit the Think with Google hub or contact your Google Ads representative.