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We PPCers pride ourselves on being agile and reactive, so that we can capitalise on changing market dynamics. That’s a relatively easy task when we talk of small shifts, since a proper marketing strategy and budgeting must allow for some degree of flexibility. But what are we supposed to do when something major happens?

And by something major, I mean Covid-19. Whether this is just the tip of the iceberg or things may get better soon we are yet to know, but what we do know is that things are changing – and fast.

Here at Fountain we have seen seismic changes on accounts’ performance over the last seven days. It’s not all bad news – some clients remain strong, while others are doing even better than before the crisis – but we can all agree that consumer behaviours are changing in the context of Covid-19.

Without wanting to sound prescriptive, being conscious that every industry has been affected differently, and talking only by my own experience, here are some ideas I hope you may find useful.

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.

For example, after reading in The eMarketer that, “In response to the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending that consumers pay contactlessly rather than with cash, if possible, as a means of limiting the virus’ spread through microorganisms on cash,” we proposed to one of our clients, who specialises in the supply of electronic points of sale, to use that angle.

A quick look in Google Trends confirms that, in fact, contactless-related terms are trending worldwide:

This is not something this client would normally shout about as it is not necessarily one of their USPs, but given the demand we proposed keyword expansion around those terms, the adaption ad copy and to write new, related content for landing pages.

Remain positive: use negatives
Negative keywords are something we tend to add when we create a new account and only revisit sporadically when carrying out Search Query Reports. But now, more than ever, it’s the time to be on top of what we can filter out. As Fountain’s Head of Digital in Canada Jake Surrey says:

“if you’re managing accounts for anything with brand names, or clients selling products online that are available in stores (especially via shopping campaigns), make sure to use negative terms to ensure your ads are NOT showing when someone is looking for stores that are open, resellers, or anything out of the norm with regards to the recent health crisis”.

This may only have a small impact on your overall search impressions, but as your competitors shut down ads, there will be less inventory, opening you up to more junk traffic.

We have been shocked reviewing search queries from recent traffic; terms you wouldn’t usually think to add as negatives, and that’s not only those looking for stores and locations open.

Make sure you keep on top of terms like “get free”, “nearby”, “stores open that sell”, etc., as we have seen a big spike in just a day.

And talking about exclusions, it’s also a good idea to control where your Display and YouTube ads are showing. With so many children home from school due to Coronavirus, you should evaluate YouTube ad placement, since kids often click on ads meant for parents.

There are website exclusions lists for advertising available where you can find comprehensive directories of children YouTube channels.

Ramp up remarketing
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 – even if these visits don’t result in a lead or a sale. According to our Senior Digital Marketing Consultant, Gemma Russell:

“Display marketing is a good way (if set-up correctly) to reach lots of people at a lower CPC”
First, check how much of the market your campaigns are reaching (Reach/ Frequency/ search impression share/ click share).

We have seen mixed things here: some clients are having to pay more to maintain a share of voice (higher CPCs), and lower conversion rates percentages (in the short term).

Generally, there’s been a drop in impressions of around 20-25%, but this has started to improve and bounce back.

Other clients are seeing competitors leave the market temporarily, so they can capitalise on less competition, lower CPCs etc. Check auction insights reports or any other competitor tools to help to inform this decision.

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

You’re going to need to move the goalposts
Many brands are pulling back on investment while others are retaining, or even increasing budgets in these times of uncertainty. If you happen to be on the latter camp, you are likely to see lower cost per results. That’s great news, isn’t it? It is and it is not, it depends on what your expectations are. 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. Even less does it mean high transaction volume. That’s because tough times make for hesitant buyers.”

If that’s the case, using your usual reports comparing cost-per-lead or ROAS month-on-month or year-on-year will make little or no sense. You still might be doing great given the circumstances even if your return on investment dropped from 600% to 300% compared to March 2019.

If your client has decided to maintain or increase their spend at this time, that’s because they are following the advice of keeping your share of voice at or above share of market during downturn. So it’s preferable to give them updates, on a daily basis if possible, on competitive metrics such as impression share, impression share lost by rank, auction insights to monitor competitors activity, etc.

Before you think about switching off
If the worst comes to the worst – your client see no leads, no purchases, and cannot justify the level of spend – Fountain’s David Cooper recommends to be proactive and take this idea to your client: “before considering pausing everything, turn all our audience targeting from ‘Observation’ to ‘targeting’, so that you are only remarketing and hitting in-market audiences with your Search campaigns.”

That way you will guarantee a minimum of presence while maintaining a low spend and increasing your chances of conversion.

We’re putting together weekly industry updates, to keep pace with rapidly changing markets.