There's no doubt that Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the way we are all using the internet and using search in particular. Because of this, the way the buying public conducts research and makes important decisions, like making a purchase or choosing a healthcare provider, has changed drastically. Consumers have shifted their expectations about how they want companies to pitch their products and services to them. This means as marketers we need to be more mindful of how we're leveraging our digital marketing channels, especially when it comes to paid search.
Google has broken down how marketers and businesses are preparing for the path to economic recovery into three stages:
- Respond: In this stage, we see businesses responding and adapting to fast-changing consumer behavior and fluctuations in demand. During this time, marketers need to solve what matters today to get their business ready to rebuild.
- Rebuild: In this stage, we see businesses planning for the recovery and rebuilding their marketing fundamentals, investing resources in more in-depth insights, tools, measurement, and reporting. Doing so helps marketers prepare to capture fluctuating demand and position themselves better for recovery.
- Recover: Lastly, in the recovery stage, we find that businesses are reframing their business models and digital marketing practices to either restart or maintain their current growth. It's imperative that during this time businesses implement marketing learnings from the pandemic into their long-term business strategy to drive sustained growth over time.
Businesses in different industries and different parts of the United States are not all in the same stage of the recovery process. Not every business will go through each stage at the same time, and some will take longer to complete a stage than others. For this post, we're focusing on what marketing teams can do in the response stage using paid search efforts.
As there are no precedents for doing business in a pandemic, at least in the modern era, most companies will have to see what works best for them in a trial-and-error process. To help make this easier, Google offers the following guidelines for making the most of your paid search marketing dollars during this unique time.
Reassess Your Priorities
This is an ideal time to sit down and reassess what's really important to you in your business and look at your activities to see that they match your company's mission statement. Ask yourself and your team if there are things that you can do to reduce your expenses and optimize your budget. Are there new opportunities created by the current world situation (think Zoom and hand sanitizer)? If you have extra time on your hands through slower sales, perhaps this is a good time to optimize your landing pages and your website for better search results.
Prepare for New Challenges
The economic atmosphere around the pandemic will undoubtedly create new challenges that you have not yet imagined. How to prepare for these? While you can't foresee every eventuality, there are a number of things you can do. For example...
- Understand the shifts in demand. The pandemic has created new demand for products and services and reduced or eliminated others. Look closely at the products and services you offer and see where you can meet and unfilled demand for your customers.
- Maximize search short-term value on search. There may also be some keywords that are extremely popular now that weren't even considered a few months ago. Are you taking advantage of these pandemic-related keywords and search phrases? A good example is "where to eat during the pandemic?" or "mask-friendly moisturizer"
- Analyze keyword auction dynamics. During these quickly-changing times, keyword auction prices and popularity may shift more quickly than you have been used to seeing.
- Put systems in place to manage this volatility. Assign a team or put other systems in place to stay on top of opportunities and changes in keyword and search data so you can optimize new opportunities as soon as they arise and not waste time on past-date search phrases.
- Streamline your search marketing campaigns. The simpler your campaigns, the easier it will be to pivot as the marketplace changes.
Pivot to New Services and Products
Speaking of pivoting: this is probably the single most important skill a business owner or manager can possess in the current pandemic economy. What does this mean to a digital marketing professional? It means that you need to...
- Be cognizant that consumer demands might change quickly. Will you be able to adapt quickly enough to make a profit on this change?
- Make the necessary changes to your marketing materials. Do your landing pages and display advertising reflect this new shift in direction?
- Look for opportunities. Can you identify the new products and services your customers need in this new environment that you might be able to provide?
- Get out in front of search engines. Since it takes a few weeks for new campaigns to gain traction with search engines, you'll want to create paid search campaigns for your new product lines and services as quickly as possible.
- Don't forget that content is king. Even though you are trying to do a lot of things quickly, you don't want to ignore the fact that useful and insightful content that engages the user is not only attractive to your customers but to search engines as well.
- Test new marketing channels. Paid search isn't the only way to let customers know about your new products and services. For instance, more than 40 percent of respondents in a recent survey said that they are more likely to use social media during the COVID-19 pandemic than they were before. You could also use Google's similar audience tool to reach demographics that resemble your current customers, but whom you don't currently target. Other ways to expand your marketing reach include using paid social media advertising, programmatic advertising, display advertising, and Amazon marketing tools.
- Make sure that you are available via mobile devices. More and more people are using their cell phones and tablets during the COVID-19 pandemic, and not just for checking the CDC and other health-related websites. A study by Valassis, done early in the pandemic, showed a marked increase in mobile device usage, even as more people worked at home on their desktop computers. For digital marketers that means you need to be available and easy to navigate on both types of computers. Make sure that your pages and website are optimized for mobile and that they load quickly on whatever device your customers choose to use.
- Make sure that you are leveraging click-to-call in your advertising. This relatively new technology allows customers to click through to a live phone call with your business, so they can immediately place an order, get directions or make a dinner reservation (for outdoor dining, of course).
The changing digital market due to the COVID-19 pandemic doesn't have to be scary and stressful. You can be ready for the opportunities and challenges this unique time has brought by reassessing what's working and what's not in your digital marketing, preparing for new challenges by putting systems in place, and being ready to pivot quickly so you can make the most of what comes next. To help you do this, Google offers a great set of resources for marketers to help them manage their paid search campaigns during COVID-19. You should be checking these pages regularly as the pandemic continues. This is the most direct resource you have to Google and the tips and insights they're providing for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic lasts.