COVID-19 quickly turned into a pandemic over the past couple of months and as a result, we’ve seen most businesses (big and small) limit their operation or completely stop. Travel and hospitality industries shut down, schools and malls closed, and retail stores have been limited to food and medical supplies.
We’ve seen major cities on lockdown and governments declaring crises. People are encouraged to stay at home to stop the virus from spreading.
As the people’s behavior changed, their online search behavior changed too. Global events often affect pay-per-click advertising performance. COVID-19 is no exception. Some industries are flexible enough to go with the flow of the shifting market. Sadly, not all. In fact, many businesses are forced to shut down.
On the brightside, business owners shouldn’t lose hope. As sufficient data emerges and trends become more evident, small businesses can actually adjust to the challenges, cut losses, and still be able to do business.
Here are four (4) major business trends that have emerged over the recent weeks when COVID-19 wreaked havoc and what strategies PPC marketers can use to adjust campaigns to reduce the crisis’ impact.
Trend 1: Store Visits Dropped by 90% One Month in the Pandemic Crisis
With social distancing implemented and unnecessary trips are discouraged, physical stores are forced to close or limit store capacity. This is particularly painful especially for small local business owners who greatly rely on foot traffic for income.
Advertisers track store visit conversions in Google Ads to understand the offline impact of their online campaigns. In late February, most advertisers noticed a small drop in store visits, which quickly escalated to 46% drop by the second week of March. After the president’s address and CDC global travel warnings, store visits dropped again by 80%. And the past week store visits hit a new low – foot traffic is down by 90% versus previous month.
If your business can no longer rely on foot traffic to fill store fronts, start focusing on improving your online presence. There’s no apparent decline in Google Search Traffic since the outbreak, which makes it the perfect time to improve your online advertising.
Here are the things you should start doing:
- Start with a website. There are a lot of tools online that enable business owners to create a basic website. If you already have one, make updates on the content and design. Make sure it’s ready and functional for your target audience.
- Optimize your Google My Business. If you don’t have one, create now – it’s free! Display important information on your GMB profile like business hours, address, products, business description, contact info and even photos and posts.
- Start engaging on social media. It is expected that your business operations will change throughout the pandemic. Expect that your customers will look into your social profiles for updates.
- Allocate some of your offline marketing budget to online ads. If you have yet to invest in any form of digital advertising, now’s the best time to do it. Ads can help you get your brand out there where people can actually see it.
Trend 2: Mobile Search Traffic Down by 25% (March)
As people stay at home, advertisers observed a decline in mobile search traffic over the past month. Although you can see a decline on Google traffic in various devices, mobile is the most affected.
From last week of March, mobile traffic has consistently been down an average of 24%. Tablet traffic is also seen to drop about 19% during the same period. Desktop, on the other hand, is much steadier showing an 18% decline on weekdays and 7% on weekends.
Start analyzing your budget and adjust your budget for mobile advertising. As searchers shift back to desktops, expect big shifts in ad performance across devices.
Trend 3: COVID-19 Dominates New Searches
Obviously, queries containing “COVID-19” and “coronavirus” have increased in search volume over the past weeks. In fact, even searches not directly related to the virus have surprised marketers as they become increasingly popular.
Start following trends related to COVID-19 searches. Google Trends is a great tool to use to find trends. They’ve recently introduced the Coronavirus Hub, which business owners can review how people’s priorities and search interests are.
Trend 4: Google Search Traffic Falls, Cross-Network Opportunities Grow
Internet use is up by nearly 50% since COVID-19 became a pandemic but not as much on Google Search. The good news is that there are still ways to reach your prospects. They’re just looking in different places.
Google Search and Google Shopping traffic may have considerably dived, finding customers off SERPs have relatively become a lot easier. Google Display Network grew about 13% since the beginning of March and Youtube views have increased to 21%.
Start distributing your budget to advertise across networks. As behaviors change, we’re still unsure how Google SERP activity will play out for the coming months. Advertising across multiple networks will alleviate the losses of relying on Google SERP alone. This strategy will also help you attract new audiences who later on may start looking for you on Google.
Including Google Search Partners can also help you place your ads in small search engines like Ask.com. While it’s true that most searches occur on Google, there are still small players out there. Search engine partners make up 10% of Google’s search reach.
Invest in display ads and YouTube. Since people practically spend most of their time online now, it’s easier to find them as they browse, scroll on their social feeds, and watch online videos. Start connecting with advertising experts to further understand how you can use PPC trends and strategies like remarketing to remind your customers of your brand.
It is truly a challenging time for all of us and it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to change our lives and the way we conduct business over the next weeks or months. Invest in learning and find new strategies that would help put your brand on the map. Stay home, stay safe and healthy.