Note to readers: This is the second in a series of posts offering some guidance for marketers during this global health crisis.
Previous post: Marketing in Crisis: Ecommerce Channel Ads
Amid and despite today’s chaotic climate, we need to stay at the top of our game as marketers. Staying relevant and visible are crucial aspects of weathering this business storm. More than ever, it’s important that we steward our advertising campaigns so that we ensure our marketing budgets are spent prudently.
At Skai, we are more than just technology. We are people, too. Many of us are or have been practitioners ourselves, and can offer perspective, advice, and expertise across digital channels in this complex environment. In this installment of our ongoing Marketing in a Crisis series, we will explore paid search.
Adapt to the changing landscape—the earlier, the better
Paid search is, and will always be a “pull medium.” Advertisers cannot spend money unless people are searching, and then clicking on, ads for their chosen search terms. While you can influence whether someone clicks on your ad with a compelling call to action, it’s much harder to ensure consumers are performing that search in the first place, at least within the channel.
So what can a search marketer do? Get back to basics: right message, right place, right time.
If you are in an industry that is demonstrably benefiting from what’s going on right now—take telecommunications and gaming, for instance—then things not only aren’t changing for you as a search marketer, but you may be seeing increases in volume. This may come with increases in CPC if the strategies of your competitors are changing, but the rise in interest for your offering should run through all the way to conversions. Therefore, you may very well be able to maintain your KPIs much in the way that the increased click prices during the holidays still net out stable ROI during that period for retail.
In other categories—and travel is perhaps the most obvious example—your business might be experiencing a measurable if temporary, dip. Interest in your offerings will rebound, eventually. So there are a few ways you might ride out the status quo. You still want to be visible if and when someone searches for your keywords, but the likelihood of either a click or a conversion is going to be much lower. If you are able to deliver your product or your service, you will likely want to “leave the lights on.” If not, you have other options.
For terms where you have strong relevance, you may consider a softer message in your search ad copy, a more empathetic approach that reminds customers you’ll be there when they’re ready. Create a custom landing page outlining how you are handling COVID-19—anything from the steps you are taking from a business perspective to providing options for volunteering or donations. You could ask for email addresses in order to keep potential customers in the loop for new updates or company policies.
You can also adjust your budget allocation because while you want to be there for your customers, keeping a tighter rein on costs is going to be critical for some businesses to weather the crisis. With larger search programs, this can be a challenge. It might be a good idea right now to go through your paid search account(s) together as a team to figure out where the priorities are right now. Which campaigns are critical? Which ones aren’t? Getting on the same page early to ensure the budget is going to the right places could be a very valuable exercise that you should do sooner rather than later.
Another near-term strategy for search marketers is to work closely with SEO and organic search teams to see what the impression-to-click ratio looks like for your organic traffic. This could be used to better influence strategy on how SEM may be affected once you reactivate your campaigns.
Also, for advertisers optimizing campaigns for store visits—unless you are one of the ones deemed “essential” to stay open—you should stop doing that. You should also make sure the necessary changes are made to Google My Business to reflect any changes to your store hours. If your business is open, call out the specifics of your situation in your ad copy, such as store hours or delivery/curbside pickup options.
Tips for Skai Search clients
For Skai clients, there are specific capabilities you can bring to bear in addition to these more general strategies, particularly around automation. With Skai Search, marketers can set automated actions to make changes or send alerts when certain rule conditions are met. This way, instead of managing each keyword or ad group individually, marketers can build strategies and let the technology take care of the execution.
Our Skai Search experts had some specific suggestions:
- Alert/Automatically Bid Up When Keywords are Below First Page Bid: This can help prevent your keywords from losing out to competitors on increasingly competitive search terms, particularly for non-perishable foods
- Alert When CPCs Reach a High Level: While you want to be sure you’re bidding competitively, this can be helpful to direct you to any areas that are seeing substantial changes to CPC and evaluate if performance merits continuing to bid up or if you could be spending elsewhere
- Alert/Automatically Bid Up When Keywords Increase in Impression Share: This can indicate terms that are both popular searches and successfully capturing traffic and can be helpful to keep in mind when launching cross-channel keyword support
Here are some of the settings that can be controlled with Skai Search for alerts and automation:
Other examples of automated actions that a search marketer might consider either leveraging or fine-tuning to the current market conditions include pausing ad groups that don’t hit a certain revenue target, pausing ads with low click-through rates (CTR) or increasing bids on keywords with high conversion rates
How can we help?
Even in a crisis, demand for your offerings may persist. People still look for things, and still need the ability to find relevant information when they do, whether that’s from organic or paid search results. Familiarizing yourself with crisis strategies for search marketing may have a longer-term payoff, too—after all, SEM programs were already getting more complicated prior to the additional disruption of COVID-19.
Having a partner with the tools and expertise to help you navigate these challenges has never been more important.