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PPC During the Coronavirus Pandemic

This blog was written during the 2020 COVID Pandemic.

For many businesses, COVID-19 has disrupted several sources of income. With no revenue coming in, these businesses are cutting some or all of their marketing efforts for months—maybe even the rest of the year. For sectors that are able to sell online, companies are increasing their PPC budgets, especially those that are trying to make up for a loss of sales and leads typically gained from in-person events.

Companies that hadn’t already invested in PPC are left playing catch-up, but what does the online advertising environment look like to companies advertising right now?

Those in the travel industry, for instance, have been very badly hit. Airbnb pulled $800 million out of their marketing budget for 2020; this, of course, has marketers on edge. But in any crisis, there’s opportunity. Taking advantage of it just takes more time, ingenuity, and a marketers intuition.

Luckily, we’ve put together some advice for Paid Search Marketers. (If you want to discuss these ideas further, feel free to get in touch.)

Why you should be advertising on Facebook right now.

Facebook is full of untapped potential for small businesses right now. Social media usage is surging because more people are going online to socialize, but major advertisers and small businesses alike are pulling their marketing campaigns. The new James Bond film, No Time To Die, has been postponed until November 2020, which has cost Facebook $50 million in lost (or postponed) ad spend.

Though the bulk of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from big campaigns, like the promotion of international Hollywood blockbusters, the advertising platform is a valuable tool used by lots of small businesses, and they’re cutting budgets too. The reduced competition on the popular PPC platform has created an opportunity for many entrepreneurs looking for extra value from their marketing budgets.

Simply put, there are more users on Facebook, people are spending more time on the site, and there are lower advertising costs due to less competition. MarketWatch reports that “Facebook’s CPC in North America has been halved to 32 cents in mid-March from 64 cents in December,” so if you’re still selling products, this is the ideal time for your business to advertise on Facebook. Plus, if you meet their requirements, you might be eligible for some of the grants and other programs that Facebook is offering for businesses affected by COVID-19.

What changes should I make to my Google Ads account during the pandemic?

If your ads accounts are still running, there are a few things you should do in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Create a list of negative keywords that are related to the pandemic: pandemic, coronavirus, COVID-19, virus. Check your search terms report for other ideas for negative keywords related to the current state of world affairs.
  • Add new keywords to your targeting or to ad copy and extensions. For example, if you’re a restaurant, focus on phrases like “take-out”.
  • Check your conversions. Some high-level conversions, like phone calls, probably aren’t conversions any more, and they could be the opposite (like people calling to cancel reservations or trips).
  • Check your conversion windows. People are taking a longer time to consider their purchases, so extend conversion windows to make sure they’re accounted for.
  • Are your extensions accurate and necessary? Make sure your location extensions are only running if the locations are open, and keep your Google My Business listing accurate.
  • Pay attention to consumer trends. Keep an eye on what people are doing, so you know when, how, and where to reach them.

Are CPCs cheaper because of Covid-19?

This one is tricky. Though, like I mentioned earlier, MarketWatch has reported that the average CPC in North America has halved from 64¢ to 32¢ from December to March, we think this number may be misleading as seasonality has a great impact on the variation in CPC. So while it’s tempting to say “Yes, CPCs are cheaper right now,” the truth is much more complicated.

Yes, for some verticals, companies are seeing their average cost-per-click decrease. For verticals, like hospitality and tourism, the ad marketplace is less competitive and because Google Ads is an auction, the cost-per-clicks are getting lower. In other verticals, companies are increasing ad spend because they’re seeing increased demands in their products, making the environment more competitive and, therefore, more expensive. Other factors that traditionally affect average CPCs, including seasonality, are still relevant. And some companies have hit the sweet spot, with lower CPCs and higher conversion rates. The beauty and personal care vertical has seen a 41% increase in search volume, with CPCs being up to 20% lower, and conversion rates increasing by as much as 40%. Demand for skin care and beauty products, which is usually most competitive in December, has spiked as people want to pamper themselves at home.

The other factor to take into consideration is how much the consideration window has expanded. The deliberation period for purchases is much longer. For sectors like travel you should be looking 90 days out, maybe even a year. If you can get in their mind early, and stay there with a well planned remarketing campaign, you’ll be first in mind when stay at home orders are lifted and social distancing is a distant memory.

Although your CPCs may be lower, potential customers might need more coaxing with retargeting ads over a longer period of time – therefore negating some, not all, of the benefit of lower CPCs. That being said, the initial lower cost per click is beneficial to overall campaign goals and should be explored and taken advantage of. Capitalize on their FOMO, build their anticipation. This longer consideration period affects all verticals, though. If people are worried about their income, they will spend longer considering how to spend it. You should be expanding your conversion windows for up to 90 days as consumers are taking a longer time to consider their purchases.

Google Ads automation in a pandemic.

Automated bidding will probably be hurting you more than helping you right now. The prediction models that Google would have created to find you more clicks or more conversions will be completely thrown-off by a change in consumer mobility. Using past data to optimize your ad delivery is redundant when future activity doesn’t conform to the patterns that in the past predicted positive outcomes. This can be frustrating for some ad account managers because at a time when accounts need more observation and manual adjustments, clients are cutting budgets – or pausing campaigns entirely.

Should you put a full stop on ad campaigns?

No. You should be smarter about the campaigns you are running though. Understand what your customer journey will look like for the next 6 months. If you work with an agency, ask them to develop long-term plans or if they offer other services that might make more sense in this current situation. One of the most important things we do as marketers is building audiences and focussing on the consumer journey in how they interact with your brand. You should still be building audiences and developing strategies to keep you in a position of strength 90 days from now.

If you’re unhappy with your PPC campaign health or you’re looking to get started, partner with an agency that uses data and insights to build your PPC strategies and optimize your campaigns.


As companies realize the importance of their digital platforms, there’s a new .com race to give facelifts to websites and social media profiles. Businesses that relied on in-person sales are worried about being left behind if they’re not online and they’re turning physical stores into ecommerce stores. Doing ecommerce badly can be just as dangerous to your brand as not doing it at all. Glitchy online stores and websites, incorrect order fulfillments – they don’t invoke the trust you want your customers to associate you with.

If you want to build an awesome ecommerce store, get in touch with us. When it comes to marketing your products, at least do your homework, and get invested in PPC while the conditions are more lucrative and your competitors have shied away.