Back to Basics: The Impacts of Coronavirus on PPC Marketing

You Can Lead ‘Em to the Funnel but You Can’t Make ‘Em Click

Alright, Coronavirus, we get it. You’re disruptive and shaking up what we know about pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. Way to test our resolve. Campaigns that performed well before may not work anymore and the pandemic might make you rethink whether PPC is worth your ad spend.

If you’re not seeing conversions, it’s a problem for your business. In belt-tightening times, marketing campaigns may be the first expenses to be cut from the budget.

The fact of the matter is marketing drives sales. If you’re in the sales game, you need to keep marketing. It’s easy to get scared and scale back or drop your PPC budget entirely, but as they say, if you don’t play, you can’t win the game.

One trend that has emerged from the pandemic is that people are at home more, and this results in more time being spent online. You would think that with more hours at the computer consumers would be easier to reach. However, that isn’t necessarily the case as search behaviour is changing – and that’s resulting in some keyword searches experiencing huge decreases in search volume while others increase.

For example, Google search ad click-through rates are down in North America (2.75% in Q1 2019 vs 1.55% in Q1 2020). However, the average cost per click has also decreased from $1.40 in Q1 2019 to $1.28 in Q1 2020), presenting an opportunity for astute marketers to capitalise on some cheap search ad inventory in some sectors.

Late Night Searches

Who’s Thriving, Who’s Surviving, and Who’s Hurting with PPC?

Since the pandemic hit, there’s been an increase in late-night searches. Unfortunately, these extra eyeballs aren’t doing anything for conversions, and we’re seeing conversion rates about 30 percent lower than usual during these hours.

Overall, conversion rates have dropped sharply by an average of 21 percent in the United States since Coronavirus started spreading. The impact of this downward trend varies across industries, but one thing is for sure, some businesses are booming while others have gone bust.

On a more global scale, social ads show an increase in both click volume (+40%) and click-through rates (4%) from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020. Coupled with the conversion data from above, these numbers suggest that more people are spending time online and even clicking ads – but aren’t necessarily converting as well as previous years due to the slowdown in the economy related to Covid. The one exception is e-commerce as you’re about to see.

Here’s an overview of how some industries are doing with their PPC programs in the middle of the pandemic.

Industries with Increased PPC Volume and Performance

  • Non-profits and charities
  • Health and medical
  • Business management
  • Finance
  • Grocery retailers
  • Personal/beauty care
  • On-demand media
  • Gifts and flowers
  • E-commerce in general

If these industries don’t paint the picture of what’s going on in the world right now, what does? Ads are performing well in these sectors because these industries are helping us get through the pandemic.

What are consumers doing differently? They’re giving more to those who need help. They’re focusing on their health, well-being, and self-care. They’re looking for ways to entertain themselves, celebrate with others from a distance, and stock up on soap and hand sanitiser.

E-commerce shows huge growth across the board, it’s a sector that many PPC programs are thriving. In Q2 2020 US e-commerce sales were, not surprisingly, up 66% compared to Q2 2019. Other countries saw similar e-commerce sales growth in that same time period (Q2 2019 vs Q2 2020): +24% (UK), +88% (Canada), +98% (Australia).

Put simply, these industries are experiencing excellent results from their PPC programs.

How to Use PPC Right Now

In these rising industries, consider maintaining or growing your marketing spend. CPC costs have gone down, and this means you can stretch your ad budget further. Now is the time to focus on attracting high lifetime value customers with high purchase intent.

Industries with Mixed PPC Volume and Performance

  • Real Estate
  • Home Improvement
  • Home furniture
  • Automotive
  • Retail
  • Jobs and education
  • Legal services

As mentioned above, people are spending more time at home. For some, this has inspired them to invest in home improvement, new furniture, cars, and other high ticket items or projects. Others who are uncertain about their job security may be less inclined to start new projects or invest in bigger purchases.

How to Use PPC Right Now

Don’t blindly shoot at a target. Now more than ever, collect data, find pockets of performance, review metrics, and optimise to improve ROI (return on investment) and ROAS (return on ad spend). Some industries may see their competitors dropping out of the game as marketing budgets decrease or businesses close. Less competition may result in lower bid costs, so make the most of this opportunity to enjoy some cheap ad inventory.

Industries with Poor PPC Volume and Performance

  • Travel/Tourism
  • Bars/Restaurants
  • Live Entertainment
  • Conferences
  • Sports/Fitness
  • Alternative Medical
  • Building/Construction
  • Industrial/Manufacturing

Industries that rely on crowds of people and proximity are the underdogs right now, and they’re hurting. Out of business signs are going up fast, and people have lost jobs due to downsizing. A huge reduction in foot traffic is causing some companies to haemorrhage money as they are still on the hook for high fixed costs such as rent. These industries have been hit hard by the pandemic.

How to Use PPC Right Now

Your consumers may not be in a buying state of mind right now but that doesn’t mean you should eliminate your ad spend. As long as your PPC campaigns have a solid conversion objective where you can tie ad spend to increased leads or sales you should continue to spend whatever you can afford. Whether your objective is awareness, engagement, or direct response now is an excellent time to create or expand your PPC campaigns to stay top-of-mind.

This may be a time when you redefine parts of what you do. For example, some restaurants offer grocery or liquor items in addition to prepared foods when certain items are out of stock at the grocery store. Think of ways to expand your product and service offerings to increase your upsell and cross-sell opportunities, boost lifetime value, and enable higher marketing spend for acquisition.

Know Your Metrics, Know Your Consumer

We’re in uncharted territory with PPC campaigns. The key these days is to remain agile, take action, and react quickly.

Keep a close eye on your campaigns; change happens quickly when times are uncertain. You’ll want to get as granular as possible with your data. Stay on top of emerging keyword searches or new audience interests on Facebook. Know which keywords, audiences, and ad creatives are performing the best. And when you see those elusive pockets of performance don’t be shy about increasing your budget temporarily to take advantage.

Revisit your keyword lists and add new negative keywords to avoid incurring costs for clicks that won’t convert. Currently, coronavirus dominates google searches, so perhaps this is an opportunity for you Check out Google’s Coronavirus Search Trends for insight into how it applies to your industry.


Give ‘Em Value, and They’ll Convert When the Time’s Right

Avoid stopping your PPC campaigns if they convert – instead, maintain or increase your ad spend for your strongest campaigns. Create ads that show the value of your products or services based on what consumers need right now.

If you do need to cut your PPC budget, eliminate or pause campaigns that haven’t been performing well. If you can, reinvest the dollars saved into higher-performing campaigns. Check and see if you can lower bids and still maintain a strong position in the search rankings.

In this state of upheaval, clicks may come from those looking for advice rather than to purchase a product or service. Stay visible for your target audience, and they won’t forget about you when they’re ready to buy again.



Web Guild (What is PPC?)
Acquisio (The Impact of COVID-19 on PPC: Industry-by-Industry)
PPC Expo (How Coronavirus Affects Business and Pay-Per-Click Advertising)
Wordstream (How COVID-19 Has Impacted Google Ads Results for 21 Industries)
Wordstream (How COVID-19 Is Shaping Google Search Trends & Patterns)
Leadfeeder (Your PPC Approach During COVID-19)
Photo by Dineslav Roydev
Photo by Kyle Hanson
Photo by Riccardo Annandale

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