Posted on June 5, 2020 by Drew Tumlinson COVID-19 has impacted our personal and professional lives more than we could have ever imagined. Statewide shutdowns are leading small businesses to temporarily (or even permanently) close their doors. Meanwhile, the businesses pushing through this pandemic are getting creative in their marketing strategies. While there are many marketing channels to focus on, I am going to do a deep dive into Google Ads. I will delve into the trends we’re seeing in clients’ Google Ads campaigns at Webfor, how to track the pandemic-related changes, and how to make sure your campaigns are set up for post-pandemic success. I’ll also share several free checklists for you to download and utilize as you deep dive your own Google Ads accounts. COVID-19 Impacts on Google Ads Accounts On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. In order to get a clear picture of how our Google Ads accounts were impacted, I first pulled Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from January 1, 2020, through March 10, 2020. This gives us a baseline for overall performance before the pandemic was declared. Impressions & Clicks, 1/1/2020 – 3/10/2020 Conversions & Cost/Conversion, 1/1/2020 – 3/10/2020 Next, I pulled the same KPIs from March 11, 2020, through May 18, 2020 — this is a 68-day window post-pandemic declaration. When we compare these two data sets, we’re able to see the differences in performance from before the pandemic was declared and during the pandemic. Impressions & Clicks, 3/11/2020 – 5/18/2020 Conversions & Cost/Conversion, 3/11/2020 – 5/18/2020 Finally, when this pandemic is declared “over,” I will pull the same KPIs for a timeframe after the pandemic. These three data sets will help us analyze how our Google Ads accounts were truly impacted by COVID-19, how quickly they bounced back, and more. Bonus: I’ll continue to monitor performance over the next year or so compared to pre-, during, and post-pandemic. This will give us a holistic view of how our campaigns were impacted, and maybe provide some insight for what to expect for similar situations that may arise in the future. How Have Our Google Ads Campaigns Been Impacted By COVID-19? Looking at performance for January through mid-May, we’re seeing a slow but clear trend upwards in terms of traffic and conversions across client accounts. Impressions & Clicks, 1/1/2020 – 5/15/2020 Conversions & Cost/Conversion, 1/1/2020 – 5/15/2020 As you can tell in the screenshots above, traffic took a bit of a hit but is trending back up. Meanwhile, conversions and cost/conversion remained relatively stable with a drop at the end of April. Overall, these metrics indicate that interest and searches from users are trending back up, and our client’s ads are there to serve those users. While our conversion data indicates a slower trend up, things are looking up nonetheless. This is good news! How To Get These Metrics For Yourself If you are an agency like Webfor and you manage multiple client Google ads accounts, you should be utilizing a Google Ads Manager Account. Log into your Manager Account and click Campaigns in the left-hand menu. You’ll want to filter out any accounts that are now inactive so you don’t skew the numbers. Next, just change the date range to January 1, 2020 – May 15, 2020. Voila! There are your stats. If you’re responsible for only one Google Ads account, you’ll follow the same steps as above, but log into your account directly instead of logging into your Manager Account. How To Track COVID-Related Impacts Some of the negative impacts of COVID-19 will be clear and easy to pinpoint. For example, looking at the month of March at a daily level, we can see a drop in impressions, clicks, and conversions on March 11. This is the same day the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. See the correlation? I recommend adding notes to your campaign graphs to indicate major events like the WHO declaring COVID-19 a pandemic. This makes it easy to look at the graph and see the correlation between that determination and the drop in performance. Other COVID-related impacts you would want to make note of would be any shutdowns for your state, city, and/or county. If you’re a hairdresser, you haven’t been able to legally see clients in Clark County since March 24th. If you’ve seen a decline in performance since then, what do you think that might be related to? Of course, having to temporarily close your doors. Again, making note of that emphasizes the correlation visually. Bonus tip: The easiest way to see COVID-related data on top of your performance data, especially if you’re working with several accounts, is to utilize a pre-written script in Google Ads. “The script generates a spreadsheet of Google Ads performance data with markers for important COVID-19 events, like school closings, shelter-in-place orders, etc” according to a Search Engine Land article. The article also explains how to implement and utilize the script. How To Recover Your Google Ads Accounts From COVID-19 We know that your campaigns have been affected by COVID-19 one way or another. It’s expected that performance and overall search volume has gone down in March, but is likely starting to see a resurgence as we enter June. So, what do we do to recover our Google Ads accounts? Analyze Your Account Structure Make sure that your account is following all Google Ads’ best practices in terms of structure. Campaign Size If any of your campaigns have more than 10 ad groups, considering refining and splitting those ad groups into 2 campaigns. Ad Group Size Do any of your ad groups have more than 15 keywords? If so, they can likely be segmented into multiple ad groups. Ad Count Maybe some of your ad groups only have one or 2 ads. Consider adding a third variation to follow best practices. Bonus tip: Make sure you have 2 Expanded Text Ads and at least one Responsive Search Ad. Review Account Performance Indicative of Account Structure Strength If your account structure is unorganized and unstable, you are likely to see negative impacts on your KPIs. Reviewing your performance can help identify more areas of improvement. Cost Is there one ad group eating up a lot of your budget? Use this as an opportunity to move high-spending keywords into their own ad group. This will allow you to better control the budget. Landing Page Experience If you have a below-average landing page experience, you likely need to make some tweaks to your ad copy and/or landing page. It’s imperative that your ad and landing page copy share the same messaging and utilize targeted and semantically-related keywords. Ensure you’re hitting the mark in these areas and if you’re not, make adjustments. Ad Relevance If Google is giving you a below-average ad relevance, you need to work on your ad copy. Making sure your ad copy includes your primary keywords is a top priority — but make sure they are included naturally, not just stuffed in to get the keyword count up. Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR) Seeing a below-average CTR for some of your keywords? Look at the keyword and ad copy intent to ensure it matches. For example, if I am running ads for “buy men’s red tennis shoes” my ad should probably include something about purchasing men’s red tennis shoes. If it includes something about women’s tennis shoes, there’s clearly room for improvement. Conversion Settings Yes, your account structure is the foundation of your Google Ads account. However, without proper conversion tracking in place, you may as well throw your money down the drain. Accurate conversion tracking not only allows you to see a direct correlation between your ads and your business goals, but it also tells the Google algorithm how to do its job better by supplying it with knowledge about what’s important to your campaign. During the pandemic is a great time to assess your conversion settings. Navigate to your conversion actions overview in Google Ads (Tools & Settings > Conversions). You’ll first want to review the conversions that are currently tracking — is anything missing? Is there a conversion you no longer care about or use that could be removed? Next, you’ll want to audit each conversion’s settings. You’ll want to check on things like naming conventions, value, attribution model, and conversion window. Campaign Settings You will also want to review your campaign settings to ensure you’re telling the Google algorithm what to do with the data it collects and traffic it drives. Review your location targeting to ensure you’re targeting everywhere you can service, or if you can service a large area but don’t have the budget to run a broad campaign, make sure you’re targeting your highest-value locations. Check which bid strategy you’re using and ensure it’s the best for your campaign. Pro tip: 9 times out of 10, Maximize Conversions is your best friend. Get Ready To Roll Reviewing your account structure and settings are foundational to a successful campaign in the future — both during and after the pandemic. Getting these items organized and solidified now will set you up for better performance in the long-run as well. However, there are a few more things you can do to move forward. Analyze Current Performance It’s easy to get lost in the sea of data provided by Google Ads and any internal systems you have like CRMs, Google Analytics, etc. But there are a few areas that deserve the spotlight in this regard: spend, engagements, and cost. You can then use this information to outline how your campaign has evolved over time, as well as to set goals for moving forward. Spend How has your overall spending changed during the pandemic? What are you spending on average daily, weekly, and monthly as of right now? What were these numbers prior to the pandemic? Engagement What is your current average CTR? What about your conversion rate? How do these numbers compare to before COVID-19? Cost Where does your average cost-per-click (CPC) sit? What about your average cost per acquisition (CPA)? How do these numbers compare to your averages before the pandemic? Analyze and Understand Consumer Behavior The world has drastically changed and so have user’s search habits. Everything from how often to exactly what users search has shifted since March. For example, if you’re a restaurant, you may now only be able to offer delivery and/or curbside pickup. People are going to be searching for “food delivery” or “food pick up” more often than just “food near me.” It’s important you know and understand these nuances related to your industry. Pro Tip: Utilize Google Trends for insight into search volume for keywords related to your business. It’s entirely possible that some of these behavioral changes are temporary, but it’s also possible they’re more permanent. Adapting to these changes will set you up for success both with your Google Ads campaign and your business in general. Review Change History It’s important to review any change history from during the pandemic and determine the next steps. Was a change implemented to cut costs that have now been reallocated to the campaign? If so, revert those changes or adjust as necessary. Maybe you paused an entire campaign or ad group to drive more traffic in another campaign or ad group. When this is all over, consider turning that campaign or ad group back on. Now Let’s Roll First, I want to take a second to point out just how long it took to get to the step of ramping things back up. This is intentional. Starting your campaigns back up is not going to be a light-switch, and you certainly shouldn’t be thinking of it as such. The world we’re returning to is not the world we left before COVID-19. Our lives, and our Google Ads accounts, are forever changed. Revert Changes Remember when I said you should review your change history up above? It’s time to take that data and implement it. Need to turn a campaign back on? Make a note or do so. Need to alter an ad group? Do that now, enable it when you’re ready. Gameplan for Budget Growth What is your goal for ad spend per month? Maybe right now you’re spending around $2000, but you want to spend closer to $5000, for example. It’s important to plan this increase out as opposed to just increasing the daily budget overnight. Maybe you want to keep your spend where it’s been — that’s ok, too! In that case, your Google Ads ramp-up journey ends here. 🙂 Daily Budget Updates Like I mentioned earlier, you don’t want to just increase your daily budget from $65 to $165 overnight. Google won’t know what to do with all that budget! Instead, map out when you want to make small, incremental increases to your daily budget until you’ve scaled up to your new norm. Bid Adjustments Another way to increase your spend is to increase your bids. When Google has more budget to spend, you also need to raise your bids in order to be more competitive. Don’t just increase bids willy-nilly; analyze top performers to increase bids on so you also see an improvement in terms of conversions. Match Types Changing keyword match types to broad match where appropriate opens up opportunities for your ads to show to more people. Important note: this can also open the door for unwanted search terms and traffic. Be sure you have accurate negative keywords setup to counteract that and keep an eye on your search terms report to exclude any high cost, unrelated keywords. Trust The Process Your performance is likely not going to bounce back in an instant. It will take the Google algorithm time to relearn your account and goals, plus user behavior will continue to evolve as the world opens back up. Further, user behavior may never return to what it was before the pandemic for a myriad of reasons. It’s important to expect the unexpected and know there will be a slow return to normal, or rather, to a new normal. This is also a crucial time to keep a close eye on your performance and search terms to ensure you don’t waste any spend. Closing Thoughts There’s no question that COVID-19 has impacted your Google Ads (and overall business) performance. Analyzing and recording those changes, then outlining the next steps for moving forward will position you and your business towards future success. As the world evolves, our behaviors change, and we learn to adapt to new normals, it’s important we all keep a positive mindset, respect others, care for others, and stay safe. Download the Full Google Ads Account Management checklist for FREE now! If you have questions or comments about any of the insight provided, feel free to drop a comment below, or reach out to Webfor on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!