7 Search Tactics to Help Navigate Through COVID-19


April 1, 2020

COVID-19 has sparked a very humanized moment and experience. Marketing, pop-culture, brands and more will always follow intrinsic human experience. Sometimes it’s overlooked in the dizzying array of tech from the day-to-day, but in this very fragile moment, we highlight the human spirit. The outpouring of global goodwill, search for information, efficiency and charity, is reflecting and changing our search behavior, and we are here to help you navigate through this with time-saving optimization tips. Check out these seven Search tactics to navigate COVID-19.  Watch our video and check out the tips below for more!

 

Know Your Search Trends and Expand Your Content 

Users are flocking to the SERP, but overall conversion rates from advertisers are trending down by 21%, pointing to anticipated search behavior, but low on any kind of consumer purchase intent. However, this is not necessarily true for all verticals. By knowing your specific keyword, query, bid and industry trends, you can stay ahead of the game. Break into new or temporary content under a unique lens or get a head start on comp analysis for when our current state comes to pass. 

For example, goodwill and non-profit is performing well – as it should be with a 10% increase in search impressions and 20% increase in search ad conversions. Health and medical content is seeing a 47% increase in search conversions and 34% spike in search clicks, while searches for at-home office supplies surged to 90% and a 47% conversion rate. Of course, there are verticals getting hit equally as hard with 20-50%+ deltas in the negative: travel, sports & entertainment, bars & restaurants, building & construction, etc. 

The mention here is to weaponize clarity with understanding and seize opportunity. Even if your vertical or brand does not align with the performing trends above, there may be a way to expand and get creative with ad copy, landing pages and a campaign that offers your unique brand’s solution to the market needs of goodwill, informational and essential. Creatively doing so, even with low spend, can get you into those high click and impression share topics, maintaining top-of-mind consideration and authenticity to carry through potential downturns. 

Need some free research tools? Start with this! Google Lab, is curating trends related to the pandemic, alongside Google Trends. Full article and statistics from above were provided by Mark Irvine via WordStream, and the report can be found here

Preserve Omni-channel Budget by Moving It to Lower-Funnel Tactics:

As noted in our previous article, a loved brand truly rules all. However, slower yielding tactics to build that consumer loyalty may need to take a backseat during this global pandemic. We all are searching for information, essential items and a lot of goodwill in a very direct-response way: User-initiated on-demand via the SERP. User-initiated pull media is reigning over brand exploration, at least for the moment. If omnichannel budgets are a concern, consider shifting higher funnel spend from things like display down to social, email and search. Of course, you can still keep those higher brand tactics, just wrapped within the lower funnel channels. If programmatic and display does indeed yield top conversion rates and budget for your business, by all means keep it going! 

Check out our recent tips and tricks for programmatic advertising in the face of COVID-19 article here.

Adjust Constraints & Pull New Levers:

Once you have a pulse on keywords, CPCs, trends and potential impression share, it is time to adjust. Consider changing caps and constraints if CPCs are trending lower for your industry to preserve margin, pause under-performing or inefficient parts of the portfolio that can wait until after the market stabilizes, and then shift spend into brand or trademark content. Raise budgets’ thresholds on demanded content to ensure you are capitalizing on any traffic increases. Every situation will be unique to each advertiser and require a creative attack. Within SA360, there are a number of tools that can help:

  • Check the “Move unused budget” recommendation from Optimization Score, to get details on where you can be more efficient.
  • Harvest new keywords or negatives by looking at search queries generating activity within the search terms and queries view, nested under the keywords tab. 
  • Make use of all sitelink options for maximizing the SERP. Make sure to deep-link them to relevant pages or promotions within.
  • Capitalize on unknown content not historically explored since traffic will be different during this time by activating Dynamic Search Ads or Responsive Search Ads. Utilizing this feature may expose new incremental lift and campaign performance. 
  • Use Labels to quickly organize content to take action against or identify elements and keywords being affected with marginal drops from this global event. 

Evaluate Algorithm Agility

The auction landscape is wildly in flux. There are surges of spend and no-spend as marketers shift and shuffle. Keywords, impression share and trends have drastically dipped or spiked within 24 hours or less. Historic content may no longer be relevant, and conversions that drive bid strategies may have dropped significantly. With this volatility, keep an eye on your automated bidding. Make sure that you are monitoring daily, or even intra-day to ensure that auto-bid algorithms are keeping up with the changing market. This is particularly true for steep cutoffs or spikes as in one-day sales, intra-day bidding or strategies driven by a moving conversion margin. 

If you are finding your bid strategies are unable to keep up with pace, first and foremost, consider the conversion or goal source that is powering them, and how you can influence that source to keep the strategy going. Use Auction Time Bidding (ATB) to capitalize on real-time signals. Only as a last resort, should we ever return to manual bidding. Once this hopefully brief era passes, the cold-start process of a learning period, historic performance not being accurate, conversion correction and content or goal adjustment will leave teams flustered to get back up and running again. Manual bidding is hard-pressed to beat algorithms driven by a good conversion source, especially at scale on a large cross-engine portfolio. It is a best practice to always influence the conversion source and portfolio structure to drive auto-bid optimization, rather than manual inputs that could negatively affect the algorithms, or moving to manual bidding entirely.

Conquesting

Even in this COVID-19 era, brand competitiveness will continue. If competitors are not advertising, and have pulled out of the game entirely, it may be worth a tactical experiment to bid against competitive content. If consumers are still searching for their brands, yet those brands are no longer appearing within the SERP, it is worth the effort to bid against that brand’s content to try to garner their impression share and win at the brand level. Due to this exact tactic on the flip side, it is vital to ensure your evergreen and brand campaigns continue to run as well, keeping any competitor conquesting at bay. 

Alleviate Tactical Pressure 

If resources are strapped, it is an important time to make sure that you are using all tools efficiently to maximize team bandwidth. Many SEM management platforms, like SA360, can help automate repetitive tasks at scale and open bandwidth so your team can focus on the bigger picture. Need help getting started with a platform? Feel free to reach out to us here at Adswerve, and we can schedule a 30-minute demo. 

Maximize SEO

Finally, with budgets constrained, the best way to garner market share on the SERP is with organic rankings and masterful SEO. Consider getting with your site-side teams, and revisiting what can be fine-tuned in content and site schema. 

We are all in a period of time where goodwill, essentials and information are a welcomed global necessity. Remaining authentic within this from a marketing perspective can, and should, coexist responsibly with the protection of your business or margins. Make sure you are taking action, and as always, please reach out to us for any assistance.