Social Media

How to Adapt Your Advertising Strategy During the Coronavirus Crisis

by Frances Miller

Undoubtedly, March 2020 represented the quickest and most drastic shift in online behavior we’ve ever seen. With the coronavirus impacting all of us, it’s fair to say that nothing in life is normal right now—and yet, we’re still tasked with continuing business to the best of our ability and finding a way to grow, or at least maintain, revenue, even during a pandemic. Advertisers everywhere are finding ways to carefully adjust their budgets, ad content, and broad 2020 strategies, while hoping to develop some momentum through the next few months. With activity constantly changing—what we saw last week is already different than this week, and two weeks ago—how do you adapt?

Like many of our partners, our marketing team at CallTrackingMetrics has had to quickly shift gears in light of the pandemic and all of these changes. Our Senior Paid Media Manager, Lisa Salvatore, shared her insights on how to adapt your advertising strategy during a crisis on a webinar last week. Read on to learn more about her top suggestions to cope with sudden changes and set a strong pipeline for the future.

Before we dive in, however, it’s important to note that changes in user behavior and trends vary widely by industry. Like with any huge event, some industries are being hit harder than others. If you haven’t already, it’s a great time to set up and integrate Google Data Studio dashboards with CTM to track your own lead quality and volume and to identify any significant shifts in performance.

new yorker cartoon - the new new normal

Interesting Numbers around Advertising and COVID-19:

  • In March 2020, search interest for “telecommuting” on Google increased by 614% (based on Google Trends data). Similar terms and phrases like “work from home” saw the same surge, and items related to working from home are also up (shopping for a comfy office chair for home? You’re not alone.)
  • In one month, brick-and-mortar store visits dropped by 90%.
  • Throughout March 2020, mobile search traffic on Google dropped by 25%, yet general Internet usage is up 50%. Presumably, we are all at home, streaming content, online shopping, using video call tools, and spending time on social media.
  • We’re searching early in the morning and late at night. In the evening hours coinciding with the peak search volume for COVID-19, advertisers have noted a 30% lower conversion rate than they typically would expect at night.

I imagine the Zoom team had no idea back in February that search traffic for “virtual backgrounds for zoom” would be a breakout hit in March. On the flip side, how could Nike’s advertising team have known that the Zoom Pulse shoe would no longer be what people searching “zoom” had in mind? All of this shows how quickly and significantly user behavior online (and in person) can change, and why it’s important to be proactive with the management of your digital advertising campaigns.

zoom google search term trend

In the Short Term: Monitor and Adjust Daily

Optimizations you might typically make on a weekly or monthly basis should now be monitored daily. Those dashboards we mentioned are more important than ever. In particular, here are a few items to check up on:

  • Consider the locations of your businesses. If some areas are affected more than others, adjust your location bids.
  • Pause or update shopping ads if items are out of stock.
  • If your hours of operation have changed, update your Google Business Profile.
  • If you are using automated smart bidding strategies, you might need to re-adjust your targets. If your cost per lead has come down, make sure the system is optimizing to the new target.
  • Keep an eye on your traffic by desktop and mobile devices. This usage behavior could be changing rapidly in your campaigns with more people working remote.

There might also be unusual delays or limitations from ad providers. For example, Google is currently limiting Reviews and Q&A on your Google My Business listing, and setting up a Local Services dashboard could be delayed. Facebook says ad reviews are taking longer than usual and ad delivery may also be delayed.

Read More: Introduction to Facebook Advertising

Lastly, know your tolerance for risk and your performance targets. If you can afford to maintain your ad spend and are still hitting your ROI goals, then don’t pull back. You could get more visibility at a lower cost, with many advertisers cautiously reducing ad spend right now.

Tools for monitoring and adjusting advertising campaigns:

  • CallTrackingMetrics integration with Google Data Studio
    Quickly and easily identify shifts in performance. Learn more.
  • Keyword Planner tool (Google Ads)
    Look for changes in traffic on your most valuable terms.
  • Auction Insights report (Google Ads)
    See how your competitors are adjusting.
  • Search Terms report (Google Ads)
    See if the keywords triggering your ads are still relevant, or not.

Request a demo to see CallTrackingMetrics in action

Context Has Changed, So Your Ad Content Probably Needs To Change, Too

More than ever, you want your advertising to resonate with your audience, and if it is totally out of touch with the global pandemic that we’re all facing right now, people will feel that and ignore what you have to say. Make sure to focus on the messaging, context, and tone of your ads—for both new and existing campaigns. Double check the language and imagery in your current campaigns to make sure they still resonate, and that you aren’t putting too much focus on, say, visiting a store.

houzz facebook ad example
Houzz uses direct and sensitive language and simple imagery in this Facebook ad to inform their audience about relevant services.

On the creative front, be mindful of images in your ads that show people not practicing social distancing. You don’t want to come across as insensitive to the fact that we all can’t sit tightly around a table right now. Even images showing hands might make people uncomfortable when we are all constantly thinking about washing our hands and not touching our faces.

office life vs work from home life
The image on the left would have been perfectly normal a month ago, but now seems irrelevant.

Above all else, be sensitive and empathetic, and do not try to capitalize on the situation with your wording or offers. But, if your product can solve your customers’ current challenges, let them know! For example, CallTrackingMetrics happens to be a great solution for remote teams, and we want to make sure new and existing customers know we can help them maintain business continuity—and that they know which features are the most helpful right now.


This Too Shall Pass: Advertising Strategy for the Rest of 2020

While we don’t know exactly when life will return to normal, there are things we can do now to set our future selves up for success. For example, with events and conferences on hold, our team is taking the time to revisit collateral needs and focus on content projects that had been on the back burner.

Specific to paid media, we recommend considering new ad formats and ad channels. You can’t change what has happened over the past few weeks with your ad campaigns, but you can establish a strong pipeline for the future.

Here are a few ad channels we’re looking into:

  • The search results page has seen a lot of disruption in the past few weeks, so think about other outlets to reach your customers, such as enabling search partners in your paid search campaigns, as well as running display, Gmail, or video ads.
  • With more people working remotely, the use of streaming services is surging. Audio ads or connected TV ads are also worth considering if your budget allows for it. According to Choozle, connected TV and audio advertising impressions are skyrocketing, while CPMs are decreasing.
  • With such dynamic market conditions and uncertainty, you may find customers are hesitant to take action and convert. But they are still researching and ingesting content. Think about native ad formats to promote your content to reach people at the right moment who are receptive to your message.
  • Expanding to these new channels and not relying so heavily on paid search naturally shifts your advertising strategy to target more to the top of your funnel. This top of funnel approach is wise right now, as it will allow you to continue reaching your target customer during their consideration phase while opening the opportunity for strong retargeting campaigns in the future.

And, a quick note about your SEO efforts: keep them on track. When search demand and behavior returns to its previous state, you want to be poised for a quick bounceback organically.

Read More: From Keywords to Crawlers: 7 Easy Ways to Optimize Your SEO


Resources for Marketers and Small Businesses during COVID-19

On top of state and federal resources that may be available to you, there are a number of public and private opportunities for small businesses. Google has committed $800 million to support small businesses, including Google Ads credits. Bookmark our COVID-19 hub for resources and how CTM is helping you keep in touch with customers. Stay connected while quarantined by looking for virtual events. And check the American Marketing Association’s support materials for marketing professionals.

Lastly, with so much changing each day, it’s important to stay up to date on market conditions and industry trends. We recommend subscribing to newsletter lists from your favorite industry sites and the CTM blog so you can receive the info you need, right in your inbox.

Want to learn more about optimizing your advertising strategy with CallTrackingMetrics?