The impact of COVID-19 on paid advertising

The corona pandemic has changed everything, including the way we market. Here's how it's impacted the world of paid advertising, and how to adjust....

Picture of Lauren Nuttall Lauren Nuttall

Published: 02 Jun 2020

5 minutes read

The impact of COVID-19 on paid advertising

COVID-19 has greatly impacted the way almost every industry on the planet operates. In just a few months, a global pandemic has changed everything from how we work, to how we shop - both in the real world and in the Google universe. 

People concerned about their futures now have less money to spend, and have changed the way they buy - as well as what they search for. Google Trends even has a regularly updated coronavirus insights page, that shows us what the most common searches are week by week based on a particular topic so we can see what people are searching for (everything from toilet paper to Gemma Collins!). 

It’s no surprise that global events have an impact on PPC (see how the aftermath of Brexit impacted PPC performance worldwide), but COVID-19 is undeniably unique, as it is impacting the entire world in unprecedented ways. But what exactly does this mean for paid advertising?

Let’s find out.

New consumer concerns

The effects and implications of COVID-19 have impacted both individuals and businesses in different ways, however what is clear is the clear changes in consumer behaviour as a result of the pandemic. 

Google Trends can give some insight into this constantly changing behaviour. At a high level, five customer behaviors can be seen emerging out of Google data across markets, based on what people are searching for. Based on these, businesses can adapt their marketing strategies to ensure they’re giving their customers what they need. These new behaviours are as follows:

1. Assembling critical information

Because of COVID-19, the majority of people’s lives have been turned upside down. With schools closing, businesses changing their operating hours and adapting to online delivery methods, we’ve seen a noticeable spike in the number of people searching for the information they need to sustain themselves during this confusing period.

How you can react:

  • Acknowledge the new and strange reality - people appreciate honesty
  • Give consumers extremely detailed and accurate information about your business
  • Keep your content up to date so consumers know where they stand

Want to keep up to date with the latest in tech and industry? Subscribe to our  weekly newsletter here. 

2. Discovering new connections

Even with social distancing in place, Google shows that people are still reaching out to form relationships and nurture the ones they already have. A lack of physical contact has many reaching out to form online communities.

How you can react:

  • Try and connect with your prospects and customers both locally and globally (send out regular communications, open conversations - maybe even host a webinar)

3. Adjusting to changes in their routines

Routines and schedules, like everything else under isolation rules, have been completely turned upside down. Search terms such as “do it yourself” are on the rise, as well as at-home workouts and creative projects. People are becoming more self-sufficient than ever before.

How you can react:

  • Update and publish content often - keep your prospects on their toes
  • Use your data to see when people need help (consult your buyers journey)

4. Praising everyday heroes

In the UK in particular, appreciation for the “everyday hero” has skyrocketed. From healthcare to supermarket workers, people are showing their appreciation for those often taken for granted. 

How you can react:

  • Look for ways your business can offer support, or celebrate causes you care about

5. Taking care of themselves and others

During lockdown, people have experienced a whirlwind of emotions, and there has been an increase in self care, as well as caring for others. As anxiety and fear can run rampant in such uncertain times, consumers are actively searching for ways to keep themselves and others grounded and safe.

How you can connect: 

  • Facilitate virtual conversations with consumers
  • Join conversations about wellbeing and health

Based on these changing behaviours, your business can tweak your marketing strategies (PPC in particular) to get closer to your customers and start better meeting their needs. This isn’t about exploiting the current situation, but using the knowledge you now have to set your business up for the future.

Changes to search

The ways in which people search, and the intent behind their searches is also something we’ve seen change in recent weeks. 

Late night searchers

Now more people are at home, night searches are increasing in popularity. Where previously businesses would struggle to get conversions based on late night searches, you may find that your ads perform better out of your typical off-business hours. You could run ads that build awareness of your brand for these late night searchers, and retarget them further down the line. 

Search intent

Choosing keywords for PPC ads in the midst of COVID-19 can be confusing, as search volumes for a number of keywords have increased, but the intent behind them has changed. 

For example, a number of travel-related keywords have been on the rise - searches around airlines and flights. However, given the travel restrictions imposed by many countries, it’s unlikely that many people are looking to purchase a holiday any time soon - instead, these searches are likely to be from customers looking out for cancellations, updates and requesting refunds for holidays they already purchased. This demonstrates the importance of choosing the right keywords and paying close attention to how your ads are performing on a regular basis. 

Where you may have checked every two or three weeks, we recommend that you make analysing your ads a more frequent activity. With consumer behaviour changing daily, you don’t want to waste your budget on the wrong keywords, or on a PPC campaign that just isn’t converting.

So what does this mean? Is it still worth investing in your PPC campaigns?

Yes, absolutely. While many businesses may be scaling back in the short term, or abandoning their PPC campaigns completely, this isn’t necessarily the best way to go. Take the time to research trends, analyse the data you already have and set realistic targets of what you want to achieve with your PPC campaigns. 

Take a look at your campaigns - are they doing well? If not, why? Dedicating the time needed to figure out the answers to these questions will be the difference between just staying afloat and thriving under the current circumstances. 

Whether it’s worth keeping your PPC campaign going strong is dependent on your resources and budget - which you may not have much of under the current circumstances. However, what we can advise is that before cancelling everything, analyse how your ads are performing and figure out how (if) you can improve. Those who bury their heads in the sand and hope for the best, or cancel immediately aren’t likely to gain any results. However, for businesses that take time to think logically about their PPC campaigns and react quickly to changes, you can ensure success amongst all the uncertainties.

The COVID-19 situation is changing every day, and we want to help in any way we can, by keeping you up to date on changing circumstances and news in all things marketing. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest news, tech insights and innovations in your industry. 



Sent straight to your inbox every week.