Google Ads in Covid-19: How to Handle the Shift

15th Sep 2020

Google’s Pay Per Click (PPC) service, Google Ads, has for over a decade been one of the most powerful and effective ways to generate qualified leads online.

Using a clearly defined, well-planned and managed PPC campaign has helped thousands of businesses develop new business, understand their target audiences better and update and refine their websites to produce optimal goal conversion.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has created an unnatural departure from ‘business as usual’. As millions of people were forced into isolation at home, online consumption habits changed dramatically (and rapidly), creating a new intensity in searches for answers, information and solutions.

For those advertisers who reacted swiftly, the sudden shift and increase in online activity has generated great results from PPC campaigns. But for many others who either didn’t update or change their campaign strategy, or misread the opportunity, the results have been less than optimal.

A snapshot of global performance shows that some sectors have seen a large rise in search volume and conversion performance, others have had mixed results, and some have seen large decreases.

The biggest gainers

Unsurprisingly, the biggest gainers in ad traffic impressions, volume and conversion have been:

  • Charities and non-profits, as people’s good nature comes to the fore
  • Health and medical information sites and online stores
  • Business management resources as well as online shops for office, packing and shipping supplies, as remote offices/working suddenly became a necessity
  • Financial and Stock Market advice – traditionally a poor and expensive PPC performer, this has suddenly gained in interest (and consequently dropped in price) as people seek ways of making their money work harder
  • Personal beauty and personal care products – with salons closed, and the need for hand sanitizing and soap products, there has been a spike in this sector across both hygiene and personal beauty care products.
  • Digital entertainment services – everything from Netflix to Britbox has seen a sharp rise in interest, as people find ways to entertain themselves at home

Those with mixed results

Uncertainty in certain sectors has led to mixed results for some sectors, with the easing of the Covid crisis likely to shift these sectors one way or another.

  • Property sales – as borrowing rates remain low and people take advantage of debt relief measures, the buying market has seen interest online. However, with the inability to go and view properties for an extensive period, conversion rates to enquiry have been low.
  • New and second-hand car market – this has been an interesting sector, as new car interest has dropped significantly as people rein in unnecessary spending. Second hand car sales and car auctions have increased though, with many people look to get rid of cars to release emergency cash and reduce debt.
  • General online retail – uncertainty about their financial future has seen many people curb their online spending on items such as fashion, electronics and luxury items. Wholesalers, however, have seen an increase in traffic and conversion.
  • Education – a sharp increase in online resources has been tempered with a decline in interest in tertiary education applications and research, with uncertainty over how the academic year was going to pan out.

Those that have really felt the crunch

There have been some sectors that have had a catastrophic year as a result of Covid, with many forced to close their doors either temporarily or permanently. Cash flow has been their biggest challenge, and with most in full ‘survival mode’, there hasn’t been much extra money for paid campaigns. As a result, the following sectors have seen the sharpest decline in both search and conversion performance.

Travel & Tourism – whilst companies that offer services in this sector have started to bounce back, the wariness of customers to commit to offers has impacted the conversion of any campaigns heavily. And although restrictions have started to ease, the summer is over and reluctance remains high, meaning it will be some time before this sector begins to bounce back.

Bars, Restaurants and Clubs – whilst the online ordering and home delivery businesses have seen an increase in activity, for obvious reasons the in-venue search and conversion statistics have not made good reading for the past 6 months. The sector is bouncing back though, although spending on PPC remains almost 50% lower than it was at the same time last year.

Live Events, Sport and Conferencing – as with the above sectors, large scale closures, cancellations and matches played behind closed doors have impacted heavily on searches for and marketing of events in this sector. Again, it will likely begin to bounce back as people look to next year for possible rescheduled events, but the recovery will be long and slow.

What does this mean for my business?

Well, simply put, depending on which sector you’re in you’ll need to think, plan and implement digital marketing campaigns with a far sharper focus than before. Here are 5 things you should be doing:

  1. Use tools like Google Trends to get as much data as you can, both historical and projected so that you can make the most informed decision.
  2. Refine your messaging to be relevant to the current situation without being exploitative. Consider positive and negative keywords and phrases so that you’ve answered searches across the full spectrum.
  3. Track your performance extremely closely and cut out non-performing campaigns immediately, as you don’t have the time or the budget to waste on too much experimentation
  4. Focus on offers that show genuine added value, whatever your sector. Getting an audience on-side now may only pay longer-term dividends, but as the consumer sector looks to suppliers for help, you’ll position yourself as someone who was there when you were most needed.
  5. Be omnichannel – the more touchpoints you can use to reach your audience, the better. And with online consumption patterns shifting, you’ll need to focus on more than just one or two channels to ensure you’re covering the right bases. This can include Google Ads, social media channels, email marketing and even influencer marketing, as long as you’re hitting the right target audience and you’re able to track metrics effectively.

Put the right plans in place to get your digital marketing strategy right for the current situation and for tomorrow. For guidance and advice on setting up, managing and optimizing your digital marketing campaigns, contact Realnet today on 01223 550800 or

Realnet is an established Cambridge digital agency, we have been helping all sorts of organisations with their online presence since 1998. From website design and ecommerce to digital marketing and PPC campaigns.

Contact us to make your website work harder for you.