Why you should double down on digital marketing right now (COVID-19 Edition)

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Why you should double down on digital marketing right now (COVID-19 Edition)

Yes, everything is topsy-turvy right now in the marketing space. 

Advertisers are pulling paid media budgets from the largest advertising platforms. Facebook is stating that demand for their ad inventory has decreased in recent weeks. Google Ads clicks are decreasing drastically.

We can corroborate these trends with data from our agency client base as well. We can see a clear decrease in CPCs for non-brand Google Ads:

Interestingly, there is an even more drastic decrease in brand cost-per-click (CPCs) because both affiliates and competitors are pulling their search budgets as it pertains to competitor brand bidding.

We see the same trend in Bing Ads:

While many of our clients have pulled back on Facebook advertising, we have seen some anecdotal evidence that Facebook CPCs and CPMs are also decreasing over the past 3 weeks.

The one channel that doesn’t seem to have been impacted is LinkedIn. Across our entire client base, CPCs have held fairly steady. This is likely because B2B marketers know that LinkedIn in audiences are now even more captive than they have been in the past. So what does this mean for you, as you are deciding what to do with your budgets in the short-term?

  1. Less competition means lower costs in your top-performing channels.
    Paid search is generally a bottom-funnel channel with great ROI. Now that CPCs are falling drastically–we have seen CPCs for some clients fall more than 50% over the past 3 weeks – you can get significantly more bang for your buck. This is extremely important as your company is likely shifting to some austerity measures.

    One thing to be careful of is not to let people’s hysteria eat up your budget. For paid search,  pay attention to your search terms to ensure your ads aren’t showing up for any COVID-19 or coronavirus related terms.

    For display campaigns, make sure to pre-emptively exclude COVID-19 related sites from serving your ads. Zato Marketing has compiled a great exclusions list already.
  2. Everyone is at home and even more glued to their devices than ever before. They are likely spending a ton more time on social media and browsing the web. Take advantage by being where they are and providing value. ou can likely reach a wider audience for a smaller budget than you could prior to the COVID-19

    WARNING. Please make sure you are following the appropriate rules of engagement here. There is a right way to market during a crisis.
  3. Lower costs mean lower risk in testing new channels and tactics.
    Have you ever wanted to test out Quora ads, but couldn’t come up with the extra budget to effectively do this? Well now might be your chance. With CPCs decreasing on your main channels like Google Ads, you can take some of your savings and put them toward a pilot campaign on a new channel like Quora. Plus, the CPCs on Quora are likely decreasing like those of most of the other platforms. 

Figuring out what the right thing to do during these uncertain times is tough. Many companies are panicking and as a result cutting budgets. Some are doing it because they have cash flow issues looming. If that’s you, please ignore everything above. You have much bigger problems to solve first. However, many are cutting budgets because they don’t think anyone will be paying attention to marketing messages right now. 

There is definitely some truth to this. 

As paid search CPCs have fallen, across our client base, so have conversion rates. But, you will notice that over the past 2 weeks conversion rates have stabilized as CPCs have continued to fall. While we would love to take credit for the conversion rate improvement and stabilization, there is also the fact that people are looking to “get back to normal” because you can only obsess about coronavirus for so long.

Do these 3 things to ensure your conversion rates don’t fall at the same rate as your CPCs

  1. Check your targeting
    For paid search campaigns, ensure that you are pre-emptively creating and applying a COVID negative keyword list to all your campaigns. We have seen COVID related terms creep into client’s paid search campaigns, especially when using modified broad or phrase match. Here is a shortlist of terms to exclude:

“virus”“jobs”“death”
“corona”“unemployment”“respiratory”
“flu”“recession”“ventilator”
“covid”“depression”“mask”
“coronapocalypse”“inflation”“respirator”
“influenza”“stimulus”**“N95”**

**Be careful with this one, depending on your product names or numbers.

Also, if you are using Search Partners, keep a close eye on performance there.

For display campaigns, ensure that you pre-emptively add in placement negatives. I already mentioned the list compiled by Zato. If you are using the Facebook Audience Network, you should update your Block Lists. The same is true for the LinkedIn Audience Network. It’s also probably a good idea to tighten up your brand controls on all of these channels, to the most stringent, as this will prevent any unnecessary bad brand exposure and wasted impressions.

  1. Check your messaging
    Even for bottom-funnel channels like paid search, you may want to reconsider the basic feature/benefit copy approach. Check out this add from Barracuda:


    It’s subtle, but they are clearly acknowledging the current situation and that they can help transition enterprises to a remote work environment.

  2. Check your offer/content/assets
    Taking the example of the Barracuda ad, here is the landing page they are driving to:



    Now, not everyone can take advantage of the forced work-from-home revolution, but you should consider shifting your efforts from a hard-sell CTA like “Schedule A Demo” to a value-add softer sell like “Join Our Webinar” or an educational or value-add downloadable, like this one from Unily:

So should you be cutting budgets during COVID-19?

Based on our survey we are seeing some interesting trends that support the uncertainty we are all living in. While 65% of marketers we surveyed are cutting marketing budgets, 50% of them didn’t actually believe that was the right decision. This means there is some disagreement and tension on this topic in most organizations.

If you are considering cutting your paid media budgets right now, we recommend you carefully consider the potential opportunities available, and the opportunity cost of not pursuing them. If you have any questions about what channels to cut, and which ones to keep for your B2B marketing initiatives right now, don’t hesitate to reach out.