Managing Search Ads during uncertain times

How to adapt your Search campaigns during the COVID-19 crisis.

Below are some considerations as you evaluate your ads and adapt to dynamic market conditions.

Evaluate your ads

Consider the helpfulness of your language

  • Make sure you’re sensitive to how certain words may make your audience feel. Stay up to date on policy guidelines related to COVID.  
  • Avoid words with double meanings like “protection,” “checkup,” “prevention,” or “virus.” For international campaigns, be aware of local terms that have been used to reference COVID-19 and regional disruptions. 
  • Edit your ads as needed to let customers know if you offer services like delivery, in-store, or curbside pick up. 
  • Review shipping settings and estimated delivery time to ensure you accurately reflect current capabilities.

Review your creative and proactively communicate business changes

  • Conduct a thorough creative review of your search text ads, extensions, and landing pages. Pay attention to tone, highlight any business changes, and check that your message is helpful.
  • Update your ad extensions (sitelinks, call, location, callout, lead form, structured snippets, promotions) to reflect changes in your business. 
  • Proactively communicate any business changes to your users–such as reduced hours of operation–by updating your Google My Business page.
  • Use responsive search ads to help your ad creative adapt to shifting search terms. Try adding a new pinned asset to your responsive search ads that highlights changes to business hours or shipping time updates.
  • If you’re already using responsive search ads, look for ad groups that may have an opportunity to improve Ad strength.
  • Use sitelink extensions to make information stand out and take people to the right page on your site.
  • Use dynamic ad extensions to make your ads more relevant without adding any additional work.
  • Use call ads to connect with people who can’t go to your physical location. Enable an ad schedule that drives calls when you have someone there ready to answer the phone. You can also include an optional “Visit website” link that can be added if call centers are closed or have limited capacity.
  • For Search Ads 360 users, use ad builders to make changes to your ad copy at scale.

Examine your website

  • An optimized mobile website experience generally drives more conversions and a higher return on ad spend. Ensure that the core functionality of your website is always available, accessible, secure, usable, discoverable, and fast.
  • Use the recently launched banner feature of Google Optimize to help you keep customers informed about changes to your normal business hours, services offered, shipping policies, and more.

Pause ad groups or ads if needed

  • Review products and services that are affected by demand issues and adjust your campaigns accordingly. For example, mark online or local products as “out of stock” across channels if you’re unsure of real-time inventory or restocking times, and pause corresponding ads as needed.
  • For Search Ads 360 users, consider using an inventory feed to generate and manage search campaigns, ad groups, text ads, keywords, and sitelinks. As your inventory data updates, Search Ads 360 inventory management will update these generated campaigns and other items.

Tip

Smart Bidding won’t have to restart from scratch if you’ve paused your campaigns. Your bid strategy will learn from queries, other campaigns, and historical data in your account prior to when it was paused.

Adapt to dynamic market conditions

Stay up to date on local conditions

  • Check Think with Google to understand how consumers are changing their preferences and expectations. This interactive tool surfaces the fastest rising retail categories in Google Search, the geographies where they’re growing, and the actual queries associated with them.
  • Check Google Trends to better understand the context in local markets and your customers’ frame of mind. This includes curated global trends related to the pandemic.
  • Consider custom Google Alerts on the latest information and news, by inputting the topics you're interested in. You’ll get an email when new results show up in Google Search.
  • Use location exclusions for regions where your supply chain is disrupted or where you cannot currently do business. 
  • Use ad scheduling to control the days and times when your ads appear.

Review performance and be willing to pivot

  • If needed, look for ways to generate short-term return on investment by analyzing your top-performing campaigns, demographics, geographies, and product lines.
  • Optimize your budgets every one to two weeks as demand shifts over time, or as needed in response to business pressure (for example, supply chain uncertainty, uncertain demand).
  • Use Performance Planner or Search Ads 360 budget management to understand the implications of different budget scenarios. These tools can help you understand incremental opportunities and plan budgets for the coming months.
  • Check budget recommendations for your top-performing campaigns if you want to only make investments that will result in short-term ROI improvements. 
  • Use Shared budgets to help you automatically allocate budgets across your campaigns to make sure they stay funded when volume unexpectedly shifts.
  • For Search Ads 360 users, use budget management to plan, report on budget targets, and determine optimal budget allocation across budget groups.

Deploy tools that help you react to uncertainty

  • Use the Google Ads mobile app (iOS, Android) to help keep you connected to your campaigns.
  • Use Smart Bidding to bid at auction-time and query-level, and automatically react to changes in the market.
  • Use Target CPA and Target ROAS bid strategies to optimize within a specific cost per acquisition or return on ad spend target, and use this target as a lever to manage spend. For example, an increase in CPA targets or a decrease in ROAS targets will typically increase bids and spend, and vice versa.
  • Use Maximize conversions and Maximize conversion value bidding strategies to maximize conversions and conversion value within a specific daily budget.
  • Consider a Smart Bidding portfolio bid strategy if goals are similar across campaigns. This makes it easy to maximize performance across multiple campaigns, instead of at the individual campaign level.
  • Consider combining a portfolio bid strategy with a shared budget to optimize bids and budgets across multiple campaigns.
  • For Search Ads 360 automated bid strategies, consider enabling auction-time bidding to allow for faster reaction time and the inclusion of real-time signals (Google Ads media only).
  • Where eligible, combine Search Ads 360 budget bid strategies with auction-time bidding. This can help you hit your custom spend targets.
  • Understand how the auction is shifting in turbulent times via tools like Keyword Planner and Auction insights.
  • Prioritize tasks by using tools like optimization score. This can help you identify areas that can drive performance with budget, audience, creative, keyword, and other recommendations.
  • Use negative keywords to help you focus on only the keywords that matter to your customers.
  • Consider using Dynamic Search Ads to help you show ads on new searches your keywords may be missing.
  • Consider opting in to search partners to find additional, qualified search traffic.

Look for ways to maintain performance

Reach the right audience

  • Ensure remarketing lists for search ads, similar audience, and Customer Match lists are applied. Monitor the performance of each audience by applying them to your campaigns and using the Observation setting.
  • If you use manual bidding, use reporting to optimize your bids based on what audiences would still drive conversions–even when reducing costs.
  • Create audiences such as “Recent Purchasers,” “Recent Cancellations,” or “Recent FAQ Customer Service Visitors” to reconnect with site visitors who may be ready to buy.
  • If “repeat converter” traffic is shrinking in your search audiences, try adding similar audiences to find people who may be the next most likely to convert.
  • Reach people based on their interests and recent purchase intent by using relevant affinity and in-market audiences.
  • Use combined audiences to create niche audiences that better represent segments of your customer base.
  • Consider using custom ad text and landing pages to ensure your audiences receive brand-appropriate messaging.

Consider an automation-friendly account structure 

  • Consolidate your traffic into fewer, larger ad groups. This gives tools like Smart Bidding more data to work with.
  • Consider broadening your keyword match types for campaigns that use Smart Bidding. This makes it easier for you to reach more people while maintaining your performance.
  • Combine the above recommendations with responsive search ads and dynamic ad extensions for more relevant creative.
 

Find these tips and others in the full Managing Search Ads in Response to COVID-19 guide. The intention of this guide is to help you prioritize what to do next and take action. That includes ways to evaluate the situation facing your business and next steps to shift your digital marketing strategies to meet customer needs.

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