How to best use paid search during lockdown and beyond

Date posted: 22 May 2020

Posted by: Kojo Achampong

Post category: Insights

What should be your starting point be for turning Paid Search back on and ramping up visibility again in search engines as we come out of lockdown?

As you may have read here it’s important that your Share of Voice (SOV) doesn’t dip below your Share of Market (SOM) if you want to sustain your position in the market among your competitive set. This is true across all advertising channels including search engines. While we should all be looking to optimise our visibility in search engines across organic listings for medium and long terms results and paid search should be top of your agenda so you can adjust your approach to deliver your users the right content that matches the information they are searching for. This will deliver more relevant users with a higher propensity to visit and take action on your site so they consider you and your brand (website) for their purchase.

A good place to start is increasing your real estate in search engines by utilising the full range of organic features including optimising your video, image packs and Google My Business listings. It’s also a great opportunity to take the time to evaluate your current organic rankings and SEO strategy and begin work on strategically improving your onsite SEO with a view to improving your organic search visibility going forward. Remember your ranking on SERPs directly correlates to organic CTR and there is a speedy and significant drop off in CTR if you do not appear in the top 4, ideally the top 2 positions.

One of the core contributors to this is the paid features and placements which dominate the top of SERPs, often to the point where only the top 2 organic listings appear above the fold. Therefore ensuring you have the correct approach to paid search is key to maximising your SOV on SERPs. A successful approach to this will ensure your brand is considered by users with high search intent.

Another place to start is ad copy. Are you utilising ad extensions to their fullest right now? Have you updated your ad copy to disseminate the right information to the users searching for you?

To dominate the real estate on page one in search engine results pages and be relevant, you need to keep your ad copy fresh. Many businesses are thinking about their coronavirus policy for staff but also customers and how they serve their customers. With Google banning most businesses from featuring ad copy or bidding on keywords directly related to COVID-19, getting important information regarding the pandemic out to your customers requires some consideration. For example, we have been running the following ads for The Kennel Club since April:  

Their aim was to spread helpful information to dog owners regarding dog care during the coronavirus pandemic. By considering search behaviour, we have still been able to reach a significant number of users without bidding on COVID-19 related terms.

However an important change in Google’s policy came in mid-April. Where Google initially banned anyone bidding on Coronavirus disease (COVID-19 keywords as the global pandemic fell under their ‘Sensitive Events Policy’ under Inappropriate Content policy. As of 14 April they have now been opened up by Google. Their current position is stated clearly here: ‘Advertiser eligibility to server coronavirus disease (COVID-19) related Ads

In order to ensure that our users have access to essential information while navigating coronavirus disease (COVID-19), some entities are now eligible to run coronavirus disease (COVID-19) related ads

We are currently allowing ads from government organisations, healthcare providers, non-governmental organisations, intergovernmental organisations, verified election ads advertisers and managed private sector accounts with history of policy compliance who want to get relevant information out to the public. We’re continuing to evaluate our policy and enforcement process as the situation evolves to phase in more advertising in the coming weeks.’

In answer to the question where to start first look to your important brand terms and protect them by appearing as close to 100% impression share in paid search first. This will protect your brand terms and your competitors penetrating your SOV and stealing SOM via search. By monitoring your brand PPC campaigns and maxing out your budget to 100% SOV in paid search auctions you will keep your important search real estate and top of page position. If you let this slip you will see your competitors’ paid search ads appearing above your organic listings when a user searches for your ‘Brand term + Keyword’.

By starting the PPC brand ads again now, you can get ahead and effectively protect your business SOV and therefore SOM by putting brand terms first. It’s important also to control the message and be in the auction to enable so we can monitor whether we are getting ~100% impression share of all paid search ads and keep your top of page position for users who search for you at this critical time. Keeping that link with customers and servicing their needs by navigating them quickly to the information they need is key to retaining your best customers and acquiring new customers.

Given Google’s changing position it will not be long before other brands are reconsidering how they use PPC. Remember we are not always using PPC as a tool to drive incremental performance it is also an important branding tool and helps us protect our SOV and therefore our SOM. Plus utilising it as a tool to signpost and navigate users to the most relevant pages for their search query that they type in the Google or Microsoft search box is key to maintaining healthy conversion across your site. SEO efforts may not have caught up and been optimised properly yet to reflect the new content that is necessary on your site to tell consumers how your business has adapted since COVID-19, therefore we need to use other tactics in our tool box and paid ads will help users to get to the correct content quickly and give them a better user and customer experience and therefore make them more likely to choose you when they decide to purchase.

Here are 5 points to keep front of mind when evaluating your paid during lockdown and beyond:

  1. Protect our Brand Terms from Competitors and maintain SOV and therefore SOM.
  2. Being in the auction gives us real time data on our SOV and impression share in paid search.
  3. Gives us insight to competitors PPC Strategy and we can monitor if they are bidding and winning clicks from our brand terms.
  4. Flexibility in changing brand messaging and enable us to support underperforming organic listings.
  5. Prevent other brands taking the top of page position above our organic listings for our brand terms.
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