Reducing digital marketing due to COVID-19? Read this first

by Nick LeRoy on Search Engine Land

Last week, I shared real performance data for 10 different websites in 10 different industries that are seeing impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. While some businesses servicing “essential needs” are flourishing, most are seeing performance drops of -20% or worse from just two weeks ago.

With a sudden and unexpected loss in revenue, many businesses are being forced into conversations on how they can trim budgets and maximize efficiency.

But what does this mean for various digital marketing investments? I reached out to multiple industry professionals to get their advice on how to maximize results in this time of uncertainty.

Beware, your analytics data is likely skewed

Before we jump into individual channel recommendations, let’s discuss your means to measure them. Brett Patterson, Digital Analytics lead at Siteimprove has this very important tip regarding analytics data.

“Internal traffic is not internal! With so many employees working remotely right now, this may influence your digital analytics data! Your typical filter won’t catch workers working remotely, unless they are possibly using a VPN or other remote network connection. This means your employees might be counted in your analytics metrics, even though you had previously created a filter for this.”

– Brett Patterson

Brett further recommends placing an annotation in your analytics account as it’s very unlikely a solution exists to true up your analytics account. It’s also very important to keep this in consideration when measuring and reporting out on your digital marketing efforts.

Reduce paid search and social media? Or get ready for daily management

In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, search demand is down. If your company’s product or service isn’t deemed an “essential need” than you may want to consider pulling back on your paid spend. Failure to reduce spend can make even the most profitable campaigns turn negative for return on ad spend (ROAS). Proceed with caution if you know your product/service isn’t a top priority for your consumers right now.

On the flip side, bids in many industries are lower than they’ve ever been. This is likely due to advertisers making fewer bids and cutting their budgets. But if your company is selling product/services that still have demand at this time, you should be looking to maximize your ad spend. Just make sure you keep a close eye on your ROAS.

Jeff Snyder, President of Elumynt told me:

As conversion rates, CPMs and CPCs are in flux, you will likely need to be more hands-on than usual. On the search side, if you are using Smart Bidding, consider switching to manual bidding, or at the very least reevaluate your Max CPC setting to account for changes in the landscape. On social, with more eyeballs at home, you may find you can significantly increase reach within your top-performing audiences. Be ready to shift budget, change bids, and tweak your campaigns daily.”

– Jeff Snyder

Maximize email

Email is cheap AND effective. Considering you can’t impact search demand—leading you to potentially decrease paid search/media—you may be able to claw back some scale with email campaigns. For some industries, it’s as simple as reminding customers that despite brick and motor stores being closed, they can still get all their needs met online.

Remember to be mindful of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure your clients/customers that you are here to help. This isn’t the time to hard sell or promote special COVID-19 “deals.”

Alex McPeak, Content Strategist at Klaviyo wrote a great post about communicating with empathy during Cornavirus:

“While you may want to give customers free shipping, making your discount code ‘COVID19’ or ‘coronavirus’ is not how you want to represent your brand when it comes to conveying sensitive subject matter.”

– Alex McPeak

Email likely won’t make up for all the recent performance losses but brands that show value and instill trust from their clients/customers will pay dividends when times are more certain.

Continue the path of SEO and content marketing

Like paid search, teams everywhere are seeing performance losses in the organic channel due to a drop in overall search demand. Unlike paid search/social, I recommend continuing your execution on SEO and content marketing efforts.

In reviewing over a dozen websites whose organic performance has dropped, most have flat keyword rankings. Google Search Console also shows a considerable drop in search impressions despite rankings staying the same. This further validates that this is not an SEO/ranking issue but rather a drop in search demand due to COVID-19.

If you choose to reduce spend in your SEO and content marketing efforts, you significantly risk your organic rankings. Once search demand returns (and it will) you will still drive considerably less organic traffic than before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Right now, it’s vital to maintain – if not grow – your SEO campaign.

Nick Eubanks, CEO of From the Future mentioned in his most recent blog post.

“I personally believe that companies that continue to execute on their planned digital marketing campaigns, and more specifically, on their planned content and conversion strategies around SEO as an acquisition channel, will be poised for faster (and more effective) recovery when we come out the other side.”

– Nick Eubanks

Stay safe, be kind and market efficiently

In a time of uncertainty, businesses need to prioritize consumers and employees’ safety. Be kind and aware of the situation. The brands that do this best will undoubtedly rebound most quickly once the COVID-19 pandemic retreats. Until then, be critical of your digital marketing efforts and double down on lean effectiveness.

Article originally appeared on Search Engine Land.

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