Google Ads and COVID-19 - What Does The Future Look Like?

Author Sam Russell
by Sam Russell

COVID-19 has already made an enormous impact in the world of digital advertising. During this pandemic, several industries have seen decreased CPCs, increased site traffic, and even higher conversions. Meanwhile, other industries have come to a standstill. Once this coronavirus has run its course, and things are mostly back to normal, what will the Google Ads landscape look like? If our predictions are correct, you can throw your current strategies and gameplans out the window. Everything from competition levels to conversion funnels will be drastically different than we see today, and most likely, they'll also be different than we saw before COVID-19.

How Will The Google Ads Landscape Look After COVID-19?

  • Increased competition
  • Search CPC will begin to rise
  • Quality Score changes
  • Online conversions will normalize
  • Conversion funnels will be longer
  • Display and Video will see an increase
  • Social Media usage will decrease

Increased Competition

One of the first things we saw during the COVID-19 crisis was many advertisers pausing, or significantly reducing, their media spend.

Once people return to their daily routines, many of those advertisers that paused will slowly start to re-enter the market. We don't expect everyone to relaunch all at once, nor do we expect budgets to necessarily return to where they were before the coronavirus, but competition will increase nonetheless. This will make metrics like Impression Share and Click Share harder to earn. It's also going to be more difficult to rank in the top position of the search results. If you are seeing higher-than-normal sales or site traffic during the COVID-19 outbreak, expect to see those numbers fall as more competitors relaunch their ads.

Search CPC Will Begin to Rise

Almost immediately after businesses started closing their doors and pausing campaigns, CPCs began to fall at a rapid pace. As competition was leaving the market, it became less expensive to bid on keywords in many industries. There are always exceptions, of course. Examples we have seen include healthcare products and stay-at-home activities for families, some of which are being purchased at higher rates than ever before. For non-essential items, however, we began to see CPCs dropping by as much as 60 to 70% as advertisers were pausing their ads. We predict the decreases in CPC are temporary. Once advertisers begin spending again and more companies are bidding on keywords for non-essential products, bids will rise and it will be more expensive to drive site traffic through search ads. It is worth noting that not all companies who have paused their ads will be able to reactivate them due to financial hardship, so it is possible that even though CPCs will increase compared to where they are during the COVID-19 pandemic, CPCs may remain lower than they were before the outbreak.

Quality Score Changes

It is known that pausing Google Ads doesn't necessarily impact Quality Score, since Quality Score is based on active account data. You won't be negatively affected by pausing, you just simply won't have a Quality Score during the inactive period. During COVID-19, however, there are definite Quality Score implications that you should be aware of. One of the main components of Quality Score is Expected CTR. With many advertisers pausing due to the coronavirus, the CTR is likely to rise for advertisers who remain active. After a month or two of increased CTR, don't be surprised if these advertisers begin to see increased Quality Scores, and as a result, lower CPCs than they have seen before COVID-19. On the other hand, advertisers who are paused will be facing an uphill battle once the ads are active again and they will need to work harder to be competitive.

Online Conversions Will Normalize

Just like we predict CPCs will rise, we also expect conversions to return to where they were before COVID-19. For the advertisers who are seeing a surge in conversion volume right now, expect to see those conversions fall as consumers and businesses return to their normal routines. For the advertisers who are seeing lower-than-normal conversion levels, this metric will slowly start to increase, if they are able to weather the storm and continue business as normal, that is. Unfortunately, not all businesses will be so lucky. In those cases, conversions will be divided amongst their competitors who remain in business.

Conversion Funnels With Be Longer

When looking at your analytics data once all of this is over, it is likely that the path to conversion will appear to be longer than normal. Even if discretionary spending is lower during the coronavirus, people are still researching online and adding items to their shopping carts. Once they receive their stimulus check, return back to the workforce, or simply regain financial stability, expect to see eCommerce sales increase. As businesses earn more revenue, B2B orders and leads are also expected to rise with the increased demand. One thing to keep in mind is that even if conversions seem to happen faster than normal, or during a shorter period of time, the research process is currently happening during this period of uncertainty. Conversion funnels and time-to-purchase metrics will reflect this towards the end of Q2/beginning of Q3 of 2020, with longer funnels than we typically see.

Display and Video Will See an Increase

Another thing we saw happen during COVID-19 was the decrease in spending for display and video campaigns. Once demand for eCommerce and lead gen returns to normal, expect to see a similar uptick to Display and Video advertising spend. CPC, CPM, and CPV metrics will all likely be impacted, as well, albeit at lower levels compared to the Search CPCs mentioned above. If you are a business owner and are looking for a cost-effective way to drive traffic to your website, display and video ads can deliver a new site visitor for pennies on the dollar. Remarketing can also be used to drive traffic back to your site, and we expect this tactic will be heavily used after COVID-19. Remarketing will be used to help increase conversions from those who visited websites during the outbreak without being able to purchase or complete the desired conversion actions due to financial restraints or economic concerns.

Social Media Usage Will Decrease

During the coronavirus, social media usage has seen a large increase for most demographics. Once businesses begin reopening and people begin returning to their daily routines, social media usage is going to decrease. In April of 2020, most of the country is using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a wide variety of social networks to keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers. Once things go back to normal, expect people to toss aside social media for actual human interaction. That being said, marketers will need to rely less on sites like Facebook to reach their target audience, and more on Google Ads. However, before the COVID-19 pandemic is over with, social media ads are a great way to get in front of your customers, even if they don't convert for a few months.

How Will The Google Ads Landscape Look After COVID-19?

Without the help of a crystal ball, a genie, or perhaps an episode or two of The Simpsons, there is no way to predict the future. All of our predictions may come true, just as we laid out, and all of our predictions may be completely off. It will be our job as marketers, business owners, and advertisers to adapt to the changing circumstances and adjust our strategies accordingly.

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