Don't Let Lockdown Get Your Ad Spend Down!
The first round of lockdowns during the spring and early summer saw many businesses with physical outlets grind to almost a complete halt. For many, going digital was the only option to have some chance of survival. Restaurants offered online ordering services, more retailers moved into e-commerce, and professional services conducted remote meetings over video calls.
Despite some easing of restrictions, many have kept their focus on digital. For example, between February and June, use of video meeting platforms such as Microsoft Teams (up 9x) and Zoom (up 7x) soared and are now prevalent as the office’s new best friend. And restaurants advanced their minimal contact table service, allowing customers to order and pay for food on their phones by scanning a QR code or downloading an app.
But now, with lockdown restrictions being re-enforced in Britain and many other parts of the world, businesses looking to maximize their sales and earnings ahead of the Christmas period and before the New Year begins can’t ignore the advertising opportunities available on Google.
PPC advertising is perhaps the most obvious opportunity. It’s the best way to guarantee that your brand is put in front of an audience to help generate a spike in traffic and leads.
Paid search identifies “buyers” immediately. People who have typed in and are clicking a specific keyword tend to already be in buying mode, even if only at the research stage of the journey, which is very powerful compared with the rest of the marketing mix. This is because searchers seek convenience. We have come to expect the first listing on a search engine results page (SERP) to provide an answer to our query. If it doesn’t, we are more likely to change our search terms than scroll through pages and pages of results.
Therefore, getting your brand on that all-important first page is crucial for success on Google, which is exactly why paid advertising is beneficial. Not only can it promise a guaranteed spot there if the price is right for you, it could potentially provide you with the number-one position.
Ads also can be created for the Google Display Network, using visual aids in the form of graphics and videos to attract leads on Google’s Smart Shopping Network, which is particularly beneficial for e-commerce businesses looking to increase sales.
However, to ensure that your ads are shown to people who will add value to your business, PPC activity must be strategically mapped out and effectively managed. Account setup, keywords, and bidding strategies must be considered, monitored, and then adjusted to ensure that your activity is effective, and a return on your investment is achieved. This requires dedicated personnel, time, and budget — for ad spend and management practices including staffing, training, and wages, or for outsourcing the task.
Despite the capital required to get started, there are a number of ways to ensure you yield results that make it worthwhile. For example, remarketing can help minimize lost leads and maximize budget by targeting potential customers who have already shown an interest in your product or service.
Automation strategies are another. Bidding and ad copy can be altered automatically, depending on factors including time of day, location, and the user’s specific query wording, for instance. This lessens the chance of clicks from users with little intention of purchasing or submitting an inquiry, and, consequently, reduces budget waste. Another common way to get more out of search advertising is to replicate campaigns across Microsoft Ads, where there is typically less competition, cheaper clicks, and a better return on investment, albeit lower search volumes.
One of the greatest benefits of the Internet is its ability to connect businesses and customers no matter the physical distance between them. And with lockdown enforcements, an online offering presents an opportunity to reach an even wider customer base than a shop or physical facility restricted by its location.
However, the Internet is a big place. It houses greater competition than what many businesses are used to in the physical realm. As result, it’s easy to become lost, especially if you are in the early stages of establishing an online presence.
So whether you’re a retailer offering click-and-collect or running business as usual, although remotely, keeping things local is your best bet for online success. [Editor: Click-and-collect is a term for a hybrid model for e-commerce where consumers select or buy items online and then pick them up in-store or at a centralized distribution location. It streamlines both the purchase and payment process, a boon for both consumers and brands.]
Google uses a Relevance, Distance, and Prominence model to determine search results. Those most relevant, closest in distance to the searcher, and most prominent or popular are more likely to be ranked higher on results pages. To maximize your chances of ranking highly for those searching for your products and services in your local area, make the most of tools such as Google My Business and online reviews.
As well as providing potential customers with vital business information, such as your address, contact details, and Covid-adjusted opening hours, you can also instill trust and confidence by presenting your brand as a business is well-established and organized. This is particularly important as consumer sentiments around brand trust have declined during the pandemic.
So far, businesses have done well in adapting their processes to changing customer needs in such a short time and under incredibly difficult circumstances. Yet, with the coronavirus crisis far from over and many facing an increasingly online future, the only thing we can be certain of at this point is that businesses and retailers must act now to grasp opportunities.
By using platforms such as those offered by Google, Microsoft, and others, businesses are not simply making the best of a bad situation, they are positioning their brand at the forefront of their industry, giving themselves a significant advantage when markets reopen in their newly digitally focused form.
Nate Burke is CEO and founder of U.K.-based Diginius, a software and solutions firm focused on helping businesses achieve maximum impact from their online sales and marketing activities. An early e-commerce pioneer and entrepreneur, he launched his first Internet business in 1997 and is a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year nominee.
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