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Is PPC Declining As The US Reopens? Not Necessarily

The last thing any small business wanted to consider during the height of the pandemic was the performance of paid search campaigns. Facing both uncertainty and the day to day struggles of trying to stay afloat, search performance may have seemed like an afterthought.

But it’s a necessary afterthought. The surge in eCommerce brought with it the bitter pill of increased competition as well as the subsequent need to optimize ad budgets effectively. With more Americans following state stay at home suggestions, advertising needed to keep up with sudden shifts in consumer needs—including their search habits. But as the US is finally reopening after eighteen months of uncertainty, many campaign managers have begun asking themselves whether or not their PPC campaigns have been worth it.

Changes in Google Ad Impressions

As of June, the typical Google search pattern in the US is still largely dominated by COVID-19 statistics even as states have begun the process of reopening. What seems to have changed is a wildly fluctuating level of paid search clicks. According to a comparative graph from Tinuiti, paid search clicks for the average advertiser ranged between 5 and 20 percent throughout early February to early March, only to peak dramatically at nearly 60 percent in mid-March largely owing to the reception of the second and third round of federal stimulus checks.

But by mid April, any enthusiasm seems to have waned as paid search clicks plummeted dramatically—even in spite of historically strong eCommerce sales performance during the first few weeks of Q2. Yet that’s not the only anomaly. CPC also saw a dramatic increase; and not only between Q2 2020 (when the first stimulus checks were sent out) and Q2 2021. According to Tinuiti’s graph, the average retailer could see costs of anywhere from well below 0 to twenty five percent higher week by week between February and May 2021.

Competition in PPC auctions aren’t entirely unheard of, however. And while the pandemic has presented small businesses with a rollercoaster ride they may not be prepared for, PPC isn’t necessarily on the decline. But it is subject to the same volatility we’ve seen in eCommerce as a whole over the past eighteen months. With this in mind, there are certain strategic points to remember when both building and auditing your campaign.

  • Know who you’re competing against. You may not have access to their budget. But factors such as average bidding, consistency in outbidding, seasonality, established presence and successful campaigns will play an enormous role in the success of your campaign. A proactive competitive analysis is fundamental to understanding the ultimate profitability of your PPC strategy.

  • Your RoAS is your bottom line. PPC isn’t necessarily for everyone. Newly launched brands in particular may not see any effective results until they’ve had a chance to establish visibility. Start slowly. Consistency in your RoAS should be your yardstick, even if seasonality will influence it enormously. Measure your results against weekly, monthly and quarterly metrics and refrain from bidding outside your budget—even during high potential seasons.

  • Monitor and audit your keyword research strategies regularly. Your search query results will sometimes be incomplete. But your keyword pool should always be fresh and relevant. And your keyword pool will be subject to both seasonality and trends, which are going to vary substantially even after full reopening in the US. Mixing both general and specific terms can help eliminate any uncertainty.

  • Be sensitive to your target geographical region. The US may be starting to stabilize itself, but other parts of the world may not be as fortunate. Be mindful of just how your campaign may appear from region to region, and be as neutral as possible in both its structure and phrasing. Customer needs and demand may have historically varied geographically, but in a pandemic world they’re even more pronounced.


Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your eCommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.

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