April tested all of us. As our public health and economic systems were pushed to their limits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to quickly wrestle with unexpected challenges and adjust our lives to the new normal. We have a long road ahead of us, but at the end of the month, things look better than they did a few weeks ago. In some regions, the curve is beginning to flatten, and some areas are cautiously planning to reopen.
Marketers were also pushed to their limits by COVID-19, and we saw that the pandemic impacted advertisers across every industry and changed how we search on Google.
Many are still adjusting to these rapid changes in our industry, but the data does look promising: As of early May, PPC campaigns appear to be recovering from the shock of COVID-19. Here’s what we’ve found.
Search ads begin to perform better in April
In late March and April, many advertisers noticed troubling trends dominate the SERP due to COVID-19. Overall, keyword searches fell, and conversion rates dropped significantly. Many small businesses pulled back their marketing campaign budgets during this period as well.
In mid-April, amid the peak of the pandemic, things began to change. In the US, small businesses began to receive their CARES Act Paycheck Protection benefits and SBA loans and consumers began receiving their economic stimulus benefits as well. That injection of cash helped alleviate some of the economic anxiety in the market and many searchers were more prepared to make a large purchase and convert online.
While many advertisers still are not receiving the same results that they had in February or early March, most are beginning to show some improvement from the first days of the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, starting the second week of April, paid search conversions rebounded to about 89% of their pre-COVID levels. Advertisers on Bing saw less of a dip initially from COVID but saw similar recovery in late April.
Many SMBs began reinvesting in paid search during this time as well. The average paid search daily budget also increased by about 5% in late April.
Reach expands off the SERP with display and shopping
As we work, learn, and stay connected at home more, our internet usage has skyrocketed. According to Forbes, Americans are consuming 70% more content online. Even if most of that time is spent off the SERP, advertisers are finding a quickly growing audience with Google Display ads and YouTube.
SMB retailers are finding almost 40% increase in traffic from their shopping campaigns. COVID-19 has severally limited traditional retail and made ecommerce essential for most. But small businesses advertising online have done particularly well over April, as their largest competitors like Amazon and Walmart have struggled to manage the influx of orders and have pulled most of their ads from Google.
Facebook grows to record usage while ad prices fall
On Wednesday, Facebook shared its Q1 2020 performance and reported healthy YoY growth driven by increased ad sales despite the pandemic. In the release, Facebook noted that as a result of COVID-19, the costs of Facebook ads took a significant decline in the last three weeks of March and have remained low since.
During that same period, however, people became increasingly reliant on social media to connect to their family and friends. People began to flock to WhatsApp, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram, helping Facebook grow its active user base to a new record of 2.6 billion monthly active users. The recent growth also includes the largest recent growth the company has seen in the valuable North American and European markets, where it’s struggled to grow in recent years.
There is no hiding that as COVID-19 interrupts normal operations, many small businesses and advertisers will be forced to make decisions quickly. While it may be a long road back to normalcy, there’s been emerging hope for advertisers that are finding more customers online than they were in the early days of this crisis.
Data in this report is based on a sample of 13,821 US-based WordStream client accounts in all verticals who were advertising on Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising from February to April 2020.
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