Since March, we have been tracking how marketers can respond to significant changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Back in April, we saw that some industries began to see varying performance from their PPC campaigns, and we released updated Google Ads Benchmarks during COVID-19 to provide a better picture of online advertising as a whole. But things are still rapidly changing every day as regions and regulations change their approaches to battling the virus. As the world changed, so did our ads—and we began to see PPC campaigns begin to rebound in late April, with advertisers noting about 89% of the conversions that they saw before the COVID-19 crisis.
With a month of new data in hand, and even more change in the air, we decided to update these popular PPC benchmarks across 21 industries.
We’ve tracked the benchmarks across both Google & Bing search and shopping campaigns so that you can see how your ads are performing against your peers and put together a plan for how to ramp up your PPC accounts.
8 industries with more volume during COVID-19
Some businesses are experiencing increased volume during the pandemic, and advertising is essential to reach interested consumers.
With limited traditional retail options available, this season’s fashion is exclusively online. We have seen CTRs and CVRs rise as CPCs fall below their normal levels since the early days of the pandemic. Performance first spiked in April and are still carrying that momentum into May.
2. Beauty & Personal Care
In quarantine, the truth has become clear: We don’t all just wake up like this. With barbers, salons, and beauticians closed across the county, many of us had to take our personal care into our own hands and in April we saw conversion rates spike for beauty and grooming products. In May, as these local services began to open their doors, behaviors shifted again. Many shopping campaigns saw lower conversion rates and higher CPAs, but those were largely offset by a surge in online bookings for the hair and nail services we’ve all missed.
3. Hobbies & Leisure
Puzzle, games, knitting, and paint—as we all spent our months indoors at home, we’ve had the unexpected opportunity to reinvest in our hobbies with our free time. This extra free time was a nice windfall for these advertisers who saw pretty stable performance throughout the past few months.
4. Arts & Entertainment
Live entertainment and cultural attractions felt the brunt of the lockdown almost immediately, and these advertisers saw challenges early in April. Luckily, as these attractions reopen, their ads are quick to rebound to the attention of stir-crazy searchers.
5. Computers & Electronics
As economic stimulus checks rolled out to consumers throughout April and May, spending on big-ticket electronics quickly rose as well. The SERP met the demands of this extra search interest without much noticeable change in CPC or CPA. Technology advertisers on Bing continued to reap the benefits of their unique audience and saw considerably better performance than on Google Ads.
6. Occasions & Gifts
Lockdown or not—birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, Mother’s Day, and graduations still all happened over the past few months. This year’s celebrations were different, but the sentiment still rings the same. Online advertisers saw lower costs but were still able to convert their customers. Subscription boxes and delivered gift box sales soared in place of traditionally bought gifts.
People are focusing on health more than ever, particularly as the coronavirus became the most popular search query on Google in April. With higher search volume and lower CPCs on Google, health and medical advertisers were able to find plenty of new customers and convert them inexpensively.
8. Real Estate
Real estate had to overcome the challenge of stopping showings and open houses during the pandemic but rose to the occasion to sell more online. Appointments are nearly a must for buyers these days, and real estate agents have become more trusted advisors and concierges to home buyers. The recently reduced CPCs have helped real estate advertisers keep costs low while they connect buyers and sellers online.
10 industries with mixed PPC performance during COVID-19
Some industries are reacting to new challenges and shift on the SERP and have the potential to either sink or swim in the current state.
We have seen shopping traffic increase by 40% throughout April, which offers plenty of opportunity for retailers. However, online shoppers can be notoriously fickle and hard to convert. When your competitors’ products are only a few clicks away, you need to write compelling product descriptions and think of how to convert your customers off the SERP with remarketing and social ads.
2. Food & Groceries
It’s true that food and grocery spending is nearly at an all-time high, but online advertisers have a new challenge to deal with this surge of traffic. As online grocery delivery grows from a luxury to a near necessity for many looking to avoid a crowded grocery, many of these new searchers are more skeptical to give up their old habits and are researching other alternatives. Compounded with increasing CPCs and large services like Instacart upping their advertising budget, many online groceries aren’t getting the bumper results they’d expect.
3. Dining & Nightlife
Conversely, restaurant spending is at an all-time low with dine-in options eliminated throughout most of the country. Take-out may be an option for some restaurants, but with many places closed or with limited hours or menu, more people are turning to search for their local eateries. Restaurants who have advertised throughout this period are seeing good CTRs and low CPCs and CPAs. Restaurants can also benefit from extended free trials and waved order fees from popular platforms like Toast and Square through Google for Small Business’s partner program.
4. Home & Garden
Many home and garden advertisers saw an uptick in conversions and conversion rate in April as the pandemic kept people home and jumpstarted their home improvement projects and their PPC ads saw a nice increase in conversion rate at a cheaper CPC and CPA. But as stay-at-home orders are lifted, that performance uptick is beginning to disappear. It’s uncertain if this better performance will be temporary or continue in the coming months.
5. Sports & Fitness
Sports and fitness advertising looks a lot different without organized sports or gyms. In late March and April, as advertisers pulled budget, CPCs fell rapidly alongside search conversion rates. As governments begin to lay out their plans for the future of gyms, studios, and sports, optimism is growing and ad CTRs and conversion rates are back on the rise.
The auto industry was riddled with supply line and import issues since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. The added economic decline and reduced mobility hurt demand as well. Still, there is need and demand on the SERP and with closed showrooms, online vehicle searches have risen. Advertisers have noticed a healthy increase to their CTR with lower CPCs as large OEMs cut their ad budget. Search preferences are changing today, with more searchers beginning to consider preowned cars over new models
7. Legal & Government
Legal PPC advertising remains mostly stable during COVID-19, albeit one of the most expensive verticals. Some practices are shifting focus as fewer person injury and criminal cases as many are safe at home, but there’s been an increased demand for more general counsel and civil cases, such as divorce, wills, and business contingencies drawn.
8. Business & Industrial
From the surface, B2B advertisers are seeing some healthy results—a growth in CTR, and modest declines in CPC and CPA. Under that optimism, there’s still some reluctance for advertisers to increase budgets without knowing what tomorrow will hold. Many businesses are also more scrutinous of taking on a new partner or vendor as well and conversion rates are falling slightly as they prospects may take longer to purchase and need to interact with your brand more before deciding to convert.
Amidst economic uncertainty, more users than ever are flocking to the SERP for answers to their questions around financing, loans, insurance, and economic protection for their businesses. Finance typically sees the most expensive CPCs on their keywords, and that hasn’t changed much recently. On Google, CVRs and CPAs are heading in the wrong direction, but the opposite is true on Bing!
10. Jobs & Education
Despite a record high in unemployment and many schools uncertain of their operations in fall, education advertisers haven’t seen major shifts in ad performances over the past month. E-learning alternatives have caught a wave of recent success, but it’ll be interesting to see how these trends change as we approach the fall semester.
3 industries hit the hardest during COVID-19
In the shadow of a public health crisis and temporary restrictions, many large industries are still feeling the impact of COVID-19 on their PPC campaigns
1. Internet & Telecom
Although internet and telecom are essential services, many businesses and consumers have begun to cut costs where they can and are increasingly scrutinous of the plans on the market. Conversion rates have fallen nearly 30% since March, and that trend doesn’t seem to be letting up. Many larger advertisers are ramping up their marketing budgets now, which is beginning to drive CPCs up for smaller advertisers.
2. Family & Community
Although many nonprofits and charities are seeing increased donations from search ads, other family and community organizations are struggling. With steady clicks and CPCs, these organizations have seen below half their usual conversions from Google Search, causing their CPA to double over the course of the pandemic.
3. Travel & Tourism
Travel was one of the first industries impacted by COVID-19 and remains the cited example of an industry that is still impacted. On the SERP, performance KPIs don’t seem too bad, but that’s largely due to very conservative campaign targets and budgets. It’ll be interesting to watch how marketers react as restrictions are lifted and the industry slowly ramps back up.
What do these benchmarks mean?
These benchmarks can help you see how you’re performing compared to your competitors, especially over time. But there are a few key takeaways across that we want to call attention to, as well:
- The coronavirus outbreak is changing our daily lives. This means, of course, that it’s also changing how we conduct business. As our behaviors change, so must our ad campaigns. Smart advertisers can react to these shifting norms and adjust their PPC accounts to stay agile.
- Overall, CTRs are up nearly universally across Google and Bing. That’s likely because advertisers have been able to quickly adjust their PPC ads and campaigns to provide a more relevant ad that speaks to searcher’s needs in the pandemic, whereas you can’t as readily shift your SEO listings.
- Although CVR is falling in many industries, CPC is mostly falling hand-in-hand at the same time. This could be largely attributed to Google’s (and Bing’s) Smart Bidding doing its job and adjusting advertiser’s bids in real-time as it sees the performance of their ads rapidly shift across segments. This has helped keep many advertiser’s ROIs stable or even growing, despite having a lower budget.
So stay safe and practice social distancing. While you’re stuck inside, keep an eye on your PPC accounts and the WordStream blog. We’ll be posting regularly with new data and strategies to best adjust your campaigns and copy in these rapidly changing times. For more COVID-19 resources, check out Navigating COVID-19: A Simplified Guide to Resources for SMBs.
This report is based on a sample of 15,759 US-based WordStream client accounts in all verticals who were advertising on Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising between March 2 and May 17. Each industry includes at minimum 150 unique active clients. Accounts not recording at least one click or conversion are omitted from these figures. Shopping network data is omitted in industries with low usage. Average figures are median figures to account for outliers. All currency values are posted in USD.
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