Whether you’re an agency or an advertiser, there’s a good chance that your online advertising budget has been reduced as your business or client’s businesses navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic. In early April, we were seeing average daily budgets reduced across the board, with variance by industry. But as of early May, we’re starting to see strong signs of a rebound. Facebook hit a new record of 2.6 billion monthly users. Google Ads users saw paid search conversions return to 89% of pre-COVID levels.
While we can’t predict when the pandemic will end and how the economy will recover, we do know how to prepare your online advertising accounts to respond to the current state and then how to ramp back up (when you’re ready). Today, I’ll be focusing on Google Ads, and here’s what I’ll cover:
- How to prioritize your Google Ads account for ROI today
- How to check in on your Google Ads account foundation
- How to prepare your Google Ads account for ramping up
- How (and when) to start ramping up your Google Ads account
Let’s get started.
Prioritize your optimizations for ROI today
We can’t know what’s going to happen and there are a lot of factors outside of our control right now, so first let’s talk about what we can control right now—which is the stability and cost efficiency of our Google Ads accounts in the current environment.
When you’re managing an account during a pullback period, it’s important to identify quick-win optimizations that will cut out inefficiencies and allow you to deliver the most value from the budget you have. From search terms to ad scheduling and ad copy, use this checklist as a guideline to optimize your results during this period.
Pro tip: While making changes to your account during this state, remember that labels are your friend.
If you’re using labels, you can always filter and reference account components that you may have paused or significantly changed during this time. (Teaser: This will make your life much easier when you get to the last section of this guide.)
Now that you’ve run through this checklist and prioritized how you’re getting the most from your budget today, start to shift your focus to how you build things back up, which starts with your foundation.
Check in on your Google Ads foundation
If you were thinking about scaling your house with a new addition—how would you approach it? Would you knock down your whole house and start over again, or would you look for ways to build onto what’s existing? While neither approach is wrong, the latter is more cost-effective and allows you to maintain your housing while you work on your scale.
Now, why am I talking about construction? Because the analogy applies to your Google Ads account structure. As you’re looking to scale your account back up, it’s important to leverage your current foundation instead of starting completely fresh. That’s because it gives you a strong base to work off of while leveraging your historical data, current performance, and maintaining delivery during the ramp up period.
The foundation of your Google Ads account includes:
- Account structure
- Conversion tracking
- Campaign settings
Your account structure is the core component of your Google Ads foundation—and while I could write a whole post about perfecting your account structure, let’s focus on a few key highlights.
First, review your current structure in adherence to the best practices.
Now that you’ve checked in using best practices, let’s review what performance indicators tell you about your account structure.
Now that you’ve reviewed the indicators for change, you’re ready to plan how you will optimize your account structure. For more tips, you can check out some of our other blogs below:
While your account structure is the core of your Google Ads foundation, conversion tracking is the most critical step in this process.
Your conversion tracking tells the algorithm what success looks like in your account. Even if you have the perfect account structure, you won’t be able to reach your business goals without the right conversion actions and settings. During this pullback period, it’s a good time to audit your current conversion actions and consider making any appropriate changes.
To audit your conversion actions, you can use this template.
After laying out all of your current conversion actions, you should ask yourself:
- Are there any conversion actions currently being counted that aren’t valuable?
- Do the current settings match the business value of that action?
- Do these settings reflect an appropriate attribution / window for a conversion?
- Are there any missing conversion events that should be tracked?
When thinking through your conversion tracking, it’s important to be methodical and careful with your changes to minimize risk in your account. For more resources on conversion tracking, you can check out:
As your conversion tracking gives the algorithm the signals it needs, your campaign settings tell the algorithm what to do with those signals. It’s time to check in on your campaign-level settings compared to best practices.
Okay, now that we’ve reviewed what to do now and how to check in on your current foundation, it’s time to prepare to ramp up.
Prepare your Google Ads account for ramping back up
As account managers, we know that ramping spend back up isn’t as simple as turning on a switch and increasing your daily budgets. We also know that it’s going to take expectation setting with your key stakeholders—sharing current performance, forecasting the impact increased ad spend has on business results, clearly communicating the variables, and much more.
To help you prepare, let’s get into it.
First, analyze current performance
Whether you’re preparing to increase your spend or not, you should be reporting on where your Google Ads account stands today and how that’s evolved during the pandemic. While there are endless metrics to review, I’d recommend prioritizing and grouping your core PPC metrics, as follows:
How has spend evolved:
How are prospects engaging with your ads:
- Average click-through rate (CTR)
- Average conversion rate (CVR)
How have your costs evolved based on new trends:
- Average cost per click (CPC)
- Average cost per action (CPA)
By grouping and comparing these KPIs over time, you can start telling the story of how your account has evolved. To help you dig in further and analyze your results, check out these resources:
Second, understand consumer behavior
While shifts in performance are impacted by the change in the competitive landscape, it is most significantly impacted by the changes in consumer behavior. While some of these shifts in behavior are temporary during the pandemic, it’s likely that there are new norms that are developing for your consumers. To review how the shifts in consumer behavior have impacted your business, check out these resources:
Prime example: The way consumers are engaging and purchasing with restaurants has drastically evolved during this period.
Alright, now we’re ready to talk about ramping up your Google Ads account. You’ll notice it took a while to get here, that’s because it’s crucial to approach this phase carefully and methodically to maximize your return from your ad spend as you scale.
Ramp up your Google Ads account
To get started, take the time to review any significant changes you’ve applied to your account during this down period. Use this checklist to cover your bases.
Now that you’ve revisited your changes, you should review whether they should be reverted or not. To guide your decisions, you should ask yourself:
Was this change applied because your campaign is limited by budget?
- If so, you should consider reverting the change to enable greater freedom in ad delivery as your budgets increase.
- For example, you may want to re-enable a campaign that was performing to your CPA goals, but paused due to limitations in budget.
Was this change implemented because it was an outlier in performance?
- If so, you should break these changes out based on the distance from your average KPI.
- For example, you may want to re-enable a keyword that had a 5% higher CPA than your account average, while keeping a keyword with a 40% higher CPA paused.
At this stage, you’ve now completed the following:
- Optimized your foundation
- Analyzed performance
- Reverted appropriate changes
The next steps to scaling your Google Ads account are:
- Understand the spend growth in your budget: For example, if your monthly budget was $10,000 and you’re looking to grow to $50,000—your average daily spend will need to scale from $322 to $1,612. The level of scale you’re planning for will drive your next steps.
- Start by increasing your campaign’s budget: Based on the growth of your budget and allocation across your account, you should map out where and how you’ll increase your campaign-level budgets.
- Spend more by adjusting your bids: Now that you’ve given Google the go ahead to spend to your new budget, you need to adjust your bids to increase your competitiveness—prioritize and determine how to increase your bids by gauging your current impression share and cost/conversion.
- Broaden your keyword match types to be eligible to spend in more auctions: While spend was pulled back, it’s likely you focused your match types on exact / phrase match versus broad. Review the differences and what it means for your eligibility for the different ad auctions here
By taking these steps and reverting appropriate changes, you’ll begin to see Google accelerate your daily spend. However, it’s important to understand the barriers that you’ll likely experience during this ramp up period.
What to expect during your ramp up period
Like I mentioned earlier, communicating and setting clear expectations is extremely important as you navigate this ramp up period—especially as you experience some disruptions to performance during this time. While setting expectations during this period, you should:
- Expect the learning period: Keep in mind that it will take time for your account to learn and scale back up to optimal delivery at this new level of spend. You can learn more about navigating the learning period here.
- Closely monitor results: Track and report on performance regularly as you work through this ramp up period.
- Evaluate search demand: As consumer and search trends evolve, there’s a chance that your search demand may not return to previous levels. If you’re noticing a limit in the scale of your Google Ads account, you should consider expanding in other channels, such as Facebook Ads and Microsoft Bing Ads.
Follow these key steps to ramp up your Google Ads account
There’s a lot to consider when preparing to ramp up your Google Ads account—and there’s a lot to be done before jumping right in to increase your budgets. Overall, you should follow these steps:
- Optimize for now.
- Review your foundation.
- Analyze current performance and trends.
- Revisit your change history.
- Apply measures to increase your spend.
As the trends continue to evolve, we’re here to provide strategic guidance and resources for navigating online advertising during this time and beyond. For more information, you can visit our COVID-19 resource page and stay up to date with our blog for new content posted daily. We also have a Goal Talk podcast episode on marketing during COVID-19, so check it out!