As our country and our world are clambering to slow down the spread of the coronavirus and understand how we navigate these uncertain times, the consequences of this event are unclear. At The Xcite Group, we are having conversations internally and with our clients and constantly assessing how their campaigns and creative are performing. Xcite has a diverse set of clients from all over the country, so as we reassess performance, it’s important for us to keep our eye on the trends we are seeing. We believe that communicating during this time is absolutely crucial and we want to share what we are seeing.
What we know is happening
Event cancellations are causing advertisers to miss out on reliable out-of-home opportunities which is causing them to lean into digital efforts more. As people spend more time at home and are communicating less in person, digital media is seeing a boost in consumption across the board. Social media and streaming services are going to become beneficial as more people look to these platforms for entertainment, news and to connect with friends and family.
As marketers, we aren’t used to looking at things like daily trends very often. We tend to focus on month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter types of data analysis to ensure we are seeing enough information to make decisions. However, our world has literally changed in the last week and it’s important that we assess trends in our marketing the same way during this time.
Leaning on our partners
As a digital marketing agency, we have regular meetings with our partners at Google, Facebook and our marketing technology management platform, Kenshoo. What we have heard from all of them is that advertisers are pulling out of paid ads rapidly, which is causing less competition and therefore an opportunity to increase market share, if you stay the course. So we wanted to dig in and see if we were seeing signs of that across our base of more than 150 clients.
A little background in search advertising impression share
First, a little background for reference. To say our client base is diverse would be an understatement. We have clients in home services, such as plumbers and roofers, but also have business-to-business, bounce house rental companies, dentists, doctors, lawyers, outdoor recreation companies, restaurants and many others. For most of these clients, they are advertising in their local markets and typically struggle to keep high impression shares in their marketing. Impression share is defined as the percentage of impressions that someone’s ad receives compared to the total number of impressions that their ads could get. Impression share is a number reported as a percentage. So for example, an impression share of 35% means that your ads showed up 35% of the time people were searching for your keywords. Conversely, that means that 65% of the time people were searching for your keywords, you didn’t show up. There are a number of factors that go into impression share, including the quality of your ads, how well your campaigns are built out, the quality of your website, geographic targeting and budget. The question then becomes, do you have a budget large enough to show up for everything you’d like to show up for in your market. Impression share is one of the metrics we pay close attention to and communicate to our clients regularly because it gives us a sense of the overall size of the market.
Now for the numbers
We took a look across our entire search advertising client base and focused on impression share numbers on each of the last three Mondays.
- Monday, March 2: 35%.
- Monday, March 9: 41%.
- Monday, March 16: 44%
Why is that significant?
While this is a small sample size spanning three different Mondays, it’s important to understand these numbers for two reasons:
- The data is telling us a different story than what our emotions as marketers might tell us. People are still conducting their lives as near to “business as usual” as possible. They aren’t searching less, they are searching more.
- Our clients’ impression shares grew Monday, March 16 by 9% compared to Monday March 2 without increasing their budgets. That means there are advertisers that are pulling out of the auctions or reducing their budgets. This means less competition.
Digging in a little deeper
We wanted to dig a little deeper and analyze all the reporting metrics in a search campaign to see if this remained constant. Here is the data from Monday, March 16 (current state of pandemic) compared to Monday, March 2 (before we were paying much attention to COVID-19)
- Impressions for our clients are up 24%
- Clicks are up 40%
- Conversions are up 41%
- Conversion rate was flat
- Cost per click is down 22%
- Cost per conversion is also down 22%
So what’s the story?
What we are seeing is that generally, people are still searching for the companies they need to help them conduct the business they still need to conduct, even through these trying times. If we as marketers can still be there in these moments we can still experience growth in our own businesses. What is important right now is that we constantly reassess our campaigns and evaluate our budgets and campaign tactics by being mindful of what’s relevant to our consumers. At the same time, we must also take into consideration our creative and messaging. We have to be sensitive that messaging that may have worked three weeks ago may not be appropriate today. Slapstick humor, high-fives, or messaging like get outside, are probably not appropriate right now.
We definitely don’t have the exact playbook for navigating these times. But we’re organizing internally to evaluate all of our clients’ marketing efforts and attempting to constantly stay ahead of what’s happening in the market to keep you informed from our perspective.