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COVID-19: What the novel coronavirus pandemic means to marketers

Pauline Yoong

General Manager

As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, fears of an impending global recession are causing trepidation in the business world. Since the outbreak began in December 2019, economic growth has already slowed, following social distancing measures and lockdowns. This has affected industries like travel, hospitality and F&B, and also slowing down industrial production.

The knee-jerk reaction of business owners will be to hold their spending — and for some, the marketing budget is a non-priority. According to the report Beyond the outbreak: How COVID-19 will affect the global advertising market by strategic intelligence resource MAGNA, “many industry sectors may decrease marketing and advertising spending this year” due to slower sales and profits.

But at the same time, the report notes that: “the quarantine and social distancing policies are generating deep changes in attitudes, social norms (remote work, remote education), consumption (acceleration of e-commerce and online services), and media consumption (surge in TV viewing, OTT usage, and digital media). These shifts are likely to (at least partially) outlast the outbreak and change our society forever.”

At this time is to bolster one’s contingency plan with a digital marketing strategy. Now, more than ever, brands must be visible to its customers as in normal circumstances. At a time where people are cooped in their homes, the best way to reach out is through digital channels.

We outline some marketing trends during this time which you can leverage amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Marketing trends and effects from COVID-19:

Cheaper bid prices for PPC ads

Many organisations are planning for when the market bounces back, and thus are holding their plans. However, while all other organisations are holding back their budgets, there is lesser competition, resulting in potentially cheaper bid prices for PPC (pay-per-click) ads.

Google Certified Publishing Partner Ezoic explains that while there was initial speculation that ad rates would increase as more people would be placed in quarantine; it turns out that people are more likely to be consuming content through their devices. As companies hold back on placing ad campaigns, the report says that competition in ad auctions will decrease, thus depressing prices for everyone.

Moreover, “Online ad rates typically follow the general economy,” the report adds. The coronavirus’s impact on the global economy will likely affect website traffic and ad rates for the foreseeable future.

It forecasted that sites in the niches of travel, sports and retail are likely to have steep declines. Meanwhile, sites that focus on online entertainment, cooking, health, and science might see increases.

Due to the current volatility of the ad market, a solution is to rethink the search marketing strategy. Digital marketers can leverage the changing consumer behaviour by optimising content with relevant keywords. For example, for a health product on an eCommerce site (e.g. supplements), aside from the usual product description, digital marketers may include a descriptive explanation of each ingredient, reviews, and at least one paragraph for each benefit of the product, etc., to satisfy the needs of those who are searching for products that can boost their immunity during the crisis. “In instances such as this, it is most important to have quality ad inventory over quantity and to continue to create valuable content,” it advises. “Your content has the opportunity to get a lot of exposure right now because more people will be online.” It adds that content creators must focus on keywords that are likely to be of interest right now: healthcare, games, news, new hobbies, etc.

Increase in web traffic for B2B marketing

We observed an increase in website traffic for our B2B clients’ digital marketing activities during this period. Within the first months since its launch, the campaign achieved almost double the traffic as compared to a similar period in 2019.

This is in line with a forecast on Forbes, which interprets the phenomenon as an effect of the cancelled trade shows and exhibitions that B2B companies typically rely on to network and build customer relations. According to the report, industries that are not digital-native may be reeling in the loss of clients acquired through word-of-mouth referrals or on the strength of a hard-won reputation. Moreover, they may already be dealing with lost millions through cancelled events.

What these B2B businesses may do is to reallocate their budgets into social media marketing, content marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns with the end goal of branding awareness, customer engagement, and lead generation.

The key is to not just use digital strategy as “an emergency fill-in,” as Forbes puts it, but to provide long-term value that will help the brand even beyond the pandemic.

The shift in consumer behaviour

It is undeniable that the numerous lockdowns and community quarantines in different countries have drastically restricted the movement of people who used to be exposed to out-of-home (OOH) advertising. As people stay home, they are spending more time online.

The sociological effect of the quarantine and social distancing policies will likely outlast the outbreak. Companies that have yet to go digital, or whose digital strategies are minimal must ride the wave as soon as possible in order to build resilience for the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various critics explain that in the midst of a crisis of an uncertain nature, marketers feel the pressure to cut back on marketing and advertising activities because of financial uncertainty, supply issues and the perceived risks for a brand to communicate in a sensitive climate. After all, business research and marketing literature have recorded that brands that slash their marketing spending during crises hurt their long-term business.

Albeit the crisis the world is facing now, it might be an opportunity to increase your share of voice and win more market share, laying the foundation for when the crisis is over.

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So you’ve implemented your search marketing strategy. Now what?

Mark Sorne

Senior Digital Marketing Specialist

So you’ve implemented your search marketing strategy. Now what? A search marketing strategy should not be done in isolation and must always be tied to the overall marketing strategy.  Why is search marketing important? As part and parcel of a company’s overall business goal, the search marketing strategy is a crucial component that contributes to the company’s growth in a positive way.  A critical step in proving that your search marketing strategy is contributing to the overall marketing goal is by measuring results. But while many people have access to analytics, not everyone can connect the data with the progress of the search marketing strategy with respect to the overall marketing strategy. Here, we give you tips on how to properly measure search marketing results, how to translate search marketing success to business success, and how to further optimise your search marketing strategy to reap the maximum rewards.

Measuring 

A search marketing strategy is composed of search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), the latter sometimes referred to as Google Ads, PPC advertising, Adwords or Search Ads.  How we evaluate the success of a search marketing strategy will be based on the following metrics. Aside from the obvious number of website landings, the quality of the audience is a major factor that we have to consider when implementing SEO, which will be an indicator of their interest in the content. Meanwhile for SEM, aside from the number of leads, we also have to take into account the cost-effectiveness of the entire ad campaign.

Ranking

Ranking refers to where the site is positioned on the SERP. This varies globally or locally. 

Organic traffic

This metric shows search traffic of organic website visitors coming from search engines, and can also be set up so you can see traffic coming from specific countries or new users. Aside from tracking traffic, it is also important to track the flow of traffic to certain pages.

Referral traffic

This SEO metrics show the visitors who reach your site via other websites. Backlinks from high-volume websites can lead to referral traffic, whose growth will increase the chances of you acquiring leads from your website. Although not too common, there are cases in which a prospect will check out business directories and click on the company websites listed there. Sometimes they will inquire, and thus be converted into a lead.

Click-through rate

Click-through rate or CTR refers to the clicks divided by impressions, multiplied by 100. This helps you determine how many of the impressions were converted into clicks. Having optimised metatags can potentially increase the click-through rate. Therefore, a high CTR can mean that meta title tags are effective in capturing attention from searchers.

Number of leads

The definition of “leads” will be determined by you, whether it means registration, subscription, download, view, and etc. You can, therefore, find your “number of leads” by tracking the number of users that complete each action. You can also check which sources send the most qualified leads to your website.

Conversion rate

Used mostly in SEM campaigns (although conversions from SEO can also be measured), this is calculated by total number of visitors divided by a total number of conversions, such as inquiries. This metric allows you to differentiate the number of users who inquire versus who only visit your website.

Reporting success

The next question is, how do you interpret your progress in SEO in the context of the overall business strategy? How can you explain to your stakeholders why theses success metrics matter? We illustrate this through the following scenarios:

For a corporate website developed for brand equity

For a corporate website, measuring organic traffic from sources that use branded keywords can show that your marketing strategy is effective in promoting your brand with your selected keywords. This is telling of the effectiveness of your branding efforts. Another metric, direct traffic, can show that your URL is becoming recognisable to audiences so that they go directly to your website. 

For an eCommerce site

When you have the goal of increasing sales, some of the key metrics to look at are conversion rate and a number of leads.  On the SEO front, being ranked higher on the first page means you are gaining more clicks from potential buyers with intent. Thus, an effective SEO strategy can increase your chance of converting visitors into customers. For SEM, we can measure the effectiveness by first looking at how we are effectively using the campaign budget which can be measured by low cost per click, and second, by looking at how we are achieving the ROI which can be measured by cost per conversion. 

Optimising further

Now what? Your work doesn’t end once you’ve already measured and reported. Once you have the data at hand, in the context of your business goals, it is time to see how you can further improve your strategy.  Here are a few tips in further optimising your search marketing campaign.

Optimise  keywords

Measuring results allows you to have a second look at the keywords. You can see which of your keywords are most effective in conversion, and which ones need to be tweaked. At this point, doing another round of keyword research may allow you to find more opportunities. 

Create landing pages

Landing pages help visitors see your value proposition with more information on your products and services, and includes a form dedicated to capturing prospects’  data. When done properly, they are an effective medium in acquiring leads from the search engines.  Creating a landing page will vary for either SEO or SEM campaigns, where there are different best practices for each — the main difference being that SEO pages are built to rank so they can get inquiries, while SEM pages are built to get inquiries and conversions immediately.  SEO landing pages typically are composed of more multimedia content, such as keyword-rich text and images, which help make the page rank first.  Meanwhile, an SEM landing page as a destination for paid advertisement is more focused on sales. It has more CTA buttons and trust elements like reviews, testimonials and badges because the priority is immediate conversion.  In summary, in order to maximise the potential of your search strategy, it is important to master the measuring of your progress and interpreting them in the context of your business. As the popular business saying goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This is just as important in your search marketing strategy.  If you would like more expert advice, our team of highly experienced strategists, creatives, digital marketing specialists and technophiles can help you craft a search marketing strategy. Reach us by email at enquiry@strategicdigitalab.com or fill in our enquiry form to discuss. You can also take a look at our list of services.

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Pola Esguerra del Monte

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