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How PPC Automation Can Improve Marketing ROI During the COVID-19 Recovery

Derek Andersen Senior Content & SEO Specialist, DialogTech

To automate PPC or not to automate PPC? That is the question for search marketers in today’s uncertain landscape. The answer is yes, you should use automation now, but there are ways to do it right.

In this installment of our Embracing Evolution webinar series, Tinuiti’s Group Director of SEM Aaron Levy and DialogTech’s Senior Director of Content Blair Symes discussed how marketers can leverage PPC automation to improve their performance during the COVID-19 recovery.

Check out the full webinar, 60-Minute Masterclass: PPC Automation Strategies for the Recovery, for all of Aaron and Blair’s insights. And for all of the top takeaways from the on-demand webinar, read on.

Can Smart Bidding Keep Up With Shifts in Consumer Demand Due to COVID-19?

According to Aaron, Tinuiti and its clients have found that the Google Smart Bidding strategies that were effective before the pandemic are still effective now. The algorithm hasn’t changed — it’s able to keep up with rapidly changing trends. But, to be sure, you can review previous volatile periods — such as the end of previous Q4s — and see how it performed. If you’re just getting back in the Smart Bidding game, Aaron recommends lowering your budget caps and reviewing PPC automation performance on a smaller scale before you deploy it widely.

However, there is one change that PPC marketers will need to consider for their post-COVID-19 Smart Bidding strategies. While the Smart Bidding algorithm is still able to function effectively, marketers have to take stock of what the values of their conversions are right now. The customers you’re acquiring during the pandemic are likely different than your normal customers. As such, their lifetime values could be significantly higher or lower. You need to factor this into your Smart Bidding formula so that you can get an optimal return on your investment.

How Should You Think About Your Messaging While Using Smart Bidding?

As for the ad messaging on your Smart Bidding campaigns, it’s important to evaluate your current site extensions and structured snippets to make sure they’re still applicable. For example, if your hours have changed due to COVID-19, you’ll need to ensure your extensions reflect your updated hours. If you have a pre-COVID-19 “come see us today” extension, you should consider editing it to include the COVID-19 safety measures you’ve implemented in your store locations. One example Aaron shared was that California Closets updated their ads to mention “Virtual Design Consultations” to proactively answer that consumer question and make them feel safe.

What Is the Role of Phone Calls During COVID-19 and the Recovery?

Calls were an important piece of the consumer journey before COVID-19, and now they’re more important than ever. Before COVID-19, people made calls from paid search to get important details they needed to make complex, urgent, or considered purchases. These details often included questions about inventory, available appointment slots, product specifics, and warranties. In the post-COVID-19 landscape, people need even more information before they can make a purchase. In today’s world, people call to get basic information about reopenings, store hours, new COVID-19 precautions, virtual service alternatives, in-store pickup, and more. Blair shared a Brandify study that shows how Google My Business drove 2x times more calls after the COVID-19 outbreak started.

Blair also broke down the industries that saw the biggest increase in call volumes since the COVID-19 outbreak. Among the leaders were massage therapists with a 148% increase, financial services with a 75% increase, and dental with a 66% increase. Some of the industries saw a spike in call volume because of increased demand, while others saw an increase due to consumer confusion and the need for cancellations. See the full breakdown in the video below.

How Marketers Can Use Caller Data to Enhance PPC Automation Results

With phone calls spiking for many businesses, PPC marketers are using call tracking solutions to attribute each call to the campaigns, ads, and keywords that drove it. The right solution also uses AI to capture insights from the conversation. As a result, the marketer can understand the quality of the call, what products/services were discussed, the caller’s sentiment, if they expressed urgency, and if they ultimately converted to a sale or appointment. They can then push caller data into Google Ads and use it to inform Smart Bidding.

Within Google Ads, call data can be separated into separate columns for total calls, calls that were sales opportunities, calls that were sales conversions, and calls that weren’t sales conversions. Each call is also given a lead score. With this view, marketers can see the true value of all the conversions they’re driving — both online and over the phone. They can then use sales opportunity calls, sales conversion calls, or lead score to inform Smart Bidding. As a result, Smart Bidding will allocate more budget to the campaigns that are truly driving the best ROI.

When you push call data into Google Ads, you can also build audiences based on the content of inbound phone conversations. For instance, you can:

  • Put callers who were good leads but ultimately didn’t convert into retargeting campaigns for the specific products or services they asked about over the phone.
  • Upsell or cross-sell callers who converted with relevant companion purchases.
  • Build lookalike audiences based on your most valuable callers.
  • Suppress callers who converted over the phone from seeing future ads.

You can also use call data to inform the IF function in Google Ads. For example, if someone called your business previously, you can target them with custom messaging that says “Call Back Now for a 20% Discount.”

Are you running dynamic search ads? If so, a call tracking solution can help you determine which of your webpages are driving call conversions and which are driving non-sales calls. You can then tell Google to use the webpages driving high-value calls in your dynamic search ads.

Finally, you can use call data to understand which sources are driving your best calls — call extensions, call ads (formerly called call-only ads), or landing pages. You can then make the appropriate adjustments to generate higher-quality calls. For instance, if call extensions are driving more sales calls than your landing pages, you can use bid adjustments to show them more often.

For more insights on how marketers can adapt their PPC automation strategies for COVID-19 and beyond, watch the on-demand video, 60-Minute Masterclass: PPC Automation Strategies for the Recovery.

To learn best practices for driving more appointments and customers during the COVID-19 recovery, download our eBook, Driving Appointment Calls From Paid Search After COVID-19.

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