How to Manage Your PPC Campaigns Through a Crisis

Alex Swerdlow

Alex Swerdlow
Published July 01, 2020

Illustration of desktop computer and mouse with a webpage on the computerscreen and a word bubble that says Ads

Pay per click marketing is a rapid-response channel. Unlike such efforts as SEO or content marketing, PPC can be turned on and off instantly and rebuilt overnight. This makes PPC a critical channel for a quick and effective response to global events and changes in macroeconomic conditions. 

As a PPC manager or business owner, your response to volatility in the market needs to be both fast and effective.

Below are four tips to consider to ensure PPC helps your business thrive in uncertain times. 

1. Don’t Panic - React to Real Data. 

It’s important for media buyers to manage accounts based on real performance data, not abstract trends or speculation. Even during major events and disruptions, many aspects of business carry on normally and consumers stick to established habits. 

For example, during the novel coronavirus outbreak, panic and media negativity seemed to reach a peak in late March and early April. Around this time, some advertisers chose to cut PPC spending entirely. Many ended up missing a massive ecommerce boom that occurred in April.

It’s great for marketers to have a macro-level awareness of world events and economic climate when managing PPC campaigns. However, ultimately, critical decision making needs to be informed by actual direct performance data on metrics that matter, such as return on advertising spend (ROAS), cost-per-lead (CPL), and conversion rate. 

2. Optimize for Changing Media Cost. 

Major events may cause rapid changes in normally steady media markets. Global events can cause prices to either rise or fall depending on specific circumstances, and PPC managers should be ready to react in either case. 

  • Falling Media Cost. Generally, CPCs fall when advertisers lose budget or stop spending altogether. Without the typical levels of competition for media that most PPC platforms are based on, the average cost-per-click goes down. In circumstances of falling media costs, advertisers can find great efficiency opportunities by buying at a discount. During the recent coronavirus crisis, OpenMoves saw media costs fall about 30% across most industries. 
  • Rising Media Cost. This can occur in cases where a sudden event causes consumer demand and market competition to spike for a recently in-demand good or service. For example, see the chart below showing the spike in “grocery delivery” searches in March and April. As a result, this will be a category that rapidly becomes much more expensive. Advertisers in fast-growing competitive spaces need daily assessment of profitability, market share, and ROAS to keep PPC campaigns on-track. 

3. Be Ready to Shift Messaging Fast. 

It’s critical for PPC teams to be nimble in adjusting ad copy and creative concepts to respond effectively to world events. During a crisis, it’s easy for an existing creative concept to seem insensitive or out of touch. On the other hand, depending on the nature of the event, it’s likely your team can adjust messaging to be relevant and get consumer attention and sympathy quickly. 

For a great set of examples, have a look at this list of coronavirus creative responses assembled by AdAge. There are many great examples of brands that managed to quickly shift messaging, avoid being tone-deaf or opportunistic, but still find a context-aware message that would resonate with consumers. 

Of course, not every business needs a clever message or campaign. Some businesses may just need a clear factual message about business operations. In any case, clear and empathetic communication through your PPC creative is key—and usually, it’s important to move fast. 

4. Consider Changing Consumer Behavior. 

Reacting effectively to events isn’t just about messaging—there are also real practical trends in consumer actions and behavior that PPC marketers need to be aware of. Here are a few things to consider that might be impacted by major events: 

  • Device Usage: During the coronavirus outbreak, desktop and laptop usage rose as people stayed home. Other events could have the opposite impact, pushing mobile usage higher. In all cases, be aware of how you’re buying media based on device usage and be prepared to adjust device bids based on results. 
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Generally, attention-getting events will increase eyeballs on digital platforms overall, but decrease CTR on ads. This was certainly the case amid the pandemic when social media usage exploded. Be aware of these trends when evaluating your creative performance. 
  • Geographic Performance: The United States is a big country, and conditions can vary wildly around from coast to coast. Under conditions of disparate regional impact, traditional geotargeting assumptions for your PPC campaigns must be discarded and strategies must be adopted rapidly to reflect new conditions. 


This blog post was contributed by OpenMoves, a performance PPC agency partnering with Morey Creative Studios to provide media buying solutions to clients across Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Amazon Ads and more. To learn more about OpenMoves visit openmoves.com.

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