None of us really need to be reminded how much the world has changed this year. The first half of 2020 has seen almost unprecedented shifts across industries with businesses having to change and adapt to brand new challenges.
As a digital marketing agency, we’ve experienced as well as been witness to more than a few noticeable changes. Now, as things begin to slowly return to some semblance of normality, we think it’s as good a time as any to reflect on what we’ve seen over the last few months.
Here’s our very own six month review.
In PPC, the biggest differences over the last 6 months has been the drop in advertising costs, brought on by a change in advertiser habits. In our case, we witnessed the most noticeable drops on platforms like Facebook and Linkedin – on which we saw CPM fall by over 30% between March and June.
On Facebook, we found CPM was down 34% from March, reaching the lowest point in May. However, since this dip, we’ve been witnessing a gradual increase again.
On LinkedIn, CPM fell by slightly less, decreasing by 31% between March and early June. However, as we saw on Facebook, this increased once again throughout June.
These dips in CPM were a consequence of the budget cutting we saw during the peak of the Covid-19 lockdown. Naturally, as measures have eased and businesses have started to re-open, demand has picked up and brands have begun to ramp up marketing efforts – meaning costs have started to increase again.
Google Display Network
It’s worth noting that, throughout the past six months, a fall in CPM wasn’t a universal observation, with platforms such as Google Display Network (GDN) remaining largely unaffected. Between March and June, GDN actually experienced a 33% increase in CPM, suggesting programmatic hasn’t slowed down as much as other areas.
For startup brands looking at these cheaper CPMs, the instinct may be to jump. However, they shouldn’t for two main reasons:
- As seen, costs are on the rise once more.
- Decisions to invest in advertising should be based on demand rather than purely on cost. Ultimately, even if there is a low CPM, this doesn’t necessarily work in terms of CPA. As such, advertising during a period of low CPM will be most useful for generating brand awareness rather than anything else.
In SEO, the changes we witnessed came mainly in the form of search behaviour and the subsequent impact on search volume. Given the government restrictions put in place on businesses as well as consumers, it’s only natural that the things people were searching for underwent a noticeable shift.
What we noticed the most was an uptick of interest in certain key worker related keywords such as ‘couriers’ or ‘courier service’. On the other hand, we had travel and hospitality keywords decline in interest:
Given this, most clients either decided to ramp up their marketing efforts or pause depending on their specific industry and dedicated budget. In some cases, clients saw the benefit of investing more in SEO during this period to ensure they were in a good position once search volume recovered. Additionally, this period also stood out as a good time to revamp client websites and carry out A/B testing.
In terms of Digital PR, the news cycle has been dominated by one thing: Coronavirus, with GoogleTrends showing a peak in interest for both ‘coronavirus’ and ‘lockdown’ on 16th March, shortly before the start of official lockdown in the UK.
With such widespread interest in (and coverage of) Coronavirus, the challenge in Digital PR became gauging whether journalists wanted to focus on the pandemic or if they were keen to provide some light relief instead.
For our client’s Check-a-Salary, we decided to leverage data we could already access in order to look at the average salary of the UK’s key workers, uncovering that some key workers earn less than the average annual salary in the UK and some even less than the real Living Wage. Given the topicality, the story was able to achieve good coverage in regional media publications all across the country. It also indicated the power of data in making a reliable and newsworthy story, especially when producing something as sensitive as key workers wages.
More generally, we noticed story topics changing as certain industries were impacted by lockdown measures. The most noticeable example of this was in the travel industry. Ultimately, as travel was more or less halted, travel journalists had to change and adapt stories accordingly. Consequently, we saw increasing coverage surrounding things such as virtual tours or the ever-changing travel restrictions introduced during lockdown.
Now we’ve seen how things have shifted during the first half of the year, the question is – how will they look in the second half?
As restrictions ease and businesses open back up, we’ve also started to see costs, budgets and search volume return to a pre-lockdown level – but this doesn’t guarantee a smooth return to normality. Ultimately, in a time of relative uncertainty, brands and marketers alike will need to continue to think strategically in order to capitalise on opportunities.