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05/29/2020

When the World Changes, Search Behavior Changes

By Randi Lucius

Top Search Trends for Today’s New Norm

The world has changed quite a bit over the past two months, and with that, so has Google and Bing’s paid search listings. Years’ worth of testing, optimizations and adjustments may become irrelevant as search behaviors change to reflect the new normal. And while performance has always varied between industries, these differences have increased considerably as we see completely new search behavior in certain verticals.

It is important to stay on top of the current Google and Bing search trends for your industry and for search in general as it is constantly changing. Check out a few trends that we’ve seen within our clients’ accounts, as well as those seen within the paid search community.

Search Trends to Keep You
and Your Clients on Top

Working From Home Has Changed Search Schedules

Working From Home Has Changed Search Schedules

One of the bigger shifts we’ve seen is search by time of day. Now that mornings and evenings are not occupied by commuting, people are staying up later and searching every hour of the day more consistently than before. Previously, we saw large drop-offs late in the evening and early in the morning*, with peaks mid-morning and mid-day. Consider removing any “Time of Day” negative bid adjustments to see if those hours now generate better performance.

April 2020 (dark blue) vs April 2019 (light blue)
*Senior Living, Google Ads 2020

Conversion
Behaviors

Conversion
Behaviors

We’ve seen changes in conversion behaviors across industries. Since the beginning of the pandemic, searchers have appeared to be in a “research” phase, meaning they’re less likely to convert. Impressions and clicks are at the same level or higher than what they were previously; however, this increase in traffic has not led to an increase in conversions. In fact, we’ve seen conversions drop, and we are not the only ones. Estimates have shown that the average conversion rate has dropped 21%, with certain industries dropping more than others. For instance, one of our senior living clients has seen a 50% drop in conversion rate over the past year, despite traffic levels staying similar. With the current challenges facing the senior living industry, searchers are not looking to set up tours or gain information. These services are still needed, leading searchers to focus on location research as they wait until things improve to convert. Keep this in mind when making changes to your accounts. While conversion rates may be low now, you’re still bringing searchers to your site who may come back to convert once restrictions ease or it’s safe for them to do so. And, as always, keep your conversion strategies going to ensure you don’t lose those future conversions.

Competitors Leaving the Search Engine Results

Competitors Leaving the Search Engine Results

When this all began, many marketers pulled back on PPC budgets—some pausing altogether. Because of this, we have seen our “search top impression share” increase—some clients being in the top 50% more often than they were previously. While this can lead to a positive increase in performance, for many PPC advertisers, there are specific position strategies in place to make sure the best-performing keywords get most of the budget. A keyword that would normally be lower on the search page may now be higher on the page, spending 10x more than normal, and taking budget away from terms that are better converters or have higher CTRs. Be sure to closely monitor impression share, spend and CTR/conversion rates to see if there have been any major shifts in performance that may affect the performance of other keywords in the account. Consider lowering bids for terms that have shown a position shift, or separate the more important keywords into their own campaign to ensure they get the most out of your budget.

Increase in Traffic From Desktop, Decrease in Traffic From Mobile

Increase in Traffic From Desktop, Decrease in Traffic From Mobile

People are no longer “on the go.” Life is slowing down, and with everything happening at home, we are seeing a slight shift in the percentage of traffic coming from mobile devices to desktop devices. For instance, for one of our accounts, the share of traffic coming from phones and tablets dropped 6% from March to April, while the share of traffic from computers increased 10%. Consider removing any negative bid adjustments you have for desktop devices, and maybe even look at increasing bids for those devices if their performance is strong.

We know paid search strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all, but based on these trends, you and your clients can adapt to today’s new norm. And who knows, maybe you’ll come out of it even stronger than before. Be sure to follow our weekly series for more business and marketing strategies that can help you take action and move your brand forward.


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