It’s hard to believe that just four short weeks ago, most Americans were going about their usual lives, driving to work, meeting up with friends, dining out, going to get haircuts or manicures, or casually popping into the grocery for recipe items accidentally overlooked.

In the blink of an eye, so many things have changed. Many businesses that were thriving have either been forced to temporarily close or quickly pivot to new ways of doing business in an effort to keep their employees and the public safe. Other businesses are thriving in this new environment by providing the always essential, though now more apparently so, services such as grocery stores or companies that manufacture food, cleaning or medical products, and some medical services. We’ve all tapped into a newfound appreciation for these essential items and services we blithely took for granted mere weeks ago.

Millions of Americans are now working remotely, furloughed, or unemployed. With a huge part of the population under stay-at-home orders (with the exception of essential businesses), routines and habits have gone dramatically out the window. These differences in our new day-to-day lives have had a significant impact on the digital landscape, as our time online continues to increase.

Riverworks is here to assist our clients through these times of uncertainty. We want to help every business we work with be in the best position possible when things eventually turn around. Below, we outline important changes to the marketing landscape and offer recommendations. We hope you will find them useful.

Marketing Messages

With the coronavirus pandemic at the forefront of our minds, businesses are pivoting their marketing strategies, updating their content and digital campaigns to match the changed climate.

  1. Key messaging and content across all platforms should help others in some way. Share simple recipes made with accessible ingredients. Post fun activities that families can do together. A little light in otherwise dark times can make big a difference.
  2. It’s okay to talk about things other than the virus, and get people’s minds off of the pandemic. For example, Riverworks is holding a Haiku contest on National Haiku Poetry Day – encouraging individuals to put their creative minds to work.
  3. Read your audience, be empathetic to them, and don’t dismiss the crisis. Your messaging will largely depend on the impact to your specific industry or your unique customer base.
  4. Position your message appropriately. You don’t want to have a “Coronavirus Sale,” because that would be brash and ill-received, but you may offer a discount to help families while budgets are likely tight.
  5. Review your content across all platforms to make sure you’re sending the right message. Don’t let something you worked up in January slip through the cracks for an especially awkward social post in this new climate.
  6. It’s a prime time to create new content for your website. Content is still king when it comes to SEO efforts. At the end of all of this, we want your search rankings to remain intact.
Google Products

Google shifted their priorities swiftly, as hundreds of thousands of their in-house employees began working remotely during the last few weeks of March. Internet usage has increased as much as 50% – 70%, according to some reports, and more people appear to be browsing versus conducting specific searches. This signals a necessary shift in otherwise tried and true marketing strategies. Below are some of the key changes that have taken place in each Google product, and consequently our recommendations.

Google My Business

While Google is still supporting core edits to Google My Business (GMB) listings, such as hours of operation, basic attributes and business description, most edits to GMB listings remain with status pending, and many key features have been disabled or are no longer being monitored.

For example, new reviews and review responses were momentarily paused at the end of March 2020. Additionally, new GMB posts and photos added by Google users appear to be sporadic in their updates.

GMB has rolled out some new features, such as the “Take Out” and “Delivery” attributes for specific industries.

GMB Recommendations

  1. We strongly recommend informing your customer base of any transitions your business is undergoing. For example, reformatting your services for curbside only may come with growing pains, or limitations from understaffing may affect your service abilities. Let customers know how you’re doing.
  2. If your business is marked as temporarily closed, but is in fact still currently operating, we will need to address that error. If it does not publish right away, it will require establishing contact with Google support.
  3. For restaurants, it is paramount to ensure your GMB listing showcases the new takeout and delivery features Google recently put into place.
Google Ads

Google search ad impressions decreased by 7% in March, but conversion rates dropped an average of 21%, as consumers became more hesitant to buy.

While Google search traffic is down on all devices, mobile search traffic was cut by nearly 25% in March. The “mobile first” mentality has fallen by the wayside during this pandemic.

Although individuals are not proactively searching as many specific search terms, general internet browsing has spiked dramatically, and thus there are increased opportunities to serve ads in the Google Network. For example traffic from the Google Display Network has increased 13%, and YouTube views have increased 21%!

With brick and mortar stores temporarily closed, many businesses have pivoted to eCommerce, online sales, or other online experiences.

Recommendations

  1. Find ways to get your products online, whether it’s by adding a simple store to your site, promoting items on social media, or using GMB to display a list of your products.
  2. Review the trends over the last 12 weeks to find the best lifelines and opportunities as a continued focus for your business. See: https://trends.google.com/trends/
  3. Focus on keywords that are sending you valuable traffic, don’t reel in where results are tangible.
  4. Review device bid adjustments to make sure they are reflecting the decrease in mobile search traffic.
  5. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to advertise across networks.
Facebook / Instagram

With the spike in usage on both platforms due to COVID-19, companies are purchasing Facebook and Instagram ads at historically low prices, and some are lowering their ad spend. Brands are paying an average of 9 cents per click in March vs. 11 cents per click in January.

On the flip side, Facebook has also made changes to its workforce, and is leaning on automation to handle certain aspects of ad reviews. This means getting new ads approved is taking longer.

Recommendations

  1. Keep your high performing ads running, if the messaging makes sense. Updating the ads or replacing ads may create a disruption in your campaigns due to the longer review process.
  2. Build brand awareness during this time. With more consumers at home and browsing online, it is a good time to share your story, showcase the value of your brand and create pent up demand for when this thing breaks loose.
  3. Find creative ways to grow your email database so you can remarket to interested people in the future. This could be in the form of a contest, or a subscription for great content (i.e. 30-day workout program or new product launches).
  4. Test Facebook or Instagram LIVE, and take your store or product demonstrations to your consumers, since they can’t come to you.
Email Newsletters

Email newsletters continue to be the most effective and least expensive vehicle in which to reach your customers.

Recommendations

  1. Continue to send messages to those in your email database, and make sure your messaging is empathetic to the times.
  2. Use social media and your website to grow your email database while people are at home and browsing online more frequently.
  3. Drive customers back to your website for more information, where conversions happen.
We hope you found this article helpful, and as always, please let us know if we can support you in any way. We’re all adjusting to the changes at hand, and we’re all in this together.