Paid Ads and COVID-19: To Pause or Not to Pause?

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With all the uncertainty going on in the world right now, we’re noticing a trend across a lot of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Business is fragile, costs are being cut and the first thing a lot of businesses pull back during this turbulent time is PPC (Pay-per-Click), or paid search.

It makes sense.

PPC = Instant relevant traffic and, therefore, sales.

If your business isn’t going to be making many sales at this time, then it might feel like a smart move to reduce the spends on your ad campaigns, if not pause them completely.

But is this actually a good move for your business right now? We’ll guide you through the process of making a fully informed decision about whether or not to pause your PPC campaigns.

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Assessing Your Industry and Your Customers

The first step is to assess your business, where it’ll fit into one of the following four categories:

For each category, we’ll dig into the PPC opportunities available at this time and explore other options you could take advantage of to get ahead of your competitors.

Business Is Currently on Hold

There will be certain industries or businesses that simply can’t offer anything to their target customers right now. For example, you may run your business from a fixed dwelling that clients must visit for appointments, such as a beauty salon or cosmetic dental surgery.

Paid search need: Minimal

With social distancing and restrictions on non-essential travel, there won’t be a huge pool of people looking for these services right now, so a cutback on PPC spend is, for the most part, a sensible decision for these businesses.

However, that doesn’t mean that people will all start looking for these businesses once they’re back up and running. More and more people are currently sitting at home and browsing the internet — and they could potentially be looking for these services for future bookings.

A good strategy is to run a small, super-cheap brand awareness campaign. These would allow you to utilise Remarketing and Facebook Ads so that you remain fresh in people’s minds, as well as help you to build up a solid customer base as soon as you’re back in business. You could also focus on your social profiles during this time by developing a list of engaged followers.

Something else to consider here is the feasibility of using paid ads to retarget newsletter subscribers. With this, you can initially market to people via email and then use retargeting to remind them about your business. This can be a great strategy, as you’re focusing your efforts on warm leads who are already interested in your service.

Business Operations Have Been Modified

Some businesses will have adapted by going remote, potentially cutting costs by furloughing staff for the short term. This is especially the case for estate agents and eCommerce businesses that are struggling to secure stock.

These types of businesses are still very much operational, so there’s a lot of potential to make adjustments that complement your business offering.

For example, eCommerce clients could market alternative products that they can easily source. Likewise, buying or selling a property can take time, so estate agents can capitalise on people browsing for properties by offering ways to view them online, perhaps through house viewings streamed live on the internet.

Many small cafes and bakeries are also diversifying by offering home delivery services. These businesses may have never run a PPC campaign before, so this is a perfect opportunity for them to market their services to the people searching for them — and build up an engaged list of customers who will readily buy again.

Paid search need: Some — these businesses may need to reconsider their main offer and PPC goal to take full advantage

Industry insights indicate that many businesses are viewing Google Ads and Facebook Ads costs as unnecessary expenses. From a business perspective, PPC seems like a no-brainer when it comes to cutting your spend.

However, this hasty decision could have big consequences for many businesses. When cutbacks are made ruthlessly and without any real assessment of the long-term impact, businesses could find that they miss out on the huge gains to be made over the coming months.

Before finalising your decision to slash your PPC spend, consider the following:

Analysing Your Data

Before making any decision on your paid search campaigns, fully analyse your data to ensure you’re seeing a big enough drop-off in leads or sales to justify scaling back on budget or pausing the campaigns completely. You may still be attracting valuable leads via PPC, and at a time when every qualified lead is important, it would be a big risk to make huge changes if your campaigns have plenty of life left in them.

Do You Need to Shift Campaign Focus?

If leads have dropped right off, you might be tempted to take drastic action immediately, but it’s worth considering whether or not you could shift the focus to make your campaigns more relevant for the current climate. It might be that you’ve adapted your service to offer remote consultations, or you may have changed your focus to target a different audience or objective, such as building brand awareness. When doing this, it’s important to make sure the changes are also reflected on your website and in your other marketing efforts. This can be done by adding a banner across the top of your site and informing email subscribers through a broadcast.

Your Competitors

What are your competitors doing right now? In all likelihood, they will be having the same gut reaction as many other businesses across a range of industries: pause paid ads = save money.

Now’s the time to take advantage and strike while the iron is hot. Less competition in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) space means lower costs per click (CPCs) and a better chance to get your business seen. In the majority of cases, consumers are still searching for specific services and products, either to satisfy an immediate need or in preparation for when the situation changes.

These people are potentially bookmarking businesses so that they can complete the purchase later on. Consumers have always conducted research before making a decision and buying. In the current climate, all this means is that there’s a delay before the actual sale. By taking advantage of the opportunities available, you can make sure that you — and not the competitors who decided to pause all paid search — are at the front of people’s minds.

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Business Is Operating as Usual

If you’re working in an industry that’s essentially business as usual, your need for paid search remains high. Examples of businesses that fall into this category include eCommerce stores or service providers that operate online.

Paid search need: High

Paid search should be the main focus for these businesses right now. PPC is an immediate form of marketing, especially when compared to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which is a longer-term strategy. For businesses able to reap the benefits of paid advertising, it makes sense to increase their budgets as much as financially possible to capitalise on increased interest during this time.

Business Is Suddenly in High Demand

For all the businesses that are struggling to stay afloat during this time, there are just as many that are more in demand than ever due to changes in buying habits. These include vegetable and fruit box or other food delivery services, online fitness instructors, stores offering alcohol delivery, loungewear eCommerce sites and eCommerce sites offering gym and home workout equipment and clothing.

Paid search need: Very high

It’s important to bear in mind that search volumes for the terms relating to these services are likely much higher than you might think. Traffic tools take time to update, and coupled with the sudden increase in interest, it’s likely that they simply haven’t caught up yet. It’s worth regularly checking Google Trends to monitor any spikes.

With so much competition for businesses in this category, it’s vital to deploy a robust paid ads strategy to ensure you’re getting your offering shown to as many qualified consumers as possible.

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How to Get the Most Out of PPC During COVID-19

Google Ads and Facebook Ads Grants

Both Google and Facebook have announced they will be offering grants and paying ad credits to small and medium-sized businesses to help alleviate costs during COVID-19.

Full details as to how you can claim these have yet to be released, but this is likely to be through ad spend reimbursements on your Google Ads and Facebook Ads accounts later in the year.

Getting Your Ads Ready for COVID-19

Adapting your ads to reflect your current situation should be a priority, such as letting potential clients and customers know that you’re still operating and in what capacity. Searchers may assume that a business is not operating if there’s no indication of this in the ad text or on your website.

Google has recently put together a helpful checklist to help you navigate your ad campaigns through the current crisis.

At Exposure Ninja, we can help ensure that your ads achieve maximum effectiveness during this period, as well as protect against the consequences that could come from not properly aligning your Google Ad and Facebook Ad campaigns.

The most important conclusion to draw from the above is not to panic and pause your paid ads as a first measure to save costs. While there will be a lot of SMEs with little to no expectation of making a profit from paid ads during this time, there’s also a huge case for carefully and thoroughly analysing your data and considering alternative targeting methods before making a rash decision and pulling the plug.

Doing so could have the adverse effect of what you’re trying to achieve and might see you miss out on new sales — as well as put your business on the backfoot when we return to business as usual.

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Are you looking to navigate COVID-19 and considering pausing your paid ads, or do you want to take advantage of increased interest in your industry by running a PPC campaign? Claim your free marketing review and one of our PPC Ninjas will look at your industry, challenges and any existing or previous campaigns to determine whether PPC would be a smart investment and help you identify your biggest opportunities.

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