Well this certainly isn’t an article that I expected to write this (or any) year, but here we are. In the span of a few months life has changed for almost everyone on the planet thanks to Covid-19. Heartbreakingly, the economy hasn’t been spared and so many industries have been left in this pandemic path of destruction. Business owners everywhere are trying to pivot to our new social sets of circumstances to continue to keep the lights on.

As an account manager for many Google Ads (GAds) accounts, understandably, some of my clients have reached out to me to ask for my advice in relation to whether or not they should keep spending vital dollars on ads. In an attempt to try and answer this question for both Google and Facebook platforms, I’ve invited a colleague of mine, Jody Milward from Social Charlie to give her thoughts on running Facebook and Instagram ads during this uncertain period of economic activity.



The need to know your numbers…or at least try

The answer to this question in principle is pretty simple. If you turn off your ads now, how much of your revenue will you lose? How much are you depending on GAds to generate new and repeat business?

The answer seems logical if you know your conversion tracking numbers, and have a clear idea of what your return on investment (ROI) is on your ad spend. If you’re confident in that data in regards to cost per conversion or return on ad spend, and that data indicates a positive return on investment, then naturally you’d be doing your revenue a disservice but cutting off an efficient sales channel.

I get it, I’ve been in that position too, running a brick and mortar store where every dollar counts, and Google seems to charge your card every second day. The temptation is strong to just pause your campaigns to cut costs, but if you know that you’re turning a positive ROI on your campaigns, stay strong, otherwise you’re making things worse. If you’re unsure, reach out to your account manager, or check your conversion tracking metric columns.

The decision becomes much more difficult if you aren’t tracking any type of lead or sale generation via GAds. You’re really shooting in the dark and working off gut feel, something that I’d strongly advise against (at any point in time). In this day and age with the marketing tools we have available to us, there’s no real reason to not be tracking anything at all. Aren’t you sick of Google charging your card and wondering if it’s even working?

The only exception here is if GAds is potentially the only significant channel that’s sending traffic to your site. If you have little organic rank, brand recognition, social media presence (and following), or other forms of advertising, then there’s a good chance that all of those phone calls and enquiries are coming from people who landed on your site from GAds.

To check, log into your Google Analytics account (please tell me that you have one set up on your site), and navigate to ‘Acquisition’ on the right side, then ‘Source/Medium’. Check your traffic stats to see where your main volumes are coming from….


If it looks a little something like this, then maybe you might want to leave your ads running. There’s a good chance a lot of your sales are coming from them.


Conversion rates and search volumes

The unknown factor here is that none of us have run a digital marketing campaign during a global pandemic, so we don’t know what effect it may have on consumer behaviour, in particular conversion rates. Of course, it’s going to be product/service/industry specific, but are the buying behaviours of people visiting our site now the same as those who were visiting pre-pandemic? I’d imagine visitors browsing hand sanitiser products are converting at a much higher rate than usual, brought on by a sense of urgency.

At the most basic level, we may expect traffic as a whole to convert at around the same rate. The big difference will occur on search volumes. In theory if there isn’t the same demand for a product, then less people will be searching for it. Any concerns brought about by Covid-19 have likely already been factored into their decision pre-search, whether that’s because they are intending to purchase your product/service now, or researching for when social distancing isn’t so restrictive. If people are worried about going to the dentist out of fears of Covid-19 then they probably aren’t going to initiate a Google Search for “dentists near me”. This highlights the greatest strength of Google Search ads, users are telling you exactly what’s on their mind and their intent. Other platforms don’t have the same level of clarity, the majority of the time you need to push ads to a cold audience.

My advice would be to follow your conversion rate closely over the coming weeks (and maybe months) to make sure there’s no sudden decline in conversion rate. Total number of conversions alone probably won’t tell the story, as you’re likely to see a drop off in overall search volume.


Market indicators within Google Ads

If you’re managing your own account right now, or someone managing accounts for others, you can get an idea of how others are behaving in your competitive space by viewing ‘Impressions’ and ‘Impression Share’.

Impressions = number of times you ad was shown during a search

Impression Share = the percentage of times your ad was shown, when it was eligible to show

The easiest way to illustrate how Impression Share is important, is to think about a decline in Impressions. If you see a decrease in the amount of times your ad was shown during searches, is it because less people as a whole are searching using your keywords? Or could it be because other competitors are now entering and bidding higher than you are for that traffic? The Impression Share is there to give you an idea of why your Impressions may have increased or decreased, it’s an indicator of how big your slice of the pie is when it comes to your ad showing.

Without getting into the theory behind how this works (it makes my head hurt), I’ve created a cheat sheet for seeing what might be happening in your industry right now: 

For example, if you have recently seen a steady number of Impressions but an increase in Impression Share, then it’s likely that the overall volume of searches are down, but your competition hasn’t changed. If then you start to see an increase in Impressions, along with the increased Impression Share, then it means that your competitors are also exiting, increasing your piece of the pie. Check your most recent data, have the Impressions and/or Impression Share moved from where they usually sit?

Keep in mind that the same data sample size rules apply, so don’t put too much stock in a few days worth of data, but be on the lookout for changes in these two metrics.


What if my competition is leaving?

I’ve already highlighted the most important aspect in deciding whether to keep running your ads, and that’s the relationship between your ads and the revenue it generates. If you have a positive ROI, now could actually be the time to push ads even harder if you have the cash flow to spare. As competition exits, the cost of traffic across industries should decrease as well, meaning that you’re going to get clicks for even cheaper than before, and if your conversion rate holds steady which will result in an even better ROI. Not to mention you’re building brand awareness and recognition during a time when less companies are bidding for that same attention.

Monitor your search term report

One of the great things about Google Search is that people are telling you what they want, and what’s on their mind.  Make sure you’re keeping an eye on your search term report (under ‘Keywords’ on the left hand side) and see what people are searching for.  Are the terms that they are using any different to what you usually see? 


But I need cash to keep the lights on…

Cash flow is king, I understand that as much as anybody from my previous 10 years of brick and mortar store ownership. I know that there can be times during the year where you’re injecting your own personal savings to pay your staff, while you’re waiting on that payment from your biggest client. It sucks, but that’s a huge reality of small business….probably one that we’re all too proud to admit or talk about.

It would be irresponsible of me to advocate that you prioritise spending money on ads over paying your staff, rent, insurances, so do what you’ve got to do right now to keep the wheels turning. The overwhelming theme that I’m trying to reinforce is the relationship between your ad budget and revenue, and whether or not you have a clear idea of what that relationship is.


What if I’m running Google Ads but don’t know my numbers?

I’m not going to lie about it, you need to do some work, and the sooner the better. Educate yourself as best you can, as quickly as you can, or hire somebody to set something up for you. Here are some free resources you can use right now to self-educate.

Loves Data – “Google Ads Conversion Tracking // 2020 Tutorial”
Surfside PPC – “Google Ads Conversion Tracking With Google Analytics – Track Forms, Clicks, and Transactions”
MeasureSchool – “Google Ads Conversion Tracking with Google Tag Manager”


Want to ask a question?

Feel free to contact me via the below form, I genuinely want to help where I can during this period of uncertainty. I’m happy to give (free) advice on whatever I can.

FACEBOOK ADS by Jody Milward


I’ve heard a number of business owners asking “Should I be advertising now?” but the question hasn’t come from a place of profitability, it’s been more of a question of morals.

“Is it ethical to sell at a time like this?”

One thing you can count on during this Covid 19 Pandemic, is that people will be spending more time on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Whether it’s scrolling through the newsfeed to hear first hand what friends and family, near and far are facing each day as a result of this pandemic, hanging out in Facebook Groups for a sense of community, posting selfies of day 11 of self isolation or chatting with friends in Messenger, your existing clients and potential clients will be on Facebook or Instagram.

In a study by McGraw-Hill research, businesses that increased marketing in the 1981-1982 recession had increased revenue 275% by 1985. People will continue to buy now or after our efforts to “flatten the curve” with quarantines, self isolation and lockdowns and when they do buy, it will be those businesses who continued to invest into their marketing during this time that will see the return on their investment.

Facebook and Instagram present you with the opportunities to either make sales, build your list or build an audience who you can engage with during this period so that when we get “beyond the curve” you have an audience you can promote your product/service or offer to. Many advertisers are actually reporting seeing lower CPM’s (how much it costs to have your ad served 1000 times) which means their ads are getting to more people for cheaper cost and are seeing an increase in their Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). As long as you have all necessary tracking pixels in place, you will be able to see in real time, how effective and profitable your ads are.


Let’s look at running sales ads

As a business owner, you have an essential part to play in the economy. If you have a program, product or service that can continue to be delivered during this time, you ought to at least test the viability of running sales ads. Pay particular attention to the Click Through Rates for your ads. Ideally the CTR (LINK) should be around 1% which indicates that people are engaging with the ad and want to learn more. If you have a CTR (LINK) lower than 0.7% then that would indicate that the ad is not engaging and it would be worthwhile to test new ad creative to get your CTR (LINK) up around 1%. Normally you would expect approx 2-3% sales page conversion rate. Which means for 100 visits to your sales page, you would have 2-3 sales. If you have 200 visits to your sales page and no sales then optimizing the sales page, or possibly offering payment plans may assist in generating sales. Of course if you’ve previously been running FB or IG ads, then you’ll have your existing data to compare performance to pre Covid 19.

Then if you’re ads are generating an acceptable Cost Per Acquisition there would be no reason not to continue running them and you would be best to increase your ad spend as along as you maintain an acceptable CPA.


Lead generation campaigns

If you are not in a position to run ads for sales, but do have funds for marketing then investing into Lead Generation campaigns to build a list of potential buyers could help to give you a ‘slingshot’ of sales when we come out on the other side.

When running Lead Generation Campaigns (getting people to opt in for a guide, report, video training etc) look at your numbers so that you know what is an acceptable Cost per lead. Consider the lifetime value of a customer and work back from there. For example, a Travel Agent – you want to continue to attract potential clients so you create a guide “10 ways Corona Virus has changed the way you book your next holiday” – this could be a free guide/checklist that people opt in for – and provide their name, email address and phone number.

Previous data tells you for every 100 leads, 5 of them become clients and each client is worth on average $500 commission. So 5 clients x $500 = $2,500.  Divide $2,500 by 100 (number of Leads) and your maximum cost per Lead would be $25 in order to not lose money on your ads. But of course you want to make money with your ads. Therefore anything under $25 per lead would be profitable and lower is better.  Therefore if your cost per lead is $5 then for 100 Leads, it would cost you $500, and you are $2,000 ahead. 


Audience building campaigns

Campaigns like this are really where FB and IG shine. Using Video View Campaigns or Engagement campaigns specifically targeted to your warm audiences using a customer list or website traffic as well as cold audiences (people who have never connected with your business before) – either location/geographic targeting or worldwide targeting, you can build an audience for just $1 a day who you can continue to be in their news feed day after day.

This is a valuable strategy if you’re a business which is not in a position to make sales and cashflow is tight.

Create fun, engaging, entertaining or valuable videos and post them to your Facebook Page (Business Page – not your Personal Profile) show them behind the scenes – if you’re a restaurant, menu’s your planning for when doors reopen, Hairdressers – post tips or even Meme’s about having a bad hair day, Chiropractors giving tips on stretches to do at home to maintain a healthy spine.

Being consistent and visible in the newsfeed everyday with these types of ads, will help to ensure that your existing customers continue to connect with your business and maintain their loyalty while also piquing the interest of potential new customers who are looking forward to buying your services in the future.

To learn more about Jody you can visit her site at Social Charlie.


Ryan Thwaites

Google Ads & Analytics
Data & Business enthusiast and over-analyst
Lantern Room is a collection of my analytical musings.