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B2B Paid Search Performance in the Era of COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted all of us in one way or another. Our personal and professional lives have changed, our routines are different than earlier this year, and our needs and priorities have changed as well. In addition, the global economy has been affected by the pandemic and many businesses have had to adjust and re-prioritize their goals and resources. 

If you work in the B2B industry, you probably noticed changes in the performance of your paid search accounts around mid-March, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Metrics for our different tech accounts started to decline. Fortunately, most accounts started to improve the second half of April and the last week of April was one of the strongest in the last couple of months.

We analyzed a dozen B2B Google accounts and search campaigns, and were surprised to see the overall trend and how different tech accounts performed during these unusual times. Despite the fact that click-through-rate (CTR) decreased and the average cost-per-click (CPC) increased in March, conversion rate (CVR) remained strong and cost per lead (CPL) continued to decrease that month.  CVR was still strong in April and remained relatively stable in May.

Here are some of the observed trends in our B2B Google accounts:

Lower CTR Since March

92% of the search accounts analyzed showed a lower CTR in March compared to February. 82% of those accounts continued to decrease CTR in April.

Overall, CTR decreased 18% in March and 4% in April, compared with the previous month. CTR slightly increased in May (+2%).

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CPC Increasing Month-Over-Month

Average CPC for the analyzed accounts decreased 6% in February but started to increase in March (+6%) and continued to increase in April (+7%). The upward trend for CPC continued in May (+2%).

  • 83% of the accounts decreased their CPC from January to February.
  • 50% of the accounts had a higher CPC in March than February.
  • 50% of accounts had a higher CPC in April compared to March.
  • Only a third of the accounts improved CPC in May

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CVR Not Increasing Yet

Conversion rate for the analyzed accounts decreased 5% in February and 2% in March compared to the previous month. In April, there were signs of improvement as conversion rate increased 1% compared to March. However, conversion rate decreased again in May (-6%) compared with April, reaching the lowest CVR this year.

CVR decreased every week in May and most of the accounts (64%) decreased CVR in the last week of May. It will be challenging to increase CVR in the next couple of months considering the changes in traffic volume and search behavior we see every year during the summer, so we should review our strategy and prioritize our best performing assets and tactics in order to reach the campaigns goal.

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CPL Increased in April

CPL consistently decreased from January to March but increased almost 23% in April compared with the previous month. Nonetheless, CPL is trending in the right direction in May decreasing almost 10% compared with April.

  • 73% of the analyzed accounts increased their CPL in March. However, 50% of these accounts were able to decrease their CPL in April.
  • 46% of the accounts showed lower CPL in April compared with February.
  • 46% of the accounts decreased CPL in May.

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All Metrics Improved the Last Week of April

All metrics analyzed improved the last week of April compared with the last week of March, when all metrics were heading in the wrong direction.

  • CTR increased 13% 
  • CPC decreased almost 3%
  • CVR increased 13%
  • CPL decreased 9%

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CPC had been trending upwards since the third week of March; reaching its highest point in the second week of May when it increased 20% compared with the first week of March. The good news is that CPC has decreased in the last two weeks of May. This is definitely the time for advertisers to focus on ad copy testing to improve CTR and to manage the increasing CPCs in the industry. In addition, B2B advertisers should focus on refreshing remarketing campaigns and investing more in the campaigns to nurture users and improve conversion rates in SEM. The CVR seen in May is the lowest so far this year.

Based on the performance we are seeing, we can say that B2B paid search accounts were not highly impacted by COVID-19 as other industries. Nonetheless, most accounts showed lower performance in March and the first two weeks of April and CTR and CVR are not trending upwards yet.

Conversion rate is the metric B2B advertisers should keep a close eye on given it decreased four weeks in a row last month and we are close to the summer season when traffic decreases. Finally, we recommend monitoring how leads move down the sales funnel as sales cycles may be longer than before COVID-19 and also prioritizing the keywords that generate opportunities so you can generate more revenue.

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