April 24, 2020

Metrics and Trends to Monitor During COVID-19 and Beyond

The following post is from Jordan Dickey, Data Team Lead and head of Data Operations at Statwax. We asked him to share his insights on what metrics and trends companies should be keeping an eye on during COVID-19. 

Here at Statwax, we’re passionate about analyzing data and using it to improve our paid search campaigns and strategies. But even we know it’s important to identify the most important data trends so that we can develop actionable strategies instead of creating analysis paralysis. Check out three digital ad campaign metrics and trends to keep an eye on during COVID-19.

Search impression share (SIS)

Search impression share is one of the most influential metrics in paid search campaigns. It’s especially important to monitor during times with big market swings, as we are seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Being able to quickly identify changes in the competitive landscape can give your ad campaigns an advantage over your competitors. The first step is to identify what factors might be making your search impression share fluctuate. 

Factors that may lead to increased search impression share:

  • A competitor dropped out of the market
  • A competitor increased ad budget
  • Improved ad copy and landing page relevancy
  • An increased internal budget and/or bid adjustments on keywords 

Factors that may lead to decreased search impression share:

  • A new competitor entered the market
  • Existing competitor increased budget
  • Decreased internal budget and/or bids 

At Statwax we also combine search impression share with other metrics to help identify the potential maximum volume of our current keywords. This will give us an estimate of how much paid search potential that we are missing. An example calculation is listed below along with a visualization to help track the data over time. While this calculation is not an exact science, because there are many factors that affect search impression share, it has does give us a rough estimate to help develop digital strategies.

search impression share graphEx: maximum potential impressions = impressions / search impression share %

Traffic and engagement by device usage

Another area that our team has seen swings in search behavior during coronavirus is in what devices people are using to search. Mobile traffic has been increasing significantly over the years, and many businesses have been shifting to focus on their web experience and digital campaigns in response. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a small shift back towards desktop traffic. We believe this is due to many people staying at home and having access to a desktop computer more frequently than before. 

This trend does not mean you need to shift your focus back towards desktop immediately. However, you should continue to closely monitor and track the user engagement differences between different device types. 

You can also combine device data with search impression share data to see opportunities you have to adjust digital campaign bids. Some of your competitors may not realize the trend toward desktop usage. You can take advantage of the knowledge and increased traffic by having your paid search team apply bid adjustments to these users for more effective and efficient campaigns.

Paid Search Users by Device Type graphic

Changes in search term behavior

Another area where we’ve seen major shifts during COVID-19 is in changes in search behavior and specific search terms. 

The first and most obvious being an increase in people using the word “online” in their searches. For our higher education clients, we’ve seen searches with “online”  based keywords increase significantly while searches containing “near“ have decreased.

One powerful tool that we use to monitor and adapt our search terms is an n-gram analysis. An n-gram analysis is a PPC script that can help find both new long-tail keywords to add and negative keywords to help save budget. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic first started impacting our campaigns, we ran an n-gram analysis and found the following keywords to add to our negative keyword lists. 

  • “COVID”
  • “Coronavirus”
  • “Closed”
  • “Cancel”
  • “Zoom”

Our data team uses an internally built n-gram analyzer that allows us to assess the cost-efficiency of different search phrases on multiple levels. For a beginning introduction into n-gram analysis and a Google n-gram script that can be implemented, Search Engine Land is a great resource. 

If you were interested in learning how to better set up and monitor metrics and trends, reach out to us. In the meantime, stay safe and keeping diving into data to improve your marketing efforts. 

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