As COVID-19 continues to affect the dynamic search marketing landscape, we’re monitoring our client portfolio for trends, opportunities, and learnings.
Most of our guidance during this time has focused on the increased volatility in search due to rapidly shifting consumer behavior and changes in competitor strategy. But while increased volatility creates challenges, it isn’t especially novel to search marketers (it’s at least an annual occurrence for those working with eCommerce clients highly reliant on Q4 performance.) But our analysis did reveal a unique trend in user behavior that will be important to watch closely as quarantine restrictions affect daily life for the average consumer.
Mobile has outpaced both desktop and tablet in year-over-year growth the past several years, but COVID-19 reversed this trend in the month of March as users retreated to their homes and spent less time on the go.
Avg. Yoy Click Growth by Device
After growing roughly 50% faster than desktop in the months of January and February, mobile growth rates equaled those of desktop in the month of March, before normalizing in April.
The chart below shows a marked decrease in mobile clicks closely corresponding to a better, more widespread understanding of the severity of the crisis, particularly the 3/11 World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of pandemic.
Non-Brand Clicks by Device
Perhaps more interesting is how short-lived the trend appears to be. After mobile traffic fell to a low point about a week after the WHO declaration, device performance appears to be trending back toward normality, with the device mix meeting pre-pandemic levels the week of 3/22, albeit with lower click volume across the board.
This may seem highly suggestive that fewer people are abiding quarantine restrictions than a few weeks ago; the recent spate of protests across the US would then appear to be a particularly acute example of a more general shift in public sentiment. Alternatively, it might represent greater acclimation to the new environment and an increased willingness to venture out while taking proper precautions and armed with the greater availability of facemasks and other protective gear.
If COVID-19 returns this fall—or becomes a cyclical event as some have predicted—advertisers should be on the lookout for a corresponding change in device mix at various stages of the news cycle. There may be implications for bid strategy, shifts in the proportion of ad spend allocated to text versus shopping, as well as a general rise in average CPC. If the timing of that spike aligns with a Q4 ramp more generally—let alone with Cyber Weekend—search analysts could be in for a very wild ride.
Eight Oh Two Marketing is a boutique, search-marketing agency for enterprise. As the VP of Digital Advertising, Dan Pietrucha is an industry veteran. With degrees in commerce, finance and philosophy, Dan takes an analytical approach to any challenge, and you’ll often find him knee-deep in projection models and pivot tables. Click here to learn more about Eight Oh Two, our methodology and our team.
We love to talk shop!
And we’d love an opportunity to show you what we are made of with a complimentary audit. If you let us take a look under the hood, we’ll come back with a thorough audit of your campaigns, recommendations to optimize and opportunities to explore.
CALL US AT (802) 681-4329