SEA strategy: how to manage the post-lockdown?

The Covid-19 crisis is transforming consumer habits and advertisers are adapting to the changes. One of the main focus points is how to address consumers in order to remain visible and competitive. As part of the communication toolbox, SEA strategy deserves your attention. We explain why and how to adjust it.  

Covid-19 and advertising expenditure: what are the impacts?

According to Statista, the advertising industry suffered a revenue loss of approximately 30 billion dollars at the beginning of March 2020 as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. Mobile search traffic dropped by about 25% in March. While advertising traffic on Google searches is falling across all devices, the drop has been felt more on mobiles and tablets than on computers.  

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A number of factors can explain this situation:

  • Consumers are seeking information and entertainment more than consumption: entertainment, information and news are taking up more place than shopping;
  • Audience migration: Google Search and Google Shopping have been abandoned in favour of YouTube (entertainment, information/news);
  • Advertisers are shifting their focus to YouTube Ads (+21%) and Google Display Network (+13%) to follow their audience, which has migrated to entertainment websites. It should be noted that adverts on YouTube Ads are generally better suited to developing brand awareness, while Search and Shopping channels are more effective when it comes to direct conversion.

At the same time, Amazon significantly reduced its advertising expenditure in March (Google Shopping and Google Search):   



Promotion on Google Ads has dropped by as much as 70% in some sectors. As shown in the graphs below, the travel sector has been the worst affected, while there has been strong growth in demand for household goods and medical supplies. 

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The tourism and travel sector has ground to a halt. The health and medicine sector is seeing an increase in online sales and clicks on adverts, as well as higher than usual conversion rates. There are opportunities to be seized in certain sectors because of the following:

  • Fewer competitors on Google and, therefore, more potential visibility;
  • Lower CPC and increase in impressions on the first page of Google;
  • More time to devote to optimising Google Ads campaigns.
  • Positioning yourself on your main competitors' queries can be a good idea on certain markets that are flagging:

Screenshot of a search for the term “Alexa” on the Google search engine in France, showing the Facebook Portal in first position.


For example, since Amazon's Google Ads campaigns have been suspended, Facebook has positioned itself on the term "Alexa" in order to promote its competing "Portal" product.      

How to react during the lockdown period?

1) Relaunch studies of queries of the moment in order to adapt your offering and/or create a new offering in line with demand. 

Bar chart in French, provided by Statista, showing the growth of interest in purchasing a selection of products online during the lockdown (30-day period leading up to the 6th of April). From top to bottom, the products are as follows: dumbbells, bread machine, tomato seeds, inflatable swimming pool, bidet, yoga mat, microphone, PC mouse. The data is based on a global analysis of online consumption behaviour.[/caption]  

2) Follow the lifting of the lockdown in order to adjust your offering in the short term. 

Line graph in French showing the changing level of interest in four searches over the past 30 days. The searches shown are “trip Spain” (blue), “trip Italy” (red), “trip Portugal” (yellow) and “trip France” (green). The bar chart on the left shows the average.[/caption]   On Google Trends, a reduction in demand for travel abroad and an increase in queries for destinations in France have been observed. You could therefore think about creating a new offering based on local queries in France, in order to meet demand.  

3)Working on SEO during idle periods

Tweet in French: “During this lockdown period, working on your natural referencing is the best choice you can make to maintain traffic on your website.”[/caption] Here are some quick wins for SEO that can be applied on your website in order to capitalise in the long term:  

  • Rewrite the TITLE tags on your pages in order to include new terms:

Screenshot showing an advert in French for “disinfectant anti-bacterial gel, alcohol-based gel…”, offering a wide range of brands at low prices.[/caption]  

  • Optimise URLs (permalinks):


  • Optimise META description tags:

Discover our range of disposable FFP2 masks, to protect your respiratory tract against fine and toxic particles, as well as flu viruses.[/caption]  

  • Integrate structured data within your pages:

€5.80 to €7.90 – In stock  

You can also think about:

  • Optimising the ALT tag on your images
  • Optimise your HTML tag structure: H1, H2, H3
  • Create quality content that is coherent with the theme of the target page. In other words, create content that combines entertainment and advice to remain close to your readership. You should alternate short content with in-depth subjects. Effective content enables you to both communicate with your audience and improve your positioning and visibility.

Effectively prepare your SEA for the lifting of the lockdown

Here are nine options you can opt for. 

1.Adjust Google Ads campaigns  

  • Regularly consult the report on search terms while:
    • Increasing budgets where there are new opportunities for demand;
    • Reallocating budgets to products and services that are still in demand.
  • Reduce spending if your performance levels are not satisfactory.
  • Review bidding adjustments per device. Remote working is increasing traffic on computers, but adjustments will need to be made as the lockdown is lifted.
  • Review the performance of the publication schedule for your campaigns. Here, once again, habits have changed and you will need to regularly adapt publication dates and times.
  • It is usually advisable to disable the publication of adverts on the Search Network, with a view to ROI, but this option can help you capture more traffic at the moment.
  • Try smart bidding in order to deal with this period of instability: let the algorithms analyse and adjust bids in real-time in order to meet the set objectives.

2.Follow trending searches related to Covid-19


Google has introduced several tools dedicated to specific search trends. Regularly look at these tools to see how Internet users' search priorities and interests respond to news events.

  3.Reach your audience on other networks 


Advertising on several networks will help you reduce dependency on Google searches, while increasing the number of people you reach.   4.Deploy drive-to-store when physical stores reopen   During the lockdown, you may have made the most of weaker competition to maintain campaigns at a low cost and acquire new qualified contacts. During the lifting of the lockdown, use Google Ads Retargeting with this new audience, in order to convert in two stages, by using drive-to-store when stores reopen. You can also focus on "post-click" experiences. These experiences are essential in order to make initial contact. The more positive the first impression is, the better your chances will be to convert them. 

Advert in French for a company selling verandas, opening on the 11th of May 2020

5.Prepare for Google Shopping being made available for free

Source: Google Shopping 

Display products related to alcohol-based gel… / Sponsored ad
Alcohol-based gel / €6.60 / Cardio Dépôt / By Google
Alcohol-based solution / €65.94 / Fluotechnik / By Google
Alcohol-based solution / €6.28 / MediSafe / By Productca…
Alcohol-based gel 5L / €65.94 / / By AlphaBuy
Antibacterial disinfectant gel / €12.90 / Naturitas / By Google   

Source: Google Shopping


Google recently announced that companies will be able to use the Google Shopping service for free. Already deployed in the United States, it is being rolled out in countries around the world, including France. We observe that Google is looking to help business owners affected by Covid-19, and help Internet users to find the products they are looking for and buy them more easily. Our opinion:

  • Increase of advertisers in Google Shopping, so more competition on the platform for the free service;
  • There is likely to be more traffic, which could lead to an increase in the costs of the paid service;
  • Advertisers that were already present on the platform, with paid adverts in particular, can expect an increase in costs over the coming months.

6.Convey messages on brand queries

The health crisis related to Covid-19 has changed many things, with stores closing from one day to the next, absent contacts, modified hours, delivery delays, and so on.

Advert in French for Deliveroo, offering “Your favourite restaurants, delivered to your door”, specifying “no contact with the delivery person”.  

Advert in French for a company selling fresh home-made dishes, delivered to customers’ homes, so they can “Stay at home”. A 30% discount is offered on the first order.

Here is the type of information that can potentially be provided:

  • New services (e.g. take-away, delivery or pick-up services);
  • Updated opening hours (Google My Business);
  • Specific opening times for certain groups of people (e.g. elderly customers);
  • Measures taken to ensure the safety of employees and customers;
  • News (e.g. launch of an online store, new products, order terms or categories);
  • Free delivery or new delivery times;
  • Special offers, discounts, exceptional after-sales conditions;
  • Purchase of gift vouchers;

Think about using the retargeting feature on Google Ads to touch base with visitors and encourage them to make a purchase (with incentives such as free delivery or special offers).  

7.Position yourself on popular search terms of the moment 

Source: Google Trends // Line graph in French showing the changing level of interest in two searches over the past 30 days.

The searches shown are “beach opening” (blue) and “2020 holidays” (red). The bar chart on the left shows the average.

Tourism is currently focussed on what will be possible or not this summer. Our advice:

  • Adapt your message/offering in ads;
  • Target complementary queries in order to generate qualified traffic.

summer 2020 covid
summer 2020 lockdown
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Report by a French newspaper entitled “Summer 2020 & Covid: What to do for the holidays?” based on a study showing a slowdown in summer bookings in the tourism sector.[/caption]  

8.Turn your physical events into digital events

Many events have been cancelled due to Covid-19, such as the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS). Some companies have decided to make the best of the situation and adapt their gatherings using a virtual format. For example, due to the unexpected cancellation of the GIMS, Volkswagen is offering the chance to visit its stand virtually. The benefits of switching to digital events include compensation of revenue lost from the physical event, the ability to reach a wider audience and build a new database, and rapid promotion via Google Ads (SEA) for registration for the event.

 9.Drive to e-store post-lockdown 

Line graph in French showing the changing level of interest in one search over the past 12 months. The search shown is “online pharmacy” (blue).[/caption] Online pharmacies have observed a significant increase in online sales and clicks on their ads, as well as an improvement in conversion rates. Our advice for a post-lockdown strategy:  

  • Continue to study queries related to the sector and make the most of the increase in demand to increase visibility and convert new users to this consumption mode.
  • You should plan to increase your SEA budget here, as investments can be far more profitable than usual; not to forget the opportunities to build the loyalty of new customers.

Source: Google Trends // Line graph in French showing the changing level of interest in four searches over the past 12 months. The searches shown are “gel” (blue), “mask” (red), “protective mask” (yellow) and “protective visor” (green). The bar chart on the left shows the average.[/caption]   If you have stock and conversions are increasing:

  • Increase your SEA budgets in order to reach more customers and improve your loyalty-building;
  • Build a new Google Ads audience to be developed via remarketing;
  • Make the most of the opportunity to communicate with this new target. Here, you should focus on the advantages of an online pharmacy and highlight other products you have available to purchase online (medicines).

If you do not have any product stocks, increase spending on SEO rather than SEA.

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