How has COVID-19 affected SEM for small business?

SEM has been a popular digital marketing strategy for years, but with COVID-19 fundamentally changing consumers’ needs and behaviours, adaptability has never been more important.

In this article we’re diving into how the pandemic has impacted the SEM landscape, with some key takeaways for small business owners.

People are searching online more…

Not surprisingly, an unprecedented number of people turned to the internet for information and education during the height of COVID-19. When the lockdown went into effect, Australian cities were seeing up to 6% more online congestion, while NBN data traffic rose by 70% during business hours.

What’s interesting is that the spike in internet traffic wasn’t an anomaly. Even with the lockdown behind us and people returning to the office, online activity and internet searches are growing exponentially. A forecast by Cisco predicts internet traffic in Australia will reach 2.9 Exabytes per month in 2021, more than triple the amount of traffic seen just five years ago.

Not only that, but 3.5 billion Google searches are made every day, and the volume of those searches is growing by roughly 10% every year.

Key takeaway: People are searching and shopping on the internet more than ever before and this trend is here to stay. With the Google Ad Network reaching 90% of internet users worldwide, SEM will continue to be one of the most effective ways to get in front of this new wave of online consumers.

…but they’re not always easy to win over.

Recent data released by NAB reveals consumers are less anxious than they have been at any time during the past 18 months, but are persisting with new habits adopted during the height of the pandemic.

Specifically, Aussie consumers are continuing to shop online while ‘being more mindful where they spend their money and more likely to research brands and products before purchasing and where possible’.

Value is a big factor in the decision-making process for the new wave of savvy Aussie shoppers. A study by NielsenIQ found that 60% of Aussie consumers would switch to the lowest-priced brand to save money.

Key takeaway: Customers are shopping online more than ever before, but they’re also more discriminating based on value and credibility. This means they might only be incentivised to click on your ad if it features a special offer or social proof, such as a customer review.

Crafting the right message here is the key: your SEM ads will be most impactful if they can prove your business is trustworthy and offers good value for money.

RELATED: How to get more online reviews for your business.

It’s a great time to be a local small business.

A consumer sentiment analysis by McKinsey revealed that, in the wake of the pandemic, more Aussies are actively prioritising buying from local businesses and producers. The analysis found ‘supporting local business’ to be the third-most important factor when weighing up where to shop.

Research commissioned by MasterCard also found that, despite Australians being mindful of their spending in recent times, nearly three-quarters want to actively spend in the local community to help them bounce back and recover. Forty-two percent have spent more money on a product or service in the local community despite knowing they could have found it cheaper elsewhere.

Key takeaway: An SEM strategy targeted at people in your local market is a huge opportunity to connect with potential customers wanting to support small businesses. Look for ways to bring out ‘shop local’ or ‘Australian made’ messaging in your campaigns – being an Aussie SMB is a marketing superpower in 2021.

RELATED: 5 business resolutions to help you recover from 2020 and thrive in 2021.

What’s next for your SEM strategy?

There are lots of resources out there about how to optimise your SEM strategy, but getting it right takes time and expertise. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.

Yellow Pages’ award-winning SEM team can help drive leads to your business by targeting the people who are looking for your products or services, putting your ads in the right place at the right time. Find out more here.

Talk to Yellow Pages about how targeted SEM can generate leads for your business.

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