four-dots newsroom
Apr 28|

COVID-19 Paid Search Trends

This is part of a series of updates that provide data-driven insights and experience-based anecdotes that will hopefully help marketers and brands weather the COVID-19 storm. If you have feedback or questions, please send us a note at

Updated May 19, 2020

Paid Search CPC

On March 14, Backbone began seeing the effects of COVID-19 on the outdoor recreation industry. Brands and retailers quickly adapted strategies to meet the changing consumer behavior and media consumption. Paid search was no exception. Based on a combination of client data and Google Trends, Backbone is monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on paid search.

Comparing cost per click (CPC) metrics during a time period before versus during the COVID-19 outbreak (Jan. 1, 2020–March 13, 2020 versus March 14, 2020–May 18, 2020), branded-search terms CPCs have increased significantly, seeing a 31% increase, while non-branded terms are showing a decline in CPCs of 34%. This trend has also held true year over year with branded CPCs increasing by 20% and non-banded CPCs decreasing by 67% compared to the same period last year.

Branded Versus Non-Branded Search

Backbone is seeing branded terms become more competitive than non-branded. This trend looks to be related to retailers starting to bid more aggressively than usual on branded terms due to brick-and-mortar retail being temporarily suspended. In other words, brands and retailers are leaning in to branded paid search to drive e-commerce sales to help close the revenue gap between channels. This is the main driver for the increase in branded CPCs.

Traditionally, branded search campaigns convert at a much higher rate than non-branded search campaigns. However, as retail channels are temporarily closed, brands are shifting funds into branded terms to drive sales while pulling back on non-branded spend because prospecting is less of a priority right now. The increase in competition and CPCs in branded search, as well as the decrease in non-branded search-campaign CPCs, is the result of this strategic shift in paid search born from the impacts of COVID-19.

As stay-at-home orders are lifted and brick-and-mortar retail begins to open, Backbone will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on paid search and will post further findings as they become relevant. If you have feedback or questions, please send a note to Jeff Palmer below.

Jeff Palmer

Interested in learning more?

Let's connect.


Specializing in the intersection of paid and earned media.

See what we do


We believe growth fuels opportunities for our employees and our partners.

See who we are

Please enter your name.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a company.

Select one Category | *Required

Please choose one category.

Select Services | *Required

Please choose at least one service.

Please enter a message.

01 / 05
01 / 05

We look forward to learning more. A Backbone team member will follow up with you directly.

This site uses cookies. By using this site or closing this notice, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use.