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March 27, 2020

How to Monitor Paid Performance During A Crisis


Whether the crisis at-hand is local or global, you can guarantee that the situation—and its impact on your hotel—will be evolving by the second. When it comes to COVID-19 specifically, our team at Screen Pilot is constantly monitoring the digital landscape for our clients via Google Data Studio Dashboards and Google Trends. But regardless of the tools you use, your priority should be identifying which channels people are using to discuss the crisis and appropriately engage with them there.When examining each channel, Screen Pilot’s priority is to analyze the current state of affairs, identify top opportunities for our clients, and then create a plan for how our clients can make the most of the current digital landscape.

Here’s a breakdown of our approach by channel.


Monitor search terms reports.

  • Are people searching for cancellation policies, if you’re not open, how much the property is involved in the crisis, etc.
  • Exclude these terms from campaigns so you don’t waste spend.

Look for opportunities.

  • While brand search volume may be going down, other terms might be skyrocketing.
  • View Google Trends for possible search terms that are increasing in volume for new ideas. Some ideas are staycation, hotels open, hotels near me
  • Go after your competitors. If your competitors are not competing in the crisis, this is a way to talk to their potential customers and draw them to your brand

Consider changing your geo-targeting.

  • Look at your website analytics for users who have historically searched your brand/unbrand terms and their locations. Who are the users you are trying to target now? What are they most interested in/concerned about? Consider changing up your messaging to cater to the different geo-locations based on what you’re seeing in analytics.

Review your bid strategies.

  • With Google Ads' new automated bidding strategies, you could be hurting your own campaigns by optimizing for an event that users won’t be taking.
  • For example, if you’re optimizing for target per acquisition but users are not looking to book during this crisis, you could be reaching only a few users.
  • Consider going back to manual bidding until the crisis is over.

Review ad messaging.

  • Consumers are probably not looking to book during a crisis, especially if they are directly impacted. Outdated or promo-heavy messaging can be viewed as insensitive.
  • Consider evergreen or more generic brand awareness ads for larger, open audiences (ex. Targeting all of the US).
  • If you’ve changed your geo-targeting to drive markets, in-state, or are targeting by radius, develop offers and/or messaging specific to those targets.

Adjust or update your negative keywords lists so that your ads do not show for certain searches.

  • For example, you probably don’t want your ads showing up for searches regarding the virus, pandemic, earthquake, etc. in your area.
  • This is also a matter of reputation management, as ad placements in poor taste can turn your audience against you.

Monitor metrics.

  • Keep an eye on clicks, CPCs, CTRs, and impressions. Conversions will most likely be lower for immediate booking windows, but you can take advantage of continued search activity by adjusting messaging.

Display & Video

Turn off placements that could be related to the crisis for the time being.

  • The LAST place you want to show up is next to a news article detailing the crisis.
  • You will come off as insensitive and hurt your brand in that consumer’s mind.

Change your assets.

  • Focus less on pushing offers and more on the experience of being at your hotel/resort. Adjust messaging to reflect new images or creative assets.
  • By changing your assets, you can improve your CTR and possibly time on site by being sensitive to the crisis.

Consider changing your geo-targeting.

  • Use your website analytics to determine the best audiences to target now and based on historical data. Do your current stats fall in line with historical data? If not, consider changing who you’re targeting with different messaging during this time.

Social Media

Turn off placements that could show material relating to the crisis and hurt the brand. Facebook’s Audience Network is one placement to consider removing for the time being.

Read the comments on your ads.

  • These will tell you if your ad is insensitive and needs a messaging change.
  • This can also give you insight into the experiences that guests liked/are interested in.

Watch your CPM and cost per results.

  • Are these metrics increasing or decreasing? This can be a huge tell if other advertisers are pulling their media funds from the channel and what you can capitalize on for a lower cost.
  • If you’re not running a brand awareness campaign, consider one to keep your brand in the consumer’s mind without pushing a package or offer. This can also be a place to see what the sentiment is toward your hotel or brand.


Monitor CPMs.

  • Advertisers may be pulling funds from this channel so your CPMs could be dropping due to lower competition. The opposite could also happen, where less ad space is being bought due to articles relating to the crisis popping up on the websites your ads would previously show.

Pull your placements.

  • Since you don’t directly buy the ad space on these websites, it’s very important to make sure that when you do show up on websites during a crisis, it’s on websites that adhere to your crisis strategy. E.x. Restrict news websites, political websites, etc.


Watch the CPC’s and impressions.

  • During a crisis, the first reaction is to pull spend. This can work in your favor because if OTA’s lower their spend, that means lower CPC’s for you and potentially more clicks.

View when people were booking.

  • Booking windows vary by property, but there is a way to see if your booking window is shorter or lengthening. In a crisis, you can exclude bids that are in the short term and only show up to users who are looking to stay further in advance.


What pages are users going to?

  • This is an opportunity to change ad copy to cater to this messaging and speak to who is coming to your website.

When are people looking to stay?

  • During a crisis, more people are looking to stay further out than your normal booking window. Consider excluding users from your campaigns who are looking to stay within 1-2 weeks; this will free up ad spend to convince users who are looking to stay further out to consider your property.
  • Do you have an FAQ page or page dedicated to crisis communication with important information that guests will need to know?

Geo locations.

  • Are the people coming to your website from your normal drive market locations or do you see a spike in traffic from different areas? This creates opportunities for who to target with what messaging/keywords based on what is going on right now in the crisis.


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