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How COVID Has Changed Google Ads for Better and Worse in 2020

By: Alex Carolan    January 4, 2021

When the COVID pandemic started in early March, digital advertising was among the many industries that had to quickly shift strategy to stay afloat. With Google’s quick adaptations, the company was able to rebound and shocked the industry by driving in record ad revenue. Here is a look at the new features, policy changes and COVID relief options Google rolled out in 2020, which have undoubtedly led to their unexpected success during a year of turmoil.

In 2020, Google worked diligently to promote local pickup options and service provider badges to highlight local businesses. In May, newly added “curbside pickup” badges began appearing in Local Inventory Ads.

The Google Guaranteed badge became available to non-advertisers through an “upgraded” Google My Business (GMB) profile for $50 per month. The purpose of the Local Inventory Ads and Google Guaranteed badge is to continue to help instill greater consumer confidence in these advertised businesses during such an uncertain time.

Google recently figured out a way to monetize Discovery feeds with Discovery ads. Google claims that with the addition of Discovery ads, their new combined audience (including YouTube, Gmail and now Discover) consists of 2.9 billion users.

Google Ads propositioned its own attempt at offering a “stimulus” to paid search advertisers. Google pledged $340 million in Ads credits for SMBs. New Zealand advertisers were some of the first to receive these Ad credits when Google Ads began distributing them in May 2020.

Additionally, Google has also committed an additional $20 million in ad grants to community financial institutions and NGOs to run PSAs on relief funds and resources for SMBs.

Google stated that they were increasing ad grants available to the World Health Organization and other government agencies to “provide critical information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The initial funds set aside to provide ad grants to these types of businesses have been increased from $25 million to $250 million, which is sure to make a considerable impact.

Many of the new features and testing Google completed in 2020 offer advantages to advertisers using paid search. However, not all the changes Google Ads adopted to this past year will be beneficial for advertisers. Google announced the overhaul of Google Partners program eligibility requirements, leaving many agencies without their usual Google support system.

Additionally, Google Ads’ reputation for providing effective support plummeted when the company announced in March that small and mid-sized agency partners would be losing dedicated ad rep support. This was a big blow to many companies that relied on their dedicated ad rep support for optimization suggestions, industry trends and overall guidance.

Another new Google Ads nuisance that entered the scene November 1, 2020, was the beginning of digital services taxes to advertisers in the UK, Turkey and Austria.

This year has been unprecedented and unpredictable for many. Here are a few tips for what to expect from Google Ads in 2021. Announced in February, Google will enforce new requirements to maintain Google Partner status, stating that at least 50% of eligible users listed in manager accounts will need to earn Google Ads certification. Another new update to keep in mind as 2021 begins, is that will be evaluating the optimization score in your manager account to determine whether your agency is meeting performance requirements. These changes were initially set to take effect in June, but Google has postponed these requirements until after the start of 2021 due to the impact the pandemic has had on agencies.