How to optimise digital marketing spend

Many businesses take the simple approach of stopping marketing campaigns or adjusting budgets. Sometimes extreme measures are necessary but you don’t have to abandon advertising altogether. There are several ways to optimise your spending – both in times of crisis and in a regular environment.

We’ve seen plenty of Google Ads campaigns that have a lot of room for improvement – even after being set up by a marketing agency. Here’s what you can do to make the most out of a lower marketing budget.

Eliminate waste display advertising spend

If you’re using free apps on your mobile device, you’re familiar with ads that are hard to close. The problem here is that these ads are rarely targeted properly. They can appear in games and applications for children. For most businesses, placing the ads in mobile apps and games simply loses them money.

So how do you exclude them?

  1. Log in to your Google Ads account
  2. In the left-hand side navigation, choose “Placements
  3. Next, select “Exclusions
  4. Click on the pencil icon and select “Exclude placements
  5. Finally, choose “App categories” from the list and exclude the applicable ones

Once this is done, you have two choices:

Optimise your Cost Per Click on Google Ads

There’s a simple formula that lets you calculate your break-even cost per click.

Break-Even CPC = Conversion Rate x Conversion Profit

Knowing that value is now more important than ever, for two reasons:

Before taking extreme measures, such as stopping some campaigns, calculate your break-even CPC and adjust your bidding strategy. You want to bid for about 70% of the value. A mere 30% decrease in conversion rate will mean you’re not making money anymore.

If you’re in an industry critical to getting through this crisis, you might see an increase in your conversion rate. In that case, you might want to take a more aggressive approach and increase your CPC in a bid to become a leader in your niche.

Consider using free digital marketing tools

It’s not always easy, or even possible. Some tools are so advanced that once set up and running for a year or two, it’s incredibly hard to transition to a new one.

In case you don’t fall into this category though, you can use these tools to save some money. It might not seem like much at first, but for many small businesses, every bit will count. And if you replace a few tools, the savings will add up to a considerable amount.

If you’re not using some of these tools yet, the free versions will help you get the most out of your limited budget.


Number one on our list, and for a good reason. For a free tool, Ubersuggest is very advanced. We’d say it’s the “most expensive” tool most small businesses will need. You can use Ubersuggest to get:

and more. If you’re only managing one website in your SEO tracker and you can export your list of keywords with their ranking history, you can’t go wrong with Ubersuggest.

Try Ubersuggest


AnswerThePublic is a powerful tool that generates long-tail keywords and phrases around your input. It’s fantastic for content marketing or PR campaigns. Roughly 20% of Google searches have never been seen before, and AnswerThePublic allows you to learn how people search in your niche.

Each query generates a “cloud” of terms, split into various categories:

On top of that, you get an alphabetical list of them all and you can export the report to CSV.

Your free daily searches are limited, but you can make a good use of them in combination with your findings from Ubersuggest and other tools – all for free.

Visit AnswerThePublic


Customer relationship management systems will be the hardest to replace. They are the prime example of a tool that becomes the core of your business. Your workflows often depend on them and switching to a new one is quite costly.

However, if you’re not overly attached to your CRM yet, there are quite a few CRMs that offer some sort of a free, standalone plan.

Most of them work the same way, though – they give you a very basic set of free features and by the time you find out you need more, you’re likely too attached to make a switch and you go with their paid plan. But we know two solutions with a free plan that are as close to a full-fledged CRM as possible.

HubSpot is the first solution we can fully recommend. Their free CRM offers everything you’ll need if you’re a small business or a first-time CRM user. If you’re not planning to exceed 1,000,000 users (yes, that’s a million), its core features are free and unlimited for as many users as you need. You can use it to collect leads, track email conversations, assign notes to your contacts, create tasks, and much more.

Try HubSpot

Bitrix24 is one of the hidden gems in terms of free CRMs. Similarly to HubSpot, their free plan is unlimited and packs several features that you would expect to pay for. On top of gathering contacts, you can use it to send quotes and invoices, create your own product catalog, integrate your VoIP/SIP telephone with it… and the list goes on.

List of Bitrix24’s free features

How to adjust your website during the coronavirus pandemic

Eliminating waste spend will go a long way in these troubling times. However, many businesses will need to go the extra mile, while others will be doing the exact opposite – facing an influx of traffic and doubling-down on their marketing efforts.

Here’s what you must do after re-evaluating your marketing budget.

Monitor your website traffic and conversions

We’ve done it to evaluate break-even CPC earlier on, but you need to stay on top of things. The specific developments in each country might influence how your business operates online. If you take the food industry as an example, many restaurants see a tremendous increase in online orders. On the other hand, some brands – like KFC – face a full shutdown.

Many articles are citing industry-wide values for traffic and conversions changes during this period, but we don’t want to do that. The fluctuations are so high between businesses in the same industry that it’s crucial you decide based on your own statistics.

Consider how the pandemic affects your customers

This piece of advice applies to all areas of your business but the implications might require more assets for your website.

If you take the UK supermarket, Morrisons, they have added a new “food box” to their offer, which contains £30 worth of random essential groceries and home products. This was a change at a much higher level but the new product required a landing page to process the orders and promote the initiative.

They have created a niche product because of irresponsible panic buying, giving vulnerable people a way to get next-day groceries without leaving their homes.

Your requirements may vary, but it’s crucial to identify the unique needs of your customers. Depending on your findings you may need to double-down on your investments, rather than making cuts.

Similarly, you must adjust your business to fresh challenges. Ocado have shut down their online groceries website for nearly three days to optimise their store for the new requirements.

Ensure your website is up to the challenge

There are multiple layers to this, but the main two are performance and accessibility. Now more than ever, your website needs to be fast and as easy to use as possible, for everyone. There’s not enough awareness about how many people struggle to use websites daily.

And with current lockdowns and limitations in place, even more will go shopping online to satisfy their needs. Your business should ensure using the site is a breeze for your new customers. You can test your accessibility using WAVE, a free web accessibility evaluation tool.

For performance, it’s all about speed this time. It’s one of the few aspects of a website that you can improve to see immediate results – and you might need them right now. A number of factors can bottleneck your performance under heavy traffic:

The excellent news is that you can take action right away. Migrating a website isn’t always straightforward, but it’s a reasonably fast process – and performance optimisation is even more efficient.

As for the performance on your end, compressing images is one of the most cost-effective ways to speed up websites. You can reduce the size of assets by as much as 80% without compromising on the quality. It’s a great first step, but there’s also room for other improvements: optimising scripts, minifying HTML and CSS, and more.

We suggest using GTmetrix to learn about the areas you should improve in terms of page speed. Keep in mind that the reports are automatic. The algorithms scrutinise every feature and the results are just guidelines, rather than confirmed issues. Please consult them with a web agency before proceeding with changes, as some suggestions might have zero, or even negative value.

Prepare for post-crisis

On top of all the above suggestions, we’d like to emphasize how important it is to plan for the long run. It’s incredibly hard in times like this, but it’s also more crucial than ever, as the best short-term solutions might prove to be costly later down the line.

Ongoing and future projects

While most businesses will have to make cuts somewhere, think twice before halting an ongoing project or canceling a future one.

You want to run at a full or even increased capacity once the pandemic slows down. People will trickle back to their old routine, and we will need your business again.

Become a leader in your field

Testing times like these create leaders. It often requires bold moves to become one, but making educated choices is the most important thing. If everyone in your industry is cutting the marketing spend and you’ve calculated that your current PPC is break-even, perhaps it’s worth to keep it that way to get in front of your competitors.

Investing and taking risks is hard in the current situation, but testing times have created several companies thriving to this date:

Many people put other huge brands, such as Instagram and Apple, in the same basket. And while your ambitions might not be to become “the next big thing”, it’s possible to turn this crisis into a launchpad for your business.

Closing words

We hope these tips have made some of your hard decisions a little bit easier. If you have any questions or suggestions for this article, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re all about helping you out in these hard times so if there’s anything worth adding to the article, let us know and we’ll research it.

As you might have noticed, we’ve included images of there people across the article. They’re social distancing, and so should you. Stay safe and let’s get through this together.

Originally published Apr 01, 2020 10:45:00 AM, updated January 12 2022.

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