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40 Under 40

Navigating Google during a pandemic

40 Under 40

With a deep understanding of Google searchability, a SA-based online marketing firm is using their expertise to assist businesses navigate the digital world during an ever-evolving crisis.

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Aiming to help clients get the most out of their Google Ads, Robyn Koldej founded The Online Director six years ago with an eye to minimising spending and maximising profits within a niche market.

As a Google Certified Premiere Partner, the company must adhere to the global search engine’s standards.

But when COVID-19 struck South Australia and Federal and State restrictions came into effect, navigating the search engine became a skill unto itself.

Koldej said the impact of the pandemic on the business was felt quickly.

“We went from being quite a strategy-based business, where we would sit down with someone and we would roll out a six-month marketing plan … and all of a sudden we need to roll out a six hour marketing plan,” Koldej said.

“Historically we’ve been able to use previous results to make decisions about tomorrow. So I could look at a client’s account and go: ‘OK. In August last year this is what happened.’

“But now I’m in a position where I can’t use the data from our last global pandemic to be able to work out what August this year is going to look like for them.

“We can’t assume that yesterday is going to be a reflection of tomorrow. So, rather than relying on historic data the business focused on open communication.”

Koldej said the continual changes to restrictions meant the business needed to work nimbly to change client’s advertising copy.

“There was a week there where every call, every email was customer ringing up to cancel their advertising because they couldn’t operate their businesses.

“People were thinking: ‘I don’t actually know if I can have people come to my venue next month, so what’s the point of advertising it?’”

She said the quick changes in policy meant the company had to revert to working manually.

“Take the dental industry for example. They never got shut down but they got put to emergency dental work only and then slowly the restrictions eased and they were able to do more teeth whitening, cosmetic stuff and general check-ups – but you can’t explain that to an algorithm,” Koldej said.

“So everything just became manual labour … and getting very regular communication with our clients – communication is so important right now.”

Koldej said exposure to “different circles” was critical in the current environment.

Last year, she was named as one of InDaily’s 40 Under 40, which recognises the best and brightest young business people in state.

Koldej said the connections she developed as a result of the award diversified her network.

“We all end up hanging out with our own contacts and defaulting to our same circle of people, whereas 40 Under 40 exposed me to totally different networks and learning from other people, which is even more important when you’re not able to use historic data,” Koldej said.

“Making sure I’ve got access to different optics and different points of view and different experiences, because learning right now is so important to see how everybody else is coping and how everyone is consuming.

“Having conversations with people about everything is more important than anything right now to understand consumer behaviour, because it’s uncharted territory.”

She said as well as remaining connected with her peers and clients, staying abreast of Government coronavirus rules and Google policy enabled the company to fully assist clients.

“We were putting COVID-19 policy copy into ads, which wasn’t being disapproved by Google but they weren’t serving,” Koldej said.

“Normally if we put something into an ad copy that Google says doesn’t sit in its policy, we get a disapproval message straight away to say that this is content that doesn’t sit within their policy.

“But the second we wrote the word COVID in any ad copy the account would just stop running it.

“To get around it we had to say it without saying it. We wanted our customers to be able to tell our end users they were adhering to best practises, that it was contactless, safe, that you could use generic messaging.”

Nominations for this year’s 40 Under 40 Awards close on 21 August, with the awards to be held on 15 October.

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