Every year new technologies and trends emerge that impact the way we build, manage and optimize PPC campaigns. Some years, we see ourselves adapting to a series of small innovations. In 2018 the digital ecosystem is experiencing broad technological shifts that are having an impact well beyond digital advertising. And yes, they also affect your SEM campaigns. Here are three PPC trends that need your attention, and our advice on how to adapt your paid search campaigns to make the most of them.
1. Audience Targeting
Audience targeting in AdWords has been around since 2016, but chances are many advertisers are not using it to their full advantage. Given the massive amount of demographic and behavioural data Google places at our fingertips, the advertisers who get ahead this year will be the ones who understand their target markets, and how to target them effectively.
Anyone who’s active on the GDN is well versed in audience targeting. AdWords now allows you to target PPC ads to users based on demographic criteria — age, parental status, gender and income. Additionally, AdWords has extended its in-market audience targeting to paid search campaigns. Now you can target based on purchase intent, affinity and life events.
Pay attention to audience targeting for your Bing Ads as well. Microsoft’s paid search platform has expanded its demographic targeting beyond device and geo, to hone in on potential customers based on age and gender. Bing has also rolled out advanced targeting, enabling you to show your ads to in-market and custom audiences.
And of course, we can’t ignore LinkedIn, which offers advertisers a smorgasbord of professional demographic options for targeting B2B customers. Advertisers on LinkedIn can show ads to prospects based on company, work experience, education and interests.
How you can adapt
Identify your customer personas and develop a targeting strategy based on who you want to reach, how you want to reach them, and what you want them to do on your website. If you know your customers inside out, targeting campaigns to their unique demographics, interests and purchasing patterns becomes second nature. It goes without saying that persona development, when paired with audience targeting, performs best when you craft ad copy and landing pages that speak to the needs of each targeted audience.
2. Machine Learning
We’ve seen several announcements and a lot of content about how Google is applying machine learning to improve the precision of their search results. We’re now starting to learn more about what that means for the engine’s paid search campaigns. Advertisers can now train Google’s machine learning platform save painstaking hours of campaign management, by asking the AI to suggest keywords, test ad copy and dynamically add keywords.
For example, AdWords’ Dynamic Search Ads apply machine learning help advertisers stay on top of their campaigns. Particularly helpful for PPC advertisers with complex websites or large inventories, the Dynamic Search Ads feature monitors your website content for opportunities, then generates and shows relevant ads based on your website content. This helps busy ad managers by make the most of untapped opportunities by filling gaps in their search ecosystem that a human may not (or may not have time to) identify.
How you can adapt
If you manage a large or complex paid search campaign, you want to begin testing the potential for various machine learning capabilities to lighten your workload and improve campaigns. Don’t take it as a given that machine learning will make your life better. Begin by running some test campaigns to verify that Dynamic Search Ads are delivering the results you want to see. The very nature of AI driven technologies is that they incrementally learn and improve. We recommend testing and observing Dynamic Search Ads consistently over a few months so that you fully understand their application and benefit before applying them to your entire campaign.
3. Voice Search & Digital Assistant
According to Google, at least 20 percent of all Android mobile searches are voice searches. That number is expected to grow incrementally with the adoption of voice-activated assistants. To date we have Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. This is just the beginning of a massive shift in interface and systems design that will see users speaking with software instead of typing into it.
How does paid search fit into this landscape? Search engines anticipate becoming mobile assistants, on hand to help with day-to-day tasks. Imagine chatbots that use artificial intelligence to answer natural language queries with near-human responses and up-to-the-minute information. These platforms will help monetize their services with paid search via a smartphone or other type of screen, just like search does today. While including voice ads may erode trust and dilute the user experience, users will still need to check maps and on-screen search results.
How you can adapt
Capture voice search today by adding natural language queries into your keyword lists — queries such as “Where can I buy a raincoat in San Jose?” To craft these, take time to think about user intent — what kinds of challenges or desires would someone have en route to finding your product or service? Think about the types of questions they would ask — who, what, when, where, why — and craft relevant search queries that begin with these keywords.
As with most new strategies, run a test with these queries. Break out dedicated voice search and natural language campaigns that test different types of ad content and keyword groups. This allows you to isolate and optimize your voice search campaigns without impacting your core AdGroups. There will be a learning curve — unique for every advertiser — around how voice search affects your traffic and bottom line.
New technologies bring new opportunities
Search is changing. A big part of paid search management in 2018 is paying attention to how new technologies affect consumers, and how they influence the evolution of paid search products. We’d love to learn how your campaigns are evolving in response to PPC trends and new technologies.