We had that ticking bomb in our hands for 10 years – it was called Adwords and it was made out of pure dynamite. And then this Google Guy just added audiences, extensions, customizers and blew Artificial Intelligence in to it and BOOM!!! – it went off.
And so Google Adwords is no longer, we now have Google Ads – sounds diminished, right? But it is more like an expanding universe after the big bang. A simple calculation to illustrate this: back when I got my first Google Adwords Professional certification in 2004 we were looking at very few variables: keywords, ads and landing pages. With the addition of device targeting, audiences, extensions, customizers and retargeting, the complexity of paid search has increased exponentially.
Whereas Search Marketers had been doing pretty much the same thing from they first started – add keywords, refresh ads, improve structure, insert conversion tracking and then optimize by using negative keywords and trying new keyword territories – that strategy doesn’t seem to be one any longer. And it certainly won’t allow any marketer to beat the hords of new competitors they have every month nor to keep on track for their ROI goals as CPCs continue to rise.
But – despair not – disruption also opens for opportunity, and as Search Marketers we are clearly surfers on the wave of creative destruction, are we not?
Looking at the most advanced teams in paid search, those who have entered and been shortlisted in search awards, our research for the Search Trends Report has shown that they have taken Search Marketing up to a higher strategic level. They research the end-users thoroughly and devise strategies to target them at various stages of the user journey. They also systematically set specific KPIs for each project they carry out. And they have moved their focus well beyond just that of paid search. They manage more than one acquisition channel, create sequencing, use advanced tracking and retargeting in order to optimize output for their clients.
As a result of the countless additional combinations, functionalities and tracking tools available to Paid Search, new strategies have seen the light of day. The most outstanding strategies we have identified are either insights-driven or measurement-driven.
With deeper insight and understanding of the user journey, it is more efficient to target the right audience. This has enabled audience-led strategies that are designed to widen the “top of the funnel” and also data-driven strategies that feed external data into an advertising system either at one or several stages in the user journey. If you build awareness, this has an impact on Search as it will create more impressions. In the past, you may have optimized your impression share, today advanced teams are increasing impressions before they optimize that variable. Once you have made more users aware of your brand, a second campaign phase kicks in and aims to convert users via more traditional mechanisms and make them add to your client pool.
Measurement-driven campaigns take advantage of changing user behaviour and of more advanced tracking tools. Did you notice how much Amazon Ads has grown? Users have adopted Amazon as a channel and where end-users go, digital marketers must be present. 2019 is the year to get started on Amazon Ads if you haven’t already. On the tracking side of things, the big break-through lies in tracking offline behaviour. With the improved store-visits metrics from Google and Facebook search marketers can now more reliably measure the impact of online on offline actions and optimize against it. This opens up for great opportunities in 2019 for any click-and-mortar advertiser.
And the pace of change in paid search is not slowing down. Automation is becoming a must and new machine-learning based functionalities are constantly being rolled out. Some marketers will seize them quickly and figure out the best way to use them, others will wait until they become mainstream and often no longer carry any performance uplift.
More than ever, it is key for any search marketer to keep up with that pace and acquire the knowledge and insights into that expanding universe of paid search of which we are placed at the very center.