Though the techniques of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising change all the time, PPC remains one of the most effective and affordable methods of online marketing. PPC is great for driving leads, and increasingly attracts ad spend from the most effective marketing companies, whatever their campaign budget.
A Global Digital Ad Trends study for 2019 concluded that “Digital advertising almost single-handedly drove the expansion in total media ad spend around the globe this year”, and certainly it’s true that there are now endless opportunities to reach out to new prospects – but there is also more competition. Content ranging from blogs and videos to infographics, published by the million every day, make it harder to put your message in front of your potential customer.
That’s where PPC comes in. PPC give you access to a targeted audience, chosen according to their location, interests, age and so on, and makes sure that your message is getting to the right people.
But pay-per-click management will become more essential as the options for maximising returns increase.
So what PPC trends can we expect to see in 2020, and how will PPC advertising continue to be effective in the face of competing methods of digital marketing?
10 PPC Advertising Trends You Should Expect In 2020
How PPC Automation Will Be Effective
One of the most significant PPC trends in 2020 will be PPC automation. PPC advertising using Google Adwords can be a time-consuming, manual business, particularly if you are interested in top performing keywords or particular timeslots. But with PPC automation, you can leave the hard work to software. For instance, Opteo continuously monitors AdWords accounts for statistically significant patterns. When something important comes up, Opteo suggests an improvement backed up by real data. Opteo also includes a set of tools to help you manage accounts, monitor performance, browse segments, track budgets, and get alerts when important changes happen.
Pay per click management tools like Opteo allow you to view all key performance metrics in one location, and to get additional metrics not available in AdWords, including QS Components, AdRank and more. You can manage accounts in one unified table, drill down to view adgroups, keywords, and other components, and get complete control over bids and campaign budgets.
An adgroup contains one or more ads that share similar targets, and each of your campaigns is made up of one or more ad groups. You can use adgroups to organise your ads by a common theme, for example you could try separating ad groups into the different types of product or service you offer.
PPC automation of this kind frees you up to plan and refine your PPC strategy to reach your target audience rather than having to manage time-consuming manual management, and if you need advice on how to set it up, a digital marketing agency can help.
Search Engine Journal suggests that it’s also important to integrate your PPC and SEO. Using PPC data to inform SEO of the most viable and profitable keywords to target for organic ranking boosts, using SEO ranking data alongside PPC bidding to identify which keywords you should be paying for, and using PPC copy data to help identify the best messaging to use for meta data in SEO, you should be able to use PPC advertising alongside SEO organic listings to make your brand more prominent on SERPs.
For bidding purposes, Conversion XL suggests that it’s important to find new keywords and put them into SKAGs (single-keyword ad groups). It’s argued that once campaigns are up and running, you will be able to identify which ones are converting, and when you find search terms that are converting and have a substantial amount of impressions, it’s worth breaking them out into their own SKAGs.
If the search terms that convert most consistently are part of a broader keyword with a lower bid, “you may not be reaching the full potential of that exact search” says Conversion XL. “By extracting the high-converting search terms into their own SKAG, you’re able to bid more aggressively and maximize Impression Share.” There are even automated tools to break high-converting search terms into their own SKAGs.
Another point to remember about AdWords is that ad extensions can now be used to deliver extra snippets of relevant information about your business to your AdWords text ads, and this will become more popular in 2020. Ad extensions can include the location of your business, its phone number, business ratings, and more. There are two categories of Ad Extensions: Automatic and Manual Ad Extensions. Manual Extensions are much more powerful because of their customizability and reporting simplicity.
APIs – Application Programming Interfaces – will also have an increased role to play in PPC management. An Application Program Interface acts as a ‘middleman’ between two applications so they can communicate with each other. The API, often just a small piece of code, eases the burden of repetitive processes which otherwise would have to be done manually. The Google Ads Application Program Interface for instance allows apps to interact directly with the Google Ads platform, and can do a lot of what the Google Ads Editor and user interface can do, but automatically. The AdWords Application Program Interface can help with creating new ads, ad groups, and campaigns, and could, for instance, pause a campaign when inventory is low.
Speaking on Search Engine Journal, Puneet Vaghela of Adzooma said: “Attribution measurement will be your KPI in 2020… Make sure to use Google Analytics or other analytics tools to measure the direct and indirect effect of your target keywords on your overall business…the most important metrics will be interaction with the website, buttons that have been clicked, form engagement and completion, and telephone calls and call interaction. These are all metrics you can find within Google Ads and through Google Analytics, and import them into your Google Ads account to set up automated bidding… Set up goals within Google Analytics to track how people interact with your site (e.g. for a form), set up goals for each step of the form process. Link your Google Analytics with your Google Ads, and import your goals into Google Ads as a conversion type. You can then start using automated bidding or CPA bidding based on these metrics to understand which keywords are driving the more engagement, and then push more budget into these areas.”
How Responsive Search Ads Will Work in 2020
One of Google’s most significant new introductions is Responsive Search Ads. Unlike traditional search ads, where you write your headlines and descriptions together to create static ad text, Responsive Search Ads allow you to write up to 15 different headlines and up to four different descriptions.
These headlines and descriptions can be arranged in 43,680 different permutations, so the possibilities for ad testing are extensive. Google can automatically test these different combinations of headlines and descriptions and learn which perform best or your target audience. In time, Responsive Search Ads will learn to serve the most effective ad text to different searchers depending on the search keyword, type of device, past browsing behaviour, and other data.
A Responsive Search Ad can show up to three 30-character headlines, a display URL with two 15-character path fields, and up to two 90-character description fields. With up to 300 characters of total text, that twice the length of an Expanded Search Ad, and is the largest type of ad text you will find on search engine results pages (SERPs).
But Josh Colbeck of marketing agency Blueclaw says that in tests, initially at least “Responsive ads were significantly outperformed by existing expanded ad text ad formats in terms of CTR [click-through rate] and CVR [conversion ratio]” – he suspects the main reason being the need for responsive ads to always have headlines tailored to the user’s search term.
However, Michelle Morgan of digital marketing agency Clix says that responsive ads have helped increase CTR for Google Display Network ads, an improvement arguably good for advertisers and Google alike.
Certainly it’s true that there’s a limit to how many impressions you can ‘buy’ with PPC. As Brian Carter explains on Search Engine Journal, a client whose goal is to dominate the market and get as much profit as possible by spending as much as possible soon runs into the problem of limited PPC impressions. “Just maximizing spend does not get you all the impressions in the world” he explains. “We’ve seen accounts only receive 20 percent of available impressions for their favoured keywords despite an unlimited budget.” He suggests other ways to maximise your impressions, including improving a quality and selecting Accelerated Ad Delivery in your campaign settings.
There are other tricks to improve your CTR, such as using ad extensions, site links and extended headlines, but remember that improved CTR does not necessarily translate into additional conversions. Pay per click management services can advise you on this and other crucial PPC techniques for 2020.
Why There Will Be Less Organic Search Results In Internet Searches
Data shows that in 2019 Google is delivering less organic search results traffic than in 2018. According to Merkle’s digital marketing report for Q2 2019, Google’s organic search results visits are down 8 percent – the effect is even more marked with Bing and Yahoo, with decreases of 26 percent and 11 percent respectively.
Although organic search results produced 23 percent of all site visits in Q2 2019, total visits produced by organic search fell 6 percent year-by-year in Q2 2019, which is down even further from a 2 percent decline in Q1 2019.
Organic search results visits were down particularly on mobile phones, where visit growth dropped from 13 percent in Q1 2019 to 5 percent in Q2 2019.
So what’s going on? It seems that paid search visits on phones could be cutting into organic visits. Phones and tablets produced 59 percent of organic search visits in Q2 2019, compared to 65 percent of paid search visits. So the biggest share gainers in Q2 2019 were paid search, and direct site visits.
This is one of the PPC trends which digital marketers will have to be aware of in 2020 when setting their campaign budget – though certainly searchers previously exposed to a particular brand through paid search may be more likely to click and engage on organic content in the future.
Google made a change to the way ad position is determined in September 2019. Ad position is the order of your ad in the auction results as compared to other ads. But an ad position of “1” doesn’t necessarily describe the location of your ad on the search results page – your ad position may not be above the organic search results. It can be your ad position if there are no ads above the search results, and your ad is the first ad shown beneath the organic search results. Google now determines the which ads to show and how they’re positioned by calculating Ad Rank for every ad in the auction through its ad auction process.
Ad Rank is a value used to determine your ad position, or whether your ads will show at all. To calculate Ad Rank, Google takes your bid amount, ad quality, search context, device and so on, as well as the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats. Your Ad Rank is recalculated each time your ad is eligible to appear and competes in an auction, which is why ad position can fluctuate depending on the amount and quality of competition and other factors.
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How Artificial Intelligence Will Be Used Within PPC Advertising
Artificial Intelligence in PPC advertising has two main applications; in increasing the effectiveness of your PPC ads, and in reducing the amount of time you have to spend on managing them.
For instance, AI can learn from data such as users’ purchase behaviour and history, device type, demographics, and web browsing activity, and can understand the connection between keywords and campaigns. In this way AI can determine which web searches are most likely to lead to your target audience and conversions.
AI can also be an aid to budget management, discovering new keyword opportunities and optimising bids. You don’t necessarily need to build or pay for specialised tools to do this, as many free AI tools already exist on Google, Bing and Amazon.
In Google Ads, for instance, you have a choice of Enhanced CPC (an enhanced form of manual bidding allows the Google Ads algorithms to adjustm the manually set keyword bid), or a selection of fully automated strategies including Maximize Conversions, Target CPA, Target ROAS, Maximize Clicks, and vCPM (viewable cost per thousand impressions), and more.
All these AI tools have value, but none of them should be treated as ‘set and forget’ – you still need to monitor their results to make sure that they are achieving your particular digital marketing goals.
At the end of the day your CPC – Cost Per Click – is the performance metric you should use to measure the effectiveness of your PPC campaign. CPC is a simple calculation – if you pay £100 for your ad and it receives 100 clicks, you’re spending £1 per ad click. As you score more clicks, your CPC becomes lower, and this is often used as an indicator of a successful campaign. Of course CPC is useful in other types of media channel besides PPC – and remember that it’s sometimes worth increasing your CPC if it leads to a better qualified audience.
AI can also be helpful when calculating bid adjustments. Bid adjustments are a way of controlling your advertising spend to improve your ROI. Performance metrics from Google Ads will show which keywords, locations, times, and devices perform best for you, and Google Ads then allows you to set ‘base bids’ and ‘modifier bids’ setting different levels according to time of day, best content, targeting method, remarketing lists and so on. Bid adjustments allows you to raise or lower your bids to manage the visibility of your ads, as an alternative to Google’s automatic bidding.
While the use of AI is clearly one of the PPC trends to watch for 2020, we’re some way away from AI systems being able to have dynamic conversations with consumers and to assess their emotional state, though a recent report from Invoca and Adobe suggests that over half of consumers believe the future should entail a combination of human and automated interactions.
AI could also help you manage your daily budget, defined as the amount that you set for each ad campaign to specify how much, on average, you would like to spend each day. You can set an average daily budget for each Google Ads campaign, and on days when your ad is more popular, Google Ads will allow up to twice your average daily budget, so you won’t miss out on valuable clicks. But using AI, Google can make sure that you don’t exceed your average daily budget spread out over a month (though for campaigns where you pay for conversions, your daily spend may exceed your average daily budget by more than twice).
Why There Will Be An Increase In The Amount Of Video Ads
Search Engine Journal suggests that video advertising “is becoming the dominant force in the digital marketing universe.”
The argument is that consumer attention spans are dwindling as fewer people are willing to read large amounts of text, and more spend time looking at video advertising on screens, mainly on portable devices.
Biteable explains that video trends set in 2019 will continue into 2020. It quotes Hubspot statistics stating that 81 percent of businesses use video as a marketing tool, up from 63 percent the previous year, and that 78 percent of people watch online videos every week, and 55 percent every day. Hubspot also claims that 72 percent of customers would rather learn about a product or service by way of video, and Google stats suggest that 6 out of 10 people would rather watch online videos than television.
According to Insivia, mobile video consumption rises by 100 percent every year, and Ciso estimates that by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic.
The vast majority of these video plays, according to eMarketer, are on mobile devices – 75 percent in fact.
So in terms of sheer consumption, video is the format of the future. But in terms of marketing, video also has advantages in that according to Insivia, viewers retain 95 percent of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10 percent when they read it as text.
More social media platforms are following Facebook’s lead by prioritising video content, perhaps because according to Wordstream social video gets shared 1200 percent more than text and images combined.
eMarketer concludes that mobile video ad spend is expected to be around 72 percent of the total digital ad spend in 2019, and Insivia says that a website is 53 times more likely to reach the front page of Google if it includes video.
PPC trends in 2020 will certainly include a move towards more video advertising material, and ROI will come to depend a good deal on the quality of visual content. This applies as much to social media such as Snapchat and Instagram, news platforms including Buzzfeed, entertainment channels such as YouTube and company websites, and to all types of material from video advertising to educational content, reports and entertainment.
Technological advances such as 5G make video advertising much more practical, and video offers advertisers a chance to deliver a deeper message to consumers, whether it’s a short ‘micro-video’ as the start of a purchasing journey, a traditional 30-second format ad, or an ‘outstream’ video which autoplays when the user scrolls near it.
According to a Cisco estimate, 80 percent of all internet traffic in 2019 will be video content, and video traffic globally will increase by 300 percent from 2016 to 2021. This is in line with the increasing dominance of social media such as Facebook, which is ideal for delivering video content to a target audience and which offers improved targeting through demographic and other data.
In conclusion, Cisco says that video is expected to make up 82 percent of all internet traffic by 2021, so you should join the 93 percent of marketers estimated by Singlegrain to use video – so long as you remember some basic points. For instance, Marketing Land says that 82 percent of viewers hate video that autoplay, and Ad Age says that 33 percent of viewers will stop watching a video after 30 seconds, so keep it short…
How Voice Searches Will Increase In 2020
Voice search might not be coming along as fast as some predictions suggested – it was supposed to be the ‘big thing’ in 2018 and 2019 – but let’s examine developments in the market.
- Strategy Analytics shows that shipments of smart speaker devices, mainly from Amazon and Google, grew nearly 200 percent year-on-year in Q3 2018.
- Globally, sales of smart speakers are expected to surpass $30 billion by 2024, with smart speakers becoming among the top-selling consumer electronic products (Source: Global Market Insights).
- 55 percent of households are expected to own smart speaker devices by 2022 (Source: OC&C Strategy Consultants).
Demographic data suggests that younger users make more use of voice search, with 61 percent of 25-64 year olds saying they’ll use their voice devices more in the future (Source: PwC).
A Price Waterhouse Coopers report says “There’s no denying that voice is the future. The technology will continue to drive and shift consumer behaviour, and companies need to prepare and adjust accordingly. Search, advertising, content, and commerce are being impacted industry-wide as consumers transform the way they interact with brands as the result of voice technology… general awareness of voice technology is high, only 10 percent of surveyed respondents were not familiar with voice-enabled products and devices. Of the 90 percent who were, the majority have used a voice assistant (72 percent). Adoption is being driven by younger consumers, households with children, and households with an income of >$100k.”
However, there’s still a tendency for voice assistants to be used at home rather than on mobile devices – PwC says “Despite being accessible everywhere, three out of every four consumers (74 percent) are using their mobile voice assistants at home. The majority of focus group participants were quick to say that they prefer privacy when speaking to their voice assistant and that using it in public ‘just looks weird’. This could explain why 18-24-year olds are using their voice assistants less, as this age group tends to spend more time outside the home.”
There’s one problem with voice search – Google estimates that its bounce rate is 9.56 percent higher than desktop. Bounce rate – defined as a visit to your website which doesn’t get further than the landing page before clicking back to search – is notoriously difficult to interpret as it can have a number of causes. But a common one is when a mobile user comes across a site which is not properly optimised for mobile use. If you plan to optimise for voice search, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your website passes muster, or your bounce rate will inevitably shoot up.
Which Different Advertising Platforms Will Become More Popular in 2020
It’s unlikely that there will be any major changes in the popularity of the most prominent platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for B2C, and LinkedIn for B2B, so that is where most of the typical campaign budget will continue to be spent.
Facebook ads represent a big investment but remain among the top platforms. This PPC offering is in many ways similar to Google AdWords, but Facebook ads obviously cater for an audience of heavy users of social media. Facebook allows you to create your own PPC ads within the Facebook Ads Manager, and these can be of several types including standard images, video ads, or carousel ads carrying a selection of different links. Facebook ads can be used in a variety of positions on Facebook including the sidebar, desktop or mobile newsfeed, and audience network, and can also be displayed on Instagram.
Instagram ads have their own advantages. Because of their integration with Facebook you get all the benefit of campaign customisation, choice of formatting and targeting abilities, combined with Instagram’s wide reach of over 600m users. Instagram ads have an engagement ten times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest and 84 times higher than Twitter.
But it is getting harder for brands to achieve good levels of organic reach on these platforms. AdEspresso admits for instance that Instagram ads have the problem that the “sheer volume of posts being uploaded daily can drown out your content, even if your target audience is excited to see it.” There’s a sense that user fatigue is setting in – particularly with Facebook which is mired in controversy and often the subject of ‘digital detoxing’.
Young users particularly are leaving Facebook for other platforms, and Twitter has plateaued in terms of new membership. The increasing ‘pay-to-play’ nature of these two means that it is becoming harder to guarantee a good ROI using them.
New social media platforms such as TikTok, which carries short-form user-generated videos, are increasingly popular – TikTok now has around 500 million monthly active users, and has been installed more than 1.1 billion times. The problem with platforms like this is that they are of little value to B2B advertisers for PPC advertising – 41 percent of users of TikTok are aged between 16 and 24, so it is only of real use for the B2C market. Another problem is that platforms like TikTok seem to come and go unpredictably – witness the demise of Vine and Kik Messenger.
Pinterest, though, seems to be a better long-term bet. Ideal for promoting products since it is image-based, Pinterest plays well with prospective customers – in fact according to the brand’s own attitude and usage study in 2018 “75 percent of Pinterest users say they are “very interested” in new products, compared to just 55 percent of people on other social media platforms”.
Marketers also reportedly think that Pinterest now resembles Instagram when the latter emerged, with no obtrusive ads, a user-friendly search engine, and no fake influencers.
Amazon Advertising, previously Amazon Marketing Services, or AMS, was launched as a search advertising solution for Amazon vendors in 2018. Amazon Advertising is similar to pay-per-click ads on Google, in that sellers only pay when shoppers click on ads. According to Amazon, “76 percent of Amazon shoppers use the search bar to find an item, and search advertising is a way for brands to stand out among the competition”, so while Amazon market share is less than that of Google and Facebook, Amazon Advertising will expand to the point where it may break the long-standing advertising duopoly of Google and Facebook.
For B2B users, LinkedIn ads represent an alternative to consumer social media. LinkedIn ads are intended to reach an audience of professionals looking for employment opportunities and networking. LinkedIn ads allow you to post both visual and text content to 590m users. There are two paid options, LinkedIn Ads and Sponsored Content. Both are more expensive than Facebook Ads or Google Ads, but offer a better quality of leads. Though LinkedIn ads appear quite small and low-profile, they offer powerful targeting criteria by location, industry, company size, title and so on; but they may be less effective than the more expensive LinkedIn Sponsored Content.
Still, if you are no longer getting good ROI from Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, or want to engage with an audience which is not using these platforms, there are alternatives worth considering for 2020.
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Why Remarketing Will Still Be Effective in 2020
In 2018, Larry Kim, CEO of MobileMonkey, was quoted as saying that he was exclusively focusing on remarketing in 2019, “Because they have much higher CTRs [click-through rates] and conversion rates.” He went on to say that he was combining remarketing with Facebook’s Click to Message ad format – “Combining these two tactics yields ROI that I haven’t seen since 2013 when ad prices were much lower,” he said. But will this continue to be true in 2020?
Davit Aleksanyan of Directive Consulting says that remarketing continues to be important as long as it can lead to an improvement in conversion rates. A remarketing strategy can bring back audience who left your website without converting, and improve your overall conversion rate.
Aleksanyan concentrates on Google Ads and YouTube remarketing, pointing out that successful remarketing should aim at people who visited your pages through paid efforts and did not convert. “You can target anyone who visited organically or through direct channels. However, you may lose some control over the quality of trackable traffic” he says.
A successful search campaign should translate well into your remarketing campaign, and can even become hyper-targeted if you create a custom remarketing strategy for each of your search campaigns.
As remarketing techniques follow your users through the Google Display Network (GDN), you should make sure to exclude any topic and content types you don’t want your ad to appear next to. This can be done using content exclusions in the main settings of your display campaign.
Another area for increased attention will be the Google Merchant Center. If you run an ecommerce site, rather than using PPC to position ads under the search bar, you might be more interested in the Google Shopping ads to the right of it. These list only physical, tangible goods, but account for over half of Google ad spend in the USA.
Google Merchant Center is where you tell Google you have a product to sell, supply the information necessary for Google to create an ad for you, and share additional information so Google knows which customers are best served by your product. Google Merchant Center doesn’t manage your shopping ad bidding strategy, create your advertising campaigns or track the performance of individual ads – these tasks are handled through Google Ads and Analytics. But Google Merchant Center will handle details such as product ID, price, image, universal product identifier, and a link to the product on your webpage.
How There Will Be An Advanced Segmentation Of Audiences
Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal says that segmentation of audiences will be one of the top trends for PPC in 2020. He explains that Audience Segmentation is based on taking people who have interacted with you online, either by visiting your website of social media channels, or from your CRM database, and sorting them according to parameters such as which parts of your website they’ve visited, whether they completed a purchase, what videos they have watched and so on.
They are then placed into ‘buckets’ which serve specific ads based on their previous interactions. You can then increase or decrease your PPC bids to adjust your prominence to your audiences based on what value they have to your business.
Baker argues that in 2020, this audience segmentation will become even more in-depth, as the increasing amount of data gathered on audiences makes it possible to personalise messages according to audience interests, age gender, demographic group, device type, use of keywords, and even emotional state, powered by AI evaluation.
By including these specific data sets, as well as the inferred emotional data, you should be able to target your ads with extreme precision, identifying exactly where you want to spend your resources to increase your business.
How Virtual Reality Will Become More Popular Within PPC
If there’s one subject which divides opinion, it’s the usefulness of Virtual Reality in digital marketing and in PPC particularly. While everyone seems to think that Virtual Reality could be the Next Big Thing, it’s not entirely clear that the public is embracing the new technology. After all, it demands a financial commitment – Oculus costs from around £200, and HTC Vive from around £500 – and a real enthusiasm for consuming Virtual Reality material.
While Virtual Reality offers an advertising opportunity which is part of an entertainment experience, there’s very little data to suggest how VR users will react to different types of virtual ad campaigns. VR ad platforms like Immersv and VirtualSky (slogan: “More than viewability. Engulfability.”) offer formats from short pre-roll ads that play before an app loads, to longer form videos that play between levels of a VR game.
While VR has some exciting potential – such as the ability to track users’ eye movements to record what parts of the screen they are looking at – it’s a long way from proving that it offers higher forms of user engagement or interactivity.
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