Going forward, in 2014, where is the industry headed? Personally, I don’t think there are going to be any radical changes like enhanced campaigns. But, we are an industry in a constant state of flux, so learn to expect and accept change. Here are some of my PPC tips and what I think you can expect from the industry.
It’s All About Mobile
Are you sick of me saying this yet? It's only because it's true. According to a study by Google and Nielsen, "consumers rely on smartphones more than ever to help them shop for products and services."
Consumers are spending time researching on their cell phones. This research is greatly influencing their decisions to make purchases, both online and offline.
Of course, Google is not the only search engine around. Bing's study on trends in mobile search also found that smartphone users are a huge part of the journey to a purchase. For example, 56 percent of mobile users used their phones to search for what brands to buy and 71 percent of smartphone users plugged in to compare prices.
With stats like that, it would be crazy not to have your ads appearing when your customers are out there, looking for you on their phones. Google's Enhanced Campaigns & Bing's mobile marketing service make it easier to target mobile devices, so there is no reason you shouldn't be doing mobile.
Yes, I know. Every year seems to be "the year of the mobile," but what's likely to be different in pay-per-click management are the strategies for mobile. Just being on mobile isn't going to cut it any more. To compete, businesses and website owners are going to need well thought-out, advanced strategies for advertising to mobile users. Obviously, websites are also going to need to be 100 percent mobile-optimized.
Also, with Google Adwords' cross-device estimates, it seems pretty obvious that mobile is only going to get bigger and better. More about estimated conversions below.
More Conversions, More Measurement
One of the most major reasons website owners love pay-per-click advertising is the ability to measure almost everything. Tangible results are sometimes hard to see when it comes to SEO or social media, but PPC seldom fails.
As part of the many changes Google introduced in 2013, it also launched a major reporting update: Estimated Total Conversions. It is currently only available for search ads on the Google network. Estimated Total Conversions provides an approximation of conversions via multiple devices and adds this information to the conversion reporting already available via AdWords.
Cross-device conversions are counted when people click on an ad on one device or browser and then convert on a different one.
According to Google, this is only the first step, and it aims to introduce other conversion types such as phone calls, store visits, and more:
Estimated Total Conversions will provide you with a holistic view of all of the conversions driven by your Google search advertising that can be used to make important decisions like how much to bid and how to assign budget across your various marketing channels.
Many advanced advertisers have been attempting to measure various devices and their value for a long time now. By making this data easily available to advertisers, it is going to be much easier to measure cross-device advertising efforts now.
Going forward, PPC advertisers can expect even more detailed measurement capabilities and the ability to understand the true value of conversions.
Visual Search Ads
We're living in an increasingly visual world of marketing. If we're focusing our efforts on visual content marketing, can search marketing really be that far behind? In late 2013, both Google and Bing started testing visual ads in search results.
Google's version, known as Visual Search Ads, began to show on branded search queries for a handful of brands in the US. They looked something like this:
Many marketers hate the move and dislike the implications it has for SEO and organic listings. Others think it's only natural that search would be headed the way the Internet is headed: the visual way.
Microsoft wasn't one to be left behind though. It introduced Hero Ads for Bing Smart Search for a small segment of Windows 8.1 users. These ads too, appeared for a select number of brands, for branded search queries only.
Microsoft Hero Ads looked like this:
These ads were only tested on a small number of brands but the expectation is that it will gradually become available to all advertisers. Whether you think it cannibalizes search or not, it's undoubtedly a great opportunity for brands to shape the user experience.
These visual banner ads are probably the beginning of a whole new era in search marketing.
Finally, although ad extensions have been around for a while, they are becoming even more important in the current climate. As more and more people are using smartphones and tablets to search for local businesses, ad extensions are becoming even more useful for advertising.
If consumers are searching for "best restaurants" while they're out and about, you want your ad to show up. But to make it even better, you want to make sure it is optimized with the best extensions such as call or location extensions.
Even if you are not a local business, it is a good idea to review your ad extensions to make sure you're using more than just the basic extensions. By the way, your Ad Rank now also factors into the click-through rates for your extensions, as well as CPC (cost per click) bid and quality score. So it is even more important now to make sure that you’re up to date with your ad extensions.
Like I said, it's a quickly changing world, and PPC is always going to be a competitive field. It's always a good idea to listen for PPC tips from experts and keep an eye on what the big brands are up to. Advertising today seems to be more complex yet simpler at the same time. What do you think?
What are your thoughts on PPC advertising? How do you think the industry is likely to change in the coming months?