The Shifting Landscape of Paid Search

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Paid Search is a rapidly changing environment and in the past couple of years, the modifications have accelerated and intensified. Google Ads has made significant changes, from tools and automation to the sunset of ad position metric, to a completely new Google Ads interface. These changes have challenged marketers and redefined tried & true industry best practices. Starting in late 2018, Google rolled out several changes that redefined how keyword match types trigger for users’ search queries. Exact match keywords grew to include variations in word order and function as well as words that share a similar meaning. This change essentially made the most restrictive and efficient match type serve an ad for queries more like a broad match, which resulted in increased CPCs. In 2019, Google further loosened the reins by expanding both phrase and broad match types to include variants. With the continued blurred lines between keyword match types, I wouldn’t be surprised if match types are sunset or reduced in the future. The match type variant expansion has reduced advertisers’ control and expanded keywords to reach new and often less relevant traffic. This caused increased competition and as a result costs per click increased. Additionally, accounts leveraging industry best practices by heavily utilizing long-tail exact match keywords found their accounts suddenly contained an immense number of keywords that Google now considered duplicates. This new paid search environment forced advertisers to adopt best practices for keyword builds and campaign structure in attempts to mitigate rising costs.

Keyword matching expansion is the initial step Google is making as they shift away from keyword targeting into audience targeting and AI. I expect keywords to continue to be used in search for the foreseeable future; however, the days of paid search specialists doing bid management for hours are gone. Google is pushing advertisers toward automated bidding, so they can leverage AI to find the right person at the right time. In the future, Google could remove manual bidding entirely in favor of automation. Although PPC automation is continually developing and is not perfect, it is important for advertisers to experiment with automated options to decide if it is best for their clients.In the future, we’ll likely see Google continue to blur the lines between Search, Video, and Display advertising. For example, with Google Ads Local Campaigns, with one standard set of creative assets, advertisers can appear on inventory across Google Maps, Google Search Network, Google Display Network, and YouTube. Furthermore, in 2019, Google provided the ability for advertisers to layer their In-Market and Affinity audiences, previously a functionality of display and video only, onto their paid search campaigns. These audiences can be used either for insights and optimizations or to limit the reach. In exchange, Google also introduced the most exciting new targeting options for YouTube: building Custom Intent audiences composed of users who are searching for relevant keywords on Google. Finally, the demand-based targeting we love with search for video! As automation eliminates some tedious tasks, PPC marketers will be expected to think strategically. Understanding customer wants and needs and making strategic decisions on behalf of clients is essential. Jeff Allen, President, Hanapin Marketing, said: “Smart advertisers will continue to develop other channels, such as display and social, but the main lift in their sales numbers will come from robust conversion rate optimization programs.” As digital marketing costs continue to rise, it is increasingly important to test and refine the user experience to put the right message in front of the right people and drive them to the right place.

written by

Kim Williams

Kim Williams is the Digital Marketing Paid Media Manager and a contributing columnist to the PowerChord blog. Kim loves unicorns.

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