2017 Paid Search Trends

What should marketers know while planning 2017 digital budgets? If you’re investing in paid search, check out these trends that are expected to take hold into 2017 – likely to shape the way marketing strategies should be formulated for next year.

1. Mobile marketing is increasing the need for cross-device optimization:

paid search cross device

Marketers should be aware by now how much mobile has grown in the past few years – and most businesses are already well underway or finished with creating mobile-friendly experiences on their sites. Moving into 2017, the new priority will be optimizing those mobile experiences. Namely, providing tailored experiences for different devices through adaptive design. This will also mean making device-specific optimizations that encourage converting.

In fact, these updates may become a requirement, as Google recently announced its move to penalize rankings of sites that use pop-ups on smartphones by 2017.

While this is not great news for the publishers relying on these types of ads to keep their sites alive, it is a necessary change that will need to be made next year if they wish to stay in good standing with Google.

The biggest takeaway here is that marketers need to be thinking of new ways to engage users on all channels, and across devices – not silo them based on the device of first-touch. They must take advantage of the fact that, while traffic on retail sites is relatively equal between mobile and desktop use, mobile conversion rates are much lower. There is huge untapped potential here, and strategies that move to engage & measure these multiplatform users should be the focus for many marketers in 2017.

2. Marketing strategies should focus on optimizing experiences for the consumer journey:

Playing off the move to create a more holistic cross-device experience, another consideration here is the idea that interactions with users should move away from optimizing individual touchpoints, and move towards optimizing the experience as a multi-step, multichannel process. This means that separate tactics must start being considered alongside each other – rather than as isolated incidents. Instead of optimizing your landing pages, emails and conversion forms individually, consider how the user will experience them all during their decision process, and how they can work together to increase your performance.

  • Marketers should be creating different messages, value propositions and calls to action for each different device and point in the consumer experience. This means taking advantage of ETAs, callouts, location extensions, sitelinks – the works. If applicable to your business, enable click-to-call and store locator ad formats to better track mobile success early on.
  • Take a look at how showing product review cards and rich snippets may be impacting user behavior. Ensure that whatever information audiences are looking for, it is optimized in the relevant space, at the right time, in the best way possible.
  • Don’t forget to validate these tactics with cross-channel attribution. Although not always entirely reliable, it can help to take a look at Estimated Total Conversions inside Google AdWords campaigns. These numbers should be taken with a grain of salt – things such as “store visits” are more of an estimation than actual conversion – but they provide a broader view of how your business is doing.

3. Don’t just target keywords, target audiences and identities:

In the past, audiences were targeted with paid search ads based solely on the keywords in their searches. Today, there are more data and tools available to better identify and target specific audiences.

Specifically for search targeting, current capabilities include bid optimizations based on gender and age – but all signs point to that expanding in the near future. Marketers should take advantage of what is available now, and use the data to plan ahead in anticipation of increasing changes.

The most effective way to do this is to restructure campaigns not only around keywords, but around the different stages of consumer journey that audiences exist in. Throughout all of the points in the consumer journey, tailor your ad copy, landing page experiences, and even bid strategies around the different behaviors of each audience – rather than just the keywords themselves. This is the key to beginning to better understand your audiences and prepare your marketing strategy for future expansions in audience targeting.

4. Video dominates – incorporate it into your search strategy, too:

We all know how enormous the consumption of video on smartphones has become – 46% of video is viewed via mobile devices in Q4 of last year. This is a growth of 35% year over year, and 170% since 2013.

But how can marketers take advantage of video outside of social media and display advertising? By utilizing Google’s YouTube shopping ads. Integrated along with the merchant center, brands can now promote their related products alongside YouTube videos, incorporating both platforms in an unprecedented way.

50% of YouTube video views originate on mobile, forcing Google to ensure that these shopping ads work seamlessly across all devices, displaying product details, images, and links to purchase – all within TrueView video ads. Because these ads can connect and integrate with a brand’s merchant center feed, the products can be dynamically added to the video ads as well, based on demographic information.

 

5. Artificial Intelligence will become a more prominent way to engage customers:

2017 paid search artificial intelligence

While AI is nothing new, its use is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the digital marketing space.  With the growing use chat bots, personal assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and IBM’s Watson, AI is becoming more engrained in the digital experience every day.

Voice search specifically is expanding – and Google is working hard to create products that take advantage of it. Google’s I/O assistant service (pictured above) is an example of AI’s integration into digital marketing. This change has been closely monitored by Google for years – and is now about to hit a growth spurt. 

Currently there is no way to track voice search, or determine its impact on paid search performance. As of right now, voice searches are translated to text and thrown in with the rest of the search terms we see – sometimes including an accidental “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” that indicates it originated as a voice search. However, there are rumors that Google will be providing Voice Search and Google Assistant data in Search Console in the near future – stay tuned for that development.

 

WHAT MARKETERS NEED TO KNOW:

Marketers need to ensure that their marketing strategies are both expanding to consider the holistic view, as well as taking advantage of new trends in tools and resources.  Utilizing shiny new toys, such as video and artificial intelligence, are great short-term tactics, but longer-term strategies should be taking cross-device optimization, consumer journey segmentation and audience targeting into consideration as well.

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