Online advertising can sometimes feel a whole lot like playing Plinko, the popular mini-game featured on The Price Is Right. You drop a ball into a board pock-marked with pins and hope it lands where you want it.
In other words, advertising online is complicated; you do research, determine your target audience, create a quality ad, and release it to the world, to be clicked or ignored.
Your ad could bounce off one pin and then another, landing in front of a completely difference audience than the one you intended. Fortunately, there are things you can do to increase your odds in the advertising space.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is an excellent answer to the Plinko-style advertising problem.
According to Blue Corona:
- PPC traffic is 50% more likely to make a purchase than organic traffic
- Search ads have the capacity to increase brand awareness by 80%
- The average click-through rate (CTR) for a first-position ad is almost 8%
The Future of PPC in a Nutshell
PPC advertising is an incredible way to draw valuable traffic to your product or service — that’s why the practice is growing at a large rate. Its cost effective nature, propensity to provide higher product sales, and ability to offer marketing insights make PPC advertising the perfect system on which to launch or boost a business.
However, the next few years of online marketing are going to be completely different from what you’ve experienced in the past. Winterberry Group reports that digital ad spend is likely to surpass that of traditional advertising in 2018. Additionally, the faster the Internet gets, the less patient its users grow — in 2010, a page that loaded in six seconds would experience a 40% conversion loss, while that same loading experience results in a 50% conversion loss today.
If you are going to make it in online advertising, you have to take into account some outside factors that will play a role in the future, potentially changing online and PPC advertising as we know and love them.
It is absolutely vital for every marketing team to track the potential changes and trends in PPC. I spoke with Burton Hohman, Paid Search Manager at Best Company, about the importance of staying up-to-date:
“Paid search is incredibly important to our business and staying on top of the changes the channels like Google & Facebook make is crucial. However, not every change always works out for the better. We’ve seen both positive and negative impacts so testing new strategies is an essential step before adapting to the latest trend.”
Before you can test, you need to make efforts to anticipate the changes to come. Be on the lookout for these six trends to affect PPC in the near future:
1) The Downside of Growth
The first trend you have to be aware of is not necessarily a bad one, but it does call for some concern among those bidding for keywords. PPC is becoming hugely popular, which means that you will be bidding against not only more advertisers, but also against more quality advertising.
This isn’t the first time a boost in PPC popularity has become an issue. In the results from respective surveys in both 2011 and 2012, PPC effectiveness was trending down. The year-to-year comparison saw a 4.8% drop in marketers who identified PPC as having the biggest impact on lead generation and 9.3% of marketers said they would decrease spending on PPC the following year.
The downtrend also saw the arrival of hundreds of ‘PPC is Dead’ articles — the sentiment toward PPC in those days was terrible. However, once marketers started realizing that a lack of keyword research, irrelevant ads, and an abysmal lack of attention to ad copy actually affected lead generation, PPC began to hit its stride once again.
What disgruntled marketers didn’t realize back in 2012 was that greater competition leads to a greater need for quality content. Obviously, you against 10 competitors will likely result in a greater ROI than bidding against 1,000 competitors, so when PPC was becoming popular the slackers lost big.
When the number of competitors increases, your ability to stand out entirely depends on maintaining, refining, and growing your PPC skillset.
The increase in competition will also likely bring along with it higher prices on keywords, as competition will push the ceiling on the most popular keywords — your proficiency at picking the right long-tail keywords will become ever more important in the days ahead.
2) More Reputable PPC Networks
A positive side of the growing Pay-Per-Click popularity is that PPC real estate is growing as well. The burgeoning tech industry is creating new channels for future ad spaces.
Google’s domination of the PPC advertising space seems to be limitless, but Google has never gone unchallenged in other industries, so why should PPC be any different? The future of pay-per-search will certainly see more competition between the big four tech giants (Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple).
Facebook alone has acquired 66 companies to date and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As of December 2017, 18% of global online ad revenue is earned by Facebook.com, which means that Facebook has a lot of room to grow in the ad space beyond its social media platform. For example, Facebook owns Instagram, which is ready to move its messaging system to a different app, a move that led to expanded ads in Facebook Messenger.
Up to this point, Google has largely reigned supreme in the PPC service space. However, other large companies are planning on making waves in the PPC service industry, which will make things much more interesting.
According to Garrett Sloane:
Rumors suggest that Amazon will make a push in the ad space and is set to announce a game-changing, programmatic ad structure that makes buying ads ‘as easy as filling up an online shopping cart.’
An Amazon-Google PPC rivalry could only be a good thing for online advertisers as it will spur the need for innovation and breadth of new PPC services.
Speaking with “people familiar with the matter” and under the guise of anonymity (due to the plan’s lack of an official announcement), Sloane reveals that “even Google is building for Amazon’s ad platform” and that “Google’s DoubleClick supports buying search ads on Microsoft Bing and Yahoo, and it’s developing the same capability for Amazon.” Though Google’s PPC system has a commanding presence in the PPC industry, you will want to keep an eye out for competition.
As companies like Facebook and Amazon rev up their PPC efforts, you will likely find even more opportunities for quality PPC growth in other popular spaces on the web.
3) The Emergence of Alternative Search Options
We haven’t even scratched the surface of search tech to come, but visual and voice search are a good place to start when anticipating alternative search possibilities.
According to Ilya Cherepakhin:
The near future will bring a push “on two fronts: unleashing the intelligence of audience management and making strides with voice search. Other challenges – multi-channel attribution, smart bidding automation, and cross-device analytics – will remain. However, I believe that audience management and voice search will open up even greater frontiers for success.”
Karen Chen at Online Optimism recently considered the value of voice search in the future, saying:
“First off, voice searches are longer. Instead of the average 3-5 keywords searched, voice searches usually consist of entire sentences containing 10 or more words. These sentences usually begin with who, what, where, why, and how. These terms give insight on the searcher’s intent, which allows Google to give more personalized and relevant search results. Voice search leads to another huge trend in PPC, Artificial Intelligence.”
It’s not a stretch to say that once voice and visual search become a part of day-to-day PPC procedures, more advanced tech, like AI, isn’t too far behind.
Marketers with eyes toward the future should consider running a PPC-based voice search test. Those who choose to prepare for the inevitable popularity (and possibly preference of) voice search will need to adjust keyword focus, as voice search results in different queries, such as:
- Voice searches result in longer queries than mobile or desktop search
- Longer, more natural queries bring more variety in question phrases
- Advertisers can more easily pinpoint search intent with voice search
4) Blocking Bad Ads
Hopefully this won’t come as a surprise to you, but potential customers and casual web browsers don’t like bad, or even average, ads. For a customer to click on an ad, it must be exceptional. That’s why Google is getting smarter about which ads it allows on Chrome:
In Chrome 64, Google cracked down on flashy ads and auto-play videos that pop up without warning, which led to a decrease of annoying ads appearing for Chrome users. For its Chrome 66 update, Google is boosting its ‘annoying ad filter,’ by allowing Chrome to learn which sites you like hearing sound on and which you would prefer were muted. So, how does this affect you as a PPC advertiser?
Well, if you’ve been using the better PPC networks, like Facebook and Google, you won’t have a problem — at least, not much of a problem. The lesser-known PPC networks will be hit the hardest by Google’s new changes.
This impact on less-reputable networks will likely lead to a greater amount of traffic on Google and Facebook’s PPC networks, leading to even more competition for PPC advertisers like you.
5) Structured Data
Google’s mobile-first index has officially been rolled out. If you haven’t been keeping up with this news, the mobile-first index means that Google will be looking at the quality of your mobile platform and content before looking at your desktop quality.
Mobile-first indexing will increase Google’s preference for structure data. According to Search Engine Land’s Ginny Marvin:
“I would not be surprised in 2018 to see Google pulling more information into ads dynamically from landing page copy, images and schema markup, as well as sources like Google Manufacturer Center. And of course, Google isn’t the only platform relying on feeds and other structured data sources to power ad campaigns.”
Even though the mobile-first index affects SEO much more than PPC, it can still make a difference, since users are greatly influenced by things like landing page experience and bounce rate. If your mobile platform doesn’t perform well or the content isn’t optimized, your ad could be penalized, resulting in higher a higher ad price and a lower quality score.
6) A Wealth of New Keywords
One trend that seems to be perpetually relevant is the birth of new keywords. New products mean new keywords, and new products are being created every single day. Some of those products will explode in popularity and could have a huge impact on your PPC advertising, depending on which set of keywords you target.
Take the word “blockchain” for example, which meant practically nothing a few years ago. Now the keyword “blockchain” could have an impact on some huge industries, drastically affecting your keyword selection.
Your ability to predict trending and future-trending keywords will become insanely valuable to your company.
Boost your keyword research efforts — it is absolutely imperative that you identify those hard-to-find long-tail keywords with the influx of new competition in the coming days. Though the introduction of thousands of new keywords will certainly help you in your mission to creating the perfect PPC campaign, you don’t want to be left behind when other big names step into the PPC game.
In order to increase your chances at winning the PPC version of Plinko, wouldn’t it be interesting to pull out some of the “pins” that block the path between you and your target audience? Fortunately, the future of pay-per-click advertising is bright and the most prepared advertisers will be the first to benefit.
Plan ahead to make smarter moves and consumer-tailored ad campaigns, because when Amazon and Facebook make their respective moves, you’ll want to be ahead of the oncoming curve.