5 PPC Trends to Keep Top-of-Mind in 2020

With paid search marketing, it takes all the running you can do, just to stay in the same place.

In 2020, technology is driving all the key PPC trends forcing advertisers to adapt, and quickly. Stay in the race – see what’s changing and how, and up your game.

Machine Learning Algorithms Shift PPC Marketers’ Focus From Bid Adjustment to Strategy

Google’s evolving machine learning algorithms are helping marketers unlock opportunities and accelerate growth at scale in 2020. Whether you’re using smart bidding strategies, responsive search and display ads, dynamic search ads, or ad variation testing, Google Ads new features empower advertisers to spend less time on manual optimization and focus on strategic planning and account expansion instead.The search engine’s algorithm is accumulating data from Google ads accounts in all industries and markets, as well as billions of consumer data points every day, including purchase history, device, and location. It keeps learning what works and what doesn’t in terms of ad spend and budget distribution amongst hundreds of keywords, search terms, targeted devices or specific locations.

In 2020, you can leave the data gathering and day-to-day operations to Google’s AI and focus on planning your accounts’ expansion strategy.Here is just one example of the effect automation and machine learning have on PPC ads management:

Single Keyword Ad Groups Strategy [SKAG] Is Becoming Obsolete in 2020

In the past few years, every Google Ads expert has probably stumbled upon the term “SKAG” in articles and social media groups. Coined by KlientBoost in 2016, SKAGs, or “Single Keyword Ad Groups”, is a way to structure your campaigns, having only one root keyword in its different match types in an ad group.

Every time you get a different keyword combination, a new converting term or a long-tail version of the root keyword you want to bid on, you need to create a separate SKAG in order to stick to the strategy and exclude the keyword from all other ad groups.

This approach gives advertisers greater control over Quality Score optimizations since ads and landing pages can stick to the exact root keyword. Having a clear view of the cost-per-click of the different match types also makes it much easier for placing manual bids.However, as Google’s machine learning is constantly improving, it’s no longer necessary for advertisers to think of every single keyword variation and combination, and to add it manually in every match type, along with the respective negatives.Nowadays, match types overlap and have much more freedom in terms of word order, word combination and keyword intent – broad modified acts like broad match type, a phrase keyword can be reordered just as an exact match can, etc. If Google's algorithm considers a search term even remotely close to your keywords in meaning, be sure your ad is going to show, no matter how you try to restrict it.

This is making the SKAG strategy more and more obsolete – it’s much easier to keep all tightly related keywords in one ad group and let Google’s algorithm do the search term selection and determine the best fit.You can finally stop wasting time in endless creation of ad groups and updating negative keyword lists. Instead, you can start spending more time on creative tasks, such as focusing on landing pages and rethinking your ad copies to match the search intent.

Now, let’s take this a bit further and extrapolate the future of keywords in ads account management based on current trends:

Could Google Ads Discard Keywords This Decade?

As algorithms and automated bidding strategies within Google Ads are becoming increasingly effective, an emerging trend is suggesting that keywords are no longer central to account optimization. Google promotes this aggressively, and we have already tested it with good results.

What we are talking about is a strategy where we set up an ad group with one fairly generic broad match keyword (yes, not even modified broad match) and run it with Target CPA/ROAS automated bidding.

This allows Google Ads to include ads in the auctions for any search queries that contain variations of the keyword or very broad synonyms. We let the automated bidding determine the search intent behind every relevant search query that best matches the product/service we are promoting.This strategy has two obvious benefits:

1. It saves us a lot of time with keyword optimization – we do not have long lists of broad, phrase, exact match keywords to manage (although currently we still have not gone as far as to scrap the classic account structure).

2. It expands our reach considerably, by covering search queries that we would not have thought of otherwise. In effect, we do much less keyword discovery, yet we are still covering every possible search query variation that Google can determine the intent of.

The biggest problem with this strategy, you would think, is that Google would show our ads to a great number of irrelevant queries and blow away your ad budget.Well, as we were testing this strategy, we saw that once the algorithm had gone through the learning phase, it became surprisingly efficient at matching queries to our one generic broad match keyword.We have not been adding a ton of negative keywords, either. On the contrary – we are using not more negative keywords than usual.

This experiment got us thinking that it’s quite possible for Google Ads to scrap keywords in a few years. For example, Google might introduce an upgraded version of the current Dynamic Search Ads ad groups where we do not provide keywords at all (just a landing page) and Google determines the relevant traffic and the bids depending on our CPA/ROAS targets. We already have the Smart Display campaigns available which work in a similar way, though they are not really performance-oriented.In such a scenario, PPC marketers would need to invest the bulk of their time and effort into the user experience and the landing pages and let Google figure out the intent and match it to the search query.

Enough about keywords, now let’s take a look at campaign strategies.

You Cannot Ignore Video in Any Pay-Per-Click Strategy

Whether you’re a PPC marketer, an agency, or an entrepreneur, you cannot ignore video content anymore. Video is here to stay. Your audience is simply demanding that you create more of it.

You’ve seen the stats and you know all too well that YouTube is the second largest search engine, that video consumption on mobile is growing at a rate of 100% each year, and 82% of all internet traffic will come from video by the end of 2022. The sheer volume of video content online is growing exponentially.

There’s more to it, though. The benefits of video are sure to boost your conversion, brand bias, user engagement, and loyalty.

Video content is highly engaging, better at expressing the core tenets of your brand, and making it easier for the user to retain your brand’s core message. With 92% of mobile users sharing videos with their friends, just think of the impact video can have on your business.

On top of that, video is an extremely versatile format. Use it to introduce a brand, launch a new product, remarket to an audience, engage and re-engage. Videos seem to work best as a part of an overarching digital marketing strategy – marketers who incorporate video into their campaigns experience 34% higher conversion rates. Including a video on your landing page can increase conversions by 86%, according to Wordstream.Video is not only here to stay but is likely to soon become the most dominant form of online marketing.

Multi-Channel Tracking and Attribution Challenges

As users engage with a brand via multiple channels, devices, and mediums, the proper attribution of value to each marketing channel will become even more relevant in 2020 for marketers and businesses.

There is just one caveat – the biggest digital marketing companies (Facebook, Google, and Microsoft) don’t like sharing customer data with each other. Even the most advanced tracking software cannot give you a comprehensive understanding of the customers’ touchpoints.In addition to that, we have seen a rise of view-through conversions – people just seeing an ad without clicking on it, and then completing a conversion on the site soon after. The drawback is that 3rd party tracking software like Google Analytics cannot take into account such interactions as they are not click-based.

Mix this with the rise of video consumption on YouTube and Facebook. The result is that marketers are now investing in video ads and getting more view-through conversions, while also having a less clear picture of the value of each channel.On the bright side, both Google and Facebook have their “exclusive” solutions to this issue. Google Ads and Facebook Ads’ native tracking codes can show you attribution for both view-through and click-through conversions. The catch is that these two tags are isolated structures that show either Google or Facebook conversions only.

Their bias toward their respective platforms usually results in plenty of duplicate conversions. Imagine a customer journey that has only two touchpoints (a YouTube video, then a Facebook remarketing ad and a conversion from it). Both Google and Facebook will consider the conversion as their own. If you keep a database where you aggregate the number of conversions coming from the platforms, you will find a nasty surprise of multiple duplicates.How to reconcile the data? Neither 3rd-party software like Google Analytics nor native Google Ads tracking can show you the full picture of the customer journey. The best strategy for 2020 remains using the native tracking inside the platforms for optimization purposes, while still relying on Google Analytics for a bird's eye view of the way different channels interact.

Strategic and Creative Thinking

From automation and smart bidding strategies to creative campaign management, video first, and multi-channel attribution tracking, 2020 is a promising year for paid search marketers. PPC campaign managers should make sure they don’t lose sight of the big picture and control the general ROAS by making changes to different channels.

It takes strategic and creative thinking to stay on top of the 2020 paid search marketing trends. For more digital marketing insights, check out this selection of marketing blogs.

While you’re on it, take a peek at what 2020 has in store for SEO, too. See the top 5 SEO trends for 2020 with actionable tips for your digital marketing strategy.

Antoaneta Grigorova

Head of Paid Media

I use different online advertising platforms to help companies get their products& services in front of the right people at the right time and place.