PPC in 2017 – Search & You Shall Find

Ian Campbell

By Ian Campbell
Head of Performance Digital
Digtial Issue – Irish Marketing Journal, January 2017

Investment in paid for search continued to rise significantly last year and now accounts for 16% of all advertising spend in Ireland. 2016 was another strong year with advertisers increasing their PPC budgets and reaping greater rewards. The main drivers for this in my experience have been (a) better optimisation techniques (b) improvement in measurement through attribution modelling and (c) an increase in search volumes year on year.

Competition in paid search has never been as fierce – early last year Google removed PPC ads from the right-hand side of the search results meaning that eight visible ad positions above the page fold has been reduced to just the coveted four. For those advertisers who focus on the quality of their campaign management and not just their cost per click bids, this has most definitely had a positive impact. Not long after this change, Google also introduced expanded text ads which significantly increased the character limits. This has led to an average increase in clickthrough rates of approximately 20%.

Alongside these innovations, we also saw the evolution of device bidding, several new ad extensions, significant improvements in audience retargeting through search and the long-awaited entrance of Google Shopping to the Irish market. Although very much in its’ infancy, it is something that all retailers must embrace to stay competitive at the top of the search results page.

From my experience working in a PPC Agency, 2016 has been one of the most challenging but exciting – the discipline is evolving rapidly but for those who embrace these changes, the rewards can be huge for driving increased revenue for your business.

Google Shopping is the hot topic in our meetings down in Barrow Street at the moment and expect marketers in the retail sector to invest heavily in these campaigns in 2017. There are numerous benefits of using Product Listing Ads including the fact that you can now advertise your product at the very top of the search results above the regular paid search ads, flaunting your price & product image. This feature had become available to advertisers as a beta in October but has only been visible for a small percentage of searches – as the year progresses, expect to see PLA’s across a much wider range of high value keyword terms.

Expect the size of text ads to continue to expand, Google has plenty of new ad extensions up its’ sleeve so ensure to take advantage of as many of these as possible – they are guaranteed to increase clickthrough rates, help to improve ad positions and can lead to cost savings on your campaigns.

The increase in PPC budgets is expected to continue this year and for those who are already reaching ‘critical mass’ on their traditional search network campaigns, marketers are shifting any available budgets into areas such as remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA’s), customer match & GDN campaigns – all of which can help to drive additional ROI from your online budget.
Search ads are about to get personal this year with Demographics for Search ads. With so much more consumer data available it is important to utilize it for more personalization. Audience age, income, education, interests are all available and that can be used to separate audiences and deliver specific ad copy to each.

Search ads will become as much about audience targeting as they are about keyword targeting. Keywords will continue to play a key role in how ads are placed on the search results pages but advertisers who are frustrated with inevitable increases in CPC prices will embrace other options that allows them to spend their budget more efficiently and audience targeting enables them to do this. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads is a PPC tactic which I believe is hugely underutilised in the Irish market – implementing RLSA’s allows you to exclude less informed audiences and increase your CPC bids on more highly qualified audiences, another great way of reducing wasted spend and boosting ROI.

Searches on mobile will continue to outdo desktop s but as our understanding of the purchase funnel and cross device attribution improves this year, marketers will understand better how to apportion their PPC budget by device to maximise ROI. Adwords conversion metrics have come a long way from last click modelling which allows marketers to better understand and attribute the value of each click along the conversion path.

Finally, Google Voice search is increasing steadily probably something to consider in the longer term. For marketers, it is important to be mindful of as the way people use search engines evolves. In the US, it is estimated that up to 1 in 5 searches are completed through voice search and it is on the increase in Ireland so watch this space!

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