Congratulations! You've reached the end of another year without collapsing in a heap, and so have we. Now seems to be as good a time as any to reflect on what is happening in the Paid Search landscape, and with that in mind, I've identified 5 things to look forward to in 2019. Drumroll, please...
Google is really keen to push YouTube at the moment. Recently we were invited to sit down with Google Australia for a roundtable discussion on what they could be doing to make YouTube a more attractive proposition to businesses. There were lots of great suggestions, including case studies, benchmarking and cash-incentives (although it remains to be seen the extent to which Google will provide the above). What is undeniable though is that in order to entice advertisers, Google are putting in a lot of work to make YouTube a more conversion-friendly platform, with the rollout of their True View for Action campaign type. This is being extended to allow for the collection of lead information within YouTube itself, removing the need to take a user to a website to convert.
Google now assert that YouTube is able to generate a similar cost per acquisition to non-branded Search campaigns, so it definitely presents a legitimate alternative to traditional search, and we expect to continue to roll out YouTube campaigns to clients who are interested in lead generation in 2019.
Facebook’s main advantage over the search giants is the incredible array of targeting options they have access to. Bing will look to close the gap in 2019 with the ongoing rollout of the much-anticipated Microsoft Audience Network, which leverages data from Microsoft-owned LinkedIn to allow for very tight B2B targeting within Search. The ability to craft text ads or display creative with messaging that is specific to members of a certain company or with a particular job title has long been anticipated, and it should become a reality in Australia within the first half of 2019. This is already available in the US.
Google too, continue to offer more sophisticated options, rolling out improvements both to demographic and milestone targeting. As well as existing segments, in 2019 we should expect to be able to target by parenting stage, home ownership status, education, employment (US only) as well as during back to school periods. If you’re like me, you’ll find all this a bit scary, but there’s no doubt it gives marketers more ammo in terms of getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.
Having acquired Deep Mind, an artificial intelligence company, back in 2014, this year was really the year that automation came of age for Google. Year on year the advances in AI are exponential, and whereas in previous years it was often prudent to approach Google’s AI-based recommendations with some caution, this is no longer the case. Taking into account thousands of signals in real time to identify how much it is worth, for an advertiser paying for their ad to appear in prime position to a user, Google’s AI makes bid maintenance a thing of the past, and you can expect the great results from automation to only improve further in 2019.
The good news for us marketers is that, as scary as the rise of the robots is, they are unable to compete with good old-fashioned humans like us in areas like strategy or creativity. So, with more time to focus on the “what” and “why”, and time saved on the “how”, expect us to maintain our rightful place at the top of the food chain a little longer.
Many clients talk to us about wanting to dominate a particular niche in terms of their ads. What they mean by this is that they want to spend as much as it takes to ensure that their ads appear (preferably in top position) for all searches of even marginal relevance. This is referred to within the search platforms as 100% Impression Share – if someone searches, their ad must be there.
But the narrative has changed here. It’s expensive to have blanket-coverage. And what’s the value in paying to have your ad shown to a user with very little intent, or whose history indicates them to be a serial browser and infrequent converter? Rather than showing ads to every (wo)man and their dog (or cat), why not give these guys a miss and instead pay to get your ads in front of the right people.
This really is the essence of the previous point around automation. It’s actually smarter not to aim for 100% Impression Share, target a particular CPA with an automated bidding strategy, and allow the artificial intelligence to pick where and when to bid high based on what it knows about the searcher, their demographics, habits, location, past experience with your product or service, other interests, and myriad other properties.
Every year we see CPCs rise and just standing still in terms of return on investment is difficult. Often within an industry, we see mini-bubbles in which competitors bid fiercely against each other and drive prices up to unreasonable levels. We’ve seen clients this year experience increases in CPC of over 100%, although anecdotal numbers suggest something in the range of 20-40% might be more common.
Having said that we’ve still been able to get great results for clients, and despite the rise in CPCs, we’ve still been able to maintain or reduce the all-important cost per acquisition. Partly this is due to excellence in what we do, partly this is a function of some of the advances I’ve outlined earlier. Again, the only thing that really matters is getting those conversions at an acceptable CPA and paying more to have your ad in front of the right searcher or viewer is perfectly acceptable if it achieves this goal.
So, there you have it. Five things to look out for in 2019. If these don’t get you excited about the new year, literally nothing will.
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