thought leadership

The latest paid search trends to look out for in 2020

It’s that time of year again - The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and work is as busy as ever with the upcoming holiday season. In the midst of the holiday chaos, many of you are also looking ahead to 2020 planning. Before we officially start the countdown to 2020, let’s make sure you’re caught up on the latest (and gretest!) trends in paid search as these features may be laying the groundwork for what’s to come in the new year.

1. Audience capabilities are ever-evolving

With the growing emphasis on audiences in recent years, here are a few tips to refine your current strategy:

  • Google recently added in-market audiences for seasonality. These new audiences include Black Friday and Christmas shoppers and are ideal for reaching customers with timely offers. 
  • Combined Audiences allow you to create audience “personas” that reflect segments of your target audience by combining various audience categories, such as detailed demographics and affinities. This can narrow the reach of your campaign and help you to avoid potentially wasted spend, thus improving overall efficiency.
  • Looking for a cross-channel approach? Try out Facebook and YouTube audiences for search. UTM tagging on Facebook and YouTube will allow you to populate a list of people who have interacted with your social ads in Google Analytics. By importing into Google Ads, you can bid up or exclusively target these users.

2. Automation

Automation continues to be a growing focus for Paid Search activity and there’s no sign of it slowing down. 

Here’s a quick look at the latest bid strategy updates to look out for in 2020.

  • While Google has been expanding its Smart Bidding portfolio, their most recent updates allow for some flexibility to fine-tune your bidding approach. For example, you can now optimise towards Store Visits conversions - a major win for businesses with brick and mortar stores.
  • In addition, you can now have more control over seasonality by applying your own adjustments to a bid strategy before it even happens. For instance, if you’re running a weekend sale, you can apply a predicted conversion rate and the Smart Bidding strategy will adopt the predicted CR the selected date range. 
  • Finally, for conversions that are not valued equally, you may opt to adjust your bid strategies with value rules. This newer feature enables advertisers to differentiate their conversion value based on factors such as location, device, and audience.

Bid strategies are not the only area of automation to focus on:

  • Enter Google Ads optimization score. Ranging from 0% to 100%, optimization score generates automated suggestions to help you better optimise and manage your campaigns. Our clients who regularly maintain a strong opti-score have driven up to a +8% improvement in CTR.
  • If you haven’t been paying attention to opti-score, we recommend you start as we anticipate it will only get bigger in 2020. We caught a hint of this earlier this year when the feature became quietly available as a reporting column on a campaign level. Google also expanded its recommendations in May to include target ROAS, target impression share, audience bid adjustments, and seasonal budget recommendations.

3. Ads

The last (but certainly not least) trend to look out for in 2020 is a greater emphasis on ad performance.

Even if you have been using responsive search ads for a while now, you may have missed out on some of its new features:

  • Following the ad strength tool which gives you real-time feedback on your ad quality, Google most recently introduced the “performance column” in the RSA assets report. While you could previously only report on impressions for various ad combinations, the performance column helps you identify which assets to replace and which are most effective based on a “low”, “good”, or “best” performance rating.
  • Google also released ad variations earlier this year which enables you to easily create and test variations of your ads across multiple campaigns. As of October 2019, ad variations became compatible with responsive search ads - further solidifying Google’s focus on ad performance and ad automation.

While ad messaging is as important as ever, it’s possible imagery may have a place in paid search as well.

  • One of the most visual updates (probably ever) to the search ad format has been the introduction of Gallery Ads: A swipeable, image-based ad unit that appears at the top of the search results on mobile devices. These ads enable businesses to showcase their brand visually with up to 8 images with unique captions, which you should certainly keep in mind for any upcoming holiday sales you wish to promote. While some of our clients have experienced a weaker CTR from gallery ads, we have seen up to a +35% increase in conversion rate from gallery ads compared to the regular expanded text ads on mobile. 
  • Microsoft has also found ways to pair imagery with paid search as image extensions appear alongside your regular text ad and can be used to showcase pictures of your product or service. With Google’s move towards Gallery Ads, it will be interesting to see if they look for other ways to incorporate imagery into the search engine as Microsoft has with image extensions.

To summarise, keep an eye out personalisation through audiences, improved automation capabilities, and the role of visuals in PPC in 2020. While there’s no guarantee of what’s to come, we hope you can take these trends and insights to help future-proof your paid search strategy.