Digital Recharge: Paid Search Trends in 2017

Austin Randall
By Austin Randall

New year, new tactics!  Let’s quickly run through the top trends I’ve been seeing in Paid Search & beyond this past year, how I see those trends continuing in 2017, and how we’re going to use our knowledge of those trends at Power Digital this year.

Trend 1: Persona Targeting

AdWords (& in some cases Bing Ads), are becoming much more sophisticated when it comes to targeting criteria.  Keyword bidding is still at the core to Search targeting, but search marketers are able to go beyond what is being searched, and can now also focus on who’s doing the searching.

Related: Persona Templates – How to Create Buyer & User Personas

Demographics for Search Ads was a major step in this direction mid-2016, giving advertisers the ability to bid differently on or even altogether exclude various ages & genders.  Household Income targeting, or the ability to target searchers who fall under certain income tiers, is another feature that’s been around for awhile but often flies under the radar.

Let’s not forget back basic location targeting too. Populations across the US can be extremely diverse and behave completely different online. Same goes for Device bidding.

Bottom Line: Keep an eye out for more targeting features that are traditionally Display-based, to roll out on Search in 2017.

Trend 2: Funnelized Account Structures

Funnels have caught on at Power Digital quite a bit lately.  If you take a look at a typical trafficking conversion funnel, you’ve got channels like Social & Display Prospecting at the top, then Search & Affiliate somewhere near the middle, and finally Retargeting and Email at the bottom.  That’s all good and well, but a smart marketer will figure out ways to connect each channel and a lot of that can be done directly through AdWords & Bing Ads.

GDN campaigns set up with Content Keyword targeting are great brand introducers.  These campaigns should lead to informational pages with content relevant to the business and have an objective of getting a reader to develop a certain sentiment about the product or service. Facebook is another strong first-touch brand introducer.

PPC Forecasting Tool

Related: Keyword Research Tips for the PPC Beginner

Once a visitor hits the site, we’ll cookie them with various remarketing pixels and can then serve additional content through Facebook, the GDN, or other retargeting networks.  Based on these users’ interactions on the site during their visit, we can bucket them into audiences that send them down various conversion funnels.  Email captures are another key desired outcome of a user’s first site visit. We’ll come back to that later.

Search comes into play mid-way down the funnel in most cases.  A lot of first-time site visitors will come through the Search channel, they’re already pre-qualified in many ways though unlike Display Prospecting since this visitor was actively searching for your product or service.  Search plays a complementary channel to Display and visa-versa depending on the visitor’s journey.  We’ve seen brand searches increase as a result of Display Prospecting and Retargeting campaigns. View-through conversions are a good way to put some substance behind this correlation.

Then at the bottom of the funnel, closest to a completed conversion, are typically Retargeting & Email.  The flipside of our previous example, is remarketing being a good brand reinforcer for visitors who’ve come to a site through Search yet didn’t convert.  Google Analytics remarketing audiences are so advanced now that we can segment visitors every which way from the pages they’ve viewed, to how long they’ve spent on a certain page, to whether or not they’ve abandoned a product in your cart.  Remarketing is really meant to seal the deal.  We targeting site behavior audiences through both Display and Search.

Related: Why the One Key Email Metric You’re Ignoring is Derailing Your Campaigns

Email is another strong closer. That’s traffic that we actually own. We can serve tailored messages whenever we want for whatever purpose through a means that is often seen by the prospect.  So let’s take that email we captured through our Display Prospecting campaign earlier and send them additional info around the topic they showed interest in. And then we’ll push more promotional content later on.

Bottom Line: Take advantage of the breadth and depth of marketing channels that AdWords & Bings Ads offer to create conversion funnels, taking your audience from awareness to conversion, all through the same funnel.

Trend 3: Video Content

So Mobile’s been the name of the game for several years now, what’s just starting to reach new heights in popularity recently though is video content; Facebook Live, YouTube Brand Lift, Product Overlays in video campaigns…all marketing tactics and ways of measurement made popular in 2016.

Right now, Facebook is arguably the most accurate search engine for video content.  YouTube is the original hub for video but they’ve been losing share.  And Keyword Targeting lacks sophistication on YouTube.

Related: How to Rock Mobile Marketing in 2017 [Webinar]

These are all indicators of big things to come in the way of Paid Search video ads.  Bing Ads made a step toward visual-heavy ads in 2016 with Image Extensions and most recently, AdWords released a Beta we use with some of our clients called Image Sitelinks, replacing traditional text sitelinks with clickable imagery.  Bing Ads has even alluded to Video Ads for Bing, so AdWords will definitely be close to follow…once the tactic is perfected.

Bottom Line: Video content is on the rise, and marketing platforms are being tailored to serve video content in new ways.  Make sure you’re prepared!

So there it is.  Keep an eye on these three trends in 2017, we certainly will be.  Drop some comments below and let us know what else you’re seeing in the Paid Search landscape this year so far!

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Austin is the Director of Paid Media at Power Digital Marketing. He made it a point early on in his career to be a Jack of All Trades digital marketing, having hands-on experience in PPC, SEO, Social Media, and Affiliate Marketing. That experience comes in handy for his passion of creating and orchistraiting impactful cross-channel strategies for businesses he works with.