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Paid Search Trends for 2014

January 6th, 2014


2013 was a banner year for online marketers. Events like the successful Twitter IPO and Google’s enhanced campaigns created a whirlwind of new SEO and marketing tactics. While it’s too soon to know exactly what curveballs the new year has in store for paid search, there are several obvious paid search trends for 2014 that simply cannot be ignored. By jumping full throttle on the techniques and angles discussed below, you’ll have a head start on your 2014 PPC efforts.


Go Big in the Social Scene


Marketers have long lamented bringing search efforts into the social space, as it was once a difficult arena to quantify and validate. Thankfully, things are improving. Social ROI is now alive and kicking, and your next PPC campaign should absolutely consider embracing social sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Tactics like promoted tweets (Twitter), page post ads (Facebook), and promoted pins (Pinterest) now enable paid search efforts to effectively reach a targeted demographic, and to accurately measure the results as well.


If you can only afford to target one social network, choose based on your industry. If you’re an e-commerce professional, Pinterest holds the lion’s share. Twitter has the highest rates of adoption these days, and it’s new public status means that new features and advertising models will become available this year. Facebook, however, is still the bell of the social ball, and it’s stratospheric growth may have slowed, but has certainly not halted. You can bet all three major players will be working hard this year to win your marketing budgets.


Ultimately, when you gear up to enter the social space with PPC efforts, pay very close attention to the tools that each platform offer for tracking and value attribution. Getting 5,000 retweets, as an example, may sound like an impressive response, but you’ll need to be clear on what that means for your bottom line. It may or may not indicate engagement; you’ll need to have clear goals in your social media campaigns that indicate overall success.


Small Screen Dominance


The continued increase of mobile adoption is perhaps the most obvious trend prediction for 2014. Optimizing for mobile in the PPC arena will, however, continue to be a tricky task indeed. The biggest challenge for paid search experts when it comes to mobile is accurately tracking conversions to small screen clicks. Because cookies aren’t passed across different devices, it’s still incredibly challenging to assign revenue to mobile social signals without a complete big picture view. 2014 will likely provide relief for marketers in this vain, however, as technology development efforts continue to address these challenges.


Mobile usage provides a myriad of complex data touch points, but don’t let that intimidate you in the coming year. If your paid search efforts don’t involve an intelligent mobile strategy, you are missing a major segment of your potential audience. Consider strategies that include things like mobile-optimized landing pages, paid search keywords chosen specifically for local mobile searches, and/or combining offline data with mobile clicks.


One of the main areas that will separate the PPC pros from the amateurs in 2014 will be mobile tracking. Those sophisticated enough to intelligently track and target customers on small screens will most certainly maintain an overall edge.


Audience-Focused Search


Right from the start, search has embodied user intent as the foundation of indicators and campaigns. In 2014, expect paid search to embrace intent on an even more dramatic level. PPC will analyze intent with regards to keywords this year, further optimizing and targeting the results.


Here’s how this works – consider the keyword phrases “new york city restaurants” and “albany restaurants.” On the surface, the keywords seem the same – they’ll generate clicks and revenue, but they are hardly equal in intent. We can realistically assume that the former involves a higher-end searcher that will drive bigger lifetime value, and the latter contains less revenue potential. By looking at the intent – i.e. the audience demographics for each keyword phrase – we unravel a much bigger story about implied results.


Why is this so revolutionary? Because now we are able to use demographic information to attribute actual value to keywords. In this fashion, PPC marketers can now more accurately target searchers with higher revenue potential. By selecting an audience-based viewpoint, we are able to target not only the customers who truly want our products and services, but also those with the highest lifetime value.


More Flexible PPC Options


2013 ushered in a much more flexible PPC bidding platform, thanks to changes in Adwords and Bing Ads. This allows marketers to have more flexible options on PPC bids. We can now select a “bid strategy” or modify any existing bid based on a percentage – good news for those who are looking for more options and opportunities for fine-tuning.


2014 already promises many more similar options. Facebook has jumped into flexible bid options by allowing advertisers to select different types of goals. And more granular bidding options are in the works across the board. While this may seem like good news, be careful about jumping in too fast to these trends, as they make campaigns all the more complex without any proof that revenues will reflect the efforts. Many of the bid settings can actually overcomplicate the campaign and be counterproductive. Be very cautious about adding too many complex layers of bidding options until you are truly able to quantify results.


These are just a few of the potential PPC trends for 2014. What new paid search developments are most directly impacting your new year strategies?