A new year is exciting, but perhaps never more so than this year. With the turbulence of 2020 behind us, the future for 2021 looks bright across many industries—including pay-per-click advertising. What to expect from this rapidly-evolving industry? We asked professionals to share what they see on the horizon. Read on to learn about their predictions.

Cale Loken

Cale Loken

Cale Loken, CEO at 301 Consulting. We are a Digital Marketing Agency based in Minneapolis. Our expertise lies in SEO, Web Development, Marketing Automation, and Social Media Management.

Audience Targeting

We are moving towards an era where AI and automation control everything. In such circumstances, we need to look at the entire picture of the audience that we’re targeting and make sure our ads are seen by the people that matter. This strategy will ensure that the clicks you’re getting are qualified and worthy. This is how marketers focusing on the target audience’s buyer journey will step ahead in 2021. To perform this, you need to find answers to some questions that a buyer might consider before buying from you. These include questions about how long the buying process is, what information I need to enter, what they are looking for, etc.

Video Ads

Video ads have taken a flight of importance previously in the PPC world. The trend is expected to rise again in 2021. With an increased number of people using social media and social media ads on the rise, it is evident that display ads are more appealing than picture ads. This is one of the reasons video ads are expected to be a PPC trend in 2021. The ‘story’ feature in most social media sites will also trigger the use of video ads. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat will see too many video ads.

Harnessing the power of first-party data

One of the major PPC trends that I expect for 2021 is the way data is sourced. The reason for this is going to be that there are changes that are taking place in global privacy policies, and third party cookies are slowly being restricted. These restrictions and changes will only be increasing with time, which is why search marketers need to come up with a strategy that can maintain the privacy of their content and also how their data is used and how they obtain data. First-party data strategy is the key focus of search marketers, and it shall remain their priority throughout 2021. These strategies help in benefitting multiple digital channels. It’ll help businesses to track and recover a large chunk of their traffic data.

New Instagram opportunities

IGTV and Reels have been the highlight of this year, and I can foresee them as a trend for 2021. Reels though is a relatively new concept, but it will flourish into something even stronger because of the new space it has in Explore for public accounts. All that content creators need to focus on is to create content that is relevant to their niche, use keywords in their video captions, and Instagram will categorize them according to their field of interest. Reels and IGTV both have gained organic popularity. Due to how well these two features are going, the platform will figure out more ways to monetize them, and businesses will be using them more as well.

Janet Patterson

Janet Patterson

Janet Patterson, VP of Marketing Communications.
Peter Thaleikis

Peter Thaleikis

Peter Thaleikis is a software engineer turned marketer from Germany / New Zealand. His company, Bring Your Own Ideas Ltd., helps people to turn their ideas into reality.

Diversification of channels

2021 will bring us increasing diversification of channels. We have seen more viable PPC channels in 2020. With Twitter and Reddit becoming stronger players this is likely to increase. At the same time, we are likely to get less data and details provided. Google already made steps in this direction. With this, we will likely have a stronger vendor lock-in.

Continued Acceleration of YouTube Advertising Growth

YouTube’s growth as a performance marketing channel has been steadily growing even prior to the pandemic, but the pandemic has accelerated that growth. People are spending more time inside, and they are seeking out YouTube as a platform for rich, engaging video content. However, I don’t believe YouTube’s popularity will wane once the pandemic ends. This accelerated shift to YouTube over the past year is here to stay and will continue.

This presents PPC advertisers an important opportunity to invest more in YouTube campaigns as part of their full-funnel marketing strategy. That said, more opportunity also means more challenges. Competition and consumer expectations will continue to increase, so advertisers need to craft an effective brand story and consumer journey to stand out from the competition and resonate with consumers.

Discovery Ads Growth

Google will continue to prioritize the growth of Discovery Ads, a visually rich ad format that can appear across various ad networks (including the YouTube home feed, Gmail Promotions, and the Google Discover feed).

Google’s announcement that starting July 1, 2021, Gmail campaigns advertisers won’t be able to create new Gmail campaigns or make changes to existing Gmail campaigns is an early indication of Google’s focus on Discovery Ads.

Emphasis on Opti-Score and Google’s In-Platform Recommendations

Opti-Score, Google’s tool for scoring campaigns and account health, will become more important for advertisers. Google “rewards” accounts and campaigns with higher opti-scores the more they implement automation and other Google recommendations.

While many of Google’s recommendations are easy for advertisers to adopt, others, such as automatic budget changes, may not be as easy to adopt depending on account goals. That said, Google will continue to push advertisers to adopt as many of its recommendations as possible. Consistently low opti-scores may result in the removal of certified partner or premiere status for agencies working with Google.

Megan Conahan

Megan Conahan

Megan Conahan, EVP at Direct Agents.
John Ross

John Ross

John Ross is the CEO of Test Prep Insight, an online education company that helps students prepare for admissions and professional exams.

DuckDuckGo ads to gain significant popularity.

Yes, I know DuckDuckGo is not Google and only owns 1% of the search market, but their total search figures are skyrocketing. Additionally, their PPC bid rates are still fairly affordable as they don’t draw a ton of attention, and the competition among marketers is pretty low.

Based on third party analysis, DuckDuckGo outperforms both Yahoo! and Bing in terms of bounce rates and user engagement, and they tend to have a very tech-savvy and privacy-focused user base. In other words, I expect them to continue to grow like crazy, and this makes them a very attractive ad market. I would not doubt at all if they start garnering a lot of attention from marketers this year.

Artificial intelligence software

One PPC trend I expect to become more prominent this year is the use of artificial intelligence software. AI marketing solutions are capable of integrating with PPC campaigns to find optimizations and errors before humans can. They can also forecast budget and campaign performance to predict when ad spends needs to be adjusted or which ads will outperform others.

AI software and automation are already being adopted at a very rapid rate, and one of their biggest applications is marketing and advertising. As the barrier to entry lowers for businesses to easily use these solutions, I believe they will take on a bigger role in PPC.

Carmine Mastropierro

Carmine Mastropierro

Carmine Mastropierro is a copywriter who has written for Neil Patel, GoDaddy, and Forbes. He helps businesses generate traffic, leads, and revenue through copywriting and marketing services. Find him at Carminemastropierro.com
Sumant Vasan

Sumant Vasan

Sumant Vasan, Sr. Director of Digital Marketing at Confirm BioSciences.

Automated Smart Campaigns

With machine learning integration growing among all platforms, I envision even more usage of automated Smart Campaigns in the Google platform and beyond. Google ROAS for traditional campaign types continues to fall, while automated bidding strategies continue to outperform. This clear drop in return for campaigns that offer more flexibility and control are encouraging most professionals to transition to the black hole of Google automated strategies.

I think we can expect even more broad term usage as well since matching algorithms have gotten ‘smarter’ and can reduce loose matches. Therefore, broad match targeting can fill the pipeline with traffic that might have originally been interested in competitor brands. This is where you can then leverage retargeting strategies to move them down the marketing funnel and eventually improve conversion opportunities.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.