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The PPC Trends Your CMO Shouldn't Ignore in 2018

Written by Jeff Allen, President of Hanapin Marketing

As President of a growing digital marketing company in an industry that changes almost weekly, I worry a lot.  I am constantly deliberating on the balance of things I am worrying about versus the things I should be worrying about. What are the things that are actually going to have an impact on my company? What can I push aside and not stress so much about, at least for a little while?


The following are trends I worry about, and ones that I think advertisers should be aware of in 2018. Some of them are very early in their lifecycle and thus just good to keep an eye on. But a few will profoundly change our landscape within the year.


#1 Audience Targeting


Google spent much of 2017 rolling out new audience targeting features and pushing advertisers to implement some sort of audience targeting, even if just to capture data, in every campaign. There are several reasons for this, but I believe the primary one is that once they’ve collected enough data from enough advertisers, there will be some seriously robust automation coming our way (see Artificial Intelligence below).


Audience targeting goes beyond Google. Facebook and LinkedIn will continue to develop their audience targeting tools in 2018. In my experience, folks that are early adapters, and specifically that have a structured approach to testing and learning what works, will have a big advantage for about a year after the releases occur.


#2 Artificial Intelligence


In addition to Audience Targeting, all the major engines have invested in AI. Mostly in the form of machine learning tools that “help” advertisers automate bids and budgets. In 2018, you should be experimenting with manual bids compared to automated. It’s the first year where I think we’ll see significant gains for some advertisers by going fully automated with bid and budgets.


Utilize AdWords Drafts and Experiments to test yourself against the machines. We have found that around 80% of the time, we can still beat the machine with semi-automated solutions, like scripts and rules.


The most interesting use of AI to me, is in creative. All the major platforms will benefit if CTR increases, and many advertisers do not have a structured process for ad creation and testing. Things like Dynamic Search Ads are a step this way, but I think you’ll see major new applications of AI to creative in 2018.


Also, I think Google will have big releases that push Attribution further (both in terms of accuracy and how hard they push you to adopt it.)



# 3 Voice – still


It will be the year of Voice every year until 2022. That’s my prediction. At that point, queries with commercial intent will be significant enough to, combining with mobile, begin making desktop an also-ran device.


Just recently, we learned that Amazon is working on making big strides this year to monetize voice search with Alexa ads. Check out this article about it on CNBC. However, I still think this will only be successful and used for big brand advertisers, like Clorox and P&G. I doubt it will be available for other advertisers until 2019 and beyond.


Even with this news, there is no need for a Voice specific strategy right now.  I think 2018 will be more like 2017, in that with proper keyword additions you will be targeting voice queries and thus capitalizing on the increase in volume. That will change as consumer behavior changes and if ad formats are successfully developed, but for most advertisers, we have a couple years to go before it’s something you need to have a specific strategy for.


One thing you can do is make sure you’re structuring the data on your site (Schema Markup). While not a PPC specific tactic, I believe Voice will rely heavily on this markup. I also think more ad extensions will be rolled out that uses structured markup.


# 4 Chrome’s Built in Ad Blocker


Chrome launches their built-in ad blocker mid-February. This will be interesting as most people think it will only block really bad ads, ones that wouldn’t pass Google’s advertising standards anyway, so the impact for folks using DoubleClick and/or GDN will be low.


It will also be interesting to see what kind of anti-trust lawsuits comes with it.



# 5 Increasing Importance of On Page Optimization

While I think CPC’s have reached somewhat of an equilibrium (gradual increases versus big spikes from increased competition), it is going to be those who have the highest conversion rate that wins scale.


Conversion rates can, and should, be increased on both the pre-click and post-click sides. Pre-click is about targeting the right audiences and keywords with the best ad. Post-click is about removing friction from the user’s experience once they hit your site.


Site load time has been and will continue to be the most important aspect of creating a frictionless experience.


For some perspective, we constantly test user experience for PPC Hero, Hanapin Marketing, and Hero Conf, as well as spend budget testing our advertising –  because we’ve found that CRO is majorly impactful and valuable. We make iterative changes monthly, often weekly, and usually roll out new designs every 2-3 years.



# 6 Dealing with Amazon


If you’re an ecommerce advertiser, you must decide how to deal with Amazon (this will probably affect some B2B advertisers as well within the year). Do you join them; giving them access to your data and creating some competition for yourself? Or do you ignore them; choosing to fight the largest ecommerce platform?


We have significant evidence that advertising through Amazon is the right path for most businesses.


Disruption Can Be Good


There will likely be some surprises in 2018 – remember how SERP’s were redesigned in 2017?! But if you’re thinking about how the big platforms will capture new demand, and how they will increase CPC’s on current demand, you’re thinking about what could disrupt your business the right way.