Paid Search Trends: Top PPC Predictions From 18 Experts

Mobile, tools, and audience are among the keys to paid search success.


What paid search trends should we expect to see emerge? What areas should you focus on to get the right ads in front of the right consumers and increase profits? Is it mobile? New software and automation tools? Tracking and attribution? Something else? To find out, Momentology reached out to 18 experienced paid search experts. Here are their insights into paid search trends and their predictions.

Mark Casey, Director of Inbound Marketing at Hanapin Marketing

The biggest trend we’re going to see is a movement toward predictability, to put it broadly. More specifically, people are interested in achieving consistent results, and while that’s not new, the industry is now moving very deliberately toward automation, software tools, and conversion rate optimization methods to maximize the value of each click. In short, no one wants to waste a click they paid for, and efforts to prevent that are becoming more and more sophisticated.

We just released our State of Paid Search, which is an annual report we create based on a survey of hundreds of industry leaders, and it shows PPC software and automation tools as the fastest-growing area of interest among the industry.

our survey showed a surging interest in conversion rate optimization (CRO), specifically landing page optimization, and that certainly proved to be true this year. CRO was still reported to be the biggest area of focus, and that coupled with the higher interest in automation should result in a great year for software companies and A/B testing tools like Unbounce or Optimizely.

Justin Freid, Vice President of Emerging Media (SEM, SEO, Social) at CMI/Compas

Mobile will continue to be the driving force of growth in PPC over the next year. Of the 6.8 billion people on earth, 4 billion have mobile devices.

Not only will we begin seeing the share of ad spend and clicks hedging toward mobile even more than before but we’ll learn even more information about our audience on mobile devices. By leveraging location data, we can get a deeper understanding of who the searcher is, where they shop, where they linger, how far they travel for certain products and services and hopefully, we can leverage behavioral and location-based data for search programs.

With this information overlaid with keyword search intent, we can be sure the individuals we target are at the prime spot in your products purchase cycle.

John Gagnon, Bing Ads Evangelist

Mobile traffic has exploded, but most search marketers haven’t invested in measuring or valuing a big offline conversion type: calls.

Tracking, measuring, and optimizing calls will be a trend.

Brad Geddes, Founder of Certified Knowledge and AdAlysis

One of the biggest trends we’re going to see is marketers once again paying attention to the creative.

The last few years have been spent on automation, scaling accounts, mobile growth, and slicing audiences into small sizes to set very granular bids. In the quest for scale, we’ve seen the actual message become secondary to monetary efficiencies.

Now that automation is working well and it’s easy for companies to slice their audiences into small pieces; we’re going to see a return to the actual message so that the ads can be customized and tested by each audience segment.

we’re going to return to marketing and actually pay attention to what we’re saying to consumers.

Andrew Goodman, Founder & President at PageZero Media

For better or for worse, a key trend in paid search now is more heated competition for the top two ad positions.

Partly by design, partly by evolution, Google in particular has built in a lot of incentive to gun for top spots. They take up more screen real estate than ever, and have the potential to convey significant trust cues based on the growing variety of appealing ad extensions that advertisers can qualify for. If you can afford it, that’s great; it’s a barrier to entry. If you fall short, you’re on the wrong side of the moat.

If a company has a solid business model and has continued to optimize its landing page conversion, funnel, lifetime value, etc., to the max, ROI in this channel may still be less of a challenge than volume and growth. So the old logic of settling for ad position 4 because it “looks pretty good at the top of the right rail” is becoming obsolete.

Twelve years ago, I wrote that “nibbling” in low ad positions can be a symptom that something isn’t quite right, and your business model might not be right for the ad auction you’re playing in. With few exceptions, it’s kind of fruitless to be pecking away in ad position 7 or 8.

The implication for advertisers is probably that they need to dial in the profitability of their business models. Conversion improvement would be very high on the list of how to immediately boost profit per click. Conversion improvement doesn’t need to be perfectionism in all cases. If there are serious barriers to conversion, they need to be removed. If there is even a 10% improvement in page speed that can be achieved without too much effort, it’s worth a lot to the bottom line. The mobile experience, needless to say, remains a huge barrier to improvement on many sites, so it must be part of the effort.

High CPCs and the growing incentive to occupy high ad positions dictate that conversion improvement is Job 1.

Emily Helander, Product Marketing Manager at Kenshoo

A key paid search trend for will be optimization shifting from thinking in terms of keywords to thinking about the consumer audiences you want to reach.

Marketers are beginning to better leverage intent gathered from search to inform how they engage with these audiences on search or across other channels. This tailored marketing will help brands standout in the crowded digital landscape.

Additionally, different teams will need to come together to create holistic campaigns to have a consistent conversation with consumers.

Joseph Kerschbaum, Midwest Account Director at 3Q Digital

I think mobile will continue to play a larger role for paid search and social in the coming year. The user trends can’t be ignored as people migrate to these devices.

We’ve already seen this migration and we’ll see more of the same. Will be the year where mobile traffic / search / interaction overtakes PCs? I don’t think so. But we’ll continue to see mobile grow and businesses that don’t keep up will be left behind.

Larry Kim, Founder & Chief Technology Officer at Wordstream

we’ll see the rise of Facebook Atlas and other people-based marketing solutions that will dramatically change how we think about PPC marketing.

In both paid search and display remarketing, we have no idea who is seeing our ads! We’re targeting anonymous people who have searched on a keyword, or recently visited a page on a site – who may or may not be a perfect fit for the products and solutions that we market.

The ability to upload emails/phone numbers of specific people and connect with them on different devices makes PPC marketing feel much more like email marketing and will open up online advertising use cases that were simply not possible in PPC ever before.

Brian Lee, Research Analyst at Marin Software

Mobile will continue to be a catalyst for change. By the end of the year we expect advertisers will spend about 50 percent of their paid search budgets on mobile.

However, putting ads in front of consumers browsing on their smartphones will no longer be enough. With more spend going to mobile, advertisers will start focusing more on improving the conversion of mobile.

Currently, about 42 percent of paid search spend is on mobile devices, yet mobile accounts for only 30 percent of overall search conversions, according to Marin Software data. The dominance of mobile will also drive advertisers to implement new technology; tools that can track online to offline purchases and ad technology that will allow marketers to target users as they move back and forth between devices and publishers.

John Lee, Managing Partner at Clix Marketing

is going to be an interesting year for PPC and digital advertising as a whole. While there will likely be big announcements and exciting changes coming, my guess is that foundational (read: comparatively boring) updates will have the biggest impact.

Specifically, global trends will be driven by updates to website tracking, cross-device conversion considerations and even attribution. Recent announcements from Bing Ads with UET (universal event tracking) and Google with improvements to Tag Manager point to a renewed focus on innovation behind website and conversion tracking. This will only grow as we move into and as advertisers fully adopt these changes.

Of course there are whispers and glimpses of even more exciting updates to tracking technology, remarketing implementations, and what all of this means to the PPC industry as a whole. Exciting times!

Melissa Mackey, Search Supervisor at gyro

In the B2B world, the biggest trend for has to be call tracking.

In past years, businesses could either use the click-to-call solutions from the PPC engines, which are free but yield limited data; or use a tracking provider, which offers detailed insight. Then, in late, Google changed the game with the launch of Website Call Conversions. Now, all businesses can now take advantage of free call tracking on their website that provides keyword-level data for their AdWords campaigns.

Once businesses see the value that call tracking data can provide, I expect to see a huge increase in the number of businesses using some type of call tracking solution. In B2B, where phone calls are often the main source of leads, the ability to track calls from PPC down to the keyword will drive exponentially more businesses to use this valuable feature.

Elizabeth Marsten, VP of Search Marketing at Portent Inc.

One of the biggest trends in paid search we’re going to see in PPC is less control and more dynamic solutions.

Between automation, machine-learning and the issues of privacy, we’re sitting on a path that is less keywords and more about topics, affinity and interests.

The hands on approach will still be there and necessary, but I’ll be interested to see if we start developing “topic” or “interest” maps/lists for sites alongside those keyword lists and letting the machines insert the final answer to the question.

David Pann, General Manager, Product Marketing, Microsoft Online Services Division

will be all about formats, data, and device. You’re going to see a real investment in understanding new ad formats.

We’re going to see unlocking the power of everyone’s data – joining it, looking at it, understanding it, and using it.

And we’re going to see a significant investment in attribution and cross-device attribution.

Marc Poirier, Founder and EVP at Acquisio

Complexity is continuing to grow – marketers need to develop separate strategies for mobile, learn to work with audience data, control bid adjustments, and master a bunch of new ad formats.

To add to this, Bing Ads is continuing to gain market share, and Yahoo has introduced a mobile search platform of their own. Not to mention the Facebook ads imperative.

To be successful, marketers will need to become even more savvy, and will have to rely more and more on automation to measure correctly and deliver optimal results.

Lisa Raehsler, Founder of Big Click Co.

We’ve been talking about mobile PPC for several years, but the majority of advertisers have not jumped on board with mobile-friendly websites and landing pages.

will be the year mobile PPC will go mainstream but results will still be difficult to predict and track.

Steve Sirich, General Manager, Bing Ads Product Marketing

One of the big trends is audience marketing and audience targeting. Everything we’re doing is about understanding intent. It’s all about audience – understanding more and more about them and delivering more relevant messages.

The areas of display and search are going to become very gray and come together in terms of how you think about buying search and display, and retargeting across all those audiences.

David Szetela, Owner & CEO at FMB Media

By the end, for most PPC advertisers, the majority of impressions and clicks will come from mobile devices.

Bonus prediction: for many AdWords advertisers using search and display, the majority of impressions and clicks will come from the Google Display Network – especially when remarketing data is included.

Frederick Vallaeys, Founder of Optmyzr, Partner at SalesX, Former Google AdWords Evangelist

will be the year of more dynamic AdWords ads. We’ve already seen Shopping ads take on a more prominent role, often eclipsing traditional keyword-targeted ads. I expect we’ll see more advertisers who create ads from their company’s structured data, making ads more useful.

Advertisers who only use old-school dynamic keyword insertion will have a hard time keeping pace with those using AdWords Scripts and ad customizers to generate ads with up-to-the-minute data.

I expect we’ll also see Google introduce new tools that make it easier to make real-time ads, for example in the travel vertical.

OK, your turn. What do you predict will be the top paid search trends?