Our Head of Paid Media, Dave Hatton, shares his thoughts on how he believes paid search will look in 2019.
2018 hosted some big changes in paid search – no more so than Google fully rolling out a much cleaner, new-look interface for the now rebranded Google Ads to go along with their newly revamped Google Marketing Platform.
The AdWords interface change was much needed. The first in many years for Google, it was very welcome by all – though I admit it was hard to let go of AdWords. I waited right up until the last day to fully transfer over to Google Ads!
Bing also raised their game. They appear to be getting quicker in rolling out not only their usual, remarkably-similar-to-Google updates, but their own unique product tests, too, such as Flyer Extensions in the US. They’ve also made it even easier to transfer Google campaigns over to Bing Ads – if they can update their clunky interface next, they could be onto a winner.
Other highlights from 2018 include:
- Audience targeting evolving further
- Voice search growing
- Even more additional lines of text within ad copy to play around with
- Responsive Search Ads
- The strange evolution of ‘exact match’ no longer being, well, exact!
An automated 2019?
In my opinion, 2019 promises further evolution of all things Google AI. Essentially, Google will utilise machine learning even more than we’ve already seen with the likes of Responsive Search Ads and Smart Bidding. This includes learnings taken from voice search devices, which will no doubt continue to grow further. However, there’s still a general feeling of unknown when it comes to how voice is impacting the paid side of search, and how best we can take advantage of it beyond including actionable and long-tail conversational keywords in campaigns.
Google assisting our campaigns more heavily will be a key factor going forward. The new interface has clearly been built with this in mind, allowing more detailed recommendations to be highlighted to the advertiser. Once checked over by experienced human eyes to ensure campaign strategy is on-point, it takes only a click or two to implement account-wide AI recommendations.
Placing faith in Google’s machine learnings this way can understandably leave many sceptical, including clients – automation will not always be the right fit for certain campaigns/strategies. However, automation via Smart Bidding has already played a vital part in generating some fantastic performances for a number of our clients in 2018. The scepticism has died down and has instead been replaced with curiosity towards how this will continue to evolve.
Audience targeting continues to develop and has already kicked off interesting conversations about whether the long-term plan is to replace keyword targeting altogether. This focus on AI does beg the question – will complete automation be fully rolled out in the near future? And does one size fit all in terms of automated campaigns? Manual bidding is obviously still important for the early stages of campaigns going live, so that Google can build up the data learnings – but what if Google were able to comfortably remove this stage altogether?
As paid search advertisers, we shouldn’t ignore the changes happening on the organic side of things, such as featured snippets and answers to questions being pushed up higher and higher in the rankings, decreasing the chance, and need, for paid ads. These changes directly affect how users would engage with search results – especially when it comes to voice search answering conversational queries. This could potentially result in time wasted on creating specific paid strategies. With more reliance on machine learning, would Google’s AI take into account the organic changes better than a human?
I think 2019 will be an automation proving ground for Google, more so than 2018, with more audience types and Smart Bidding building an eventual pathway to all campaigns being fully automated some time in the future. A bold theory, but with the potential of keywords being replaced by more advanced audience segment targeting, bids being taken care of via Smart Bidding models, and ad copy being dynamic and/or responsive, the human element is slowly being removed.
Of course, automation doesn’t always mean the removal of complete control. Time saved for advertisers in one area means more time focusing on building client relationships, devising strategies, and creating added value. I think if this is the path Google are planning to take, we should embrace it.