What will paid search look like in 2014?

In the paid search world, 2013 was as busy at it gets. Major changes to Google included the Enhanced Campaigns migration and rise of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) not to mention the maturing of Facebook as an advertising platform.

However, one of the biggest shifts was outside of paid search with Google’s move to [not provided] on SEO keyword data removing visibility for advertisers in the SEO channel, boosting paid search in the process.

This is fantastic for those of us who work in paid search, but what is next? Looking forward I’ve been thinking about what will be the hot search marketing topics in 2014.

Multi-platform strategies become critical

According to data recently release by comScore, 69% of UK consumers are in what its calling the ‘multi-platform majority’, with internet access gained via multiple devices. 

This is even more prevalent in the valuable 25-34 age demographic, where 86% no longer rely solely on computer-based internet access. We also know that different devices are used at different times of the day. In 2014 it will be crucial to have a strategy that encompasses all platforms.

When all campaigns became Enhanced Campaigns in June 2013 it made multi-platform strategies in paid search available to even the smallest of advertisers. Because budget is optimised across all devices at the same level, advertisers in 2014 need to refine their smartphone and tablet user experience to make any investment worthwhile. 

A decent UX will see conversion rates on these devices increase, as well as better tracking how searching on mobile and tablet impacts on offline conversions.

However, as advertisers do this tablet CPCs will reach similar levels to those on a desktop, and searches on tablets will increase in volume as tablet ownership continues to rise. 

An open technology eco-system takes shape

The biddable media ecosystem is becoming more complex and fragmented, with more channels becoming viable options all the time.

For a unified view of data and the possibility for effective cross-channel optimisation it’s increasingly important that technologies within the space (eg, analytics, bid management, SEO tools, call tracking software, tag management, ad servers, RTB platforms ) provide open interfaces so that advertisers connect the data between these different tools and their own proprietary / legacy tools.

Attribution starts to drive revenue

Attribution has been much talked about for a long time. However, it’s never been shown to actually drive revenue increases. As an open technology ecosystem develops within the paid search industry, we will see the attribution tools and the tools responsible for search optimisation talk to each other.

This will enable the automation of turning attributed data into actions which optimise revenue. This is a small but important change which will really put attribution on the map in the paid search industry.

Audience and contextual data takes search optimisation even further

We’ve seen the first step towards audience data being combined with biddable media through the success of Facebook Custom Audiences, and Google’s move to Enhanced Campaigns also allowed advertisers to buy search ads through audiences based on which device they were using.

In 2014 we expect to see search bids being modified based on even richer customer data. For example, insurance companies will be able to boost bids when they know someone’s renewal is approaching and bid down when they have just renewed, and florists will be able to bid up when they know someone’s wedding anniversary is approaching.

There are many use cases, but ultimately in the future, bids will be customised according to demographics and interests.

Bringing audience data together with intent data from search will become one of the most powerful forms of marketing. Next year will see the search industry get serious about this combination.

With search marketers always looking for the next way to squeeze additional ROI from their search campaigns, we will also see the integration of contextual data into search. Many offline factors can impact a searchers propensity to purchase.

For example, if it’s raining searchers are more likely to buy a take-away. In the New Year this kind of contextual optimisation, where bids are modified by offline factors such as weather or stock market fluctuations, will give smart search marketers an edge.

Social advertising grows in importance for the biddable media industry

Facebook’s innovation within advertising, post IPO, is delivering real results for advertisers. This only looks like accelerating, with Facebook starting to really mine its audience data for advertisers and profits flourishing on mobile devices.

Following Twitter’s IPO I expect to see it innovate further over the coming years and begin offering more value for advertisers. 

In summary when formulating your 2014 plans consider that, this year, consumers will see smarter adverts than ever before, influenced by new data streams, on more devices than ever before and with advertising on social channels growing increasingly important. 

The rest is here:
What will paid search look like in 2014?

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