Top trends for SEM and PPC campaigns in 2019

Created by Kondiment
on September 06, 2019

It’s easy to get excited about the future of SEM. But the reality is that most companies struggle with conversion rates for PPC ads. Why is this happening and what actions can you take? In this article we’ll take a closer look, without getting too technical, at the most effective SEM strategies and trends in 2019.

The decrease in paid ads conversion rates comes partially from Ad Fatigue since multiple studies found out that a staggering of 74% Gen Zers and Millennials are fed up with online ads. As a result, giants like Google, Facebook and Apple have been making online advertising efforts costly for businesses in an attempt to offer a more diversified advertising climate.

Although AI and Machine Learning, aka automation, are the buzzwords of the year, we still believe we’re not fully there just yet.

Here are Kondiment’s insights into Search Engine Marketing in 2019:

Writing killer copy is still your primary PPC weapon

There’s no way around it! Behind all the technical and analytical strategies lies unique, engaging and converting copy. A creative and efficient copy needs to be crafted according to goal-oriented searches. Think in terms of urgency level and the buyer’s journey: low-level (awareness stage), middle-level (research stage), high-level (decision/buying stage).

Your copy must be written with these goals in mind and you need to identify which strategy converts best for your campaigns. For instance, an ad copy containing “free trial for 30 days” (low urgency) might convert better in the long term than an ad copy containing “buy the best sunburn lotion now” (high urgency).

Visual and voice searches are becoming mainstream

Not all your ads need to sport top-notch copy! Google allows advertisers to include a picture and price (without text) of a targeted product to rank better on SERPs. This works best in eCommerce and travel industries, but in 2019 more and more companies are slowly adopting these trends. Likewise, video carousels (mostly YouTube videos) show up at the top of a page, or at least on the first page. So, do consider video ads. Even if they might prove to be more expensive, you reach a massive audience.

As of 2019, marketers and businesses cannot ignore the power of voice searches any longer. With the rise of IoT smart speakers such as Alexa (Amazon Echo), Google Assistant (Google Home), Siri (HomePod) or Bixby (Galaxy Home), your AI devices are not only listening to your commands on your smartphone but can now help you control your IoT home devices as well. These trends, especially the home voice assistants, are truly at their starting point and it’s a market you should definitely keep an eye on. In fact, voice searches via mobile devices have been gaining traction since 2017.

What does this mean for your PPC ads? Well… they just need to sound more natural/informal and be developed on a question-based model. Just consider how a Gen Z or Millenial uses Siri to shop online: “Siri, what are the top fashion trends this fall?”. In voice searches, the word count can easily exceed 10 “keywords” and your SEO strategies need to be intuitive enough to leverage this trend.

Pay greater attention at improving Ad Rank

There used to be a saying that Google Ads was the online Wild West of auctioning! In the simplest terms, Google Ads bidding means that those advertisers paying the highest for a certain keyword are ranked best (normally at the top) on search engines pages. Things have taken a turn meanwhile, and Google’s ever-changing algorithms have been favouring the bidders with the highest Ad Rank.

But what’s an Ad Rank exactly? It’s actually the methodology through which Google decides which ads rank at the top, in second and third place, and which ads do not pass the threshold to be displayed. The Quality Score along with the bidding are the two main factors you should optimize. Here’s how they are calculated:

Quality Score = your ad’s relevance to a keyword + user experience + landing page quality + click-through rate

Ad Rank = Cost-per-click bid X Quality Score

Here are some basic suggestions to improve your Quality Score and consequently decrease costs:

  • Making your website SEO-friendly, which will result in improving your landing page quality and therefore the Quality score
  • Introducing your main keywords in your meta tags and content, to create a relevant link between your ads’ keywords and landing pages

Remember what we wrote above about writing killer copy? That same rule applies to your Ad Rank as well. Here at Kondiment, when we do a digital audit, we also take into consideration past ads campaigns and we assess every parameter individually to determine where and what can be improved.

Retargeting with long-tail keywords may increase conversions by 50%

We need to explain in plain terms what this means step by step. For manually tracked PPC campaigns, UTM parameters are included in your ad’s links and allow you to track them via Google Analytics. Basically, we talk about a UTM-tagged link that shows you where your leads come from (what they clicked and where they landed) along with other details and thus you’ll determine how effective a PPC campaign is. This information will appear in your Google Analytics account in the Acquisition section (Source / Medium). Moreover, unless you use a UTM, campaigns that run on social media like Facebook or Twitter will only be recorded as referrals in Google Analytics and you won’t be able to track the source.

Tip: always use a URL shortener for your UTM-tagged links and be aware that UTMs are case sensitive!

So, your leads got to your landing page but they didn’t actually convert. You can’t give up just yet, can you? They most likely have a high level of intent if they’ve found you through a specific keyword, but maybe they're just not ready to buy yet. In this case, your next ad (visual/audio/text) on your PPC platform must leverage a long-tail keyword from your ad group list related to the keyword your leads initially had searched for.

Sounds a bit complicated? This simply means that you should retarget those specific leads with relevant ads that answer their queries or solve their problems, by using UTMs containing long tail keywords (e.g. “black_cars_for_sale_in _london”) to get one step closer to converting your leads.

Channel expansion in display advertising offers uncharted possibilities

Display ads, which can be created in-house or by affiliate marketers, are the culprits that plagued the reputation of online advertising. For many years, some of these types of ads have been guilty of tricking consumers with false advertising, spamming, viruses, intrusiveness and many more. In light of these events, Google and Facebook, the two juggernauts which represent the Renaissance of display ads, reshaped advertising by promoting and listing relevant, non-clickbait and personalised ads.

Google and Facebook have been monopolizing this market for many years and this is where the bulk of their revenue comes from. With fierce competition among advertisers and businesses, higher restrictions on particular verticals (adult industry, pharmaceuticals, gaming or affiliate marketing) and increasingly expensive keywords, in 2019 you should look beyond these two options.

Although Yahoo has seen its prestige dwindled over the years, the reality is that advertisers can still reach over 1 billion users and use a slew of identifiers such as location, age, gender and other demographics factors to optimize their campaigns. Other popular or uptrending options are Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, Spotify, LinkedIn and even TikTok (for younger audiences) - each with their own rules and best practices. These display networks benefit particular businesses and niches, so if you want to find out more about it, why not give us a call?

Businesses are driving their efforts and budget to local searches

There are plenty of keywords in the online sea! Local ones, to be more precise. As an micro-entrepreneur, SME or and even as a global corporation (with branches in different countries, cities and markets), you need to take into consideration the importance of advertising locally and increasing the online-to-offline sales channels. Consumers like familiarity with nearby places and they like to be reassured that if something goes wrong they can easily drop by a physical office.

From hotels to restaurants and from banks to clinics, running PPC campaigns locally can offer you the exposure you need. The easiest and most efficient way to leverage local searches is with Google My Business, which offers free listings on Google Maps for businesses of all kinds. However, you can also bid for paid ads but but keep in mind that Ad Rank rules apply in this case as well.

We recommend you to feature accurate information about your business (category, address, opening hours, phone number) along with customers’/clients’ reviews (while monitoring and replying to them) and pictures (building, employees, etc.). Google’s algorithms will rank your business based on relevance, physical distance (between your business and customer's location) and prominence (popularity, either online or offline).

More advertisers are jumping on the Ad Extensions bandwagon

One easy way to improve your Ad Rank is through Ad Extensions, which are short snippets that can be introduced either manually or automatically. You can add info such as “10% discount today”, “our location”, “top selling products”, “free shipping”, “7-day free trial”, “contact us” and many more. You can take advantage of both clickable and unclickable extensions. However, keep in mind that you are limited to 75 characters maximum (ideally 25 characters) and you can add up to 6 sitelink extensions (clickable) for desktop and up to 4 on mobile. Furthermore, Google will be your true AI friend since it chooses the top converting ad extensions to display.

But there are many categories of ad extensions (which we will not bore you with). From our experience these manual extensions are most likely to increase your sales in 2019:

  • Sitelink extensions - instead of limiting your leads to your homepage or landing page, you can introduce hyperlinks just beneath your meta description and offer them the possibility to choose the page they like (e.g. “top selling smartphones”_ “your free gifts”_ “new arrivals”, etc.).
  • Callout extensions - you’ve seen them around as unclickable descriptions, such as “free shipping”. But now is high time you got creative and unique with a copy that can make your business stand out, such as “free shipping internationally in less than 3 days”.
  • Call/text extensions - these buttons allow your prospective customers to call or text you straight from your ad extension, which makes you more approachable and friendly.

However, every business is different and for instance an eCommerce website could also benefit from an App extension (e.g. “Download our App now”). Kodiment has the expertise to identify which ad extension suits every particular niche and sales targets.

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence will disrupt the status-quo

Running two or more ads per ad group and manually assessing their performance has been the status-quo of PPC A/B testing for years. But Google, in all its infinite wisdom, is encouraging advertisers to adapt to new practices. We’ve already mentioned some of them throughout this article, such as automatic display of ad extensions, but there are many more. Just as relevant are automated functions like ad rotation, ad creation, bid optimization, which will exponentially reduce the man-hours for keyword research and bid optimizations.

What does this mean for advertisers? First off, for some particular brands who favour a specific tone of voice and meticulously crafted copy, having Google create, select and rotate ads automatically via its AI algorithms might not be the best solution. However, probably by 2020, these PPC practices will mature and will become commonplace for many industry-leading marketers.

In order to future-proof themselves, agencies will need to adapt, increase their analytic and data input, hire highly creative professionals and IT specialists to work in tandem with AI technologies. In full disclosure, that’s something Kondiment has already started doing for quite some time!

What does the future have in store for PPC campaigns?

Kondiment predicts that apart from machine learning and automation, emerging technologies such as virtual and augmented reality will present new opportunities for marketers, based on the fact that Facebook and Apple are popularizing these new mediums. Agencies, marketers, and businesses alike will need to adapt fast and not be afraid to innovate and experiment with new digital solutions.

The synergy between AI and human talent is inevitable and we should all look forward to exciting possibilities. Meanwhile, if you need help with implementing these PPC strategies, please feel free to send us a short message!