2012 Year In Review: Pay-Per-Click Marketing

ppc

Much has changed in the ever evolving world of PPC. With the world coming to an end on the 21st, it's time to take a look back at some of the major changes to the PPC landscape in 2012 and dream of what a post-apocalyptic PPC world might be like. Being that Google updates the Adwords platform every 1-2 minutes, I'll be covering the major changes that affected the PPC landscape on a more macro-level. This post will take a look at 2 disruptive changes to the PPC landscape from 2012 as well as 2 potentially disruptive changes to the PPC landscape in 2013.

Disruptive 2012 change #1: Google Checkout/Merchant/Shopping & Product Listing Ads
Through June of 2012, Google's SERPs had both paid and "organic" Google Shopping placements. Both placements were being fed from the Google Merchant Center, which used one inventory feed for both paid and organic product listings. (Note: This topic was covered at length by Blue Fountain Media's Jared Del Prete)
Similarly to text search results, an e-tailor could sell products on a CPC basis or could acquire customers for free if they clicked the product result in the organic Google Shopping portion of the SERPs. The below screenshot shows what product SERPs looked before Google altered the e-commerce landscape:

(source: pmdigital.com)

The area labeled "shopping search listings free" has been replaced with just sponsored "product listing ads" with all product, image ads being shifted to the center. The new SERPs appear as follows:

Why this change is disruptive
The change in product listing ads and the overall e-commerce Google landscape has further flattened the marketplace for advertisers. In the past, Product Listing Ads were highly profitable due to the nature of the ad (product image, pricing and promotion) and the lack of competition on the ads. Since the switch to just Sponsored Product Listings, competition has increased as has the cost per click which equates to a lower ROI for advertisers.

Disruptive 2012 Change #2: Dynamic Search Ads
First beta tested by Google in October of 2011, Dynamic Search Ads didn't become offered in full to advertisers until Q1 of 2012. Without going into too much detail, Dynamic Search Ads were implemented by Google in an attempt to make setting up PPC campaigns simpler by utilizing the organic search index of a webpage or website. While a great concept, this change does little to help advertisers who need to utilize PPC since their organic presence, or indexation of their website isn't strong to begin with. Similar to running a traditional PPC campaign, Dynamic Search Ad campaigns require a lot of time for optimizations as the default, or plug and play aspect will lead to wasted spend for advertisers.

These results appear less like typical PPC ads and to the untrained eye can be perceived as an organic result. The below example shows how a dynamic search ad is generated, note how the headline looks very similar to a title tag (the headline for organic results):

Why this change is disruptive
Dynamic Search Ads are disruptive more-so for Account Managers at Google and Digital Agencies who have utilized their expertise to help advertisers improve their ROI on paid search. While dynamic search ads take a high level of knowledge to optimize, it eliminates the need for extensive keyword research, campaign setup and structuring. It makes it easier for new advertisers to create a comprehensive paid search campaign, but for the time being, it's not as simple as something like Adwords Express which made local PPC simple to setup and run with.

The addition of Dynamic Search Ads is just one more way for Google to continuously improve the paid search landscape. Improvements like Dynamic Search Ads and the alteration to Google's Sponsored Product Listing ads are some of the major changes we saw in 2012, which brings us to what might be on the horizon for Adwords in 2013.

2013 prediction #1: Google's own Search Retargeting Platform
Search Retargeting has been an offering for a number of years, but lack of awareness and high entry costs have limited its use by advertisers. Google's Display Network has always been the simplest ad network to tap into and use to target users by more than just placements, and it appears they may be launching their own search retargeting product in 2013.

Search Retargeting enables advertisers to follow users with display ads to users who performed a search query but without the need for that user to land on your website or even view an ad impression. For the sake of not turning this into a post on Search Retargeting, I'll reference the following article by James Moore, CRO of Simpli.fi, which goes in depth into Search Retargeting, it's emergence and the possibility of Google rolling out their own Search Retargeting product.

A recent infographic by Simpli.fi does a great job of visualizing the search retargeting landscape as well as the kinds of optimizations that can be made on a Search Retargeting campaign.
simplifi infographic

In sum, the ability to target users with intent, and optimize at the keyword level is something unheard of in the display landscape. If Google's (potential) Search Retargeting product is as innovative and customizable as what Simpli.fi has been able to establish, it will mark a dramatic shift in the world of PPC advertising.

2013 prediction #2: Adwords Mobile App
Managing PPC campaigns are a gift and a curse in regards to how easy and immediate altering campaigns can be. It's great having the ability to alter PPC campaigns and see immediate results from the changes made to a campaign. The downside of this is that it typically takes a Computer to make changes to a campaign, it's not something that can currently be done from a mobile device.

Every now and again a crisis will arise where alterations to PPC campaign status, budget or targeting need to be addressed immediately. One of the major selling points of PPC management is the ability to alter/pause/adjust campaigns in an instant. While some apps exist, Google is doing it's advertisers a disservice by not offering the ability to alter campaigns through mobile apps.

My wish/prediction for 2013 here is that Google will roll out a mobile app (hopefully a cross-platform app) that will enable advertisers to adjust campaigns while they're on the run.

Do you have any predicitions for pay-per-click marketing in 2013? Let me know in the comments section below or tweet at @BFMweb

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Comments

  1. Hey Matt,

    Thanks much for the section on search remarketing. We are seasoned Adwords users and thought we had tried everything Adwords had to offer (including building video ads with their display ad builder). Our eyes popped as we read what you wrote.

    Thanks again —

  2. Eric Hayes said:

    I thought what I’ve learned about Adwords is more than enough, not until I’ve read your post. Glad you have shared this, it’s an additional knowledge.

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