Paid Search Trends 2015: Top PPC Predictions From 18 Experts

Mobile, tools, and audi­ence are among the keys to paid search suc­cess in 2015.

Danny Goodwin By Danny Goodwin from Momentology. Join the discussion » 4 comments

What paid search trends should we expect to see emerge in 2015? What areas should you focus on in 2015 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 for 2015.

Mark Casey, Director of Inbound Marketing at Hanapin Marketing

Mark CaseyThe biggest trend we’re going to see in 2015 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 2014 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.

In 2013, 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 for 2015, 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

Justin FreidMobile 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

John Gagnon 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 in 2015.

Brad Geddes, Founder of Certified Knowledge and AdAlysis

Brad GeddesOne of the biggest trends we’re going to see in 2015 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.

In 2015, 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

Andrew GoodmanFor 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 in 2015.

Emily Helander, Product Marketing Manager at Kenshoo

Emily HelanderA key paid search trend for 2015 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

Joseph KerschbaumI 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 in 2014 and we’ll see more of the same in 2015. Will 2015 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

Larry KimIn 2015, 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

Brian LeeMobile will con­tin­ue to be a cat­a­lyst for change in 2015. 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

John Lee2015 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 2015 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 2015 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

Melissa MackeyIn the B2B world, the biggest trend for 2015 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 2014, 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.

Elizabeth MarstenOne of the biggest trends in paid search we’re going to see in PPC in 2015 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

David Pann 2015 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

Marc PoirierCom­plex­i­ty 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.

Lisa RaehslerWe’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.

2015 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

steve sirichOne 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

David SzetelaBy the end of 2015, 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

Frederick Vallaeys2015 will be the year of more dynam­ic AdWords ads. We’ve already seen Shop­ping ads take on a more promi­nent role in 2014, often eclips­ing tra­di­tion­al key­word-tar­get­ed ads. In 2015 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 in 2015? Share your thoughts in the com­ments.

Danny Goodwin

Written by Danny Goodwin

Managing Editor, Momentology

Danny Goodwin is the former Managing Editor of Momentology. Previously, he was the editor of Search Engine Watch, where he was in charge of editing, content strategy, and writing about search industry news.

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