10 important PPC trends to watch in 2021

In a normal year, PPC marketing is pretty unpredictable.

But 2020 was anything but a normal year.

Last year, no one could have or predicted that we would be facing the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020.

Instead, our PPC experts were busy talking about trends like automation, audience targeting, and privacy.

Hopefully 2021 doesn’t throw so many curves for those of you who advertise PPC and paid social media.

So what will be the most important PPC trends in 2021?

As part of my fourth annual PPC Trends Review here on Search Engine Journal, I asked some of the top PPC experts for their ideas.

Here are the top 10 PPC trends you need to know for 2021 – from paid search and paid social media to remarketing and beyond – according to 32 experts.

Want all the trends now? Download our new ebook: PPC Trends 2021.

1. Goodbye, data

Data obfuscation, unfortunately, will be a continuing trend in 2021, according to Julie F. Bacchini, President and Founder, Neptune Moon.


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“Between Google Ads limiting access to search query data and the upcoming deletion of tracking cookies as we know them, digital marketers will again have to adapt quite significantly in 2021,” a declared Bacchini. “The bottom line for 2021: be prepared to be flexible.”

Amy hebdon, Founder, Paid Search Magic, said similar.

“It’s been a slow burn for years, but it’s the worst year on record for Google Ads to move away from transparency and limit the data we have to make the best decisions for our accounts,” Hebdon said. . “Barring regulatory interference, we can expect Google to continue on this path indefinitely by maximizing its own revenues and profits.”

Brad GeddesAdAlysis co-founder also expects Google to continue to hide data as it relies more on machine learning.

“I expect this trend to continue where Google forces advertisers to rely more on machine learning and Google data than their own expertise,” Geddes said. “While this trend may help the smaller advertiser, Google will continue to hurt larger, more sophisticated advertisers with these changes.”


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So what can PPC marketers do to be successful in this environment?

“Imperfect data is not everyone’s favorite, but savvy marketers will have to use incomplete data to see the noise signal,” said Mark Irvine, Director of Pay Media, SearchLab. “Rather than focusing on loss, savvy marketers will still need to see what works best with the 80% information they have and learn how to guide their campaigns to further target that audience.”

According to Irvine, this means:

  • Writing more “good” ads than “bad” ads with responsive ad elements.
  • Review search query patterns, rather than individual search terms.
  • Guide automatic auctions rather than directly controlling auctions.

And, according to Michelle Morgan, Director of Customer Services, Clix Marketing is also about doing more with less.

“Businesses are going to rely on PPC to generate greater portions of their revenue, while at the same time, channels are taking away functionality and data transparency,” Morgan said. “So we literally need to make a bigger impact for our customers with less control and a better understanding of performance.”

Ben wood, Chief Strategy Officer, Hallam, added that the erosion of hyper-specific targeting at the user level will push more advertisers to revert to contextual targeting methods and increase the importance of compelling creation.

“The importance of effective persuasion techniques to match the accuracy targeting most of us PPC marketers with which we have become more familiar will be emphasized,” said Wood.

2. Understand your audience and the buyer’s journey

As Aaron LevySays Tinuiti, Group Director, SEM, Tinuiti: The days when PPC marketers controlled every ad and every offer based only on words.

What does that mean?

“We’re going to be forced to look at the big picture of the audience we’re targeting,” Levy said. “While I mourn the loss of data that we were so used to from our friends at Google and Microsoft, I for one am delighted to have the opportunity to be a better marketer, at- beyond language-based ads.

In 2021, the most successful PPC marketers will be strategists focused on their target audience, said Kristopher jones, Founder and CEO, LSEO.com.


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“In an age where there is less control due to automation and artificial intelligence, what matters is who sees your ads to make sure you are getting qualified clicks,” Jones said. .

Therefore, advertisers who align PPC marketing efforts with the buyer’s journey will emerge ahead of the pack in 2021, according to Melissa Mackey, Research supervisor, gyro.

“As an advertiser, expect to spend time thinking about your customer and how they decide to buy from you.

  • How long does the process take?
  • Where do they interact?
  • What information do they need?
  • What could they be looking for?
  • How do you measure success at each step? “

And many other PPC experts have agreed, including Jonathan A. Kagan, Vice President of Research, 9RoofTops.

“The first thing for everyone to do is control your audience,” Kagan said. “Know who your target audience is. Know who is worth prospecting and who is most likely to convert. Separate them and manage them independently. “

With less information available about a potential client’s intent, marketers will need to evolve their approach and think more about engaging the right audiences, said Justin freid, Director of Growth and Innovation, CMI / Compas.


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“A tactical example of this is how we’ve seen strong adoption of Bing’s ability to incorporate LinkedIn data into their targeting,” Freid said. “Yes, intention is important, but knowing that you are targeting a qualified prospect / customer is of equal value. It will also help us to start looking at the customer’s LTV (Lifetime Value) versus a single sale based on paid search. “

Purna Virji, Senior Manager, Global Engagement, Microsoft Advertising, believes that in 2021, PPC will get back to basics, which means putting customers and communities first and targeted marketing.

She highlighted two important areas for reaching your customers:

  • Keywords: The goal here is to target potential customers based on their unique needs that match the keywords they use to satisfy their unique dimension of diversity.
  • Pictures: Choosing imagery is an important part of the process of building a meaningful and inclusive customer experience.

What does all this mean?

here’s how Kirk williams, Owner, ZATO, say it:

“The company that invests well in learning:

  • Who is their audience.
  • What they care about.
  • Where they spend their time.
  • What they want to hear.

… Can then develop a PPC campaign strategy targeting these (social) audiences and how they search (search).

This will inform:


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  • Creation and content of the landing page.
  • Advertising creation.
  • Various Google Ads targeting metrics like audiences, keywords, location, devices, etc. “

3. Even more automation

Like it or not, ad platforms are taking more control away from PPC marketers.

Steve hammer, President RankHammer believes this trend will accelerate in 2021.

“This will force us to rely on getting better data back into the platforms,” Hammer said. “This better data will have to account for much more than just binary metrics, even where we use it. Leads will have to factor in the quality and return values ​​based on that, or the platform will automate for those easy, low quality leads. “

Robert brady, Founder of Righteous Marketing, also believes that we will continue to see the proliferation of more automation in PPC.

“So if you want more success in your PPC efforts, get familiar with how automation works,” Brady said. “Humans are still needed, but platforms want their algorithms to have more leash.”


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As pointed out by Pauline Jakober, Founder and CEO, Group Twenty Seven, results are the ultimate goal – whether achieved through automated, manual, or a combination of the two managed strategies.

“For those areas of automation where we’ve lost control, PPC professionals will likely have to come to terms with, adapt and move on,” Jakober said. “However, the upside to this forced adaptation is that it will give PPC pros more cycles to focus on strategies that build brand awareness and affinity.”

Meanwhile, Frédéric Vallaeys, Co-founder of Optmyzr, said one of the big lessons learned in 2020 was that automation, when used the right way, can actually save the day everything else falls apart.

He believes advertisers will use automation to save time while finding ways to use human intelligence to manipulate these systems to gain an edge over their competition.

“For example, advertisers will spend more time establishing checks and balances for machines rather than performing account maintenance with automations like smart bid management tasks and responsive Search Ads previously. performed manually, ”Vallaeys said. “Advertisers will look for ways to be notified when these systems deviate from expectations, either because of shortcomings in the tools themselves or because unforeseen events in the world disrupt the best-designed plans.


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4. Diversification will become more important

An unintended consequence of losing control of Google is likely to lead more businesses to transfer PPC dollars to other search engines such as Microsoft Ads, according to Brooke Osmundson, Director of Pay Media, NordicClick Interactive.

“This platform always gives marketers the solid data they need to make sound strategic decisions,” Osmundson said.

Christine Zirnheld, Digital Marketer, Cypress North, said that one of the most important things PPC marketers can do in 2021 to prepare for success is to diversify their skills beyond Google Ads.

“As Google continues to move away from actionable data and shift its focus to machine learning, it will be vital for advertisers to be familiar with other ad platforms that allow them to better control their spend, reach and reach. messages, ”Zirnheld said. “In order to do the best possible job for our customers, we just can’t rely on Google Ads as heavily as we used to.”

Simply put: Diversification is the key to a successful PPC strategy, according to Amy bishop, Owner and digital marketing consultant, Cultivative.


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“The more diverse your media mix, the more agile you can be,” Bishop said. “A diversified strategy puts you in a good position to capitalize on opportunities to scale and / or reallocate the budget as needed in the wake of an unforeseen upheaval.”

Nikki kuhlman, Senior Account Manager, JumpFly, agrees.

“Test other platforms that help drive overall business,” Kuhlman said. “I’m starting to see this more and more with clients.

“I’m a ‘traditional’ PPC account manager, but I’ve spoken to clients about diversifying their advertising beyond Google Ads search and display and Microsoft Advertising. I’m also talking about testing YouTube. , native ads from Verizon Media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok if the audience is right for you, ”Kuhlman added.

5. Harness the power of first party data

The data source is about to be disrupted, as indicated by Christi olson, Global Media SEM Lead, Microsoft. This is due to changes in global privacy policies and restrictions on third party cookies on browsers.


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“Search marketers will need to focus on data in 2021 and work with their businesses and agencies to develop a data strategy to maintain privacy compliance and data usability in this new landscape,” said Olson .

“Given the reliance of marketers on cookie-based targeting technologies, I believe developing new non-cookie-based solutions is the key priority for marketers for 2021,” said Ilya Cherepakhin, Head of Performance Marketing, Milestone Inc.

“Businesses can achieve greater accuracy because they can segment first party data with great customization – as tightly as needed to manage business goals and align with broader organizational needs and business goals. brand, ”Cherepakhin added. “While daunting, building data-driven first-party solutions is worth it because they benefit multiple digital channels.”

Ed Leake, Managing Director of AdEvolver & Midas Media, said search engines no longer want you to follow anything meaningful. Being able to recover a good chunk of your traffic data is therefore a big problem.

“With server-side scanning, you dramatically increase the accuracy of tracking, and for the most part, web browsers can’t do anything to stop it,” Leake said. “Improving your proprietary data, just like last year, should be a priority.”


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6. New Instagram opportunities

Akvile DeFazio, The president, AKvertise, advises keeping an eye on Instagram.

“It’s only a matter of time before they open more ad placements for additional inventory through IGTV and Reels as they continue to rapidly gain popularity,” DeFazio said.

Susan wenograd, Director of Paid Acquisitions, Nextiva (and Search Engine Journal’s Paid Media Editor) echoed this, noting that ad formats such as Stories have performed extremely well and have taken on TikTok formats. by launching Reels.

“They will continue to find ways to monetize real estate on the platform,” Wenograd said. “They also need to attract the creators, which is what they haven’t always done a great job of. … We will probably see continued experimentation here.

7. The overall strategy will become more valuable

The industry is changing rapidly. Knowing where to push, where to pull, and when is an important skill set, Bishop says.

“As digital media geeks, most of us like to get lost in data. But having a creative mind and the ability to see the big picture is important, ”Bishop said. “As the cost of inventory increases, you need to figure out how to make your investment smarter.”


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Amy hebdon, Founder, Paid Search Magic, added that in 2021, the best defense will be a good offense.

“The better your campaigns are structured, the less negative ‘love at first sight’ is to campaign success,” Hebdon said. “Group your campaigns by topic and run ads and offers specifically tailored to your audience.”

“Target your market based on their preferences and behaviors, not just the variance seen in the data,” Hebdon added. “And, of course, make choices that match your goals, not Google’s scores and recommendations.”

8. Perfect the advertising message

How you articulate your message will be extremely important in 2021.

As Irvine noted earlier, it will be more important than ever to write more good ads than bad ads.

Many other PPC experts have echoed this, including Arianne Donoghue, Founder, Tempest Marketing.

Donoghue noted that in 2021, it will be important to re-focus on understanding your customers as people, rather than as data points.

“The right person – at the right time, in the right place – but with the wrong message, is a missed opportunity,” Donoghue said. “Creativity is what drives this emotional connection and ultimately gets someone to engage. We often forget this.


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That is why John lee, Learning Strategist, Microsoft Advertising said ad copywriting and execution skills have never been more important – nor needed.


“Complex, dynamic and responsive ad units. Think RSA, DSA, and native / responsive display ads. These types of ads are amazing and are driving the growth of our industry,” Lee said. “And to be successful, you need to develop new skills in planning, creative writing and testing. ”

9. Always test

Speaking of testing – Navah hopkins, Paid Media Director, Hennessey Digital, probably provided my favorite quote in PPC Trends this year, and it’s: ‘make yourself comfortable do not be comfortable. “

If 2020 hasn’t prepared us for anything else, I hope it has prepared us for this!

Hopkins said the biggest trend for 2021 is to always test and never be comfortable with what you think you know.

“We need to treat our campaigns like a kid with a new allergy – study every variable and only allow new ‘proven’ tactics to be part of your marketing mix,” Hopkins said. “If there’s one mantra that we digital marketers need to have carved into our hearts, it’s test it!”


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10. A great mobile experience

Surprised to see this in a list of PPC trends for 2021? Dont be.

If brands want to win in 2021, they must have an accessible site. It is, and will be, a huge area for 2021, according to Duane Brown, Founder and Head of Strategy, Take Some Risk.

“Although mobile has been a thing for years, a lot of brands still don’t have a website that delivers a great mobile experience,” Brown said. “A lot of people have never visited their own site on a mobile device, let alone multiple devices.”

Discover more PPC trends and perspectives for 2021

We are just getting started.

There are many more trends to uncover in the rest of the Search Engine Journal PPC Trends 2021 eBook.

Ready for more?

Click here to download the search engine log PPC Trends 2021.

You will get more information and advice directly from these 32 PPC experts on how to be successful in PPC and paid social media in 2021:

  • Julie F. Bacchini, President and Founder, Neptune Moon
  • Amy Bishop, Owner and Digital Marketing Consultant, Cultivative
  • Robert Brady, Founder, Righteous Marketing
  • Duane Brown, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Take Some Risk
  • Ilya Cherepakhin, Head of Performance Marketing, Milestone Inc.
  • Akvile DeFazio, President, AKvertise
  • Arianne Donoghue, Founder, Tempest Marketing
  • Justin Freid, Director of Growth and Innovation, CMI / Compas
  • Brad Geddes, Co-Founder, AdAlysis
  • Steve Hammer, President, RankHammer
  • Amy Hebdon, Founder, Paid Search Magic
  • Navah Hopkins, Director of Pay Media, Hennessey Digital
  • Mark Irvine, Director of Pay Media, SearchLab
  • Pauline Jakober, Founder and CEO, Group Twenty Seven
  • Kristopher Jones, Founder and CEO, LSEO.com
  • Jonathan A. Kagan, Vice President of Research, 9RoofTops
  • Nikki Kuhlman, Senior Account Manager, JumpFly
  • Ed Leake, Managing Director, AdEvolver & Midas Media
  • John Lee, Learning Strategist, Microsoft Advertising
  • Aaron Levy, Group Director, SEM, Tinuiti
  • Melissa Mackey, Research Manager, Gyro
  • Michelle Morgan, Director of Client Services, Clix Marketing
  • Christi Olson, Head of SEM Global Media, Microsoft
  • Brooke Osmundson, Director of Pay Media, NordicClick Interactive
  • Lisa Raehsler, Founder and SEM Strategy Consultant, Big Click Co.
  • Frederick Vallaeys, co-founder, Optmyzr
  • Purna Virji, Senior Manager, Global Engagement, Microsoft Advertising
  • Susan Wenograd, Director of Paid Acquisitions, Nextiva
  • AJ Wilcox, Founder, B2Linked
  • Kirk Williams, Owner, ZATO
  • Ben Wood, Chief Strategy Officer, Hallam
  • Christine Zirnheld, Digital Marketing Manager, Cypress North


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10 important PPC trends to watch in 2021

Past editions of PPC Trends

Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita

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