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PPC Predictions 2017, Death of the Ad

For paid search, display and social – there’s a lot to embrace in 2017, but it won’t be without it’s casualties.

When it comes to advertising trends and ppc predictions for 2017 – if you’re thinking this is “the year of mobile!” – then, I’m afraid you’re late to the party.

We already live in a mobile-first world – and thanks in part to advances in mobile technology – digital advertising spend is experiencing it’s fastest growth for 7 years.

This tremendous growth shows little sign of slowing down.

Digital (or internet) now eclipses TV advertising and is set streak away over the next 5 years.

Here comes the bar chart!

us-tv-vs-digital-ad-spend-2015-2020

With the US and UK collectively spending over $80 Billion on digital Ads, what does the future of PPC look like and where should you focus your budgets for 2017?

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room, Microsoft’s Bing advertising platform:

Bing is Fertile Ground & Non-optional

For years Microsoft has been playing second fiddle to Google, but with growing market share – in part thanks to the free Windows 10 rollout – Bing has been edging ever closer.

In fact Bing now commands 21.6% of the desktop search market in the US, and is slowly rising. Google is still king, but not including Bing in your strategy is a mistake.

bill-gates-bing-ads

Bing offers several benefits over Google:

  • Cheaper per click
  • Growing audience
  • Converts just as well as Google traffic
  • Higher age demographic

Less competition on Bing means cheaper per click costs, in some markets as much as 80% cheaper.

But does cheaper mean lower quality?

In this case it doesn’t, in fact if you study your analytics by channel you’ll typically see conversion rates between Google and Bing neck-and-neck. Furthermore, often AOV (average order value) from Bing sits a few points higher.

Why? Because Googlers are more likely to be younger than Bing and Yahoo users, and typically have less cash to spend.

Take Action: you need to factor Bing in to your PPC budget. For many industries it’s no longer optional and for some industries such as Payday loans, it’s the only option.

YouTube Hits Puberty (Early)

I remember the early days back in 2005, such an angelic platform back then…

But now?

Now it’s a monster!

Commanding 22% of all social traffic and 1.3 Billion monthly viewers in 88 countries, again thanks in part to mobile technology, YouTube’s growth is stellar:

  • Big in size, width and depth
  • Rich media is being devoured
  • Remarketing and targeting is strong

So what are the best YouTube plays for advertisers in 2017? Remarketing is a clear favourite, and you don’t have to use video to get in front of people.

YouTube Ad Formats 2017

YouTube caters for display/banner and sponsored card ad formats which are a cost-effective way to extend your reach across the platform, without investing in video.

With rich demographic and behaviour targeting, your ability to refine who sees your ads is compelling.

Furthermore, if you do have the budget for a finally tuned pre-roll ad then all the more reason to retarget your ideal customer.

Take Action: expand your search and social campaigns with banner ads across YouTube, start with remarketing as grow your budget on results.

Google’s ‘lookalike’ Offers 300% Scale

By no means new features, in fact they were released last year, but Similar Audiences and Demographic Targeting for search are both powerful allies.

Are your remarketing audiences running a little threadbare? No problem, Similar Audiences can give your search impressions a lift of 300%.

If you aren’t already, you should be understanding your Analytics data and looking at bidding on and targeting specific demographics. This includes device type and geography. Layering your data and segments is a sure-fire way of increasing conversion rates and driving your CPA (Cost per Acquisition) down.

Oh and of course, you want to be bidding down on the weaker converting and spending segments of your audiences too. Essentially zeroing in on those visitors who are going to bring you the most revenue.

Take Action: take your very best bits of what you know and scale them with Similar Audiences.

Facebook Hits Max Ads, Price Goes Up

If you’re advertising on Facebook, clicks and impressions are only getting more expensive. Facebook is running out of places and options to serve your ads.

In short, “Facebook sold out its inventory for the first time” in September 2016.

This is some 6 months earlier than predicted too.

facebook ad revenue by segment

Fortunately, Zucks’ and the team are doing a pretty good job at innovating.

We already know how powerful their ‘big data’, audience behaviour targeting methods are. In short – very. But now we’re able to go off feed and enter the private inboxes of Facebook users with messenger ads.

If that wasn’t enough, Facebook are looking at tapping their vast array of public and private groups. From an advertisers’ perspective, that will be very interesting.

And even more interesting, Facebook takes on YouTube pre-roll ads with their own In-Stream advertising.

Video consumption is massive. Make it part of your strategy.

Take Action: deploy more video, and less direct sales spiel. Be early adopters and test the new formats at your disposal such as Messenger and In-Stream ads.

There are of course other social platforms with plenty of reach and potential, LinkedIn is very targeted albeit a little pricey, Instagram and Pinterest can work well for brands and retail, and of course Twitter Ads still have their uses for driving traffic to content.

Facebook is the first stop along the social media ad journey, but doesn’t have to be your terminus.

Attribution, the New Buzz

Engaging with customers’ days, weeks and even months before they’re ready to convert is the new normal.

When tracking and counting conversions, the default setting is “Last Click”. This is the standard attribution model in web analytics tools. But relying on last-click attribution alone to understand your website and market efforts is living in the past.

As marketers and business owners, we can do better than that.

Instead of browsing your channel data and making decisions from a top-level view, start comparing your data from different touch-points.

If you’re not confident creating a custom model, then out of the box I’m a fan of “Time Decay”.

last-click-vs-time decay attribution model

The core premise of the time decay model is that each touch point (website visit) closest to the conversion gets most of the credit. With each touch point prior to that getting less credit based on the algorithm.

The time decay model passes the ‘common sense’ test – and is a well-rounded, smart way of measuring how your traffic channels support conversions.

Take Action: what attribution model is most fitting of your sales cycle? If your customers take days, weeks or longer to convert – consider comparing your standard report to Time Decay to get a deeper understanding of which channels support and drive conversions.

Hear Me Now! Voice Search Getting Louder

With Google stating that 20% of searches on mobile and Android are now completed by voice, where does that leave the humbled keyboard?

In a very different market.

Is voice search less sale orientated, with less intent? Unless you’re trying to order a pizza from your local takeaway, then there’s a strong possibility these search requests are informational or local based.

“how do I”

“where is”

“near me”

“can I”

“what’s the meaning of … life.”

Deep.

Nah, just longtail.

voice search in 2017

I’ll be first to admit I don’t have the answer to this one (pun intended).

Voice search is very different, it uses natural language and is often question/answer based. This is more content and ‘SEO’ territory for sure, but using tools such as answerthepublic.com to gather intelligence around your topic and provide answers is a solid first-step in to this new, new world.

Take Action: second guessing what people will say isn’t easy, think longer term content strategies that enable people to answer their own questions about what you do and sell.

Death of the Ad

If advertising spend growth is on the rise then how can the Ad itself be dying?

Because marketers are ruining the social side of media.

mark zuckerberg not happy

As we saw earlier – Facebook hit max ad space. Ad prices are going up and therefore advertising must change. It must be less intrusive and way more savvy to compete in a manner that doesn’t see costs spiral upwards.

Gone are the days where most businesses can get away with throwing a direct sales pitch at their target audience.

If you’re an online retailer and you cold target people on Facebook with your products, then you’re doing it wrong.

Resurrecting the Social Ad

Don’t be that brand that muddies a user’s timeline with a cold slap in the face, “buy our stuff because…”!

Instead, use an engagement approach to your social marketing. The purpose of your ads on social is to make them not look like ads.

mark zuckerberg - put people first

Fashion retailers – create videos on the latest trends, tips on how to select the right product, offer advice at different price points. You get the idea. Produce engaging, useful content – not a sales pitch.

Travel retailers – help people book by guiding them through the options, end-to-end; booking a flight, the accommodation, getting around, sites to see and precautions to take. You name it, there’s a plethora of advice demanded by travellers before they commit.

Estate agents – what are the common problems when selling a house? Educate your potential customers and they’ll thank you for it.

Accountants – help small businesses select the right bookkeeping software, compare products, offer tips on how to streamline accounting.

Service businesses – stop telling your audience why you’re better, get a foot in the door by offering value first. What does your service do for them? Show them how to do parts for themselves to save time/money or to create wealth/growth.

The list goes on…

No matter your business – give your audience results first and they’ll be more likely to trust your brand. And remember the rule; salespeople sell, friends tell stories.

Go Deeper, Go Micro-targeted

If you must pursue the direct sales approach then micro is your play. The premise of micro-targeting is to put ads in front of (and therefore spend money on) your most valuable prospects.

micro-targeting

Prospects that spend more time on your site, watching your videos, reading your emails and sharing your stuff. Prospects who also look like your buyers, too.

This is where micro-targeting and personalised ad experiences really come in to their own. They can resurrect traffic and revenue from the smallest portions of your audience, by going narrow and specific instead of wide and loud.

Easier said than done, so here are some ideas to get your started:

Take action: exclude previous buyers, put those in their own segment.

Target people who received your email(s) but didn’t open them. Target people who opened your email, but did nothing about. Target those who opened, clicked and failed to convert. Tailor the experience to suit each step.

Create a targeting segment for time on site and pages viewed, also the number of visits to your site. Use your best performing customer segment as the benchmark – what does their behaviour look like?

Layer this with browser type, device type, geography and demographics.

Consider tailoring their experience based on the referral source of the traffic, for example people coming from your YouTube page probably want to see more video – right?

Whereas Instagram and Pinterest followers like the visuals. How can you apply that to your landing pages?

Don’t forget to segment people by date, last-visit, last-purchase and of course use your own analytics data to understand average purchase lag in days. This helps fine-tune your audience segments further.

The depth is where the ROI is at. Not the width.

Chicken or Egg, or Chegg?

For paid search, display and social – there’s a lot to embrace in 2017.

More options, deeper targeting and new technology spilling into common culture – we’re spoilt for choice.

This vast choice gives great power and brings with it many opportunities, for good and bad. It’s more important than ever that advertisers outside of search engines, where the user is fully in control, stop abusing the audiences’ data.

Let’s face it, there are far too many crap ads out there ruining the experience for the rest of us.

And yes – whilst there will always people that ‘hate ads’ – the majority of people are accepting of them if they’re on-target, relevant and offer at least a shred of value.

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Ed Leake

Author: Ed Leake

PPC nerd, founder and Managing Director of Midas Media, Ed started in 'tech' when he was 12 years old, building websites and selling computers from his parent's garage. Outside of work Ed enjoys yet more work, motorsport, attempting to cycle with clip-on shoes and refuelling on fresh doughnuts.

  • Love the article but direct ads are not dead. Affiliate marketers ONLY do direct ads and are responsible for billions of advertising revenue. I know one who is making $500k/m profit with direct ads only. This method will never die but I think what you suggested is needed as well, advertisers should be doing more than 1 technique but not rule out anything.

    • Thanks Andrew.

      The vast majority of customer that turn up at out door after using Facebook tell us “it doesn’t work” or “we can’t get it to work”. In the majority of those cases, it’s because they go for the jugular – direct sales.

      I think a seasoned affiliate marketer is in a better position to prosper (experience), but that said – I also know of affiliate marketers that don’t make a dime!

      Your comment has spurred me on to add a caveat to this article – when and where I would use direct targeting/sales.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      • No problem – I’d also emphasize that in the majority of those cases the customers who are advertising on Facebook and are not profitable, have no idea how to use it period. This has happened with just about every advertising medium that’s ever existed, people think it’s plug and play but it takes a lot of work to build a winning campaign.

        • Totally agree; PPC isn’t a set and forget/autopilot system.

          Too many people setup a campaign, only to complain that it “doesn’t work” a few months later because they didn’t nurture it.

  • Nice work Ed. Well worth the read for anyone involved in direct advertising or content marketing. We’re weighing some additional tests for this year…think I’ll recommend a Bing Ads campaign for part of it.

    • Glad to hear you found it useful, definitely look at Bing. If it works on Google, it’s highly likely it will work on Bing. 🙂

  • That might have been a useful post….3 years ago. I think **most** people understand the general concept of Native Advertising. It’s nothing new. And whilst Mobile SEARCH is going up, actually BUYING from a Mobile device is still extremely young, not many actually do.

    Searching on a Mobile device and BUYING on a mobile device are 2 different things. I personally don’t target Mobile Devices.

    • Thanks Tom, appreciate the view point. I guess my own view comes from a position of talking with a lot of business owners and senior staff. The concepts are new to many people, in fact we often get asked ‘why ads don’t work on social’ and it usually comes down to the issues highlighted.

      Buying on mobile is very sensitive, we have some brands who are equal footing to desktop but others lagging behind. Will we all purchase from mobile eventually? Perhaps, but as you say, it’s still young and typically a research driven search (early touch).

      As for 3 years ago, a little harsh – some of the features/opportunities I outline are new last year or recently rolled out – so certainly no mass use, yet!

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