Successfully targeting internet users with pay-per-click ads typically means staying on top of – and in front of – how they interact with their devices. For PPC marketers, this means staying on top of new developments in ad management systems such as Google Adwords and Microsoft’s Bing Ads. The two entities control a combined 97% of PPC conversion and perpetually upgrade their functionalities to stay abreast of merchant and consumer trends. They capture these trends in the copious amounts of real-time data collected by daily measurements of search campaign efficacy, and respond with updated software tools designed to help advertisers tailor efficient ads that may optimize conversion rates. Understanding and embracing some of these new tools is key to evolving your PPC strategy moving forward in 2015.
1. Mobile-Friendly tags
Mobile searches dominate in the US. As Google announced this month, the number of mobile Google searches have officially surpassed that of traditional computers, meaning more users are consulting their phone and tablets for answers about products and services than their laptops or desktops. This reflects a growing on-the-go, need-to-know mentality among consumers, and emphasizes how critical mobile-friendly content has become.
In fact, Google recently adopted a Mobile-Friendly tag that appears in mobile search results to indicate whether a site provides a user experience catering to mobile devices. And this tag applies to Ad Word ads as well. Citing studies that indicate mobile users will quickly abandon slow-to-load sites, as well as those formatted to desktop browsers, Google introduced the tag as a first step towards steering mobile users away from experiences deemed frustrating or inconvenient.
It’s not hard to see where this is going: eventually mobile searches will default to mobile-friendly results. As mobile devices continue to take over the PPC landscape, site unable to provide visually friendly, short form content navigable on a small screen will see their conversion rates plummet. In the meantime, Bing Ads has updated its campaign settings to feature device targeting, meaning its ads will appear in search results across desktop through mobile devices. Presuming the same consumer behavior translates between ad services, Bing ads that fail to guide mobile users to a satisfying mobile experience will diminish click-to-conversion ratios as smart phone users continue to seek palatable answers quickly and conveniently.
2. Call-only ads
Another function of the surge in mobile searches has been the added value of call-only ads. The premise here is that smart phone users will perform on-the-go searches for local products and services, and that the convenience of making a phone call to confirm operating hours or product availability may supersede that of any web-based experience.
In fact, on introducing call-only ads for devices equipped with phone functionality, Google AdWords cites a 6-8% increase in click-through rate when a phone number is featured within the ad. Not only does this phenomenon illustrate the increased importance of localized SEO strategies for brick-and-mortar retailers, but it contributes to another metric AdWords has started to roll out: mobile to in-store conversion. With mobile consumers trending towards proximity and convenience over brand loyalty, capturing their on-the-go searches increasingly bring them into nearby stores, which become the point of purchase, completing the shopping process that started with their smart phone search.
3. Ads in mobile apps
It’s not merely mobile searches that have supplanted desktop activity. Data released by comScore last year suggest people spent more hours per week using mobile apps than browsing the internet via a desktop or laptop. Google AdWords has responded by allowing targeted key word ads applied to in-app advertising. Determining which apps provide the right context for individual brands may be left to the whims of the Google Display Network, but taking the time to prioritize appropriate and popular apps will be worth the effort.
In line with this, Google has also made in-app video ads available. Primarily intended for campaigns more likely to benefit from rich content engagement – other apps for example – the option for interstitial video placement within apps portends a move to more dynamic ad content within a mobile platform. The average user maintains 36 apps on any particular device, creating a wealth of strategic opportunities to consider.
4. Semantic search
Last month, Google announced that 15% of searches are unprecedented and therefore do not fit into a standard key word strategy. Using a service called Dynamic Search Ads, AdWords has taken a further step towards the proliferation of semantic searches, which provide search results based on a contextual understanding what answers or products the user is searching for rather than focusing exclusively on a specific search term. The AdWords dynamic search scans the whole of the target site to better determine the breadth of its subject matter, applying this information to those unique searches that fall within that 15%.
This provides even greater emphasis on the quality ad quantity of a web site’s content, as a demonstrated breadth of knowledge will capture a greater number of hard to target queries. Using this function along with another updated feature called Ad Customizers automatically tailors the ad to reflect the search terms in question. Customizers has the added benefit of tracking time and date, so you may equip the ad with a limited time offer that will create a sense of urgency as the days pass.
5. Targeting specific users
Historically, PPC ad placement has targeted user action, i.e. search queries, rather than focusing on the identity of a particular user. While search histories, cookies and location orientation have provided a context for both search and ad results, linking the interests and habits of a particular user to ad campaigns has taken place more often in social media venues like Facebook and Twitter. This appears to be changing in 2015.
Bing Ads will implement what they call Persona targeting, which aims to track a known end-users actions, including prior ad response and purchasing habits. This will allow campaigns to target previous users, suiting the old adage that it’s cheaper to retain a customer than to add a new one. Google has offered something similar deemed Retargeting List For Search Ads, but may take a step further by pursuing what they call First-Party targeting. This would allow advertisers to target specific leads, usually in the form of email addresses they’ve gathered from previous customers or registered users. By linking those users to search terms, they may gear both ads and placement to target known entities, increasingly the likelihood the impression will hit its mark and marketing campaign will better achieve it’s PPC objective: higher conversion rates.