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Well another year has been and gone, and what a year this was! It’s been full of highs and lows, but when we look back we can see that 2018 will be known for Assistance, Evolution, Power and Opportunity.

In 2017 we saw everything from changes made to Exact Match, to Google being fined by the EU for being naughty. In 2018 we saw more changes to Exact Match and Google continued receiving pressure on its power & dominance from politicians.

Automation and Machine Learning continues to grow through the platforms we use for activation which as caused joy and upset amongst the industry. We also saw existing ad formats continue to evolve and new opportunities arise for advertisers. Finally, we saw Google rebrand it’s product offering; most notably we said “goodbye” to Google AdWords and “hello” to Google Ads.

As we do every year we will analyse some of the key updates and stargaze into the future to try to identify what we might see on the horizon for 2019.

Contents:

2018

  • What Happened?
    • Assistance – Being more “Assistive” for advertisers
    • Evolution – Survival of the fittest and challenging Google’s dominance
    • Power – Data, Privacy, Transparency and Control
    • Opportunity – New opportunities presented for users and advertisers

2019

  • What can we expect?

What happened?

Assistance – Search is becoming more assistive in every way.

Over the last few years, advertisers have had access to more data than ever, but it’s not always been utilised in the right way. Making sense of all of this data can be tough, and by understanding this better we can all make better decisions. In an effort to get advertisers to make better decisions, Google’s focus this year has been on helping us to better target the right people, at the right time, in the right place, with the right message. As a result, Google’s new interface is completely focused on being more assistive to advertisers; surfacing actionable insight and making it easier for them to activate the recommendations.

We also saw advancements in Automation and Machine Learning through changes to Exact Match and Responsive Search Ads. These updates have handed power over to Machines to help make some of the decisions. The new interface has also enabled an easier setup to try and better achieve the marketing objective you set. To make sure that you achieve these objectives, we’ve seen better reporting through the surfacing of Landing Page Reports and new Search Ads Position Metrics.

A combination of all of this has helped us to make better data driven decisions by surfacing more relevant and actionable insight for activation. By being more assistive, this has lifted a lot of the heavy workload from PPC professionals which has freed up more time to focus on driving better results at scale.

Assisting with Reporting & Actionable Insight:

From Opportunities to Recommendations – March 2018

Version history for edited ads – March 2018 

Optimisation Score to help focus your account optimisations – August 2018 

Responsive Search Ads Strength Indicator & reporting improvements – September 2108

Predefined Landing Page Report – October 2018

New Features for Ad Preview & Diagnosis Tool in Google Ads – October 2018

Segment Shop Visits by New vs Returning Visitors – October 2018

New Search Ads Position Metrics – November 2018

Assistance in Activation:

Adaptive Remarketing – January 2018

Ad Suggestions – April 2018

Dynamic Search Ads across more verticals – April 2018

Editor Updates allows you to do more in less time – May 2018

Responsive Search Ads – the death of Manual A/B Testing – May 2018

The Future Is Here – How Much Do You Fear Automation? – July 2018

Exact Match expands Close Variants…again – September 2018

Google Ads Target Impression Share Smart Bidding Strategy – November 2018

Evolution – Survival of the fittest, and challenging Google’s dominance.

Bing has seen some great improvements this year to its advertising solutions. Bing has caught up with many of the same format specifications as Google and they have also improved the speed to which these new releases have come out. As well as this, they have continued to try and differentiate their product offering with new formats and Ad Extensions which has been great for advertisers.

All in all it’s been a strong year for Bing, which has continued to challenge Google:

Bing also removes right hand side ads – March 2018

Price Extensions launched – April 2018

Automated Imports allows you to have parity with Google – May 2018

New Bing Pilot launched – June 2018

Bing launched Flyers Pilot – October 2018

We’ve also seen Google continue to evolve their advertising solutions through testing:

Google testing two shopping carousels on Mobile – April 2018

Google expand their character limits and number of description lines – August 2018

Google testing ads without description lines on Mobile – September 2018

Click-to-message Ads Gets Three Updates – October 2018

Black Friday and Cyber Monday ad formats – November 2018

YouTube ad pod testing – November 2018

Power – More power to users through greater data control, transparency and privacy.

With continued pressure on Google’s dominance in the market, there was a real focus this year on data. Search engines have continued to give its users greater transparency and control over how they use personal data. They have also continued to give it’s users more power over how they use their data thanks to GDPR. By giving users this transparency, it can only be a good thing for advertisers.

Mute Reminder Ads – Google gave users the opportunity to opt-out of personalised advertising – February 2018

Focus on the user – A protest targeting Google Employees to remind them to keep user interest at the heart of everything that they do – June 2018

Google Makes It Easier to Delete Search Data & Control Ad Settings – October 2018

Opportunity – New Opportunities were presented for users and advertisers.

We saw Google continue to innovate and introduce us to new ad formats. We were also given a glimpse into the future of search at Google I/O and Google Marketing Live.

Similar looks for Shopping have started to appear on Mobile – January 2018

Google introduced a new Pay per sale model for Shopping Actions – March 2018

Subscribe with Google was an effort to keep publishers on side – March 2018

Amazon’s “Voice Sniffing” is causing a stink – April 2018

Future of Keywords and how focus has moved away from this in recent years – May 2018

Google IO gave us a glimpse into the future of search – May 2018

Google Marketing Live 2018 gave us the insight into Ad Innovations, Machine Learning and Platforms – July 2018

Google is rebranding AdWords & DoubleClick to simplify offering – July 2018


What can we expect to see in 2019?

2019 will be focused on; Assistance, Innovation, Performance.

Google will continue to insist on its assistant:

It’s been talked about for a while and something that Google is no doubt working on behind the scenes. The big question remains, how do they monetise Voice Search via the Google Assistant? Anything that get’s launched will be a super small test. The risk of getting it wrong could be catastrophic for Google. Perhaps introducing specific formats for its Digital Assistants embedded into phone’s would be the most comfortable place to start, incorporated with Google Pay.

For advertisers, we will continue to see a lot more assistance from Google in helping to make data driven decisions. I would expect to see more changes to Keywords, with a larger focus taking a programmatic approach to Search through utilising Data Signals to understand Context and Intent.

Search will carry on innovating for users and advertisers:

We will continue to see testing and changes being made in the way that Search Results are surfaced. There has been numerous tweeks and changes made this year, and this won’t slow down in 2019 across any of the search engines. We will also continue to see growth in Audience types as we continue to utilise more data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Spotlight on your activity. There will be even more pressure to drive performance in challenging times ahead:

If advertisers are being expected to give a lot of the control over to the search engines to make more of the decisions for us, we will need to see even better results in return. It’s going to be a difficult year for performance next year. With so many unknowns such as Brexit, political turmoil, and the future of the High Street, there will be a spotlight on performance and results through PPC. Be prepared to defend the value of your activity! Attribution will be key to unlocking the true value of your campaigns.

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Dan Roberts

Founder & Author at PPC hubbub
Dan has worked across different agencies in the UK for over 6 years. He was awarded Rising Star at The Drum Search Awards in 2015. Google voted him as one of the Top 20 Search Specialists in the UK. He founded PPC hubbub after becoming frustrated with the lack of actionable insight from blogs.

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Dan Roberts
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