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PPC hubbub asked the leading industry experts about search in 2020 and what might happen in 2021. Today we talked to Mark Irvine, Director of Paid Media at SearchLab.

Mark’s decade of PPC experience has included analyzing data and spotting trends within over 30,000 Google, Bing, and Facebook ad accounts. Mark recently joined SearchLab as the Director of Paid Media. He regularly presents his research on trends in the PPC industry on webinars and at conferences around the world and his work has also been featured on outlets such as The Washington Post, MSNBC, BBC and CNN. Last year, Mark was named the Most Influential PPC Expert in the world by both PPC Hero and Microsoft.


1. What have you loved about Search this year?

As rough as 2020 was for so many, search marketers on the whole had a nice year. There wasn’t a big Google Marketing Live event, there wasn’t many major changes to ad formats, campaigns types, or Google policies. It was a year with few distractions that allowed many to focus on fundamentals at the right time.

This year, search became essential. Uncertainty dominated 2020 trends, and people searched for answers more than ever. In April, nearly a quarter of all search terms were brand new and many more were breakout from their pre-pandemic levels. With people less mobile, desktop searches grew for the first time in years. That growth in desktop searches also translated to a nice lift on Bing search volume as well.

All in all – this year was a good chance for advertisers to pause, rethink their ads strategy, and simply greet the new searchers flocking to the SERP looking for solutions to their questions. With both static and responsive ads, advertisers had plenty of choice to test, learn quickly, and rediscover what people need when they search for their product.

2. What have you hated about the Search this year?

Uncertainty has been no one’s favorite word this year, but here it is.

No one experienced 2020 the same way and people’s trends shifted depending on where they are, who they are, and countless other factors. Google shared tons of stories about these diverging trends and wealth of breakout searches.

Admist all of that known uncertainty, Google continued to push its “smart” solutions while hiding more data from these campaigns and the search terms report. Even if you’re a fan of these new automations, it’s harder to trust Google without this data. I think it’s a disservice that Google’s done itself here – now would have been a wonderful time to highlight this new emerging data to justify new keywords, audiences, or bids but Google choose to obscure it instead. We learned a lot in 2020, but we could have learned even more about our searchers. That’s a missed opportunity for advertisers and Google.

3. What do you think 2021 will bring?

Even if we “return to normal” in 2021, our customers won’t look like they did in 2019.

3 out of 4 US consumers have purchased from a brand they weren’t loyal to before this pandemic. This year has taken its toll on your loyal customers. Today, you should be thinking of how to engage with your existing customers and keep them loyal. In 2021, you need to reevaluate what your new customers look like since they may be entirely different than your old personas.

Even your loyal customers have changed this year – with 40% of them now purchasing from brands using a different shopping method than before. Attracting and retaining these new customers in 2021 will have many of us advertising in new networks and campaigns too.

Mark Irvine
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