2014 has been an amazing year in paid search. AdWords and Bing Ads made some great strides with their features and interfaces (my personal favorite being AdWords ad customizers). Social platforms began experimenting with new features, including Twitter allowing the ability to make purchases directly from the interface. Finally, and maybe most importantly, the PPC community continued to come up with new and innovative ideas to improve client performance.

As 2014 winds down, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at the suggestions I made to PPC advertisers at the beginning of this year. Those three suggestions included:

  • Make PLAs the priority
  • Start strong with remarketing
  • Run effective social PPC campaigns

Let’s review each of these suggestions and see how relevant they were this year. In addition, I’ll speak to their increased or decreased importance moving into 2015.

Make PLAs The Priority

Looking back on this suggestion, it seems like a fairly obvious statement, but absolutely rings true. PLAs continue to show higher click-thru-rates and conversion rates than standard text ads while costing less per click. Even though cost per clicks have increased year over year, PLAs still produce great returns while taking significantly less time to manage than text ad campaigns.

Image of PLAs
Product Listing Ads for the search “keurig k cups”

At this point, every ecommerce advertiser must be running Google Shopping campaigns. In the majority of accounts I’ve worked on over the years, Shopping campaigns produce the best ROI and are consistent top converters. They may not work for everybody, but I’ve yet to come across an account where Shopping wasn’t an integral piece of the overall PPC strategy.

PLAs will continue to be crucial in 2015 and most likely be the top revenue generators in accounts. However, Google won’t be the only PLA platform that advertisers should focus. I fully expect that Amazon and Bing Product Ads will show growth in 2015. After going somewhat under the radar in 2014, these platforms have been making improvements in an effort to capture some of the PLA market. I’m especially interested in Amazon Product Ads due to the potential exposure.

Start Strong with Remarketing

Just like PLAs, remarketing continues to be a core generator of revenue while winning back abandoned site visitors. Dynamic remarketing has especially changed the game as advertisers have the ability to target users by virtually any type of product they view, including travel packages and flights. Whereas a year ago, most Display Network sites only included static image and text ads, it’s rare for me to see a site that doesn’t include dynamic ads. Throw in the fact that Google Search Partners can now show PLAs, and it makes it even more important for dynamic ads to be present for those comparison shoppers.

Image of dynamic remarketing ad
A dynamic remarketing hotel ad

In the article I spoke about trying new ideas with dynamic remarketing. The main idea was layering the dynamic audiences with placements. The example I gave was for a client selling hockey products where we targeted hockey-related websites. I did see some conversions come from this tactic, but not enough to warrant additional budget. Nonetheless, the experiment was worth the knowledge gained. In fact, I believe we’ll start seeing more of these types of tactics.

Without a doubt, remarketing will continue to evolve in 2015. I expect new remarketing templates to combine innovative design and improved functionality. I do think Google will release some sort of site search directly within an ad template, continuing to bring together Search and Display (along the lines of RLSA and Search Network with Display Select). Remarketing continues to get better, but there is even more room for improvement.

Run Effective Social PPC Campaigns

As a whole, the paid search community is more receptive to social PPC campaigns than ever before. Whereas the traditional thought used to be that spending money on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn didn’t equate to revenue, advertisers now understand the importance of the branding aspect. Also, attribution modeling is taken more seriously. In other words, it’s OK if social isn’t the last click conversion as long as it’s involved in the funnel. Advertisers are thinking more holistically which is great not just for PPC, but also for marketing efforts as a whole.

Similar to remarketing, the social landscape will only get more powerful with its targeting methods. Amanda hit on it yesterday in her post about moving beyond keywords. Though the article was in reference to Google’s Display Network, the same principles still apply. Granular audience data will improve interest and demographic targeting. Though I would classify social paid search as a push marketing strategy, the means to target users are getting more powerful.

Final Thoughts

All three of my 2014 suggestions played important roles in the paid search landscape. Truth be told, I didn’t need to go too much out on a limb to make these suggestions based upon historical trends and data. Having made this statement, by putting greater emphasis on these tactics I saw performance improvement.

With 2015 right around the corner, I’m reminded of the saying “the only thing that is constant is change.” Throughout my paid search career, this saying has been accurate. It’s necessary to keep an open mind as new features are released and ideas shift within the industry. As you prep for 2015, think about new ideas you can bring to your accounts.