In 2020, companies had to re-adjust with the global situation and adapt to new norms of doing business. Those who were not familiar with remote operations have no choice but to realign their working conditions and adopt new industrial initiatives that could give them some semblance of normality.
The first half of 2021 witnessed businesses slowly picking themselves up. There is still a dark gloom in the horizon, but those who have adapted easily to new marketing approaches and embraced digital-driven strategies are at a competitive advantage.
One area that experienced considerable changes in recent periods is Search Engine Marketing (SEM), driven by the shift in purchasing behavior that affected not only individual consumers, but business entities as well. To keep up with such shifts, marketers need to develop new marketing plans that are fresh, compelling, and attuned to the heartbeat of the new marketplace.
The following describes the most popular trends in SEM that created radical waves in the marketplace over last few recent periods. These trends are expected to continue picking up pace towards the end of 2021 and are predicted to create even bigger waves next year and the periods to come.
1) The Main Driving Force is Still Search Advertising
Differentiating itself from SEO that rely largely on organic traffic, SEM is primarily driven by paid ads, PPC and Search Advertising. For obvious reasons, 2020 witnessed a massive slump in advertising investments, and media buyers are still unsure if the budget outlook will bounce back during the remaining periods of 2021.
However, we are now witnessing the easing of lockdown restrictions and the opening up of global businesses. Such are proving hopeful for many businesses and marketers, as we see the following trends creating enormous ripples in the marketplace:
- Global advertising spending is generally on an upward trend, reaching almost $650 billion so far in 2021. Search Advertising accounts for the largest market share and is expected to continue pushing Digital Advertising expenditures to $691 billion by the end of 2023.
- Marketers are now seeing greater automation features and Artificial Intelligence (AI) optimizations with Google Ads, particularly the Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) feature. RSAs are designed to help marketers optimize the headlines, descriptions, messaging, and CTAs of their ads, making them more aligned with the search queries of their targeted audiences
- In 2020, Google officially introduced Product Listing Ads (PLAs) or what is now more commonly known as Google Shopping Ads. Accounting for 4% of the total retail search ad spend and generating up to 85.3% of all clicks, Shopping Ads emerged as the most popular ad format, prompting an intensified competition among retail advertisers.
- Google introduced a new Ads tool called Consent Mode that enables advertisers to control cookie behaviors and conversion measurements according to users’ consent choices (whether they allow or not allow advertising cookies) using a new tag setting called “Ad Storage”.
2) Taking Advantage of Video Advertising
The shift to online engagements and virtual interactions precipitated a tremendous global consumption for video, prompting SEM campaigns to take advantage of Video Advertising.
- Last year, Video Advertising accounted for over $27.7 million in revenues, and is expected to continue growing by 5.5/year over the next few years. With more than 70% of people online saying they consume video as part of their purchasing journey, it would be wise for SEM marketers to include their targeted keywords in their video titles and description.
- By the year 2022, it is predicted that as much as 82% of all Internet traffic will be generated from video content. Video is also more effective in generating more clicks, impressions, and engagement that mere text ads as people have the natural tendency to remember as much as 95% of a message if delivered through video.
- With 2 billion active users each month, YouTube is now the second largest search engine. Not only that, Facebook, Tiktok video ads, and Instagram Stories are also gaining significant ground in reaching a huge number of people. This should prompt marketers to streamline and adapt their PPC video ads to these platforms.
3) Taking Advantage of Mobile Internet Advertising
With social distancing and limited face-to-face interactions, consumers turn to their mobile gadgets to interact with brand, businesses, entrepreneurs, and other consumers. With more than 4.28 billion people across the globe using mobile devices to access the Internet, Mobile Internet Advertising should be a top priority among SEM marketers:
- Google implemented a Full Mobile Index last March 2021. What this means is that Google’s crawlers will look for the mobile version of your website as a primary consideration for ranking. If you only have desktop-only websites, you should rethink your SEM strategies and re-configure your websites to be as mobile-friendly as possible.
- Mobile Internet Advertising reached figures of up to $276 billion in 2020. This is expected to continue growing in 2021 and will continue with a $63.2 billion growth by 2023, eventually reaching up to $495 billion by the year 2024.
4) Taking Advantage of Voice Search
Mobile internet is also closely linked to voice search, and in fact almost 50% of searches made in 2020 were executed using a voice search using smartphone or related mobile gadget. By the year 2022, half of consumers will use voice search for shopping.
SEM marketers should develop targeted ads using keywords and phrases that are aligned with the informal and conversational way people use when using voice search. Long-tail keywords would be the best option, using question-based phrases like: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
5) Preparing of a Third-Party Cookie Phase-Out
Due to data privacy concerns, Google will be completely pulling the plug out for third-party cookies on Chrome by the year 2022. This should prompt businesses to overhaul their retargeting and remarketing strategies to tactics that will not rely on third-party cookies.
Marketers should also take into consideration Google’s introduction of the Privacy Sandbox, which Google will use as an alternate route for replacing cookies with APIs. Advertisers can utilize these to gain access on aggregated data of browsing habits generated from anonymous signals from Chrome (not from cookies).
6) Realign Advertising to Search Intent
Google implemented the BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) algorithm as a means to better understand online users’ search intent. BERT makes use of Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies to have a clear understanding of what online users are really trying to search.
In line with this, SEM marketers should re-align their PPC advertising and make use of Intent-Based Targeting strategies. They should create ads that make use of carefully chosen keyword phrases that are streamlined based on the search intent of their targeted audiences.
7) Taking Advantage of Other PPC Platforms
While a robust SEM strategy that revolves around the Google Ads campaign is an effective route for most marketers, it would also be to your greatest advantage to make use of other PPC platforms that can generate great results for your campaign.
This includes exploring and investing on paid social strategies. Not only are these social media ads more affordable, they can also offer a great diversification route for your campaign that can generate surprisingly positive results. These include but are not limited to:
- Facebook for Business – With more than 8 billion people using Facebook each month, two-thirds of which visited a business Facebook page, advertising in this platform is surely a great alternative for your SEM campaign
- LinkedIn – This platform has evolved from being a mere job posting site, into a highly engaging social hub for lead generation. In fact, over 80% of socially-generated B2B leads came from LinkedIn.
- Instagram – With more than 1 billion monthly active users participating in this platform, your SEM strategy simply could not go wrong when advertising in this network
- Quora – Starting out as a Q&A website, Quora has reached a 300 million monthly active user base and has evolved into a very strong global community. This makes it another great platform where SEM marketers can generate valuable leads via Quora Advertising
- and many more!
The year 2020 was truly a chaotic year for businesses across the globe. Since then, businesses have learned to adjust and adapt with changes in the marketplace, adapting new strategies that will let them connect and engage with their audiences – and turn them into customers.
At the forefront of such campaign remains Search Engine Marketing, continuously generating high-value leads that convert by using strategies that effectively reaches out to targeted audiences. SEM marketers should continue to explore new trends and invest in new strategies to prepare their businesses for whatever comes their way with the remaining half of 2021, and beyond.
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