At this time of year, it’s worthwhile to consider what’s likely to occur in search advertising in 2016, so you can adjust your strategy if you’re behind the curve.
I took some time to look at the trends we’re seeing at Bing Ads, where I work. Based on unprecedented access to search data, observing advertiser adoption patterns and gauging client interest, here are some predictions for 2016 and beyond.
Audience Buying Is On Everyone’s Mind
As the technology behind marketing gets stronger, advertisers are able to use real-time data to drive important decisions that have a serious impact on the ad platforms they choose to use.
While there is still a lot of opportunity in front of this industry, targeting an audience across channels is suddenly a possibility, which makes advertising more personally relevant and therefore more effective.
A great example of this is Bing Remarketing campaigns, which allow you define an audience based on certain behaviors on your site and develop customized campaigns to reach that audience on the Bing Network.
The hardest-working muscle in the audience targeting picture is data collection. First-party data is information that businesses can collect on their customers, such as an email address from an offer sign-up, or knowing what shoe model a customer is interested in based on a site visit.
Second-party data is the data a company like Bing or Google can bring to the table: audience search trends, ad clicks, paths to purchase, searcher intent and prediction modeling. We’re so good at prediction modeling that we can see what style of jacket is going to be the big seller this season, months before it makes the news.
Finally, there’s third-party data, which tends to complement other data sources to expand what we know or increase our total view on an audience: Who already owns a Toyota, where do they live, and are there any children in the home?
As the industry continues to invest in audience targeting capabilities, the convergence of these data streams will make it possible for advertisers to effectively deliver their message to a very precise audience that until now was much harder to identify.
Feeds Are On The Rise
While feeds were born long before Bing or Google shopping campaigns launched (through shopping aggregators, affiliate marketing and others), these products have continued to constitute themselves within search advertising and are paving the way for new innovation.
Product feeds give advertisers a much more efficient way to manage the advertising of large sets of product SKUs while the ad formats (like Bing Product Ads) create a more engaging way to reach customers and match their search intent.
For example, a searcher who queries “red women’s down jacket” will see ads with images of women’s down jackets. A feed-based result will allow her to narrow the search quickly and easily based on what’s showing in the search results, including the price, seller and description, without navigating through various websites.
When supported by the right ad experience, feeds will increasingly help advertisers organize, track, promote, optimize and report on campaigns supporting large levels of dynamic inventory across multiple industries.
Closing The Gap With User End Actions
Enabling user end actions on the search engine results page (SERP) through ads allows users to more quickly complete their desired transactions where intent is strong.
You may know what your favorite restaurant is already – and your favorite dish, for that matter. If you search for a restaurant, and the SERP offers a click to make a reservation, it facilitates your ability to take your intended action — making the user intent a first priority.
Using a variety of ad formats and extensions, many businesses will be able to make the SERP serve them well by implementing one-click actions that make things easier for their potential customers.
In addition to advertiser-implemented SERP actions, publishers are also making investments to help users take quick and decisive action. For example, Bing has implemented crowd-sourced info into the SERP to provide a searcher more information to support their decision-making.
A search for sushi restaurants will deliver a Yelp review, restaurant location and hours and a menu — making it quick and efficient for users to get what they need. Still, users will always have the option to go the merchant website, allowing them to view specials and learn more about a venue.
The industry has experimented with “buy” buttons, entertainment, communications and hotel bookings with varying degrees of success. Facilitating faster task completion by better connecting users with an advertiser’s products and services will continue to be an area of investment and innovation.
Mobile — Dare We Say It Again?
This isn’t about how advertisers need to include mobile in their campaigns as consumer usage shifts to the phone. That’s old news. This is about how mobile is changing the way people search in two key ways:
- It’s more vocal.
- It’s more local and will be more proactive.
With the launch of Windows 10, which puts personal assistant Cortana on the desktop and across all ecosystems (iOS, Android, Windows), we’re seeing a massive increase in voice searches on Bing (more than 2.5 billion on Cortana alone since launch). The rise in question phrases is a clear indicator that voice search operates very differently from text-based search.
With voice-activated search on the rise, advertisers have a lot to learn about this new modality that will influence ad effectiveness. Voice search has so many implications for paid search marketers that it deserves a post of its own.
The most obvious difference with voice search is that natural language queries are longer and include words that signal intent: “Cortana, find me a women’s wetsuit under $400 nearby” versus the text input of “women’s wetsuit.” Campaigns that rely exclusively on exact match strategies are going to miss out.
In addition, as searchers use their mobile personal assistant or voice search, the perception of what is expected from those interactions is just being forged. The ability for those interactions to be more predictive, personal and contextually relevant is becoming the norm.
For example, if you were to walk out of a bar at 1:00 a.m., a message to hail an Uber may proactively surface. As user adoption increases, expect to see continued innovation and opportunity for advertisers in this space.
These are some of the key trends we’re seeing as we head into 2016. Some of these trends may significantly impact your business. What are you doing to prepare for or take advantage of these future opportunities?