PPC Trends 2020: What To Watch Out For

PPC trends to watch out for in 2020.

Wow that was quick.

Goodbye 2019.

Hello 2020.

Hello to a whole new decade of PPC, marketing, and digital ads.

To help you stay informed, we put together this list of PPC trends we expect will have the greatest impact on Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and all other ad platforms in 2020.


1. The machines are here to stay

If you think trucking is the only industry that will be uprooted by the rise of AI, think again.

PPC marketers are just as threatened.

Meaningless and mundane PPC tasks that take up a lot of time are being automized.

Expect this trend to dvelop even further in 2020.

Smart bidding, scripts, machine learning. AI forms the backdrop of all the other trends mentioned in this list.

2. PPC marketers, work on your pitch

Against the backdrop of all this automation, PPC marketers will find it increasingly difficult to justify their manual labor costs.

Why pay a human, when a machine can do it better? And faster?

To keep their jobs, account managers will have to prove their value by highlighting skills they have which the machines do not.

3. Think Big Picture, Go Long

One of those skills is strategic planning.

Machines excel at producing judgments and performing routine tasks. They do the gritty work.

One thing they are not good at is looking at trends, setting strategy, coming up with creative.

These are areas that PPC marketers will have to focus on as machines automize other aspects of their jobs.

4. Incorporate scripts into workflow

In the same vain, marketers who are not using scripts to speed up their workflow are underperforming.

More and more scripts are being produced on a weekly basis for PPC. While not all of them are helpful, marketers can certainly find some that are right for them.

"Start with the one thankless task you do regularly. In other words, it takes a lot of time and it has a small impact on results. Take that task and find a machine to do it for you," Midas Media Managing Director Ed Leake said in an interview for SEJ Journal.

5. The end of manual bidding

While manual bidding is certainly still a feature that can be used in Google Ads account management, it is possible that Google will scrap the bidding option completely as it pushes hard toward automation and smart learning algorithms.

2019 saw the death of average position, and the introduction of several new ad forms all of which use AI, such as responsive search ads, audience targeting and more.

It's not out of the question that manual bidding will soon go, perhaps not in 2020, but in the near future.

6. Audience targeting still inaccurate

While audience targeting is being promoted by Google, the technology is still in its infancy, which means marketers should be wary of adopting these changes outright.

7. Close Variants expands to BMM, phrase match keywords

Google followed its close variants exact match update from 2018 with the same close variants update for BMM and phrase match keyword match types.

Under the change, ads would be shown for close variants of keywords in both BMM and phrase match, as long as the intent of the searcher was the same.

While Google claims this is to help marketers target traffic they are otherwise missing out on, marketers lament the loss of control. Now it is Google that decides what search terms to show your ad for.

8. The rise of Single Theme Ad Groups (STAGs)

One account management strategy that has particularly taken a hit is Single Keyword Ad Groups, or SKAGs.

SKAGs have been popular among marketers for a long time by helping isolate traffic so that an ad appears only for the search term that is a one-to-one match with the keyword they paid for.

But with Google's close variants updates, it has become increasingly difficult to use SKAGs natively in the Google Ads Editor without the assistance of third-party tools that help automize the creation of negative keywords.

While SKAGs still work as a PPC management strategy, they are harder to manage than before, and they do not take advantage of Google's smart bidding strategies which need lots of data to perform well.

Against this backdrop, Single Theme Ad Groups are becoming an increasingly popular way to organize campaigns.

STAGs give you the same granularity that made SKAGs so beneficial for crafting creative ad copy, while also capturing more traffic per ad group that can then be used by Google's AI.

9. Create cross-channel plans and campaigns

Search, social, ecommerce are all blurring into one, especially with the rise of Amazon as an ad platform.

Whereas before it was easy to look at one platform as an island isolated from another, in 2020 marketing channels will begin to cross over into each other. Being able to successfully and accurately allocate budget to different ad platforms instead of just one will be paramount in 2020.

10. Paid Search & Paid Social to merge

In 2020 the lines between paid social and paid search features will continue to blur. Whereas before you had keywords for search engines and audiences for social channels, this notion has now been flipped upside down.

Search engines are starting to use audience networks, and social channels are beginning to utilize keywords. This trend will continue in 2020.

11. The rise of the Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN)

One example of how paid social and paid social media is being blurred is ths Microsoft Audience Network, which utilizes LinkedIn Profile Targeting together with In-Market Audiences and fully automated MSAN shopping campaigns along with Microsoft Graph to deliver a fully integrated ad campaign.

12. Privacy on the rise

One of the central themes of DMEXCO 2019 this year was the need to address privacy.

Consumers are becoming more and more aware with how big tech is making money off their data. And governments are responding by listening to their citizens.

This trend of consumers becoming more privacy conscious is only set to continue in 2020.

13. GDPR restricting tracking capabilities

GDPR is now restricting tracking capabilities and making it harder for marketers to collect data for attribution. The calls for the end of the cookie, which underpins the entire digital marketing industry, has a lot of marketers worried.

Unfortunately, it will only get harder from here, as GDPR legislation will restrict data gathering practices even more.

What this means for marketers is that they need to give up the notion of 100% attribution and accept more uncertainty with their reporting.

14. Going beyond Google & Facebook

The numbers are in, and people are simply not using Google and Facebook more than they used to.

In fact, if you took out Instagram, Facebook would be a collection of old folks with no new users on their platform for several years.

At the same time, smaller platforms are growing, like Snapchat, Pinterest and TikTok, all of whom hvae seen revenue grow in 2019.

While you do not have to be on all of these ad platforms, there is no reason not to try to test them out if you know your audience is spending time there.

15. Budgeting to become more dispersed.

With more and more ad platforms available, balancing budgets when there are multiple platforms will become increasingly important and difficult.

These platforms include Quora, Reddit, Pinterest, Amazon, Twitter and more.

16. Instagram Checkout to be added to paid posts

Instagram Checkout is a new feature that allows users to buy a product that is included in a post or story.

Currently, the feature is only available for organic posts, but it is only a matter of time before this new format is added to paid posts as ads. Marketers should be on the lookout for this trend.

17. Brand Safety back on the agenda

With fevers high amidst an upcoming US election in 2020, accusations are running rampant about extremist content.

No longer is it enough to rely on Google's automation to make sure your ads are not appearing on extremist content you don't want your brand to be associated with.

Display Campaigns, YouTube campaigns need to be continuously checked and updated to make sure your brand is kept safe.

18. Search Engine Growth to stagnate

People are not searching more than they used to. Search query growth has stagnated in recent years.

This results in increasing competition for SERP space which is limited, and CPCs that will continue to increase while at the same time there being a lack in growing sales volume.

19. Technical Marketers in Demand

We'll see marketers becoming more technical, leading to things like wider adoption and reliance on CRM data in conjunction with their advertising efforts. Marketers will be tracking the lifecycle of leads and will be the ones predicting performance and not Finance or IT.

Gaining technical expertise will help you have the ability to manage, optimize and analyze digital advertising campaigns at scale.

These skills are fundamental to the use of tools like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising Scripts or feed-based features like Shopping, Ad Customizers etc.

20. Voice search to go mainstream?

Smart homes, smart speakers and personal assistants seemed like science fiction five years ago.

But the percentage of households in the United States that use a voice assistant is set double from 2016-2020.

Although no mainstream paid voice search advertising options have become available yet, we could begin to see them arise in 2020.

In the meantime, there are strategies PPC marketers can adopt to prepare for the inevitable rise of voice search.

This includes adapting online content to match the more conversational tone used in voice searches.

"New York DC bus" is acceptable as a Google search.

But with voice search, people would say something like:

"Siri, what buses go to DC from New York this tuesday?"

Updating FAQ pages on websites, using long-tail keywords and making ad copy as short as possible are all ways to optimize for voice searches.

21. The emergence of visual search

Hand in hand with the rise of voice search is the rise of visual search.

In visual search, an actual picture is taken as the search query instead of text.

For example, you take a picture of a table you like in a restaurant and then get results of the exact brand pulled up to your phone with a purchase link.

While the technology is still in its infancy, we could see major advances in 2020 as brands actively battle with each other to become your go-to visual search app.

In 2018 we saw Pinterest launch Pinterest Lens, Snapchat partner with Amazon and Instagram launch a shopping service all of which include various aspects of visual search technology.

What's the driver behind this?

It's the fact that typing is archaic.

People are lazy and want results fast. The cameras on our phones make that possible.

PPC marketers and businesses can prepare for the rise of visual search by creating a picture catalogue of their product range and adding meta data to the pictures to make so that they are easily picked up by search engines.


These trends just scratch the surface of everything that is changing in the world of paid search. We will continue to update this up until the new year and after as trends appear. But these are the main ones we've identified for now.

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