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3 Tactics to Reassess Paid Search in 2014

In many ways, 2013 was a transition year for paid search. We saw the launch of AdWords Enhanced Campaigns, to more precisely target searcher intent. We also saw the next evolution of AdWords Product Listing Ads through Google Shopping campaigns. From a social perspective, Facebook and Twitter advanced their retargeting platforms.

What do all of these features have in common? The paid search industry is moving toward audience targeting rather than traditional keyword-based advertising. Keywords will always have their place in paid search, but push marketing via the correct audiences and messages will be more important than ever in 2014.

Here are three tactics to manage paid search campaigns in 2014.

Make PLAs the Priority

Traditionally, the first and most time-consuming part of any new pay-per-click account build has been the text ad campaign creation. This tactic made sense as text ads took up the majority of the search results and generally produced the most revenue. Though Product Listing Ads — PLAs — have been around for years, they didn’t gain prominence in the listings until the move to a completely paid model came in October 2012. Additionally, up until recently, text ads still had a color background to distinguish themselves from the organic listings. A look at the listings now showcase PLAs as the major draw.

Note the text ad below the PLAs. Even with the yellow “ad” messaging, it’s very easy to miss.

Note the text ad below the PLAs. Even with the yellow “Ad” messaging, it’s easy to miss.

Optimizing and setting up your PLA campaigns should be the first priority in any PPC campaign. Setting aside the high returns PLAs generally show, from an aesthetic and eye-catching perspective, they are too important to ignore.

Start Strong with Remarketing

Remarketing is another feature that was always important, but never more important than in 2014. With the advent of AdWords Dynamic Remarketing, you can now remarket to visitors based upon the products they viewed. Additionally, Facebook Retargeting companies such as AdRoll and Perfect Audience are rolling out their own dynamic remarketing platforms. Not only will visitors see the products they viewed across Google’s Display Network sites, but they’ll be visible on Facebook as well.

My team is testing new ideas for remarketing. One idea involves layering our dynamic remarketing audiences with websites — also known as placements — and topics. Within Google’s Display Network, you have the ability to show your ads on specific websites and to those users interested in certain topics. For example, we work with a client selling hockey equipment where we target hockey-related websites and topics.

Applicable Display Network websites and topics.

Applicable Google Display Network websites and topics.

Our dynamic remarketing ads will show to these visitors anyway, but we might lose traction to the most relevant audiences by not bidding high enough. For example, a competitor might be targeting specific hockey websites without the prerequisite of visitors already coming to the site. If this bid is higher than our general Dynamic Remarketing bid, our ads won’t show or will receive less exposure. Thus, these layered campaigns allow us to bid higher to capture those visitors who are further down the sales funnel. Our early results have been promising and will be shared in a future piece.

Run Effective Social PPC Campaigns

I’ve mentioned Facebook and Twitter remarketing, but audience targeting through social platforms will be imperative for companies’ brand growth. I use the term “growth” loosely, as social PPC isn’t solely about revenue, but also increasing exposure.

With social media, it’s necessary to think beyond revenue and analyze micro conversions. Micro conversions are anything from email newsletter signups to Facebook likes. You need to think about how you can best gain these users’ attention and, ultimately, why they should take specific actions on your site. The challenge then becomes staying in front of these users through email, remarketing, and other channels. You’re still paying for traffic, but the revenue comes later down the line after exposing your brand to the audience. Social PPC is not easy, but it will be necessary for growth in 2014.


All three of the tactics discussed involve a significant investment in understanding audience intent rather than keyword-based intent. PPC is evolving and we all must adjust to the new landscape.

Matthew Umbro
Matthew Umbro
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