It’s that time of year when we start to consider the recurring question: what are the trends to be aware of for the coming year?
In order to stay competitive—and preferably stay ahead of the pack—it’s important to be aware of emerging trends in order to adjust strategies (and budgets) accordingly. While there are often small shifts in focus that are not too challenging, there are also more significant changes that require a bit more consideration.
So, what are the SEO and online marketing trends to prepare for in 2020?
Automation and AI
One of the biggest shifts by far will be the continued development of automaton and machine learning. Virtually every PPC marketer is contemplating what this means going forward, and how to adapt. Machines and AI can handle most routine tasks faster and more efficiently than humans. Making the best use of these tools is one of the more important jobs facing paid search professionals.
Knowing what AI can and cannot do will be an important step to help identify those duties that must still be completed by humans. The continued use of keywords, for example, will continue to require human input, given that machines still need us to communicate effectively with one another. Languages will remain the domain of actual people, while calculations and math problems will fall under the purview of the machines.
A popular form of automation at the moment is the use of online-enabled devices that gather data on their owners. Smart devices that manage your home, for example, can provide a tremendous amount of data concerning your personal habits and daily behaviour. This information, in turn, allows for a much more personalized ad experience based on your activities.
Needless to say, this offers a considerable advantage to advertisers, and Google will continue to guide users toward automation. 2020 will see a continued refinement of automation, though there are already AI tools, such as Albert, which can gather information from all of your marketing efforts, analyze it, and determine where you should be focusing your investments. Another tool, Mporium, can be set to make adjustments to your campaigns based on a number of factors such as TV or social media.
Data, Tracking, and Privacy Issues
With the growing capability to gather large amounts of data, it is necessary to remember that there is also an increasing emphasis on privacy, with legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) placing restrictions on tracking.
As we become more conscious of privacy and protective of data, we need to develop new means of tracking and ways to put the data to use while respecting the privacy of our audience. The focus will need to be on presenting the right message to the right audience and offering them the greatest ongoing value possible. This will often mean focusing less on the immediate sale and emphasizing how we can be of assistance to our customers.
A Focus on PPC Strategy
Success with PPC will belong to those who are able to strategize well. Whatever else may change, proper strategy remains vital and will only become more important. Truly understanding your client’s needs involves seeing the big picture, and this will be an important part of effective leadership.
AI will be useful to you here if integrated properly. You will be able to free up time for yourself by automating your bidding or having ads written by AI/ML. This time can be better spent on things that require a human touch, such as creatives.
Focus on Brand Affinity, Not Just Awareness
Brand awareness has been and still is great, but marketers should concern themselves with brand affinity. This means building relationships with your audience beyond simply making them aware of your brand.
Building a brand never stopped being important, though for many years it was something of an afterthought. Going forward in 2020, building your brand affinity will grant a larger amount of influence over your audience.
That being said, brand safety will also be important. You won’t want, for example, to have your brand inadvertently associated with questionable or extreme content.
PPC and Beyond
Making proficient use of Google Ads is essential, but cross-channel efforts can increase your reach significantly and provide you with opportunities for more and faster conversions. Connecting with your audience requires knowing where to find them. They will often be found on Google or Facebook, but may also be present on other channels that are worth your time to look into. And while conversion rate optimization is not a new trend, it is something that is becoming increasingly important. In 2020, CRO should not be considered an optional addition to your efforts, but rather an essential part.
Voice search has been discussed for some time, and predictions suggest that in 2020, fully 50% of all searches will be voice searches. What this means for PPC is that the search terms that trigger ads will be changing as search changes to a more conversational approach. This will require using the same conversational tone in your keyword targeting.
Remarketing, or retargeting, is a strategy that produces good results. As a potential customer sees a given product again and again, they become more likely to purchase it, though as discussed above, this involves understanding and connecting with your audience.
According to a recent study, remarketing has proven to be quite cost-effective, with 4X lower CPA (cost-per-acquisition) versus a more traditional targeting method for display ads. Remarketing allows you to focus your efforts on those who have already expressed some interest in your products or services, rather than looking for new audiences.
Continued Focus On Ranking Well
It has been shown repeatedly that the average user does not often stray past the first three pages of the SERPs. This may become problematic given that predictions state that Google and other platforms will reduce the number of results and also limit the number of pages to be shown in search. This means that ranking high in SERP will be more important than ever. If you are unable to do so, paid advertising may be your only option.
Bing has released their own visual search engine, and as the name suggests, this allows users to search by image—in this case, using Bing’s entire index of the web. Just as voice search has required advertisers to think of new approaches to keywords, visual search will have a similar effect.
To prepare for visual search, it is a good idea to ensure that you are using the best images possible. You should also make use of multiple images when possible, giving the SERPs a choice of images to index.
As always, each new year brings with it a few challenges and a few points to tweak, but a bit of flexibility and a willingness to adjust will lead to greater success.