What Search Will Look Like In 2014

Ah, welcome -- we have officially entered 2014. Hang on because search marketers are in for big changes this year -- even more so than in 2013. Two major trends will emerge. Marketers will discover how to capitalize on data without pissing off consumers, and Facebook and other social sites like Pinterest will take on more search engine-like characteristics.

Matt Ackley, CMO of Marin Software, describes what paid search will look like in 2014 after a year of big changes and recapping a few milestones in 2013. He tells us how Google standardized its Enhanced Campaigns and Product Listing Ads (PLAs), Bing launched its own Product Ads, and Facebook launched new performance-driven ads that work similar to keyword-based search ads. Google also said it would no longer provide the search engine optimization keyword data, removing visibility for SEO content and boosting paid-search spending.

1. Audience Data Takes Center Stage

We've seen the first step toward audience data being combined with biddable media through the success of Facebook Custom Audiences. This new type of Facebook ad targeting delivered a 64% lower CPA for Marin Software's clients in 2013. Google's move to Enhanced Campaigns also allows advertisers to buy search ads based on audience-data, including device-level targeting.

In 2014, we will continue to see a shift toward highly accurate, audience-based targeting in search, social, and display. For example, insurance companies will boost bids when they know someone's renewal time approaches, and drop visibility of ads to customers who just renewed. Florists will increase bids on ads when they know someone's wedding anniversary is approaching. With a wealth of data infiltrating every part of ad buying, targeting, and measurement, ads will become more precise in 2014, allowing advertisers to finally reach one-to-one audiences.

2. Facebook Gets Closer to Search, and Vice Versa

Facebook's move toward performance-based ad formats post IPO delivers real results for advertisers. Similar to search advertising, Facebook targeting continues to become much more precise and audience-based. Twitter will soon follow suit with new audience-based performance ads. Search marketers will have a huge advantage in this new "social-meets-performance" world. They will leverage years of experience with auction-based bidding models to gain rapid traction into social's new audience-based ad formats.

While social sites like Facebook will continue to help marketers run branding campaigns, running ads in the Newsfeed and on mobile devices did wonders for Facebook advertisers from a performance marketing standpoint. Marin's data shows advertisers increased the investment in Newsfeed ads 140% between Q2 and Q3 2013. Since Facebook isn't a search engine, the site doesn't support much intent data. Facebook does have a lot of user data, however, so this year we will likely see the site leverage this rich audience data to serve users more relevant ads.

3. Mobile CPCs will Rise

More consumers reach for their mobile device. In 2014, more advertisers will refine and improve their mobile search campaigns. Advertisers will optimize creative for smartphones and tablets, further improving conversion rates on these devices as well as better attributing smartphone searches to offline conversions.

As advertisers fine-tune their mobile campaigns, we expect to see tablet CPCs reach similar levels to those on a desktop. Searches on tablets will increase in volume as tablet penetration continues to surge. This means tablet and smartphone demographics will shift from the high-end, tech-savvy groups they are today to more mainstream segments.

4. Ad Tech Opens Up

The complex and fragmented biddable media ecosystem will see more buying channels become viable options all the time. To ensure effective cross-channel optimization, it will become increasingly important for ad tech platforms like analytics, bid management, SEO tools, call-tracking software, tag management, ad servers, and real-time bidding platforms to provide open interfaces. This will give advertisers the ability to easily connect data between a variety of tools, as well as their own legacy systems.

5. Attribution Gets its Due

Search marketers have long debated the importance of attribution. Does a click that doesn't result in an immediate sale count, although it influences an online or offline purchase a month or so in the future? Few have cracked the measurement code to show initial clicks drive revenue. As an open technology ecosystem develops within the paid-search industry, we will see more interaction between attribution and optimization platforms. This will enable advertisers to finally measure the impact that attributed data has on revenue. This is a small but important change that will finally give attribution its true weight in the paid-search industry.

"2014 Over Magnifying Glass" photo from Shutterstock.

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2 comments about "What Search Will Look Like In 2014".
  1. Steve Plunkett from Rockfish , January 2, 2014 at 3:39 p.m.
    Knowledge Graph or the "Brand Box" will be an important part of retailers search strategy. Also.. ads on google+ and on personalized non-logged in search, as well as the integration of Google+, Youtube and Blogger comment systems. all are factors.. =)
  2. Clint Dixon from Sem Advance , January 3, 2014 at 5:08 p.m.
    Perhaps people should change their business model to make the clicks and resultant visit an opportunity to engage the visitor, and foster a relationship from there which will lead to numerous sales in the future. Nahhhh sales or nothing right?