Paid Search 2016: A Tale Of Two Races

For paid search, 2016 will be a tale of two races: The race to adopt new targeting technology and the race to catch up to it. The things that won't happen will become as important and telling as what will.

Audience strategies will expand to a full range of demographics. Google will begin partnering with DMPs so that advertisers can target according to personal characteristics, not just rudimentary behavioral histories. I’m talking about targeting people precisely by personal financial information, purchasing behavior, and very specific demographics -- not merely whether they’ve visited or purchased on a marketer’s site before. For purveyors of specialty and/or expensive products, in particular, this will increase the potential of search dramatically. It will take search a big step forward in sophistication by providing the equivalent of BlueKai’s targeting integrations for display advertising.

Major advertisers will jump on first-party email targeting. For months, Facebook has enabled targeting based on email addresses and provided lookalike audiences based on browsing history. Now that Google also lets advertisers upload email lists and thereby target searchers that have purchased on their sites, we’ll see big-budget marketers jump on the capability. Even if more Internet users clear cookies, they’ll still be findable. So the store that sells $300 sweaters can find known purchasers with more precision than a keyword search can accomplish.

Facebook will partner with a major search engine. Advertisers need to be able to take best practices across platforms. For example, Google Shopping ads would be exponentially more powerful if they could be shown on Facebook as well. We will see a search and social media partnership of this nature, and it will dramatically increase both the volume and the efficiency of digital ad spending.

Client marketing departments won’t pace mobile. This will happen on two levels, because the technology is advancing faster than the marketing infrastructure can adapt.

First, despite the ability to link from an ad to a specific page in an app, the majority of online advertisers and merchants haven’t invested enough in quality mobile apps to do this; and they lack the talent internally to navigate the forward edges of the mobile app world. Second, while mobile search is rising rapidly, marketers need to be able to connect leads and revenue to ad spending. But device-to-device tracking can’t yet account for the people who shop on mobile but buy on the desktop; the best trackers can produce is a predictive analysis.

Because client digital teams are held to strict ROI standards on ad spending, they will cut mobile spending instead of attempting to defend a predictive analysis. They know the C-suite isn’t ready to accept modeling in place of real revenue; so the Web site where the sales register will keep getting the credit and the budget.
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