Paid Search Predictions for 2013

It's hard to believe we're ramping up for Q4 of 2012. Under the assumption that the Mayans were wrong, I've already started thinking about 2013 and what might happen in digital marketing next year, specifically paid search.

We all know that paid search is a fast-paced industry, but I think 2013 is set up to be especially frenetic.  Even though the world won't be ending, lazy marketers who refuse to evolve aren't going to survive in 2013. It's going to take a lot of hard work to keep up with the big changes coming in PPC, but the payoff is that advertising should improve across the board, for users and marketers alike.

Here's what you can expect in 2013:

The Death of Last Click Attribution

Cost per conversion has been the holy grail of PPC metrics for years. But if you're optimizing for it in AdWords without looking at Analytics or researching your audience buying cycle, you're about to be left behind, because knowing how your audience makes purchasing decisions will be the key to successful paid media campaigns in 2013.

Consider this: When 'Jane' buys a car, she doesn't search for 'car' and immediately convert. She may start with a broader search, then look at reviews online, then ask her friends about their opinions on social media, then look at more specific reviews, then search for more specific keywords, then search for the exact make/model/year she wants and then convert!

In 2013, the smart search marketer will be buying not only the 'decision' keywords, but the 'awareness/consideration' keywords as well. They will have well-placed display ads that are beneficial to the user. They'll have social media ads that engage the audience. They'll have remarketing ads that give people a reason to come back to convert.

Yes, doing this research and building these campaigns is exhausting. You have to put in the effort to get the glory.

A New Flavor of Cookie

I lied about Jane. Her buying cycle is actually nowhere near that simple. Like many of us, Jane has a smartphone, an iPad, a Kindle, etc., all of which complicate things.

Normally, we depend on cookies to track visitors like Jane. Cookies are limited, though. There's just no way to know if Jane starts her journey on her laptop with a broader search and a PPC ad, then converts later that night on her iPad by coming to you directly. That direct visit will get the credit for the conversion, and your broader PPC keyword gets nothing. And that sucks!

Something needs to change, and I believe sooner than later there will be an agreed upon system to track visitors across multiple decides, though likely without tracking personal information. It won't be the cookie.

Even Creepier Search

As marketers, we love to be creepy. We wish we could know everything about our audience. This doesn't have to be malicious and, in fact, could make advertising better for everyone. The key is knowing who to target, when, and how to target them. The better we do this, the better our ads can be. And we're in luck because, in 2013, search will get seriously creepy.

Let's start with retargeting. When I see an ad on CNN that shows the last 4 things I viewed at Nordstrom, I'm creeped out! But retargeting, done right, works, and it's only going to get more personalized. Third party tools are already taking personalization into account when displaying retargeting ads. Facebook Exchange's retargeting program is said to be performing extremely well.  There will be huge potential to create engaging ads that speak to people and give them a reason to come back and convert.

Speaking of Facebook, we all agree they don't care about protecting your personal data, right? As a user, I'm offended; as a marketer, I'm salivating. People live their lives on Facebook. There is so much information about your audience and what they like; it's a PPC marketer's dream. Used wisely, this information can be the foundation for some amazingly targeted campaigns.

When it comes to creepy, though, Google Plus takes the cake. I wasn't sure if it was possible to give Google MORE information about me, but I was wrong. I'm always logged in to my Google account on my laptop, I use a Droid phone, I use Google Maps in my GPS in my car, and now I'm willfully telling them everything about me and what I like on Google Plus. Of course, Google will never flat out give away personal information, but my guess is that in 2013, Plus will be somehow integrated into AdWords. The potential targeting options are incredibly exciting.

Looking Forward

In 2013, there will be more information available about your audience than you've ever had before, and more options to target them throughout their buying cycle. Don't be creepy just for the sake of it. Use these resources to create engaging, beneficial ads that give people a reason to love you.


Written by Kimm Lincoln on October 1, 2012


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Be careful of agencies that simply take client direction verbatim and put it on paper. That’s not strategy.

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Kimm Lincoln