Season 2 | Episode 5

Paid Search: The Past, Present, and Future

Season 2 of Paid Media Coffee is about looking ahead to changes in our industry.

Join us in episode 5 as we walk through the evolution of paid search with host, Vice President of Paid Media, Kelly Mancuso, President of Nebo, Kimm Lincoln, Co-founder of Nebo, Brian Easter, and Senior Paid Search Manager, Anna Swinyer.

Pour yourself a cup of joe and listen as we start with the origins of paid search and continue onto new macro trends you should plan to utilize now.


Kelly: Welcome to Paid Media Coffee. I'm your host Kelly Mancuso, and today we're talking about the evolution of paid search. 

Today I have Brian Easter. He's the co-founder of Nebo. Welcome.

Brian: Thank you. Thank you for having me again. I hope I don't go too far back in history here.

Kelly: We also have Kimm Lincoln for the first time on the show.

She's the president of Nebo. Welcome.

Kimm: Thank you. I'm excited to finally be here.

Kelly: Yeah, and another newbie, we have Anna Swinyer. She is a senior paid search manager here at Nebo.

Anna: Hey guys! Excited to talk about search. 

Kelly: All right. I'm really excited because we haven't talked about search a lot on the show.

We actually haven't had any specific episodes dedicated to paid search. And I'm also excited because between the four of us, we all began our careers in paid search at different times. I think we're all going to bring a really interesting perspective to this. To get started, I would like for each of you to tell us about what paid search was like when you started in the industry, and then what major changes you've experienced along the way. 

Brian, let's start with you.

Brian: I think you have to start with me.

Kelly: Veteran.

Brian: When I started my career, if you could spell HTML, you could make a lot of money.

Search engine marketing wasn't a thing. I was lucky that I was in the industry that was very digital-first, even then. One day this website company,, came out with the PPC model. Nobody ever heard of that. That later was rebranded to Overture and it wasn't used.

People didn't trust it. People didn't think about it. But those of us who did thought it was pretty cool because basically for literally 10 cents, you could buy a very targeted keyword and the ad would appear and people clicked it and bought. You know, it didn't even have to be relevant.  And people were buying words like Britney Spears and then taking them to non Britney Spears sites, which seems weird to me, but it was just the Wild West. You could also serve multiple ads. If I wanted to buy, best paid media agency, I could buy that and then I could buy it again, and then I could buy it again and have all the SERPs or the paid SERPs be there.

Then really sophisticated marketers used Yahoo, which later bought Overture and Google AdWords. And you could still buy keywords for 10 cents. And clients, their minds were blown and you're driving conversions and they think you're magic. Our best practices were terrible.

Ad copy was probably terrible because you didn't have to up your game and it was about being there. I mean, we thought we were good, but looking back at some old ad copy, I'm thinking, Oh God, I wrote that. That was the world from the mid-nineties, and to, uh, the early 2000s, when much smarter, talented people came into the arena and upped the game.

Kimm: I was gonna say, I don't think our best practices were terrible.

Kelly: They were the best practices at the time.

Kimm: I'm not quite as ancient as Brian, but I am up there. So I started in 2006 as an intern, a paid media intern at Nebo. And like Brian said, it was still very simplistic.

There was Google, there was Yahoo, and I think MSN, too, was a separate search engine. And at that time there was just the search network and the content network. It wasn't even the display network, it was the content network. There was not really any automation. Even the quality scores back then were just poor or good and you didn't even know what went into that.

You're just always kind of guessing. And there is no mobile targeting. Ad formats were mostly just text. You could do images, but the text was like, you had to be headline 25 and then 35 and 35 and I remember getting so frustrated because you have the greatest ad and then it'd be 36 characters.

I’d have to start over.

Kelly: But you learned all these little tricks on how to cut down. 

Kimm: Exactly. Little abbreviation. So, a lot of it was very tedious. It was also really new still. It was really fun because there wasn't as much competition. It was a lot cheaper. It used to feel like we could really change our clients' businesses almost overnight.

And obviously there's a lot more complexity now. 

Kelly: It was also a lot easier to be really good at it and stand out, I think.

Kimm: Yeah. 

Kelly: All right. Anna, what about you? You are newest to the industry.

Anna: I actually started learning my career in paid search began in college, which is vastly different now.

My professors were pioneering my education from the get-go and my coursework. I remember actually writing an essay on RTB. What does RTB stand for? It was my question. Just really diving into real-time bidding and learning all the nuances about it from a textbook and then applying those practices and those principles and getting to see them in real-time, in real life.

Now with what I'm doing, I'm optimizing campaigns. I literally started learning about paid search five years ago but had been optimizing campaigns for four years. When I started enhanced CPC was just coming out. For me, my experience with paid search has really been an automation first world.

Really taking a different approach from cheaper CPCs and, you know, looking at just shorter ad copy and looking at the automated formats and the automated landscape that we have now with smart bidding, with longer ad copy, with responsive search ads.

Kelly: Very long ad copy.

Anna: Dynamic search ads. All the things that now we see as normal, best practices for paid search really started rolling out for me a few years ago. It's been a really wild ride for paid search. I think that now it kind of scares some companies from getting in the game. There's a lot of different things that you can do with paid search now, but I think that's also one of the great creative aspects of it too, you know, paid social and display and programmatic buys. Those look fine and they have fun and images. But behind the scenes, paid search is just as creative now, which is really exciting.

Brian: One quick flashback to history because it reminds me of, Anna, you're so knowledgeable and Kelly, we should bring up the award she got this year.

Kelly: Yes. Anna is an official Microsoft Ads superhero.

Anna: I sure am.

Kimm: There is a huge cutout of her in our office.

Brian: Sent by Microsoft. There were nine people but it was still awesome. It reminds me because I've been on reporting calls with you. 

I remember when I went from doing my own freelance stuff to working on the client-side, we hired somebody to do a paid search for us in this company. The first report they gave us. They delivered in a binder. It was printed at Kinkos. Yes. I look back at it, and it's so funny because reporting is so advanced now and all the things you're talking about, I watch you talk to clients and sometimes their minds are just blown because you're talking about stuff and it's…. wow, the world is so much more sophisticated than it was.

Even five years ago.

Kelly: It is. It's actually a really fun exercise to go back into the agency archives and find old reports and look at them, you know, and see the quote-unquote mindblowing stats that we would report on. You know, were very simple and now it's so complex. If there's just so much to look at that then leads to something else that leads to something else.

Anna: It's different problems too, besides abbreviations and using ampersands. Well, now I'm struggling with two description lines at 90 characters and trying to…. but you have a lot of content that you can use now in three headlines. So it's, it's a big difference. And then putting responsive search ads on top of that, creating over 10 headlines - and it's just, it's wild now, but I think that's all part of the evolution of paid search and how we're growing and we're evolving. It's really exciting.

Kelly: Obviously the ad platform initiated changes and the capabilities have changed a lot, but there are more macro trends that I want to talk about. We can't ignore the shifts in behaviors and just the evolution of search engines in general as well.

Let's talk a little bit about that. How do you think those things have disrupted paid search?

Kimm: We talk about this a lot, but I think in general, the definition of what a search engine is has changed. You know, you could have a search engine in your car. Spotify is a search engine. YouTube is a search engine.

You have vertical search where people might go straight to Amazon before they go to Google. Your fridge could be a search engine. But with that said, search engines have always been a tool to try to decipher user intent. I think Google especially is getting better and better at that by using AI neural technology to really understand the underlying intent behind somebody's search.

I saw a quote recently from Google's vice president of search, that said that they see billions of searches every day and 15% of those queries are ones they have not seen before. They really have to build ways to return relevant results for those queries without even knowing what they might be and the way they'd done that is through a lot of AI and machine learning.

You see these updates from Google, with Bert and with their Google duplex, their AI platform, and with Meena, their chat platform, where you can see that they're going that way to kind of get us away from that keyword ease to more of, hey, this is more of a two-way conversation. Instead of searching for atlanta jobs, which is what I would have searched for in 2006 when I was looking for jobs. And you might search for what is the best job for me? Because you trust Google to give you a good answer

Kelly: And a relevant one to you.

Kimm: In general, I think with voice, with visual search, search continues to expand.

And I think that's probably the broadest trend that I've been seeing.

Anna: I mean, I think that's huge too, from an advertiser's point of view. It's not so much now about how Brian mentioned before, buying all the ad placements on a SERP and just owning that real estate. It's a different mindset now for advertisers. We need to really think about that conversation that that user is asking to experience from us and so that's a way different approach than how it used to be. I think a lot of queries are untapped that 15% that are brand new. Those are huge trends as advertisers that we can capitalize on.

That's traffic that we can direct to our sites. That's conversions, potential conversions that we can give our clients at the end of the day. I think that's a huge shift, too. We used to have as advertisers a last-click mentality. Going for that query that's going to give you that conversion.

But now through segmentation in Google, we can see the path to conversion is a lot more than one touchpoint. It can be five. It can be 13 depending on what the conversion is that we're trying to achieve. Yup. I think that's also a really big step, too. That's 12 other times before that last 13th click that you want to try and keep that user down the path that you're trying to take them and showing them the content that's important for them.

I think that's the first macro trend in my opinion that I try and implement every day for my clients. But the second one too is the way that the SERPs changing in general. I mean, when I first entered the space, the left-hand rail was gone and everyone freaked out that, you know, later down the road we're realizing, Oh, we have more real estate for ad copy and things like that, but that left-hand rail. I didn't realize how many of my ads are showing on there. That drove CPCs up. It changed things. That changes the way that the user looks at the SERP too. It's not as cluttered anymore. We found that more people were spending time reading ads. That was a shocker to us. I didn't think anybody looked at my second description, but that's the case.

That's the game that we're in now. Adding shopping and adding all the different ad types, image types for that as well has made it look different. And I think that's a huge trend that advertisers don't really talk about enough. 

Think about what it looks like to a user, right? Think about everything that they're looking at on that page and all the images that they're seeing. It goes from what are they asking for? And are you making that ad as eye-appealing as you possibly can?

Kelly: That's actually something that I've thought about before because with clients when we're talking about year over year trends and you know, why are your search metrics different than they were a year ago? You know, there are broader things that you can speak to, but I always wish that I would've taken a screenshot a year ago so that now I could compare. And so that's something that I think we should start doing, you know, benchmarking screenshots of our actual ads in the SERPs so that we can benchmark things moving forward.

Kimm: I think if we've seen anything, it's that every year it's going to change pretty drastically.

Brian: I think to sort of echo a lot of what you said, I think we're entering a multimodal world that is, to Kimm's point about voice, where there's not a finite way to search. You know, there's times where I'm on a laptop, I have a voice assistant, I have a TV and I may go ask Google for a recipe. And then I would go from a voice search to touching it because I'm swiping up and looking cause that's easier than verbally scrolling through things. I think that voice and multimodal will become ubiquitous in automobiles.

And that's really gonna change paid search because we're going to be in a car and we're going to want to know what restaurants are nearby, what movies are available, and some of that is going to be voice search. Some of that is going to be swiping and clicking. But I also think that, to Kimm's point as well with the Internet of things and being able to talk to a refrigerator or these other things.

Well, it's really going to change search in general, but specifically paid search. And then when you layer on some of the sophistication that Anna's talking about, we used to be very much appreciative of Google or Microsoft having this knowledge graph and having all of this data and being able to add different elements.

To make the keyword query more relevant based on demographics psychographics are aligned behavior, but actually there's, we're able to layer on more than that now. It's not just the knowledge graph, it's actually, you know, Microsoft bought LinkedIn. In terms of paid search, we don't have to just leverage the psychographics and demographics, we can say we only want, restaurants with more than 50 locations that have these attributes. We're getting a little bit more of a 360 view. We still don't have everything. You know, and also to echo something that Anna said, Anna said that now the ad experiences are a little bit more infused and you have more real estate.

I think that there's potentially a macro trend, maybe a potential of a backlash. And I want to fuse two things. One native, but also Google and Microsoft and others making the ads less apparent that their ads to less marketing-oriented users. And so right now that probably as a brand might think that's a good thing.

But to users, to Kimm's point, if a search engine is just a tool to decipher user intent, if there is too much ad and not enough relevance, you can end up with a poor user experience. And the last thing I think, and I have no idea what this is going to look like, but as a macro trend, as we moved from a cookie-based world to a cookieless world, is really going to shift paid search and probably ways that we can't imagine.

I've said this before on previous episodes. I do think it's going to be some level of biometrics, and then I think that's why we're using our fingerprints to log into computers and stuff like that. But then what that does is it fragments these walls where there's an Apple ecosystem and it has the tracking capability.

There's a Google ecosystem that has tracking capability, and how do we get this information as we go to different devices and different touchpoints? It arguably could be. Make Anna and people on Anna's team job easier if they're in a defined ecosystem. But if somebody is like, Hey, I've got my Amazon self, my Google self, my Apple self, and then you don't have, the cookie it's really going to be different and challenging.

I don't know it ends up, but it's definitely going to be something that's going to change things.

Kimm: To add to that point, more and more data is potentially going away from marketers. As consumers are striving for more privacy, we may start to rely more on search because you don't have to rely as much on third party data.

Brian: The user intent of the query trumps just what we used to get from the demographics, psychographics and behavioral.

Anna: And I think the search engines are shifting that way with the new ad type that Google is really trying. In Microsoft as well. They're trying to keep their users on their page.

They're trying to encourage them to shop there. They're trying to encourage them to place their images in there and search there. Local pages are coming out, and those are, those are big too, so you're totally correct it's moving that direction. But I think too, the engines are very aware of it, and they're already making steps internally that maybe we don't realize as much, but that is their process.

Twenty years down the road, cookieless, well, it doesn't matter that 80% of our users already spend so much of their time on our engine, we created it that way. And I think that's the big part of that mindset that we're talking about, and making the ecosystem and making, that user experience as good as it can be.

Brian: I know this is going off the rails a little bit of, but I think layering this back to previous episodes and even future episodes, I think that's where DSPs and some of these other platforms allow us to not, even if we don't have the data, we know that we can do this one thing here and then still interact over here in search or retargeting or whatever.

I do think that's also a macro trend. It'll come that, and it sort of goes into measurement in general that I think clients are slowly learning. You don't have to convert on the first click and that, there are techniques to have pull-throughs, whether the journey begins in search or the journey begins somewhere else.

And how do we fuse a lot of these different things so we can have a continuous journey, even if it's with different platforms and different,

Anna: Yeah.

Kelly: Going back to Anna, your point about the zero-click searches. We've seen a huge rise in that and we talked about it a lot with our SEO team and providing recommendations on answer boxes and all of these things.

But it is really prevalent from an ad perspective as well. I mean, we've got Google's new lead gen form data that is out right now. There's also, you know, service listing ads, hotel ads, shopping actions, all of these things that are meant to let people stay on the SERP, but take whatever action they need to take right there without even going to your website.

We're going to have to shift our mindset of measurement in order to be able to, you know, say yes, we haven't seen the traffic or the website uplift, but we're still seeing these actions elsewhere. 

Anna: No, I totally agree.

Kelly: All right. One thing that I think is really important to talk about is the increase in data and the advanced metrics that we now have access to.

What advanced metrics have you found? And, Anna, I'm looking specifically at you, have you found the most impactful? And I think it'll be interesting to talk about that. And also, you know, have Brian and Kimm weigh in on, on what may have, may have not been available back in the day.

Brian: Anna, you own this, but I've gotta work this in before you start.

The metrics that we used back in the day weren't that good, but I've got a joke. You asked to say, could we bring a joke in?

Kimm: Yeah,

Brian: Knock, knock.

Anna: Who's there?

Brian: No one, because my average position is 6.9 we used to report on average position that used to be a major metric. I know. I just want to say that one of the jokes, I found a joke online.

So take us out of the average position and CPCs.

Anna: Advanced metrics....Personally, being a paid search nerd, I geek out over it. But also I try and look at these metrics as a way to answer the questions that our clients have been looking for. Like Brian mentioned, we used to live in this black box of paid search where we just gave 10 cents and we'd spent 10 cents, and that's about all we knew.

And today we just have so much more insight into, not only how much we're averagely paying per click, but also where our ad is and what qualifications Google has deemed us for that have given us a quality score of 10 or of nine or of eight. These advanced metrics are important, not only to give us more insight and clarity for our clients, answers to the questions that they're asking us as an agency, but also they're important for search engines. The bottom line, what they care about is user experience. We now have so much competition in the paid search world. We have less ad placements where we can show. What it comes down to really is that user experience and what we're delivering as advertisers.

Yes, is it great to see quality score broken up historically. And I can see day over day when I change, not a copy or landing page, how that affected my quality score? I mean I geek out about it, but I always have to remember there's a bigger importance to that. And that is what am I giving to the user at the end of the day, in their experience that they're seeing?

It relays so much of what the engines are looking for, they reward us, we pay less for a better user experience. And that's really what they're trying to give the user at the end of the day. And that's why they're giving us all these advanced metrics. Showing us, you know, impression share differences and absolute top of page rate as well as the ClickShare metrics that we're getting now.

All those things are great to geek out about, but, you know, how can we use those and how can we really get some, some good insights and deep dives and optimizations?

Brian: Anna, one of the things I think the major search engines haven't gotten there completely yet, but I love the fact that they have put more emphasis on the entire, you know, share of voice, so to speak.

That's where a lot of marketers would talk about, in the past and Google and Microsoft and have been so focused historically on that, you know, conversion-oriented metrics. They haven't talked the brand language. And so bringing in more brand language will help not only them get more, uh, spend from brands, but also it helps the brands understand what's upper funnel. What's lower funnel. Where do I need to be?

It allows marketers to be more sophisticated. That's exciting. They're not there yet, but there's a lot more than there was when started and even when probably more to come.

Kimm: To that point, I think, well nobody lets me manage campaigns anymore.

I don't get to use a lot of these advanced metrics. But I am in meetings and also as a business owner, you see advances in connecting these online activities all the way through the funnel, whether that's offline or through a sale in a CRM. That's what people care about. Back when we used to report on metrics, it was, hey, here's your average position.

Here's your clicks. I'm thinking, Oh my God, we got 10 conversions. That's more than last month. So good for us. But now the question is, well, did that turn into revenue? How much? What's the ROI? Should I be, what should I be spending on this? I think there's a lot of advancements in the tracking there, which has been good for clients.

Anna: I mean, it's definitely a little bit of a double-edged sword. Of course, you can tie all the way back to the end of the day, what our clients care about from a final business standpoint. It shows how important paid search is and how much control we have with helping a user through the buyer journey.

Brian: Anna, I think that's a good point, but I think there's a discipline that agencies and brand-side marketers need to have. Sometimes, and I've seen this, there's too much data. There's too much reporting. We have all these metrics. It's our job to tell a story and to realize there's an art and science to this.

The reality is, even with the best measurement, we're still only seeing the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot of things that happen offline that there's no way to pull into a report. There's an entire mental history that a brand may have with somebody. You know, if I'm thinking about, you know, Cheerios or something, me buying Cheerios at the store didn't start today.

That may have had a 30, 40-year relationship with my relationship with Cheerios, which I don't buy Cheerios. But, you know, you get my point. And so sometimes I think we do put too much certainty into reporting and we need to let clients know that, hey, here's what these measurements mean, but here's what they also don't mean.

There's a lot there. And I've seen clients almost, we give them too much, and then they want to start making the wrong inferences or maybe thinking that things have more certainty than they do. And, I think there's a yin and yang to all the advanced metrics.

Anna: Yeah, totally.

And I think that's one of the amazing things here working at Nebo is all of our search accounts are tailored in a different way for our clients. Just because the evolution of search is growing. We have all these great advanced metrics. Well, an in-store rate isn't going to mean much to our clients that are super focused on e-com.

Right? It's a double edge sword there too as well. It's, yes, we have all these cool new features. but It's not relevant for our client at the end of the day and what they're looking for. Being able to take all these learnings from all of our accounts internally, we're able to make smarter, wiser, quicker decisions with search and really keep up with best practices and the new fun stuff that we can also experiment with because we have that background for us there and we already had those learnings.

Kelly: Speaking of making quicker decisions, I want to transition into automation. Automated bidding specifically has come a long way. I know, Kimm, when you and I were doing this, it was something that we would not even consider layering onto our campaigns, but now it's almost the opposite where if you're relying on manual bidding, come on and get with the times. As we move further and further away from manual bid management, what are your thoughts on it? And you know, any recommendations?

Kimm: Well. My thoughts have changed drastically over the years. You're right. Whenever we were managing campaigns, there was no way we would have considered doing automated bidding.

Because our clients are paying us to manage the campaigns. You turn on automated bidding and then what are you doing?

Brian: Well, it wasn't just that.  Back then...

Kimm: Back then they just weren't smart enough. Either you would turn it on and all of a sudden your cost per conversion would go up or you'd be spending more. You just didn't have as much control.

But now, obviously, the SERPs have invested a lot in this technology. And I do see it as an example where humans and machines are better working together, especially when you look at some of the more tedious aspects of managing a campaign. Whether that's just general campaign management, creative testing, measurement, all that stuff is helped by automation and also frees up time for you, Anna, to be more strategic. I do think it's something that has come a long way and I'm pro automation now.

Kelly: Yay.

Anna: We've converted her!

I agree with everything you just said, Kimm. I think that now at this point in the game, if you're not testing automated bidding or looking for which smart bidding tool is better for your account, then you're not keeping up with what your competitors are doing. I think too, as advertisers, we kind of get sucked into thinking that automated bidding is the TCPA is the target row, as are all of these things that are given to us on the engines. But the truth is, is you can also apply custom scripts for your automated bidding. We have a client that has a really great script that it's up and down based on weather patterns. When we talk about automated bidding, I think as advertisers, we test out the eight or however many we have available to us at the time, and we're like, oh, these don't work. You know, they're not as good as our manual CPCs or our automated rules that we have running. But think outside the box a little bit. There's so many other data points that you can now feed in through our advanced metrics and really use automated bidding at a different level.

It's all about finding what's important to the client. Why should it matter to your client that you're bidding up or down? And if the engines don't supply that with you, then there are other ways that you can go about it. I think that's the first thing. 

A way that I've found to be pretty easy to see if your competitors are using automated bidding is checking out auction insights. It's a great way. I'm probably in auction insights just as much as I am in search term reports. I love knowing what the competitors are doing.

But if you notice that your competitors' impression share is higher than yours, but their top of page rate is lower than yours, then you can infer that they are probably smart bidding because what they're doing is they're trying to show that's what a smart bidding tool is going to do, but they're not going to be, they don't want to be in position one every time.

That's not cost-effective. If you see other impression shares higher, but they're lower than you are on the page, then that's a pretty good indicator, but we've noticed that they are also testing out smart bidding tools as well. If you want to look into that and see, maybe are my competitors testing smart bidding?

Am I late to the game? check out auction insights and see if you can find some things there.

Kelly: That's a good point. Also, that could be a way to convince clients to send to a strategy if they're hesitant. Your competitors are doing it.

Brian: I think there's a lot of interesting things. anytime a machine can do something that has a finite number of variables and it is a large processing load, it makes sense for, you know, machines and AI to handle.

I think there is a macro trend of too much control being taken away in some cases. And I'm not just talking about automated bidding, I'm talking about in other parts, Facebook and others. And even though that's not paid search, they're trying to make things better, but sometimes there's a lack of sophistication or of understanding all the elements that are needed in the bidding strategy.

It's a brand play. And yes, you might be measuring conversions, but you don't expect to have as many conversions because this is a new product rollout or something like that. It is interesting how, you know, the various platforms, not just what's within Google or what's within Microsoft can affect bidding.

And Anna mentioned this earlier, I think some of our clients that have really good automated bidding are also supplementing that with data feeds. You know, whether that's something like a, you know, weather, or occupancy, or something around, other attributes of the products that then we can be smarter with and we can let run.

It sort of reminds me, and I've talked about this a few times internally of centaur chess. Most people we think about, Oh, machine always beats man in chess. There's nothing we can do about it. They've surpassed us. You know, we're going to be, you know, in the matrix soon or whatever. The real reality is, the reason that machines can beat us in chess is there's a small number of variables and there's not a lot of context.

They don't have to look at the weather. They don't have to look at whether it's a holiday. They don't have to look at location, they don't have to look at all these other things. Every variable you add expands it. So centaur chess is where man and machine plays machine and the man AND machine crushes any machine that they've ever tried to put against it because what happens is the art and the context and all that really raises the game. When Anna’s in one of her accounts, she's able to look at this and say, you know, what other data points can I feed in? What is the overall macro situation? Oh, there's a hurricane.

Maybe we don't want to run ads, or, hey, here's these other things that are more brand-centric that a machine's not going to pick up on. I think that it's exciting, but I think that the bare minimum is some of the automated bidding that the search engines provide, how do you layer that in with either scripts or additional data feeds or other tools to make it uniquely, art and science?

Anna: It goes back into the backend of paid search and how it's changed. Now it's not a one-stop shop for the best campaign type or best practices. They morph based on the vertical and the client that you're working on. When you're thinking about how to set up a paid search account nowadays you think about those things. You think about the data points that I can plug in and you think about how can I make this uniquely individual to my client, and, and kind of give it its own little stamp of approval in a sense. Every search account that I work in, it's so fun to dive into a different one because they're all different now.

There's never the same one. And so if we ran completely on automation, we'd be producing the exact same search ads time and time again. And all that would be changing, would be our CPCs that we're applying to it. And how much it costs to be in position one. I think that's a huge thing now is advertisers are using automated bidding and using these other automated strategies that we touched on to help you.

Nowadays, paid search is so much more, it's just, you can't just solely run on manual CPC and handling those keyword optimizations because then you're going to be doing your client not justice by sending your campaigns and step back.

Kelly: Do you guys think that automated bidding has contributed to the inflation of CPCs over the past couple of years?

Anna: 100%. No, I do think that the inflation to CPC is, it's just something that everybody's seen. There are so many articles on it now. We can't ignore it. And a large part of that is because your competitors are more than likely going after that same ideal target audience that you are, and they're going to try and find them at the prime time when they are ready to do the conversion that you want them to do.

And they're in all these infinity audiences and they're in all these lookalike models that we have and they've touched your site this many times. So, inherently it is going to inflate it because your competitor is also going to try and bid on them at the exact same time. I think part of that though, what has to do with that is paying less in the other times where it's not as likely for a conversion to occur

Brian: To jump into that for a second.

CPCs have gone up every year in general, and obviously they're going up a little bit more right now. but I also think that's part of the evolution of the medium. When we were talking about earlier, when you could buy a click for 10 cents or even a dollar, the ROI for a client was pretty high. And, and so what Google and Microsoft and other search engines are able to do is extract every dollar from the margin that they can.

Now, because with automated bidding, if you're willing to pay $150 for a customer, and last year you were getting 98. You're going to end up paying $150 because the market is just going to push it that way. But that being said, I also think that we can't look at search engine, search engine queries in this homogenous way we typically have. I think there needs to be some force experimentation. 

So, whether that's, you know, doing some shifting budget to Microsoft, for example. We've seen some clients that have performed much better with Microsoft than Google, and we've seen some do really well in Google and that's not even thinking about the LinkedIn targeting that you can layer on.

I think there's other alternative platforms. and when I say platforms that, you know, whether it's Google shopping or some, some of the stuff that you can do in Amazon and other things, I think that we sometimes as people that look at paid search a lot tend to micro-focus on Google and Microsoft and then allocate budgets according to the market share of search versus peeling it back a little bit more and having some budget to experiment. Maybe some products are gonna skew toward one audience more and they're going to perform better in a different search platform.

Anna: It all ties back to what you mentioned before, Kimm, about 15% of queries are brand new. Well, those are 15% of queries that maybe our competitors aren't mapping to as much. that could be those inefficient buys that we experiment with. You know, we talk to our clients a lot about it's great to have a conversion page, but we need more content.

We need to talk to the user more on sites. So, experimenting with those queries in that way. They're cheaper CPCs and they're newer long-tailed even, but it's just a way to keep them. Your brand and your clients, a website top of mind for it, for the user. And I think that's a great, a great way to experiment with search.

Kelly: Awesome. Well, we're gonna wrap it up, but before we do, I know we talked a little bit about what we expect is going to come down in paid search in the future. but let's explore that a little bit more. Any final thoughts on where you think paid search is heading in 2020. 

Kimm: I think to add on to Brian's point, the consumer journey is going to continue to be more complex every year.

There's the shift we talked about from typing to voice, or from texts to visual, query lists. But regardless of all of the complexity, going back to what was done in the beginning, search engine's goals are always going to be to provide the most relevant information. That needs to be top of mind for marketers.

So brands need to really focus still on the audience's intent. They need to work really hard to understand the different roles that different platforms are playing for specific audiences in their industry and at that time in their buyer journey. The challenge for us is, how do you create the cohesive strategy across this increasing number of platforms? Not only search platforms but a lot of search platforms that people are using. While, you know, taking advantage of all of the opportunity, and going back to Anna's point, focusing on providing really relevant and valuable ads and content for people because it is so much more competitive now.

Anna: When I think about the future of search, it's all the things that Kimm just said, but also I see it more shifting towards a feed-based system. You know, the engines are really pushing dynamic search ads. Now, I think they talk to us a lot about it, and I think, you know, one, it is a cool feature and it's fun to experiment with, but I'm now starting to think that the reason why they're pushing it so much is because that's kind of the way that the industry is going.

You know, we. Google and Microsoft as well, and all the engines, they're crawling our websites now more than ever. And mobile-first indexing. When that came out, that was a huge shift. And us as advertisers, we just had to adapt. We can't stop them from crawling our websites. It's just the nature of the game.

It's what they're going to do. And so we had to shift, we had to start thinking mobile-first. And then all of a sudden everyone's talking to their clients and see all these articles about mobile-first. And now we're seeing that same thing happening again with feed-based systems. Google really wants you and Microsoft and all the engines really want you to provide them a list of landing pages for them that they can crawl, that they can map queries for you on your behalf.

And as cool as it is, I think as advertisers, we have to keep that in our back pocket. And understand that we might be moving away from our keyword approach, which is scary because that's a new world, but it also, it gives us some flexibility as advertisers as well. And it gives us more of back to that user experience of thinking about how the landing pages adapt to the queries and what the user has been looking for in the past.

So I think that's a huge shift. I think that this automation, what we've been talking about, automated ad types. I've heard, I've read a crazy article that said that we went from text ads to expanded text ads. Now, third headline, second description, and then I read an article that said RSA is responsible search ads are going to be the new text ad.

I don't see that happening anytime soon, but I do think that there is some logic behind that. It's not just on text ads. There are responsive display ads now too. It's a whole shift, a whole mentality, uh, that we're, you know. We just got to latch on and embrace it and learn the best practices that we have now and get ready for it because I don't see manual CPC and just bidding on a keyword existing in five years.

Kelly: Interesting.

Brian: I agree with everything they said. I think the thing I would add is that is it goes back to some of the stuff I talked about earlier. I do think voice or to multimodal is going to explode. They haven't figured out the user experience of that yet, if I'm in the car and I have a voice assistant in my car and I say, Hey, where's the next gas station?

or, you know, something like that. Am I gonna get a paid response or am I gonna get an organic response? Yeah, exactly. Same thing with food and whatnot. I think there's some UX and CX things to workout, but I do think that multimodal and voice are really going to change. Search and generate general because it's changed how we discover brands, interact with brands.

But before I end, and Anna, I know you said something nice about, uh, working at Nebo, which is really nice and we're really, we love you here, but it made me think of another joke.

Why? Why do you think you've settled so well in your new role at our agency?

Anna: Oh, this is a personalized joke?

Brian: I twisted it a little bit.

Anna: Really let my superpowers shine.

Brian: Oh, we just clicked.

Anna: Oh,

Kimm: God.

Brian: All right.

Kelly: Well, on that note, thank you all for joining me today. our next episode, we're going to continue on this paid search trend.

We're going to be talking about paid search. Account structure, best practices. If you're excited about paid search, definitely tune into that. If you liked the podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review. Also, you can feel free to email us if you have any questions or recommendations on content that you'd like us to cover in the future.

Our email is and you can follow us on Twitter @paidmediacoffee. Thanks so much.

Kimm: Thank you.

Anna: Thanks, guys.

Brian: Thanks.

Posted by Paid Media Coffee on April 9, 2020


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