Insight | Marketing

Key 2018 PPC Trends

You’ve probably noticed the marketing industry is always on the lookout for updates and any potential signs of change. Paid search has grown massively over the years and we can see its incremental impact on any business’ performance. 

Big claims are made about what each year will herald for paid search, in particular AdWords. 2015 and then 2016 were both ‘the year of mobile’, 2017 was the year ‘machine learning’ became everyone’s favourite buzzword. We have seen some big shifts – last year, for example, saw the launch of Google’s smart display campaigns, close variants in exact match or the introduction of in-market audiences and similar audiences to Search and Shopping.

Having 2017 behind us, it is time to dig into the future of search and what experts predict will be the hot topics in 2018. Will automation continue to grow over the next year? How important will intent targeting be? What does voice search mean for PPC? 

Here are three key things we believe digital marketers should focus on. These are three AdWords trends for 2018 that will have a significant impact on overall digital marketing strategies and day-to-day activities over the coming year.

Audience targeting

As we already mentioned, 2017 saw some big changes to AdWords audience targeting, as Google opened up additional targeting methods like similar audiences for its search and shopping platforms. We expect that advanced, complex audience targeting will continue to be a key area for marketers to focus on in 2018.

Studies have shown that personalised advertising goes down much better with users than blanket, irrelevant ads. This is as true for AdWords Search ads as it is for Display and Video ads. Integration of audience data with paid search campaigns brings the much-needed intelligence behind keyword intent. This will raise you above the competitors and help you target customers based not only on the search terms they are using but also the intent behind their searches. A solid, well-developed keyword strategy is of course essential, but no longer enough. This should be backed up with additional audience targeting methods to ensure the maximum relevance to your potential customers.

Now, one very important and very large caveat to note here – though AdWords may be opening up a range of new targeting methods, the much-discussed GDPR legislation, which is coming into effect in May this year, will have serious ramifications for how you are storing and processing customer data to use in your campaigns. We’ll cover this in a bit more detail shortly, but it’s definitely something you need to be aware of when considering your audience strategies.

Voice search

Here’s one we’ve already picked up on earlier this year. Even though voice search still remains a source of frustrations for the majority of PPC marketers its influence on digital continues to grow.

50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020!


However, it’s still not something search marketers will likely be able to make use of in 2018. There is no doubt Google is working on new exciting developments behind the scenes, but we are very much in the dark at the moment and the development cycle is likely to be quite a lengthy one – Google won’t be rushing out a half-finished tool for such a critically important market.

There’s definitely a few things we’re keeping an eye out for though. Imagine how cool it would be to start seeing specific voice search queries in search term reports and be able to report on them?! This is to come but when exactly, no one knows yet. It will be fascinating to see how Google incorporates voice search into its existing AdWords setup. Will we see new ad formats specifically for voice, and what these will be? Answers yet to come.

Despite all these unknowns, one thing is sure – voice search is here to stay, and it is going to have an incremental impact on search activities, therefore marketers need to start optimising clients’ sites for voice search users as well. Strategies for both PPC and organic will have to change and adjust to the new environment as voice users would show different type of behaviour. The entire marketing planning will have to be reconsidered and adapted to the voice user including marketing objectives and the products or services that such users will be most interested in.

We also predict that this will have an impact outside of Google. One of the main differences between voice and text searches is the comparative length of search terms. Text searches are concentrated around one or three words whereas voice searches are much longer reaching 10 or even more words, often expressed in the form of question. We believe that tools such as or will be getting higher popularity among advertisers as marketers attempt to identify and exploit these new trends.

Furthermore, voice search will also serve to reinforce the importance of mobile, highlighting the need for advertisers to makes sure their sites and strategies are mobile ready.

Process automation

Machine learning is far from reaching its full potential, but process automation is only going to accelerate in 2018 and will continue to cause changes in digital.

Expect more invasions this year as Google is likely to automate even more the campaign manager interface, introducing automation tools beyond bidding and targeting. From an agency perspective, automation is not always as positive as it takes the control away from the PPC marketers and reduces opportunities for campaign customisation. Marketers won’t have much of a choice but to let go and give up some control over campaign management.

We would argue though that you should view these changes in a positive way – in terms of day-to-day management, and from businesses’ point of view, more automation means less manual processes and faster implementation. This will allow you to shift focus from day to day manual adjustments to focus more on user intent and audience targeting, taking the manual work out of their hands and letting algorithms do the hard work instead. More and more companies will be testing and adopting the new automation processes, identifying areas where automation works and embracing it. You should be too. 

Are you GDPR compliant?

In 2018 as it was in 2017, data is the core of everything digital. PPC will continue to be all about analysing data to better understand consumers intent and make informed decisions. Therefore, with GDPR coming into force in May 2018, it is essential, whether you’re a marketer or business owner, that you completely change the way you approach and handle data, and the way you communicate with your customers. GDPR rules will affect every aspect of search marketing, from process automation and artificial intelligence to voice search and audience targeting – make sure you’re on top of it!

Keeping this in mind and paying attention to the trends mentioned above should help you stay on top of your marketing efforts. If you wish to discuss any of these further, don’t hesitate to get in touch via email, phone or social media. We’d love to help.