How PPC Has Evolved Over the Past 5 Years

As a digital marketing agency with a portfolio spanning hundreds of clients utilizing various forms of online advertising, we have seen a lot of digital marketing trends over the last 5 years. From techniques to tools, enhancements and beta programs the world of online advertising is a constantly evolving arena.  Sure we could discuss how text ads got bigger with Google’s expanded text ads for paid search, but there have been so many more PPC trends and advancements that don’t get the discussions they deserve.


From an agency standpoint, one major shift in the conversation has been understanding not just the direct return on ad spend, but how to leverage the sales funnel. Sales, customer service a good deal and a handshake starts to feel like an antiquated way of doing business in today’s fast paced always connected, instant response world.  It’s no longer just about selling your product or service, but acquiring new customers, informing decisions, building shopping experiences and re-engaging to turn your own customers not just into recurring revenue, but an additional source of valued promotion for your brand  


With the conversation shifting to the value of each stage of the customer journey, advancements in multi-channel reporting needed to grow with the conversation, and the tools to quantify customer values through each stage of engagement have become better than ever before.

Google has advanced the reporting of its analytics platform to include multi-touch conversion paths. With so many people online and connected its easier than ever to see not just what was the last ad source that the user touched before making a purchase, but every interaction and platform that was a part of that journey and experience. This paints a completely different picture of your marketing strategy. A customer can find you through targeted social media ads for the first time, return days weeks or months later through paid search ads after remembering your brand, make additional visits through organic listings as they price shop your competition, and finally convert on a sale or promotion from an email campaign. The old online advertising trends favored only the advertising source that was the last touch, but now marketers can leverage much more strategic data, and not discount the influence of any one channel.


The rise of mobile was touted for years as the next big internet marketing trend, and rightfully so. Mobile devices have allowed thousands of people who previously never owned computers access to the internet. The mix of users has somewhat stabilized now with almost everyone having some sort of smartphone in their pocket. Despite this, the market of devices continues to grow and adapt as we move into the age of the “internet of things” (IOT). More and more people are relying on smart devices like Alexa and Google home. As more and more devices become interconnected – so too, will the opportunities for advertising expand. While for the most part attempts to monetize this technology have not been deeply successful, there will certainly be a day where advertising on devices will become inescapable. We suspect that location-based advertising and previously free business listings will be amongst the first to capture this market and have already become prevalent features of modern map and direction apps.


Programmatic, some people still love this marketing buzz-word, but the truth is it’s still years away from the automated super intelligent algorithms it was originally touted as. Biased opinions aside, the rise of programmatic has fueled the current shape of online advertising trends and will continue to mold the future. With machine learning as the core of its future plans, for the first time in 15 years, Google made a complete overhaul of its ads interface. Attribution modeling now allowing for a greater level of tracking on store visits and call interactions, and automation taking over and offering ad writing to the mix of its abilities.


One of the biggest internet marketing trends in this move to machine learning, was a tool primarily designed to battle the competition of Facebook ads and the unique demographic targeting it offered. In the beginning Google relied on its users to tell it what they were looking for, and then simply provide the best answer.  Facebook was able to challenge Google by providing targeting on signals that were not as simple as waiting on a passive request for product or service. With the ability to target interests, ages, occupations, and an unprecedented number of signals that were questionably leveraged with outside 3rd party data. While the depth of this information was an incredibly powerful tool for advertisers, the level of, and ways in which it had been acquired in the past led Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to a Federal Trade Commission hearing, and resulted in many of the previous targeting and 3rd party signals being removed from the platform, and has spurred the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) scheduled to go into effect in 2020.


Overall, the desire of marketers ultimately is one of providing the best possible products and services to the people who need and want them the most. As internet marketing trends continue to change, yes machines can be leveraged to speed and improve some of the more complex tasks, but at the core of it all is a human experience. Digital marketing agencies now have a growing and evolving set of tools to provide the best possible ad experiences in the right moment and when the job is done just right, the ads being served feel more like the advice of a trusted friend received in just the right moment, rather than the forced overexposed blatantly in your face pop-up ads of the early days of digital advertising.

Contact us to learn more about our PPC services.


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Jeff Cline