2020 was an unpredictable year for Google advertisers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent events forced brands to reevaluate media plans and adjust to a “new reality”.
The global impact of Coronavirus (and the limitations of in-store purchases) also expedited the adoption of online shopping. According to reports, there was a +129% year-over-year growth in U.S. and Canadian ecommerce orders and an +146% growth in all online retail orders.
Although we can’t be sure what to expect in the new year, what we do know is the future success of businesses advertising on Google will require a nimble and diversified strategy.
“We have entered a new time and a first for many on the digital marketing front. With a rapidly changing landscape and consumer needs shifting based on outlook and government updates, now more than ever it is imperative to ensure your campaigns are set up to weather changes as they come during this highly dynamic situation.”
– Patrick Hayden, Group VP, Acquisition Media at Tinuiti
Although we can’t be sure what to expect in the new year, we asked our leading industry experts what trends they predict will shape Google in the near future. Take a look at their responses* below. Whether you agree or disagree – please share your thoughts in the comments section!
*Note: All predictions and responses listed have not been confirmed or denied by Google.
Google Ad Predictions for 2021
1. Google will expand mid-funnel offerings.
“Google will continue to expand and evolve its mid-funnel offering to have broader reach and be more effective for the performance-minded marketer. With strong existing search (bottom-funnel) and YouTube (traditionally upper funnel) offerings, there is continued opportunity to provide advertisers with mid-funnel, performance-driven channels. The recent significant improvements to YouTube for performance, dynamic video display ads as well as Discovery Ads, indicate mid-funnel media will continue to be a high growth segment of Google’s advertising mix, and also an area of opportunity for advertisers large and small.”
– Josh Brisco, VP, Growth Media at Tinuiti
2. Amazon will continue to impact Google advertisers.
In March 2020, we reported on Amazon’s decision to pause Google text and Shopping ads as it focused on essential products in the early days of restricted movement stemming from COVID-19. The move made sense at the time given that Amazon needed to hire over 100,00 workers and make other efforts to ramp up its order fulfillment capacity. By June 2020, we saw Amazon return to Google Advertising in the U.S.
“Amazon appears on its way to regaining its presence among Google paid listings. Amazon’s return to Google paid listings will certainly inject more competition into these auctions, and competing retailers who gained in Amazon’s absence may see some impacts on performance. That said, there are many moving parts when it comes to Google ad auctions with Amazon only one of those, and it’s typically quite difficult to definitively quantify the effect of Amazon in and of itself,” Andy Taylor, Head of Research at Tinuiti said.
“It’s clear that Prime Day is an event that even brands that don’t sell on Amazon should be preparing for, and a strong cross-channel advertising strategy can help make the most of the surge in demand. Cross-channel pricing trends during Prime Day indicate a competitive ad landscape in which many advertisers will be vying to get in front of shoppers,” Taylor said.
3. Make way for SMS Marketing.
“SMS marketing provides brands with an unprecedented opportunity to directly engage mobile shoppers with messages perfectly tailored to where they are in their buyer journey, not to mention benefit from higher rates of engagement, as a staggering 98% of all SMS messages are opened,” Josh Enzer, VP Product Marketing, at Yotpo said.
“When consumers discover the right products via search channels such as Google Shopping, brands can then leverage SMS to recover abandoned carts and make sure they are optimizing along the entire purchase funnel. Over 19% of carts are recovered with tailored abandoned cart SMS flows, making it the ideal channel for brands to capitalize on an influx of new shoppers and increase conversion.”
4. Google Discovery Ads open up new opportunities.
Google Discovery Ads appear on several Google properties (including the YouTube home feed, Gmail Promotions, the Google Discover feed) and can be used to reach potential new customers with relevant & rich content throughout a user’s purchasing journey.
“Discovery Ads will open up a great new inventory source and medium to reach targeted audiences with. The ad format itself is engaging and gives advertisers another tool to drive action across the funnel.”
– Josh Brisco, VP of Growth Media, at Tinuiti
5. Google ads on the rebound, growth expected in 2021.
It’s pretty remarkable how quickly Google rebounded from earlier in 2020 when some advertisers dropped out or pulled back from Google ad auctions.
According to Tinuiti’s Google Ads Q3 2020 Benchmark Report, advertisers increased spend on Google search ads 28% year over year in Q3 2020, an acceleration from 19% growth in Q2 2020.
“CPC declined just 1% in Q3, a far cry from the 17% decline observed in Q2, as many advertisers such as Amazon ramped up search investment in the quarter, increasing competition. Click growth slowed with more advertisers vying for searchers,” Andy Taylor, Head of Research at Tinuiti said in his recent report.
“Shopping spend growth once again outpaced text ad spend growth for the quarter, with advertisers increasing Shopping investment 34% year over year compared to a 25% increase for text ads. Text ads CPC recovered more quickly than Shopping, going from a 16% decline in Q2 to a 4% increase year over year in Q3.”
6. Google trends towards broader definitions of close variants.
In September 2020, Google made a significant update to its search terms reports, stripping out queries which were deemed to not have been searched for by enough unique searchers in a move to protect privacy, according to Google. In turn, the share of spend attributable to search queries tumbled meaningfully across device types and ad formats, and advertisers now have less visibility into the terms users search for before clicking ads.
For the most part, this update wasn’t a deal-breaker in terms of driving advertisers away from Google, but it is an annoyance. That said, advertisers still have visibility into most of the queries accounting for ad spend.
“Paid search marketers should continue using search query reports for optimizations today, as well as in recording any known query types which tend to cause issues to use for reference in the long run. If Google’s trend towards broader definitions of close variants is any indicator of how Google might end up widening the pool of queries that are excluded from search query reports over time, it may not be long before we see a further reduction in visibility.”
– Andy Taylor, Head of Research at Tinuiti
7. Updated ads with fresh content will come out on top.
Before the pandemic, many searchers looked to the search results for real-time information on the weather, news, and sports scores. However, ads rarely had up to date information.
Searchers have learned that the best companies also show them up to date information in the ads and are consistent across all communication channels. We expect this trend to continue and see that advertisers who are keeping their ads new, fresh, and full of up-to-date information will continue to reap the rewards over their competitors.
“With the change in searcher behavior and advertiser’s ability to respond quickly through ad changes, we expect companies who refresh their ads more often to outpace their slower competitors throughout the upcoming years.”
– Brad Geddes, Co-Founder, Adalysis
8. Working with an official Google partner will become a top priority for brands.
“Working with an official Google partner will become a top priority for brands. With stricter GSR guidelines on the horizon, collecting site reviews will be more challenging, so it’s more important than ever for brands to make sure they are collecting reviews, ratings, and photos via eligible methods and through a trusted Google Reviews Partner or shoppers may never see that content at all,” Josh Enzer, VP Product Marketing at Yotpo said.
“In fact, without a trusted partner, brands will not be able to leverage Google Seller Ratings, opening the door for the competition to take over prime real estate on search results and in Google Shopping. Official Google partners also have the advantage of being informed of impending guideline changes months in advance, leaving ample time to notify customers and develop new features to help brands build a competitive edge. Moreover, official review platforms allow brands to feature conversion-boosting elements like star ratings, reviews, and customer photos in their Google Shopping Ads and Google Shopping Product Listings,” Enzer said.
9. The rise of Machine Learning & Smart Campaigns
In 2021, we expect Google will continue to emphasize the evolution of its integrated/smart campaigns and ad types that enable all of the Google surfaces (Google Search, Google Shopping, YouTube, Gmail, Google Display Network, Google app, etc.) as ad placements, utilizing machine learning to target ads to users across the Googleverse.
Google Smart Shopping and Discovery Campaigns are two such example campaign types that are showing promise in terms of effectiveness at scaling growth and hitting goals.
“Having an intelligent campaign architecture—such as performance-based product segmentation, a clear understanding of overarching goals, and flexible reporting and data management solutions—will all be key factors in successfully harnessing these campaigns,” Lewis Brannon, Senior Manager, Retail Search at Tinuiti said.
“Google may continue to limit advertisers’ audience targeting options and keyword controls in favor of more machine learning and smart bidding features, leveraging their signals gathered from user activity across the Googleverse. In all of this, the human role is evolving, and paid media managers must be able to pivot from focusing energy on mainly micro-managing bids and targeting settings to more holistically managing channel strategy, budgets, bid portfolios, media mixes, and the like while understanding when and how to weave-in these types of campaigns strategically.”
10. Hone in on YouTube, Email, and Display
YouTube is now the 2nd largest search engine, outranked only by its owner, Google, which is why understanding the latest YouTube search trends and emerging SEO best practices are crucial for building your brand visibility. YouTube campaigns can also get a comparable reach and frequency to TV at a more efficient rate and can complement TV by skewing toward the younger audience. As of recently, YouTube has been building out more and more products and creative features to walk users through the conversion path including Discovery Ads.
Knowing that creative can take quite a bit of time and money, Google is making it easier for brands to make YouTube content with existing assets to eliminate the creative barrier to entry through the Video Ad Builder & Google Creative Services. Recently, Google has also waived their media spend mins for some of the creative resources.
“Now more than ever, the expectations around creative and brand messaging are increasingly important. Via Youtube and the various Google Display Ad formats, there are ample opportunities to convey creative messaging across channels,” Josh Brisco, VP of Growth Media at Tinuiti said.
Got a prediction to add to our list? Leave a comment below!