What the click is in store for PPC this year?

It may be a cliché to say that the marketing landscape is an ever-changing one, but it certainly is true. As marketers, it’s really important for us to look to the future and see how we can improve, aligning with the constant advances in tech. And looking at the emerging trends in the ad world, this year looks to be an exciting one!

With that in mind, here are our PPC predictions for this year:

1) The importance of personalisation

We’ve all heard the well-known phrase ‘personalisation, personalisation, personalisation.’ No? Well it’s certainly key to us here at The Croc, and to marketing in 2018. People are individuals, so we should treat them that way. And when you start on the road of truly personalised content, the scope for inventiveness and creativity increases tenfold.

Personalisation also results in a huge uplift in lead generation when compared with non-personalised content. Inbound marketing platform, HubSpot, estimates this to be as much as a 42% uplift. On top of this, personalised web experiences get double the engagement and response.

However, personalisation in itself is a two-step process. To tailor content, we need to know the audience that we are marketing to. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is set to help with this, but more about this later.

There are, of course, many ways in which we can tailor our content and messaging. It can be done via geography, intent, industry vertical, or even a person’s position within a company. Focusing marketing resources on target accounts is, of course, account-based marketing (ABM), and it’s now more important than ever. According to US marketing company Wordstream, over 70% of B2B marketers are ramping up their programmes with the likes of ABM platform DemandBase.

With a smaller set of target accounts you can then track the effectiveness of a campaign more easily, align your sales and messaging perfectly to your specific targets, and see a very clear ROI. From here, the next step is in actually creating the content. Good personalised content listens to its audience and their needs.

When sales and marketing resources are concentrated on a clearly defined audience, we can deliver relevant and personalised information that people will be receptive to and genuinely interested in, and so give a better overall experience.

2) Machine learning and market automation

AI seems to be all people are talking about right now, but it’s largely from a speculative point of view. That’s going to change. Yes, a machine has written a book and is able to beat humans at chess, but it can be utilised in a far more practical way. Machine learning is here, and we will soon be using it in our day-to-day marketing.

We can use machines to learn about customers on an individual level. This will work practically in terms of assisting customers and, in detecting and adapting to shifts in customer interests.

Google’s Smart Bidding is a useful example to bear in mind, particularly in terms of optimising campaign strategy in real-time. Here, machines work within defined targets for the cost per action (CPA), return on advertising spend (ROAS), or other key performance indicators (KPIs). The result is, of course, an enhanced cost per click (CPC) bidding strategy as a whole. It is able to factor in an enormous amount of data, such as the precise time and location of the individual auction, and so can gather relevant information that we can use to deliver the best results.

Put simply, it’s efficient. Machines are able to process far more information than whole teams of people. Time is saved, but far from the machine overthrowing the human, it will ensure that your teams have time for creative tasks and producing excellent campaigns, free from hours of labour-intensive data processing. The intelligence that is gathered can improve both existing and future strategies. Used in this way, technology doesn’t take power, it empowers!

3) Better audience targeting

For the very first time in online marketing, a solid keyword strategy just won’t be enough on its own. But this shouldn’t be damning, but liberating.

At The Croc, we integrate targeting into our marketing strategy. For example, with clients, Linux Professional Institute and AppDynamics, we looked very specifically at the types of audience who downloaded a guide. This told us that they were engaged and actively searching for information: effectively ‘in-market’. By looking at characteristics such as age group, gender, and content they have interacted with, (overlaid with CRM data of existing customers) we were able to serve ads to reach people that were most likely to engage with the content.

Of course, there is more to learn about a customer than simply what they may have clicked on, say, in the last hour of browsing. Equally important is how long someone has spent on the page. Have they pogo-sticked and bounced off the page, or spent time immersing themselves in the content? If it’s the latter, then you have found that top tier audience. You can remarket to them, yes, but also bid higher. We can create marketing plans based on activity and actually understand and nurture the people we are speaking to.

For example, if someone has recently bought a phone, they may need insurance or a contract, and we, as marketers, are able to guide them with this purchase. This is essentially what tools such as Google’s Custom Affinity Audience allow us to do. Ultimately, better targeting stops ads from being simply background noise, and elevates them, making them relevant, interesting, and able to shift in real-time to the specific demands of an individual. Marketing and ads can then operate in terms of a conversation, rather than a loudspeaker.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what’s on the horizon for 2018. Another thing to look out for is the use of video marketing. When the typical organisation publishes 18 videos per month  (which looks a lot like the production schedule of a blogger a few years ago) it’s clearly on the rise. Video content engages audiences and it is a really interesting area to bear in mind. Stay tuned to our blog for an in-depth look at emerging and upcoming video trends for 2018, coming soon.