Its that time of year when everyone’s looking to the coming year, and in the fast moving world of PPC advertising a year is a long time. In PPC, while the basics stay the same, we’re constantly seeing new innovations. In the spirit of the new year, we had a whip round the Inbound360 office to come up with our own list of what we see being the hot topics and developments in PPC in 2014. Please feel free to add your own predictions in the comments!
1. Advertising standards will come down hard on search and social ad transparency
PPC ads have largely flown under the radar of the FTC in the US and advertising standards bodies across the rest of the world but as Google and other PPC platforms like Facebook and Twitter push to maximise ad revenue by increasing the click share their sponsored listings receive its inevitable the authorities have to sooner or later take a tough line. Google ads have become virtually indistinguishable from organic results, Facebook’s news feed ads are even less clearly signposted. Expect to see more pressure on ad networks to make their adverts more transparent in 2014.
2. Facebook will phase out side rail ads, move more to native formats
As more and more Facebook traffic moves to mobile, apps and tablets and away from the desktop site, we believe the end is nigh for the traditional side rail ads you see down the right hand side of your Facebook newsfeed. We already know that native ads in the newsfeed are infinitely more effective than the self-serve ad units in the side rail. What’s more there’s simply no way Facebook can display side rail ads on their mobile sites and apps so expect an increased focus on selling the premium ad space in the newsfeed and opening this space up to more advertisers, increasing the auction price
3. Google Ads will become more visual
We already saw this in 2013 with the introduction of various types of image ads in search results, but to date we haven’t seen this having a massive impact on the look of most search queries. In 2014 we’d expect Google to push these options more heavily and show image results for more queries, forcing organic results further down the page and increasing the click share of ads vs free listings. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see new visual ad units like inline Youtube videos within search results. Product listing ads and comparison ads will also become more frequent fixtures in search results.
4. Bing will continue to struggle
As much as we’d like to see Bing ads develop as a genuine challenger to Google, we just can’t see it happening in 2014. Unless digital budgets see a real injection of cash (unlikely), search advertisers just aren’t incentivised to move extra budget to Bing and other networks until they significantly increase their market share. The Yahoo partnership will become less valuable as Yahoo’s search market share declines (will Yahoo exist by the end of 2014?!) Bing need to do something radical, or Google need to do something seriously wrong, in order to gain market share.
5. Everyone will be talking about Twitter ads, but uptake will be slow
In the PPC industry there’s a major disconnect between what professionals are talking about, and where they’re actually investing their ad budgets. Post Twitter IPO the pressure will really be on Twitter to increase their ad inventory. However we’ve always seen Twitter as a niche advertising product – it has huge potential for a few advertisers, but the mass market will fail to see the value. Retargeting in the Twitter feed is the natural evolution of the product but realistically given the huge amount of Twitters traffic which goes via mobile and apps, this might not prove to be as big an opportunity as it might seem. All that said, we’re excited to be working on more Twitter ad campaigns in the new year and watch the platform develop.
6. Google will get stricter with shady advertisers
I believe in order for Google to maintain the integrity of their ad network, and allow them to make their ads less distinguishable from organic listings, like we’ve seen with the new mobile ad layout and the upcoming move to a “transparent” background on all search result ads, they’ll need to keep users onside by reducing the number of spammy advertisers allowed to use Adwords. Everyday I see everything from unethical to low quality to downright illegal products and services being advertised on Adwords. I think in 2014 Google will have a real clampdown on stuff like the ads below:
7. Ad extensions, ad extensions, ad extensions
2013 will go down as the year of enhanced campaigns in Adwords, but Google have quietly rolled out a large number of new ad extensions this year and we’d expect 2014 to see more and more new extensions being rolled out specific to different industries. Expect to see sector specific extensions like this being more common in 2014.
What do you think 2014 will have in store for the world of PPC advertisers? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
John McElborough is co-founder and MD of Inbound360, a London based PPC agency. John has been building and marketing websites for over a decade and has consulted for some of the UK’s largest brands on PPC and digital strategy. His work has been published on leading industry sites including SearchEngineJournal and Moz.com and he recently authored a free book on hotel marketing which can be downloaded from the inbound360 website.