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2018 PPC Review

It’s pretty scary how fast time flies, I really have no idea where this year has gone. One thing that is for sure is that 2018 has been an absolute cracker of a year!

It’s been one we’ll never forget, and I can’t wait to tell my grandkids about the summer we had: England was about to win the World Cup, every day was 30-degree sunshine, and the Google Ads interface had been fully updated to the new UI – unforgettable!

This roundup will focus on what happened in the world of PPC because it has been a pretty interesting year. It has also been a year that I’ve spent loads more time getting hands-on with Google and Bing compared to previous years, which has been great fun. Before we look forward to 2019, let’s review 2018:

Hello Google Ads

As mentioned above, we were able to use the new Ads UI in all it’s glory this year. Like lots of people, I took the offer of switching to the old interface 9 times out of 10 when it was available. So it was a bit daunting when the offer was retracted permanently. After a difficult few weeks getting used to it, this is definitely a big upgrade on the last system. I love the G T keyboard commands that allow you to quickly move between sections and navigating through areas of a campaign is much easier with the new sidebar than it ever was before. I wish they’d introduce more navigation options on the keyboard, like pressing left and right to cycle through campaigns, but all in all, it’s been a great upgrade on the old UI we all knew and loved.

Bye Bye Exact Match

I wrote about my sadness on this over here but to summarise: I was very disappointed to see Google take our beloved exact match keywords away from us, leaving us with a shadow of its former-self that is a closer relation to BMM than it is the original Exact match. I made the recommendation then to keep a really close eye on traffic – and I’m glad I did. One of our accounts, in particular, got hit quite hard as soon as the change kicked in. We implemented a script to reverse the change and it, fortunately, got things back under control.

Even More Ad Space

It wasn’t long ago that we were all talking about the increase in characters in our copy (RIP 25/35/35) and Google have been back at it this year. It’s still very early days but we’re now able to use additional headlines AND descriptions. I still think these are kind of rare in the results page, so Google must be doing some serious testing to see if there’s a significant uplift in CTR, and I can only imagine there will be. Once this has been proven, I will expect this to become the norm in 2019 (more expectations for 2019 can be found here.)

Improved Automated Bidding

I used to be a hater of AdWords automated bidding but I’m very happy to eat sweet humble pie and accept I’m now a lover. I’ve had some amazing results using Target CPA and Target ROAS bidding strategies (I generally find CPA works better for search and ROAS for Shopping) and once they’re up and running hitting targets, I’m pretty confident in their ability to keep driving results. To caveat this it’s important to add that they aren’t perfect. I’m still not 100% sure on the keys to success with them (is anyone!?), but one thing I am sure on is the need to run an experiment first, with 50% of traffic going to your new bid strategy. Once the results are statistically significant, apply the winner full time. (Bonus tip here is to set up a broad DSA campaign using remarketing only with target CPA, then put your feet up and watch the sales roll in).

New Bid Strategies

One of the latest updates to happen in 2018 was the new ‘target impression share’ bid strategy that, believe it or not, lets you target a specific impression share in your campaigns. This is a really cool addition, especially for those brands adamant on protecting the number 1 spot for their brand term. It’s even a cool option for those of us that can calculate the ideal level of impression share that allows us to meet our targets on non-branded terms. Essentially, this gives advertisers a different way to target success, and I’ve written about it in a bit more detail here

What a year it has been! Not only did Gareth Southgate bring the country together whilst arranging consistently sunny days for us all to enjoy, we also had some cracking updates to Google Ads (sorry I’ve left you out, Bing). It was also the year we fully launched Prospect Knight, and I couldn’t be more excited for 2019!

Wishing you all an amazing 2019!

- Marcus.


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