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A Paradigm Shift: What to Expect From Paid Search in 2016

Times Are Changing

For almost a year now, there has been a new buzzword surrounding paid search and its future as a marketing channel – “paradigm shift”. Sounds grandeur doesn’t it? This shift will not be as bold as claiming the “death of SEO” or as surprising as Google’s removal of right-hand side ads on desktop. In fact, this wave of change should be looked at more as a multi-dimensional process rather than an end in itself.

Paradigm Shift in Paid Search

The future role of keywords as a means to reach the desired audience is certainly driving the most interest; however, before we dive into keywords, allow me to first explain the change that is expected to come about with paid search in 2016.

Display Ad Spend Rising

In 2015, eMarketer published an aggregated marketing industry report that forecasted display ad spend surpassing paid search in the US in 2016. The difference detailed was $29.24 billion on search ads compared to $32.16 billion in display ads. Furthermore, display ad spend will be 15% more, on average, than search ads year on year. They’ve also released similar forecast data illustrating a similar trend for the Canadian market…

What? Marketers are going to spend more on display than on search ads? Has the marketing world gone mad? Calm down, calm down. There is a method to the madness and I believe it all comes down to the proliferation of Programmatic Display.

According to Business Insider’s programmatic advertising report in 2015, more than four-fifths of agencies and brands already purchase display ads programmatically. This is a strong indication that marketers are getting more comfortable leveraging programmatic display, probably due to the enhanced targeting capabilities and breadth of data availability. This simply means there are more and more marketers leveraging programmatic display advertising with bigger and bigger budgets. Of course this is going to affect the overall industry numbers.

The second reason why display ad spend will surpass paid search is the subject of media integrity. Among the paid digital media channels, display has been the most vulnerable to issues on ad fraud or non-human traffic as well as viewability. The whole industry is working towards mitigating these concerns and marketers have been gaining access to brand safety, creative visibility, and media quality valuation technologies that comes with buying display ads programmatically. Of course these added safety nets come at a price which often gets layered on top of, and hence increasing, your total display ad spend.

The Internet of Me

The world wide web is becoming more and more personalized thanks to advancements in mobile devices and internet connectivity. We are now seeing a growing movement from B2B/B2C to B2Me marketing. People are no longer constrained by a device or format to perform an online activity or consume media. In my opinion, this is another strong force driving the paradigm shift in paid search. Search engine marketers will need to start to rethinking the method by which they reach their audience.

The Death of Keywords?

As promised, I will now field this all too prevalent question. Will this mean the death of keywords? The answer is no. Rather, I believe the use of keywords on paid search will become smarter and more strategic. In fact, it has been heading that direction for quite some time now, just think about Google’s Customer Match and Remarketing. These are audience targeting channels that go beyond keywords. Over time, I expect marketers will be able to layer in audience-centric data on top of their keyword targeting, reinforcing the status of paid search as a strong marketing channel to engage audiences with the right message at the right time.

A New Horizon for Paid Search

The changes in technology and online behavior will shape how marketers approach and leverage paid search. In the future, it is not hard to imagine that people would no longer be typing in keywords on the traditional search box, especially with the progress on personal, virtual assistants and wearable devices. Searching online will become all about conversation and value added. This is a welcome change for search marketing professionals as this paradigm shift will ultimately free us from the limitations, and perhaps over-fixation, of keywords and drive us toward immersive learning of what truly engages our audience.

How about you? What changes do you think are coming up for paid search?  Let us know by commenting below or by contacting us today!