Tawleen, aka Max, is a certified Search Engine Marketing Manager and has a passion for online consumer behaviour. He is a basketball fanatic and a football and squash addict. Tawleen has a holistic, 360 degree worldview attained largely through watching Netflix and YouTube documentaries.

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Search Engine Marketing in 2016 & What We Learned in 2015

Now that 2016 is in full swing, many of us are looking back at all of the changes that came along this past year. There were some big announcements and product launches in 2015, which will drive many shifts and movements in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) this year. Here are some highlights that we have observed over the past year and how has it already impacted the way we are executing SEM in 2016.

SEM Trends in 2016

Audience Focused Targeting

2015 was definitely the year of ‘user based targeting’, and this could be the beginning of the end of cookies (don’t worry, I’m not talking about the tasty kind) and Google recently launched 2 new products called “Customer Match” and “Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP)”. With Customer Match, you can target existing customers using their email addresses on Search, Gmail, and YouTube. GSP provides advertisers a direct line to Gmail users with advanced targeting features, such as ‘competitor domain targeting’ and ’email history’ targeting. This is very exciting! For the first time ever, marketers will be able to use internal customer data to build out highly segmented and strategic audience lists.

While Google has always been a market leader in audience targeting, Bing and Yahoo stepped up their game and came out swinging this year as well. Bing launched retargeting functionality in October, which is very similar to the Google RLSA ads. Yahoo Gemini also released its custom audience targeting features, which use first party data to target native ads across devices. These may not be completely new or novel products, but they will finally allow us to use Bing and Yahoo in more sophisticated ways.

What does this mean for marketers? This is the home run that you’ve been waiting for! As much as we love serving relevant ads for search queries, there is nothing better than pairing up that search intent with alternative targeting features such as email activity, competitive intelligence, online user behavior, etc. This is the paradigm shift in Search that we have all been hearing about and are now witnessing first hand. Keywords will still play a big role in this industry, but savvy marketers will acknowledge and leverage these new and strategic targeting features.

Analytics & AdWords Tie the Knot

After a long relationship and a bit of a bumpy ride, Google AdWords and Google Analytics (GA) have finally joined hands to serve the greater good. What’s the greater good? Clean and insightful remarketing data of course! In the old days, marketers had to implement additional code on their websites in order to run remarketing campaigns, both on the Search and Display networks. Not only was this cumbersome, the audience targeting itself was extremely limited (especially if you were running GA conversion tracking for your campaigns). With GA and AdWords coming together, there is now no need to implement additional code for remarketing and marketers are now able to create highly targeted user lists in GA, which then automatically import into AdWords as long as the accounts are linked.

What does this mean for marketers? This change has made the channel much more strategic as we can test and evaluate various custom audience lists with stronger measures, such as: goal completions, cookie lengths, onsite behavior, etc. The flexibility to change small parameters of an audience on the fly will definitely yield a nice little boost in Remarketing performance.

App Advertising is Here to Stay

Whether we know it, like it, and/or accept it, mobile apps have become fully integrated into our daily lives. With more and more companies developing apps these days, in-app advertising in 2016 will be serious business. Google launched 2 new mobile ad formats in 2015; interactive app ads and full screen app ads. Bing also finally launched new app extensions for search. While plenty of advertisers have already jumped on this, app advertising still boasts relatively low competition levels, which deliver fairly inexpensive CPCs for the time being.

What does this mean for marketers? If you’ve been considering launching an in-app ad campaign, this is the time to get moving! The bids are still reasonable, which will allow you to really test and iterate your approach in the current, low risk environment.

We’ve Only Just Begun…

These highlights were merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many movements that occurred in 2015, and while 2015 was full of innovations in the SEM world, 2016 could be an absolute game changer when it comes to understanding online consumer behaviour. What do you think 2016 will bring to the table? Leave your comments below!