Q&A: Experts dish on the future of paid search

by Chelsea Huston, 06 Mar 2018

Within the past 12 months, new SEM tactics have appeared or become more prevalent in the marketplace as well as within search engine UIs. Tactics such as in-market audiences and RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) are helping businesses target the right audiences, optimize search budgets, lower cost per clicks and cost per acquisitions, and maximize profit. To find out more about the continued innovation of search, we conducted a Q&A with some DRUM-mers and other industry experts.


What are some of your favorite new tactics/ technologies in paid search? How have these tactics/ trends impacted your accounts?


Dani & Molly, Agency Account Strategist and Agency Development Manager – Google: We’re suckers for Smart Bidding, especially for shopping campaigns. AdWords’ machine learning is able to make auction time decisions to predict not only the likelihood of conversions, but even average order value. The system knows what people want before they do; if only boyfriends could do "smart shopping" the same way.

Kim, VP, Paid Search Director, DRUM: I believe that one of the greatest advancements in search has been the emergence of audience targeting: RLSA, Similar Audiences, In-Market and Customer Match. I believe that audience targeting options and features will continue to grow over time, essentially layering on many of the targeting options available in display to the paid search landscape.

It’s just the tipping point when it comes to audience targeting in search – but having the ability to bid up for certain segments, ages, HHI and by male and female has resulted in increased conversion rates and improved efficiencies.

Additionally, recent testing into visual sitelinks is also a key indication that search ads may become more visual as time passes. The success of PLAs and the popularity of Pinterest and Amazon are also indicators that searchers are looking for not only the most relevant listing, but a visual one as well.

Ryan, Assistant Search Planner, DRUM: Some of our favorite tactics are RLSA and Customer Match. One of our accounts saw great performance for the month of November with audience lists, which accounted for 44% of all net revenue.

For this same account, in Bing, we also added apparel and beauty in-market audiences to our campaigns, which allowed us to bid up on searchers who were already in-market for the products we are selling. Bing now recommends adding all in-market segments in order to determine which segments have the highest propensity to convert. For example, you may find that searchers in-market for a product type completely unrelated to your business may, in fact, have a high inclination to purchase your products. This is yet another way people-based marketing is finding its way into the world of paid search.

Margaret, Search Planner, DRUM: One of my favorite new features in search has been the introduction of Similar Audience lists in Google. These are look-alike audiences consisting of people who are similar to current site visitors for which you can boost you bids. By doing so, we’ve been able to improve performance and reach new customers. For one of our accounts, Similar Audiences saw a 313% higher ROAS, and an 11% higher conversion rate than the rest of the account.

Hailee, Senior Search Planner, DRUM: I love using Google's Promotion Extensions for retail accounts. Unlike featuring promos in an ad that searchers may or may not see (assuming you're running more than one ad per ad group), Promotion Extensions guarantee that almost everyone will see your offer since they have dedicated real estate within an ad.


What tactics/technologies would you like to see on the market in the future (near or far)?


Debra – Associate Media Director, DRUM: I love how partners are continuing to challenge us and our clients to shorten the path to conversion.  We’re already seeing features like visual sitelinks, price extensions and promotion extensions adding to the existing ad copy structure, and I hope to see us continue to shorten the path, like Amazon’s 1-Click purchase button! Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a similar button within a search ad?

Kim, VP, Paid Search Director, DRUM: It likely goes without saying that reporting and bidding strategies tied around data driven attribution should continue to evolve – with interfaces like Google AdWords eventually accounting for not only Google Search, but also other engines, in addition to other digital channels. The overall success of optimizing toward data driven attribution will only truly be impactful when a variety of media channels can be part of the mix.

Katherine, Group Media Director, DRUM: I think Shopping/PLAs will change. I'm not quite sure how, but the way we view them will likely change. As Amazon is starting to steal share from Google, perhaps Google will learn something from how Amazon is set up.

Hailee, Senior Search Planner, DRUM: I hope that a next step is an offering for voice search. While I don't yet know what this would look like, I do know that it's needed. In 2016, 20% of mobile queries were made by voice and ComScore is predicting this to grow to 50% in the next three years. Pair this with the fact that Amazon's Echo Dot was the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across Amazon on Cyber Monday 2017, and things start to add up. Consumers have already embraced voice search to make their daily purchases, and more and more are going to jump on the bandwagon. If search engines don't provide a viable option for targeting and reporting in the near future, we'll be missing out on a large portion of the market.

Kelsey, Senior Search Planner, DRUM: I believe location targeting is an area of opportunity, since people are always switching from one device to another. For example, you could be on one device at the office and another at home. If you’re targeting down to the zip code, this could impact whether a searcher is even served an ad. For instance, if you were a lawn care company looking for new customers in a 10 mile radius of a city, you may be targeting the zip code of a searcher’s home, but if they are searching from the zip code of their office (which you aren’t targeting), you could be missing out on a potential conversion. Technology that could solve for this, without blowing through a client’s budget, would be beneficial to overall account success.


Where do you think the future of paid search is headed? Why? You can use examples of tactics/ technologies that already exist (visual search, voice search, etc).


Debra – Associate Media Director, DRUM: The paid search ecosystem is diversifying and with it will come changing search behavior. For example, searchers know YouTube will deliver the best video results, Pinterest will highlight the most inspirational visual results, Facebook will connect you with friends or local events, and Amazon is quickly imbedding itself as the benchmark for in-store and online price checking to ensure you’re getting the lowest price. Similar to what cable television did to broadcast, we’ll find ourselves in a much more fragmented ecosystem with different strengths and weaknesses to reach different audiences.

Dani & Molly – Google Representatives: The future of paid search is all about relevance; the value is no longer simply about reach. In today’s world, mass messages are meaningless, and we believe this will only become truer over time. With better attribution, we can meet users wherever they are and offer the best and most customized messaging. With better audience signals, we can provide customized content that appeals to your interests and intent. We are developing these solutions across search, display and YouTube, and using the best features from both branded and performance-focused channels.

Katherine, Group Media Director, DRUM: I've been saying it for a few years now, but I believe search will continue in the direction of programmatic display. Just in the past year or so, we've seen search engines add the ability to target in-market and similar audiences, which were previously only display options. And Google is already using machine learning to operate bidding for clients through Smart Bidding. It will be interesting to see if any of the third party bid optimization platforms, such as Marin and Kenshoo, will be able to offer the same real-time optimization capabilities.

Ryan, Assistant Search Planner, DRUM: I think the future of search is going to be – and already is – all about automated, real-time bidding. Google already offers these automated strategies through Smart Bidding, but Bing is starting to add automated bid options into their UIs as well. These new bidding options are tied to maximizing conversions and hitting targeted CPA goals.

Margaret, Search Planner, DRUM: I expect to see the rise of Amazon Search Ads as every retailer is rushing to not only have their own Amazon Storefront, but to also advertise on Amazon. Amazon isn’t going anywhere and with its constant growth, retailers need to have a strong presence.

Caryn & Robin, Senior Account Manager and Strategic Account Executive – Bing: As we think about the future of AI, machine learning and natural language processing producing new voice-enabled applications and services, we expect search to become much more personal, pervasive and predictive.

Personal: Consumers today have an expectation that the digital experiences they have are much more personal, which certainly extends to search results. Search is becoming more context-aware than ever – understanding location, past behavior, demographics and more. Based on the explosion of digital data from smart devices, search will deliver more personal results and allow for more natural ways to interact with computing.

Pervasive:  Search technology will continue to permeate our world, seeing as it’s already available on our wrists, in our appliances, in our cars and in emerging technologies like mixed reality.

Predictive: Search will be able to predict what consumers want next and will empower organizations with predictive analytics. As predictive search becomes more powerful, assistants will be the embodiments of what search can be. These assistants will deliver important information about the traffic on your morning commute, your updated flight itinerary and the results of last night’s football game on your phone, without you even asking.


As e-commerce continues to evolve, it only makes sense that search engine marketing will keep up with new and innovative tactics; there is no other choice. At DRUM, we know we constantly have to test and adapt to these new technologies and strategies to help our clients reach their business goals.


Here’s to a successful 2018 in paid search!

Need SEM specialists who are not only up to date with new digital marketing trends in search, but can use their own innovative ideas to help you exceed your goals?

Contact us!