The Top Paid Search Trends for 2016

By — 12.28.16

Top Paid Search Trends

“Better Every Day” is our motto at Adlucent and it was certainly the theme for paid search this year. 2016 was a very busy year for digital advertisers as we saw Google introduce many new features, ad formats, and change up the desktop SERP. There were certainly some interesting notes—Pokémon Go managed to connect the dots between augmented reality (AR) and retail while GTINs became a thorn in the side of online retailers. During this year, personalized ads went from “nice to have” to the expected norm, and mobile continued its device dominance. Here is a breakdown of some of the top trends in paid search this year:

An Adlucent study early in the year proves that consumers want to see more relevant advertising. The study found that 71% of Consumers Prefer Personalized Ads. Check out the article on Marketing Dive to read more about our study.

Google has made big changes in 2016 to capture on-the-go mobile shoppers by making improvements to their own tools, ad formats, and the SERP all in an effort to keep ads looking uniform across devices.

Google started by phasing out text ads on the right rail of the SERP from desktop searches.

With the right rail gone, Google had an opportunity to add more characters to text ads and ETAs (Expanded Text Ads) were introduced. We talked about our early testing on ETAs in this post, Bigger is Better with Google’s Expanded Text Ads. ETAs provided advertisers with mobile optimized text ads that allowed for a longer and more prominent headline and creative, all of which enables ads to look more uniform and work harder across screens.

At the Google Performance Summit in late May, Google discussed a number of other new innovations all geared toward helping advertisers reach the right customer, with the right offer, at the right time. One mobile-oriented change worth pointing out was the introduction of Device Bid Adjustments (DBAs) which allow for bid adjustments to be done for each device type separately – desktop, tablet, smartphone. Read here for more highlights!

Getting product feeds in compliance with Google’s Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) requirement was a real sore point for many retailers this year, but a necessary one. Given the importance of PLAs, their excellent performance on mobile, and higher percentage of click share overall, this new requirement was a notable change in 2016. Read Why Add GTINs to Your Google Shopping Data Feed? to learn more.

While consumers leave behind a vast trail of data as they move seamlessly across devices and channels, online retailers continue to struggle to apply this information to advertising. Many vendors, Google included, have been working hard to help Solve Data Challenges for Digital Marketers. Early in 2016 this was an area of increasing concern as retailers scrambled to use first party data for paid search optimization, such as custom audience creation within Google’s Customer Match. Google responded with their Analytics 360 Suite in an attempt to help digital marketers solve today’s big data challenges.

And last but certainly not least, online shopping continued to grow significantly this year with paid search sales growing 37% YoY during the busy holiday shopping weekend. This was again largely driven by the fact that mobile device share continues to outpace that of desktop and tablet. When looking at the busiest online shopping days of the holiday season year over year, mobile accounted for more than half of total traffic at 53% of total click volume.

We’ll dig into more detail at the 2017 Adlucent Client Summit—taking place February 22-24th in Austin, Texas. For more trends from 2016, check out Google’s blog on top search themes for 2016 here.


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