As we begin 2023, it’s a good time to reflect on the macro-level trends we’ve observed last year.
Here are a few trends that I believe have some staying power and should be considered as you build out your 2023 search marketing strategies.
1. A slow economy and heightened focus on efficiency
In case you haven’t heard, the economy has been struggling (that’s a joke). I graduated with a degree in economics, but like most of us, I have no idea how long this downturn will last.
That said, I think many digital marketers are already feeling the impact.
- Budgets are tightening.
- Teams are getting leaner.
- Questions such as “What’s the ROI?” or “What’s the CPA?” are becoming more prevalent.
These environments are tricky to navigate and I certainly don’t have all the answers.
However, the advice I usually start with is leaning into your data. Make sure you have a deep understanding of your top-performing tactics and maximize your investment there first.
An analogy I often use is the concept of a sports team in the playoffs. When it comes to crunch time, a coach will always put their best players in the game for as much time as possible. Those players who are still developing are likely going to be watching the game from the bench.
Take this same mindset when it comes to your search strategies. If your budget is limited, prioritize your investment on the tactics driving the most return.
I’m sure many of you reading this are saying, “Yeah, thanks for stating the obvious.” But when I say this, I don’t mean simply consolidating to a brand keyword strategy. Instead, you should:
- Dig into the various segments of your campaigns’ performance.
- Understand what devices, audiences, geos, times of day/days of week, and campaign types drive the most efficient performance. Focus your investment on those combinations of segments first.
- Consider creating a more granular campaign delineation to more effectively skew spend toward the top-performing combinations.
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2. Automation vs. autonomy
This debate originated well before 2022. However, I do think the heat was turned up a bit last year with:
- The rise of Performance Max campaigns.
- The revamped broad match.
- The deprecation of Expanded Text Ads in favor of Responsive Search Ads.
- The incorporation of automated performance and creative recommendations.
Machine learning is getting stronger and will continue to be woven into campaign management platforms.
I believe that to be successful in 2023, you must best balance the power of automation with the autonomy required to achieve your stakeholder’s objectives.
Think about when you are setting up an automated bid strategy. Part of that process is providing the algorithm with business-specific guardrails that it should operate between – and toward. The better the inputs you provide, the more closely your results will align with your objectives.
I think that same mindset should be leveraged with applications of AI more broadly in campaign management platforms.
Automation reduces the resources required for foundational tasks. But, we still need to guide it to work toward our business objectives.
More tactically, think about what datasets you can incorporate. The more inputs you’re providing, the more data points that these algorithms can use to inform the optimizations and recommendations.
In addition, think about what levers you need to maintain control over and where you can free up your grasp by relying on machine learning to make the optimizations for you
Lastly, consider how to structure your accounts to allow the automation to perform best.
That balance of automation and autonomy will differ based on the complexity of your strategy.
Advertisers who have the best understanding of what this balance should be for their business stand to benefit.
3. Microsoft on the rise?
What would an article like this be without at least one opinion that is a little “edgy.” Buckle up, folks!
I’ve been pretty impressed with the updates that came out of Microsoft last year. They’ve not only expanded their ad offerings but also their geographic reach by about 70 new markets.
Microsoft Advertising has always touted their lower costs and comparable features to Google, but we are starting to see some innovation (i.e., Multimedia Ads) unique to the platform.
Let’s be clear – I’m not expecting a significant shakeup in search engine market share. However, if you haven’t looked at innovation opportunities on Microsoft Advertising, now might be as good a time as any.
The (generally) lower CPCs make it a solid testing environment and much of the innovation they’ve incorporated can help to improve conversion rates.
Improving conversion rates combined with cheap CPCs sounds like an opportunity worth circling back to in budget-constrained environments.
This recommendation is particularly relevant for B2B advertisers, as Microsoft Bing is an engine where we have seen particularly strong engagement, likely due to research taking place on work devices.
Search marketing’s staying power in 2023
Now is an incredibly exciting time to be in search marketing. The platforms are making plenty of updates that it’s hard to keep up.
Search marketing is one of the most powerful tools in the digital marketing toolbox. Other than search, there are only a few other environments where users indicate their interests so clearly.
I’ve highlighted a few of the trends I’m keeping a pulse on, but in our fast-paced industry, there are likely plenty more trends that you will consider as you build out your 2023 strategy.
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