The Future of Paid Search… Isn’t Search. What Google Could Announce Soon

SMS Text
The Future of Paid Search… Isn’t Search. What Google Could Announce Soon

Editors Note: This post uses actual examples to draw conclusions. However, nothing is set in stone when it comes to Google and Bing, so keep that in mind when reading this post.

What is the Buzz in Paid Search These Days?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely noticed a lot of buzz around paid search. People are clamoring about the recent changes Google has rolled out and around Larry Kim’s recent article about rumors of [not provided] for paid search and what is really happening.

But even with all of the firestorm on social media around Google pulling search queries from the referer URLs, there is even more talk and speculation around what might happen on the 22nd of April. In case you missed it, Google has been pushing post after post trying to work everybody up about a new announcement. Larry Kim even hinted today that he knew what was going to be announced on the 22nd –

Of course Bing Ads has also done a few things (product ads anyone?), but that is getting overridden by the insane paranoia of PPC professionals, and their fear of losing more control.

To the outsider this may look like Chicken Little running around screaming “The sky is falling”, but for paid search professionals this is a big deal. PPC professionals love control! It’s one of the reasons they decide to go into paid search instead of SEO. So losing control is akin to messing with an OCD person’s perfectly organized bookshelf.

Future of Paid Search isn't keywords or controlThere is always a bit of truth in every rumor

Yes it may be funny to think about PPC marketers crying into their pillows at night, but there is always a little bit of truth in every rumor. If you will indulge me for a few minutes I will explain where I think the truth lies, and where the future of paid search is heading.

Google’s first announcement of coming changes happened on March 12th, a full month before the reveal. In that announcement they started with, “It’s an exciting time to be a performance marketer.” They didn’t say search marketer, they didn’t say AdWords marketer they said performance marketer.

If you look at the other announcements including that first one, there is not one mention of keywords! There are numerous mentions of context, devices & content as Google says:

  1. It’s no longer about devices.  Consumers are constantly connected, and the average American today owns four digital devices and spends 60 hours per week consuming content across platforms.* In this multi-device world, the way people use desktops, laptops, notebooks, tablets, and smartphones is blurring. This means people don’t think about which device they’re using, they just expect the right content to appear seamlessly wherever they are ready to engage.
  2. Context matters more than ever. The ways people connect — whether that’s on a computer, a mobile website, or an app — have become increasingly important in showing people the right content — and the right ads. With more insight into people’s contexts, we can make more meaningful connections and create better consumer experiences.
  3. Connecting people to content. With more consumer touchpoints than ever, it is becoming increasingly complex to reach people in the moments that matter. At Google we work hard to develop innovations that let technology do the hard work so that businesses can focus on reaching their customers.

Google also mentioned they were looking at ways technology could simplify, (their word was efficiency) marketing for businesses.

You could see why some PPC advertisers may think that we will be having less control like Ginny Marvin says:

 What do I think the future of paid search could look like?

I think it could look a lot like [not provided], in the sense that it won’t be so much about keywords, but about people, and the context of what they are doing (and have been doing).

Both Melissa Mackey and I saw an interesting blip in different MCC Accounts

The Double Click Take Over of AdWords?

Screenshot taken 04/15/2014 of

For those who don’t know what doubleclick is, it is essentially an ad server (like Atlas) at its most basic level. It powers much of the ads served across the internet for both publishers and advertisers. Many of the ad impressions and clicks you get on the Google Display Network comes through doubleclick

It is also a tool similar in nature to Marin, Acquisio, or Kenshoo.

So back to our logic process…for something like that to happen once could be a blip, to have it happen multiple times usually means a dev got careless and let something slip. This led to quite a few people thinking maybe the announcement on the 22nd has to do with AdWords essentially being migrated to be managed/run through doubleclick.


Why Would That be a Big Deal?

There are a few reasons why doubleclick becoming the defacto management tool for advertising through Google could be a big deal.

  1. You can access FBX inventory now through doubleclick. – This could be a huge win for Google to “connect with customers in more innovative and relevant ways than ever before,” anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
  2. Doubleclick is essentially a 3rd party bid management tool owned, operated, and developed by Google. Think Google could make managing PLAs & Shopping campaigns easier through their own tool?
  3. With doubleclick you essentially get AdWords on steroids combined with souped up analytics and automation
  4. What better way to connect consumers, devices, context, and content than a tool that runs on all of them and is owned by Google?
  5. They are only taking away search queries from third-party tools. So you could potentially still access them in doubleclick

That Being Said…

This is more than just a new platform to manage your AdWords or Display campaigns. Google has been trying to transition marketers into a different mind-set for years. Think about The Zero Moment of Truth which they launched in 2011 a whole two years before they pushed out enhanced campaigns.

The future of paid search is not going to be about keywords. In many ways it won’t even be about the SERP as we know it today. Think of the changes with images dominating the SERP, where they used to be an afterthought.

The first place I search is usually on my mobile, because I have it with me all the time. What about you?

Look to more of the announcements Google has made recently around things like:

Put them all together and what do you get?

A future for paid search where it doesn’t look like anything we know today. Of course that is just my drop in the rumor mill bucket.

What do you think the future of paid search is going to be?


Image Credits:

Featured Image created by Bryant Garvin
Image #1 by Bryant Garvin

Bryant Garvin

Bryant Garvin

PPC Dictator & Chief Consultant at Bryant Garvin Consulting
Bryant Garvin has been involved with marketing for over 10 years known by many of his peers as the PPC Dictator. He is currently focused... Read Full Bio
Bryant Garvin
Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • Jeroen Maljers

    I think the announcement will be very related to the change in Google analytics made quietly this week, changing visits to sessions and visitor to user (check your analytics stats) . This change in analytics will be reflected in how Adwords can target. We will be more and more be able to target Users on a cross device base , be able to target on intent instead of or next to keywords.

    • Bryant Garvin

      Hi Jeroen that is definitely a possibility. As I mentioned I do believe eventually keywords will not be what they are today to us… “the center of our universe” 🙂

      I do think though moving to a user based targeting system is going to take a little while… not to mention the privacy implications there. Remember Google’s whole reason for “securing search” and not providing search query data anymore is to protect the individual privacy of users.

      If we are going to better behaviorally target users, it is going to have to be in cohorts of groups. The one to one web while realistically the best way to help users find solutions and answers is more than likely never going to happen because of privacy concerns.

  • Christopher Brya

    Great article Bryant. Always chasing the moving target of Google. Ultimately, if the changes are a win for the consumer (improved relevance, context, accuracy) it’s a win for everyone. Companies just need to be able to plan and prepare accordingly.

    • Bryant Garvin

      Thanks Chris! You are absolutely right it is a constantly moving and changing target, but that is one of the reasons we love this industry right? We never get bored because there is always something new to challenge us.

  • Rob Swick

    Interesting article. I think this is partly just typical Google hype, and the reality won’t be nearly as explosive or interesting as they’re leading us to believe. Certain fundamentals can’t change of course…. keywords will always be important because they are the user’s declaration of interest. But the emphasis on the word “context” to me means that the new tools/functions/whatever are going to dig deeper in user behavior and interest patterns. I doubt that the context difference refers to devices… though that would be interesting. And hopefully they’ll simplify some of their Adwords language which is cumbersome and sort of out-dated. 🙂

    • Bryant Garvin

      I do agree that this is partially Google Hype. Do I believe we will not have keywords as a targeting option tomorrow? No I think that it will be a while before keywords go the way of the Dodo birds.

      That being said, I really do believe that in the future (not too distant future) that keywords will not be a primary or possibly even an option to target users.

      If you think about the way “search” is heading, it really is away from keywords. Do people talk to Siri, saying things like “Pizza 85212”, or have they started becoming more conversational? “Siri, where is the closest pizza to me?”

      When it become conversational and semantics are important, keywords aren’t. Like I said it won’t be tomorrow but someday soon… we are going to have to rewire our brains and campaigns for what a PPC campaigns looks like.

  • Norm

    “With more insight into people’s contexts, we can make more meaningful connections and create better consumer experiences.”

    The irony is without keyword data, it becomes a bigger challenge for search engine marketers to do the same. While Google does still show us the Search Phrases report, even that only shows but a small percentage of search phrases that trigger our ads. This data is critical for identifying negative keywords, which works to improve the consumer experience, and yet they consistently hide a high percentage of these phrases.