The one constant in the marketing world is that there are no constants. Consumer behaviors continually evolve, as do advertising technologies like pay-per-click (PPC) ads. PPC marketing in particular has undergone considerable changes in recent years, and can have significant implications for your marketing campaigns. In 2023 and moving forward, there are a number of trends and changes to be aware of in PPC marketing.

What is PPC marketing?

Pay-per-click marketing is a method of paid advertising that offers considerable versatility. You’ll find PPC ads across a range of platforms—from search engine results pages (SERPs) to social media feeds to websites. You’ll find them with text, images, and videos, and they come in a range of shapes and sizes.

PPC ads get their name from the payment model. Advertisers pay a fee every time a user clicks on an ad and visits the advertiser’s landing page or website. From there, the advertiser can work on ushering the user down the sales funnel toward a conversion.

Top 5 PPC Marketing Trends for 2023

2023 promises to be an exciting year for PPC marketing professionals, with AI offering both convenience and functionality, video PPC ads gaining ground, and a number of other trends to take advantage of. Just remember as you plan your PPC marketing campaign that paid advertising is best paired with organic marketing efforts for a comprehensive, well-rounded approach.

1. AI: Automation and Machine Learning

If there is one buzzword that can sum up the whole of 2023 so far, it would be artificial intelligence (AI). ChatGPT and other AI-powered tools have taken the marketing world by storm and the larger public, as well. There is something to be said for the human touch, however. While you may want to write your PPC ads yourself, you can make use of new AI-driven PPC tools to ensure they are as effective as possible.

Increasingly, marketers are turning to automation and machine learning tools to get that much-coveted competitive edge. It’s expected that, moving forward, AI will help marketers analyze and set bids, optimize keywords, and even predict the clickthrough rate (CTR) for a particular PPC ad before you run it, which can allow you to improve it without having to do an A/B test.

Right now, Google is encouraging marketers to use their recently rolled-out automated bidding strategies to manage PPC campaigns. Google Ads Smart Bidding applies machine learning to your account data to optimize your PPC campaigns. Specifically, it focuses on boosting your conversion rate.

There are several different ways that Google Ads Smart Bidding works to improve conversion rates, but let’s take a look at just one. It automatically makes adjustments in real time based on individual users and taking into account a long list of factors that can affect consumer behavior. These factors include the following:

  • Type of device
  • Physical location of the user
  • Location intent
  • Day of the week
  • Time of the day
  • Interface language
  • Product attributions
  • Seasonality
  • Demographics
  • Actual search query
  • Site behavior

Can you imagine how long it would take you to manually crunch all of the data, make decisions, and then implement adjustments for each individual user? It would be a Herculean task, but thanks to artificial intelligence, you don’t have to. Google Ads Smart Bidding promises to play a starring role in PPC campaigns in 2023 and beyond.

2. Here a Vid, There a Vid, Everywhere a Vid

The first-ever TV commercial aired on July 1, 1941 during a baseball game. This 10-second commercial for Bulova Watches sparked a revolution in marketing. Thanks to high-speed Internet connectivity, video marketing isn’t limited solely to TVs. In fact, it’s rapidly becoming one of the most popular forms of PPC marketing.

PPC marketing isn’t limited solely to Google ads on search engine results pages. PPC ads refer to any type of ad that is clickable, including vids. If you’ve ever watched a YouTube video that was preceded by a six-second bumper ad, you’ve witnessed this growing PPC trend. PPC vid ads aren’t just limited to YouTube, however. You’ll find them on TikTok and other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram. On TikTok in particular, PPC vid ads are positively exploding in popularity in recent times.

Most marketers agree that PPC vid ads deliver remarkable ROI, and what’s even more remarkable is that consumers by and large say that they actually want to see more video marketing content because they feel that PPC vid ads help them make purchasing decisions. Furthermore, vid content accomplishes the following:

  • Significantly increases brand awareness
  • Encourages users to spend more time on marketing content
  • Boosts conversion rates
  • Attracts consumers who are intentionally using video messaging to comparison shop

This is definitely a trend to keep an eye on, and it’s almost certain to continue well past 2023.

3. Goodbye, ETAs. Hello, RSAs

Google PPC ads can be incredibly effective at drawing in new customers, but brevity is a must. You aren’t allotted much space to get your message across. Expanded text ads (ETAs) gave marketers the option to add a third headline and to use two descriptive fields that were 90 characters each. Plus, they were mobile-optimized. Note, however, that was written in past tense. Google has officially phased out ETAs. You can still pause, resume, or remove any existing ETAs you may have, but you can no longer create new ones or edit existing ones.

There’s no need to fret about this. Google has replaced ETAs with responsive search ads (RSAs). Responsive search ads are based on (drum roll, please) machine learning. Let’s take a step back for a minute.

In its RSA announcement, Google noted that 15% of all search queries are 100% unique. That is, they have never been typed into Google before. That meant that all of those unique searches were not necessarily paired with appropriate and relevant PPC ads, since marketers weren’t optimizing for those search queries.

The purpose of terminating ETAs in favor of rolling out RSAs is to make PPC ad campaigns more relevant to more people, regardless of whatever oddball search query they type into Google. Google states that switching to RSAs will enable marketers to enjoy a 7% increase in their conversion rates at a comparable cost.

Since RSAs are expected to play a significant role in any Google PPC marketing campaign in 2023 and for the foreseeable future, it bears a closer look at exactly how to navigate this new tool. For starters, you can expect to do a lot more writing. RSAs allow you to write up to 15 separate headlines and up to four different descriptions for each ad. Of course, users won’t see an ad with 15 separate headlines. Rather, Google will arrange your headlines and descriptions (more than 43,000 permutations are possible) in different ways.

Then, Google will test different versions of your PPC ad to various users to figure out which combinations work best for which types of users. Essentially, it’s an automated A/B test, except a whole lot more streamlined, efficient, and faster. Plus, Google’s machine learning can test for a much broader range of variables than would be feasible with a human-powered A/B test. For instance, it will seek to determine which particular combination of headlines and descriptions work best for users based on factors like the device they are using, their past search history, their search query, and so on.

So, what, exactly, will users see? It varies, but a user will see up to three headlines and up to two descriptions, along with other pertinent details like the domain and display URL path. Users will always see at least two headlines and one description. Google’s machine learning tool determines how many and which headlines and descriptions are best for different users based on a range of factors. Importantly, responsive search ads will adjust based on device and screen size.

Try these best practices for RSAs to optimize your results:

  • You must enter at least three headlines and two descriptions. However, it’s always best to do more than the bare minimum. Try to use the maximum allowed—15 headlines and four descriptions.
  • When you’re writing variations, try not to make them too similar.
  • Vary your keyword usage. Be daring and write a few headlines that don’t include one of your top keywords to see how they do.
  • Similarly, vary the lengths of your headlines and descriptions. It’s not necessary to max out your character counts every time.
  • Use pinning sparingly. Although Google will test different combinations of headlines, you can pin a particularly important headline that you want to show in every ad. Only pin if absolutely necessary, such as if your business requires a disclaimer or if you want to include your brand tagline on every ad.

4. Beyond Google: Bing

There is no question that in the world of PPC, Google is king. However, it’s not the only game out there. Ignoring secondary or even tertiary markets could cost business owners. Case in point: Bing is experiencing a remarkable rise in popularity.

Bing has undergone a number of evolutions. It has roots in Microsoft’s early attempts at developing search engines. MSN Search, Windows Live Search, and Live Search were all rebranded as Bing in 2009. Globally, Bing boasts impressive numbers, with a monthly search volume of 12 billion and unique monthly visitors pegged at 1.3 billion. In the U.S. specifically, Bing has a monthly search volume of 500 million.

Although that search volume is nothing to sneeze at, it should be pointed out that Google still dominates the market share (91.9%). However, Bing comes in second, ahead of Yahoo!. Plus, Bing offers interesting demographics. The consumers in the U.S. who use Bing most often fall into the 45 to 54 age bracket, and they have an annual average income above $100,000. That makes Bing prime marketing territory for anyone seeking to sell to non-millennials with spare cash in their pockets.

What’s more, purchasing PPC ads on Bing is cheaper than on Google, making it an attractive option for small to medium businesses with modest advertising budgets. People who use Bing shop online 36% more than those who habitually use other search engines.

Although Bing doesn’t offer all of the snazzy, AI-driven automation tools that Google does, it does provide plenty of bang for your buck. You’ll get workable functionality with filters for ad targeting, including age and location filters. In a nutshell, give Bing a chance in 2023 if you’re interested in targeting a middle-aged, well-educated, high-income audience.

5. Secondary & Tertiary Social Media

Just like it can be worth it to explore alternative search engine PPC ads in 2023, it’s also beneficial to explore secondary and even tertiary social media platforms that many marketing campaigns ignore. This isn’t to say that you should give platforms like TikTok and Instagram a hard pass.

Depending on your target demographic, the main social media platforms should definitely be part of your overall marketing strategy. But taking the time to poke around alternative platforms can also pay dividends, particularly as larger social media platforms get hit with scandals, such as privacy concerns and user tracking.

Some examples of alternative social media platforms are Quora and Reddit. Quora is a question-and-answer website. All content—both questions and answers—is generated by the users. Quora offers a unique tool for marketers and business owners who are thinking of investing in Quora PPC marketing. By installing the Quora Pixel tool on your business website, you can determine how many of your customers are also visiting Quora regularly. This lets you decide whether it’s worth it to invest in Quora ads.

It’s tough to find time to plan, implement, and monitor PPC and other marketing campaigns when you’re trying to run a business. Let Pennington Creative be your trusted partner in business growth. Our experienced pros deliver all types of marketing content for clients across industries—from automotive to healthcare to higher ed. Contact us today to request a discovery call and find out how Pennington can elevate your brand.