Modern search: four tips to mastering the future of paid search



30th April 2021

~ 4 min read

With modern search being hailed as the future of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, it's important that paid search advertisers explore this new approach. Here are our top four tips on how to make the most of modern search practices.

Don't be afraid of the new approach

If you’ve worked in paid search for a while, the thought of launching campaigns that target terms like “dress” or “shoe” on broad match is probably enough to make you break out in a cold sweat. 

However, that’s exactly what the principle of modern search encourages you to do. By making the shift from targeting many keywords to going after just a few “hero” keywords, you’re allowing the algorithm to work to its best ability. As the old saying goes, fortune favours the brave - the more data going through each keyword, the faster machine learning-based solutions, such as Responsive Search Ads (soon to be the default ad type) and automated bidding strategies, will be able to learn and optimise towards your marketing goals.

Focus on negative keywords

Negative keywords can sometimes be seen as less important than keywords themselves. However, with your ads now having the potential to appear for a wider variety of searches, you need to see them as a vital tool to promoting campaign effectiveness. 

If you’ve braved targeting the broadest of keywords, such as “holidays”, you’re going to want to prevent as many irrelevant searches as possible - ideally before they even happen. By prioritising negative keyword ideation within your modern search structure, you can save a lot of time and wasted ad spend. Make sure you think outside the box about what these keywords can appear for, but also work with other marketing channels, specifically your organic search team, to utilise tools more commonly used by search engine optimisation (SEO) teams. This will help you see what searches these broad terms can map to. 

Website quality is key

Now that you are potentially appearing for a larger set of search terms, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your website is up to scratch.

With advertisers increasingly maximising their use of automation in the search engines, we could eventually move to a more even playing field with everyone competing in the same ad auctions and using similar strategies. So, the key differentiator is the quality of the website you’re sending traffic to. As we’ve seen with the upcoming Core Web Vitals update, landing page speed is becoming an ever-increasing factor in helping search engines decide which ads rank higher. Even minor improvements can help improve conversion rates, so it’s worth investing in the overall quality of your website (explore how Croud can help you conduct a Core Web Vitals audit).

Maximise your own data

With the playing field more even now than in the past, using your own audience data is essential to improving the algorithm’s targeting. 

With third-party cookies due to be phased out by early 2022 as well as the recent changes to tracking for iOS 14 users, all digital marketers are keenly aware that privacy and user consent is high on the list for all engines. Although you can use the engine’s in-market and affinity audiences for reporting and optimisation purposes (in fact, Google OptiScore actively encourages you to do so through its recommendations), your first-party data is an invaluable asset for insights into your target audience. This can be built into your paid search strategy by uploading customer lists to the engine, either to use for active targeting (or exclusions) or to allow the system to build lookalike lists from.

Even without using this data directly, your proprietary customer data can be used by your search team to help influence the algorithm through which engine audiences you include in your campaigns. It can even be used to gauge which user locations are more valuable to you, informing you where to bid on more aggressively.

If you’d like to learn more about the modern search approach, or if you’d like to speak to someone on our PPC team, please get in touch.

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