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9 Google Ad Trends You’ll Want To Know About in 2021

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Automation is changing the ways marketers work. In the following lines, we’ll go over 9 Google Ad trends we’ve witnessed, most of them related to machine learning and automation. Have a read to stay in the know.

Trend #1: Simplified Match Types

The first Google Ad Trend is the change towards simplified keyword match type.

We have seen how the different match types have evolved over the years. In 2012, the inclusion of syntactic variants of keywords emerged. Then, 5 years later, Google Ads changed the way exact match type behaves by allowing the reordering of keywords and adding or removing function words. After that, during the next two years, Google has added the inclusion of synonyms and implied words and queries with the same meaning to all of its match types available. However, in our last year’s piece on PPC Trends, we considered the possibility of Google discarding keywords altogether. Now, some changes are happening in that direction.

In February 2021, Google announced that they were aiming to reach more relevant customers no matter how they pose the search term and they came up with Simplified Match Types. What this means is that both phrase and broad match modifier keywords will have the same matching behavior and may show ads on searches that include the meaning of your keywords. What’s more, the algorithm will now consider the word order when relevant to the intent.

Let’s illustrate this better with an example:

The phrase “moving services NYC to Boston” will also show results for phrases like “affordable moving services NYC to Boston” or “NYC corporate moving services to Boston” (which originally has only been shown under broad match modifier keywords). However, Google won’t show results where the direction is reversed, e.g., “Boston to NYC.”

Hubspot Topic Custers

Image source: Google Ads Help Center

What will happen to the broad match modifier is that in July, once the new behavior has been rolled out globally, advertisers will no longer be able to create new broad match modifier keywords. However, existing broad match modifier keywords will continue to serve under the new behavior.

Trend #2: Simplified Campaign Structure

Google is moving forward with smart bidding strategy improvements, and they work best with a simplified campaign structure.

Forget about having SKAGs (single keyword ad groups) and granular breakdowns — when taking on a more simplified approach, you will work with a smaller volume of ad groups with a bigger volume of keywords, taking into account every single user behaviour signal.

The algorithm analyzes the data from all of your previous campaigns, so it is able to optimize your current campaign based on more information and set the best bid. What’s more, it bids on auction-time and at the query level.

Previously, marketers were forced to create different campaigns based on the device they are using. Now, Google allows marketers to focus on more important tasks such as conducting a strategy while advanced machine learning takes care of the rest as long as you provide the needed data.

Trend #3: Auto-Applied Recommendations

Another Google Ads update that is yet to be released globally is the Auto-applied Recommendations Control Center. This is the ‘control panel’ for automatically implementing Google ads’ suggestions for every single account you manage. You will have the option to choose which specific types of changes you’d want to be applied automatically on a regular basis in the respective accounts.

For those of you who still haven’t gotten a chance to access the center, you can refer to the Recommendations tab in the Google Ads interface, where you can choose to either apply, edit, or dismiss the suggestions.

Trend #4: New Types of Ad Campaigns

Marketers’ portfolios of ads are expanding as Google is introducing new types of ad campaigns:

Discovery Ads

Because 59% of consumers have found their favorite brands while doing things like watching videos on mobile, catching up on interests, or reading through emails, Google decided to expand the places they can appear. Thus, Discovery Ads have been created — a display-based campaign that can be shown in more places: the discovery feed on your smartphones, in Gmail, and on YouTube.

One interesting thing to mention is that, in our experience, it works best in combination with an automated bidding strategy. In other words, while Google is giving you more opportunities, such as higher reach, it also comes with the downside of having less control over campaign management.

Video Action Campaigns

Another type of ad campaign is the video action. It can be used on YouTube only, and can appear on a couple of places on the platform: its homepage, the YoutTube video pages, and on the Google Video partners network. In that way, the algorithm will chase people around until finally reaching the right ones to convert.

You can now get a significant advantage with these video ads because of the responsive video format this campaign has – you can test out different headlines, descriptions, and CTA buttons.

If you wonder what kind of results you can expect from this, Google’s report has suggested that there will be 20% more conversions per dollar compared to the other TrueView for action campaigns.

Trend #5: New Ad Formats

Apart from the new types of ad campaigns, new ad formats and extensions are also being introduced.

Lead Form Ad Extensions

To make marketers’ life simpler, this extension is designed to help them collect lead forms effortlessly. By simply positioning the Lead Form Ad Extension at the bottom of the ad, the users can easily submit their data directly, without visiting the website. Then, leads can be downloaded manually or integrated into your CRM via webhook.

You can use it with the following types of ad campaigns:

  • Search ads
  • Video ads
  • Display ads
  • Discovery ads

To make sure you get the most out of this feature, we have 5 simple takeaways:

  1. Works best with automation
  2. Focus on asking the right questions
  3. Don’t make it too short in order to get high-quality leads
  4. Get in touch with the responders as soon as possible
  5. Make sure your Sales team can handle the influx of leads in time

Responsive Ads for Search, Display, and Video

Those are ads that change and adapt to fit the user and show more relevant messages. Basically, Google Ads tests different combinations of text, images, and/or videos to learn what performs best. This is possible because you are able to add many different ad elements in one ad instead of creating many different versions of a single ad.

Keep in mind these additional benefits to this change:

  • They are time-saving
  • Are applicable for search, display, and video ads
  • This format increases the impression share

Trend #6: Google’s Algorithm Needs Yet More Data To Perform Well

It’s needless to say that for the algorithm to perform well, marketers need to feed it with all kinds of data. However, to succeed with the new changes, you should add even more data, such as offline conversions or even micro-conversions.

Examples of micro-conversions include how people are behaving during scrolling or visiting a page, what buttons they’ve decided to click on, at what points they stop in the conversion process, etc. The people in this audience segment may not have made a real conversion, but have the potential to do so. By analyzing this data, the algorithm will show more relevant information to the right buyer persona to maximize your results.

Trend #7: Saying Goodbye to Third-Party Cookies

Google’s responding to people’s need for privacy while they are browsing the web by removing third-party cookies from Chrome. If you are wondering how this will affect your work, the current solution is Federated Learning of Cohorts (or FLoC).

FLoC is reaching people with relevant ads and content by putting large groups of people with similar interests into a cluster (cohort). In that way, individual data is not visible, yet marketers and businesses can still personalize adn adjust their creative and their offers to match the search intent. It’s a win-win situation.

The expected results are a max 5% decrease in conversion volume if very specific audiences are being targeted. However, Chrome has already made FLoC-based cohorts available for public testing in certain countries, with a small percentage of users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, and the U.S.

You can also run your own simulation based on the principles outlined in the FLoC whitepaper.

Trend #8: New iOS 14 Policy Update

Next on the list is a PPC update coming from Apple. In June 2020, Apple introduced the App Tracking Transparency policy update saying it will come into effect in the spring of 2021, allowing developers enough time to make the needed changes. Now, the update has been launched, and advertisers and business owners must be ready for it.

What this update focuses on is stopping advertisers from collecting data through apps and sharing the information with other companies to track actions across apps and websites.

Instead, they must use the App Tracking Transparency framework which is to allow the user to authorize or not the app-tracking for ad-targeting purposes. As expected, the PPC industry isn’t happy about this change.

This will also affect advertisers whose preferred advertising platform is Google Ads. Here is Google’s announcement on the matter: “Apple’s ATT changes will reduce visibility into key metrics that show how ads drive conversions (like app installs and sales,) and will affect how advertisers value and bid on ad impressions.”

As a solution, Google advises developers to upgrade to version 7.64 of the Google Mobile Ads SDK for new features like SKAdNetwork support.

Trend #9: New Country-Specific Taxes

Lastly, new taxes in certain countries across the globe are arising. We have already seen how Google has incorporated new taxes to those who are serving ads in France and Spain. However, now there will be additional advertising costs every time an ad is served in Austria, Turkey, the UK, as well as possibly in the state of Maryland, USA. It’s expected that this digital ads tax principle will spread eventually throughout the world.

How to Get the Most of the New Google Ad Trends?

These PPC trends may not necessarily be a bad thing – for the most part, they are designed to make the digital marketers’ lwork much easier. They also aim at protecting privacy and data, while still delivering relevant content to the searcher. To cope better with the changes and use them to our advantage, we can do several things.

First and foremost, testing is king. By putting every new feature to the test and monitoring the results, advertisers will find what works best.

Secondly, understanding your audience is more important than ever. It’s worth taking the time to research your ideal customer profile and their behaviour. By knowing your target persona and adding content, creatives, and offers that matter to them, you can be sure that the algorithm will show the ad’s message to the most relevant people.

Lastly, as those new PPC trends are showing, transparency and privacy are making their way into the world. So, consider the following options:

  • Diversify your channel mix
  • Start investing in SEO and Content Marketing
  • Consider expanding your ads platform list

With many of these trends focusing on automation and transferring more control of the campaigns over to the algorithm, marketers can focus on that no AI can yet do – creativity. Rechannel your energy and find creative solutions for reaching your audience with your digital marketing strategy.