Pay-per-click (PPC), the digital advertising model where advertisers pay a fee every time their ads are clicked, is growing among marketers as a strategy of choice. Vertical Leap spoke with their head of PPC, James Faulkner, to share some insight into the evolution of the business, looking at the scalbility and flexibility of PPC and anticipating just where the industry is headed.
Vertical Leap: What is the state of the PPC industry at the moment?
James Faulkner: PPC is growing and evolving at a pretty rapid pace despite the huge challenges we have faced recently. These challenges are mainly market specific, where particular industries have been impacted in entirely different ways. Many customers have seen exceptional growth, with retail generally shifting more and more online. Business services have also seen significant online growth as employees shift to working remotely, realising the many benefits of doing so. Overall, things are very busy for most of our customers with those in travel or hospitality just waiting to get back up to full speed.
How have you had to adapt your customers’ PPC campaigns through the pandemic?
JF: As a performance-based agency, we tend to focus on ROAS (return on ad spend) so we have had to react with changes to strategy, budgeting and shifting business focus. For example, many online retailers have seen huge year-on-year gains and we’ve been working with them to ensure they tap into as much of this surge in volume as possible by increasing spend whilst optimising in line with return on ad spend.
A limited number of campaigns have needed to pause entirely whilst restrictions are in place but with the majority, we have either pushed spend harder, or scaled back to focus on the core areas. With PPC we are able to see search demands change very quickly and we are able to react to tap into these significant fluctuations, either optimising budget and ROI, or launching new campaigns.
VL: What advice would you give to companies thinking about investing in PPC but feeling nervous given the pandemic end is still not in sight?
JF: With PPC, we can very easily scale things up and down according to all budgets. Our approach is always to grow campaigns steadily and then increase investment only when they are proven and optimised. So take things one step at a time, and you’ll quickly get so much insight which builds up confidence to then invest more.
With an increasing range of paid media opportunities, across many varied types of channels, it’s important to use the right mix for your business goals. Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, LinkedIn for example all have different ad formats and audience targeting options. So fit the right channels to your objectives and grow things once you have tested the water.
VL: What new PPC trends should marketers keep an eye on for 2021?
JF: Even more automation and tracking are key topics with significant changes being rolled out in 2021. We have already seen Apple make major changes to user privacy with opt in requirements seeking user permissions to track iOS users between apps and sites. Google is also exploring alternative ways to retain privacy, whilst continuing to enable it to build and reach audiences with relevant Ads. Of course being able to serve ads to a relevant audience, and then measure campaign performance is crucial, but balancing that with user privacy.
Automation will continue its evolution and we need to continue to adapt, working with the insights and data available. Google continues to limit some areas of transparency such as blocking search term data and the latest shift away from Broad match modifiers. Therefore using the insights we have and steering automation according to our expertise in strategy and available channels is key.
Aside from automation and tracking, of course we will see further huge fluctuations to volumes and search demands as the country recovers through the year.
VL: What is your top piece of advice in general for companies running PPC campaigns?
JF: This mostly depends on the stage in their PPC journey, how well established their campaigns are and the current scale of investment. We work equally with both global and local customers, and their investment varies from hundreds to hundreds of thousands per month.
PPC plays a crucial role and an important part of the whole puzzle, so its important to always step back and look at the full value of PPC. We know in today’s world, that attribution is difficult, and PPC influences throughout the whole marketing funnel. But there remains a tendency to try and track direct PPC conversions because PPC historically has been more measurable.
I always recommend that we measure campaigns with a wide range of metrics suitable for each stage of the funnel. We can then exploit the many paid channels to fit nicely with business objectives, driving highly relevant, optimised campaigns.