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Paid Search: 2017 Greatest Hits

Paid search is a mainstay for marketers in all industries, but as regular machine learning and algorithm changes took place in 2017 marketers were forced to repeatedly adapt to stay competitive.Moreover, the shift toward emphasizing mobile continued; while the priority has shifted to artificial intelligence (AI), mobile is far from in the rear-view mirror.

As the landscape continues to change, often incrementally, it’s important to modernize your paid search strategies to remain effective. Here are the major trends and shifts that occurred in 2017, and what to be aware of moving forward.

Machine Learning Becomes The Focus Of New Updates

In 2017, Google launched no less than eight individual updates targeting machine learning and AI. These updates included expanding exact match to include close variants of a given keyword; understanding the context of a search; applying AI too smart display campaigns and data-driven attribution; establishing automated bid strategies to maximize conversions and the automated creation of audiences by projecting characteristics of an advertiser’s target consumer. Bing also shifted its focus toward AI and machine learning with similar updates of its own.

All these updates, as well as others, contributed to gradual, yet significant changes in the paid search environment in 2017. Planning accordingly to navigate the increasingly AI-dominated paid search ecosystem is essential now and for any future marketing strategies.

The Emphasis On Mobile Remains Prominent

While the major search engines are shifting their focus to AI, it’s important to note that the emphasis on mobile is still very much in place and more consumers are using mobile to make purchasing decisions. As a result, no entrepreneur can ignore the necessity of catering to mobile users. From the final quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, mobile click share increased by 12 percent, accounting for 59 percent of all paid advertisement clicks throughout the entire quarter. That’s more than desktop and tablet clicks combined!

Mobile users have grown to an estimated 4.77 billion in 2017. That number is poised to continue its rapid growth and eclipse 5 billion by 2019. It is common knowledge at this point but bears repeating, that mobile users are a critical component of any effective marketing strategy. They will only become further central, in paid search and in other elements of a marketing plan.

Cost Per Click Is Rapidly Rising, But Total Click Growth Slows

All in all, cost per click rose greatly along with marketers’ demand throughout 2017. In the final quarter of 2017, ad spend was up 24 percent over the final quarter of the previous year, while cost per click followed suit with a 14 percent increase. Total clicks, which also grew year-over-year each quarter, finished the final quarter up 9 percent from the final quarter of 2016. However, this was the lowest growth in clicks for a single quarter throughout all of 2016 and 2017.

This means marketers need to be wise with where they direct their paid search budget. A smart strategy will granularly analyze where the target audience truly lives and direct paid advertisements accordingly. Failing to really grapple with where that audience spends much of its time online, or where it is most likely to actually engage with ads, is now even costlier than it was before.

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