2021 search engine advertising and marketing: the 12 months of automation


30 second summary:

  • The search engine results page (SERP) is a battleground for user attention that is interspersed with colorful paid and organic content like shopping ads, quick replies, popular products and videos.
  • Today's search users prefer to believe rather than read.
  • Let's examine what marketers need to master in 2021 to stay one step ahead of search engine marketing.

Pull up your phone and search for goods or services. What do you see? In today's Google and Microsoft search, you will see a lot of images and other visual content staring at you. The search engine results page (SERP) is a battleground for user attention. It's packed with colorful, paid, and organic content, including shopping ads, quick replies, popular products, and videos. The traditional "blue links" are only a navigation aid. Today's search users prefer to believe rather than read. Let's examine what marketers need to master in 2021 to stay ahead of search engine marketing:

1. The customer journey must be known

While search was tied to other media channels for years, it felt largely isolated as a "pull" marketing medium. The purpose was clear: to capture demand and connect products and services with the user's intent.

Today, however, Search Excellence requires a new connectivity to speak more personally with the client at different stages of their journey. To do this well, first-party customer data must be used, but just as important is using the platform's view of the customer, be it Google, Facebook or Amazon. Modern marketers need to leverage first-party data, third-party data, and platform data for better experiences and higher ROI. It is crucial that marketers get this step in the process right as the third-party cookie will deteriorate in 2022 and open a new horizons in marketing. Increased focus and investment must be placed on aligning and connecting data and identities in different environments, with data protection at the fore. To enable this infrastructure, advertisers must hire developers to automate data streams that support machine learning algorithms in near real time. Without this investment, both the knowledge and the intelligence behind the customer's journey are lost.

2. The machine must be running

Automation is a prerequisite for competition in search, but there has always been a complementary human-machine relationship. The correct approach is "both / and" instead of "either / or".

Still, modern marketers need to stay up to date and regularly question how much they prefer machines over people and for which elements. Also, within the aspects we might assign to automation, we have what the advertiser, agency, and platform at the other end of the query each clearly know about the customer. Hence, today's marketers need to know who is better placed to notify a particular action that we are taking with our advertising program.

For example, the advertiser does not know the last three websites that the user has visited, but platform A does. Platform A doesn't know which ads the user interacted with on platform B, but the agency does. However, the agency is not aware of the offline conversion data for the user in a digital marketing target list. The databases held by the platforms, the agency and the advertiser must work together to control the machine.

Brands should only employ a handful of the real world search marketing features that use automation based on information that the advertiser himself would not have. Here are some tips:

1. Real-time automatic bidding

Leverage platform-only signals like previous queries and device / browser combinations like an iPhone 11 running the Google app for search.

2. Automated customer segmentation

This ranges from simple remarketing tags to platform-related “intelligent” target groups through to extended cluster models. All levels of customer segmentation should be used and incorporated into your search programs.

3. Dynamic search ads

This "keywordless" automation step expands the most successful paid search programs and finds a new productive query volume that complements traditional keyword campaign activities. It cannot replace traditional keyword generation, but it should be used to reinforce that effort.

4. Responsive Search Ads

Particularly important for highly specialized, dynamic and differentiated companies, the automation of ad copies with different, feed-driven customizers is a breeze for advanced paid search engine marketers. Gone are the days when quantities, price points, or geographic locations were advertised in tens of thousands of ad groups. Enabling dynamic inclusion of keywords and rotation of ad copies is just the beginning of fully automated contextual success.

Business automation accelerates growth

The modern search is mature and comfortable like a worn-out T-shirt. It is familiar to the consumer, but with fresh subtleties. It is increasingly necessary for the marketer to understand and balance the efforts of man and machine.

The modern search engine marketer needs to have a full line of sight to the visual battlefield of paid and organic listings, understand the customer journey on a session-based level, and manage platform automation with smart business inputs as we focus on 2021 and beyond. The picturesque days of endless negative keyword list management have given way to projects that include near real-time activation of customer segments based on modeled first-party data and competitive intelligence.

Do you recognize trends in search engine marketing? Feel free to share your observations in the comments.


Jeffrey Rabinowitz