The evolution of paid search

James Kiroly
By James KirolySenior Paid Search Manager
5 minutes to read

As with every other area of marketing, paid search has changed significantly over the last 10 years. I’m biased but I’d say it’s probably changed more than any other area! As online shopping and consumer habits have changed, so had paid search. It’s no longer about how much money you throw at a campaign but rather using data to make budgets work harder.

Evolving alongside the consumer

Looking back over 10 years it’s crazy to think some of the features we use on a daily basis never existed. Remarketing, Google Shopping (or Google Product Search as it was known) and sitelinks weren’t part of our strategies and instead we focused heavily on keywords. Unbelievably, WAP campaigns were classed as an advanced mobile strategy!

These features didn’t exist though because our shopping habits weren’t quite so sophisticated yet. We no longer buy the first product we stumble across; we take the time to research, compare and reflect before we make a purchase. Paid advertising platforms have evolved to combat this need for extensive research and we can now reach consumers at every step of their journey. 

Developing platforms

As our shopping habits have changed, new platforms have popped up to help capture the customer’s attention. Display advertising can now target users based on their browsing habits so we can reach the consumers who are actively comparing products and make a strong case.

Consumers also want more proof before they purchase – something that YouTube has jumped on. It’s no longer just an entertainment medium but a crucial tool to help consumers make decisions. From unboxing videos to product reviews, there’s now a wealth of relevant videos advertisers can target. YouTube shopping, audience targeting, placements and channel targeting help advertisers reach an engaged audience.

But perhaps one of the biggest developments over the last 10 years is the rise of mobile. It’s outstripped desktop traffic thanks to its convenience. Now when we want to find information, prices or directions, we immediately reach for our phone. This has opened another avenue of advertising. We can do everything on mobile that we can on desktop and then some. Targeting through apps and maps means that we’ve come a long way from the first WAP adverts and can gather even more insight into consumer likes and dislikes.

Taking a smarter approach

There’s been huge developments in the background which means we have more user data available at our fingertips than ever before. Our targeting has become more specific as we know our user’s age, gender, device of choice and even income bracket. By making the most of data we can intelligently make use of budgets, reduce media spend and acquire high quality leads.

Conversion data also helps to identify exactly who our customers are and inform our strategies. All of this data helps us to build intelligent campaigns that get the most return for the smallest investment.

So what does the future hold for paid search?

Internet sales now make up 17.7 per cent of all sales – an increase of 13% over the last decade. As consumers become savvier with online shopping, they’re also becoming increasingly demanding. We want things fast and with minimal effort. It’s this attitude which will drive innovation and experimentation. And it’s happening in the real world too – just look at Amazon’s physical walk-in shop in Seattle. Customers stroll in, find the product they need and leave. They don’t even need to bring cash with them – it’s all done intelligently.

The future of digital advertising will mirror this. Mobile and automation will combine to track consumers’ habits in real-world situations to provide scarily accurate targeting. We’ll start seeing ads based on our day-to-day activity, not just our browsing habits.

Where do you think digital advertising will be in 10 years’ time? Let us know in the comments!

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Articles by James Kiroly

Hey I'm James! I work as a Senior Paid Search Manager for Enjoy Digital. I have over 7 years experience in the digital marketing industry. I love working with an ever-changing industry and talking about how digital influences peoples purchase decisions online.