How to approach PPC in 2021

Now that we’re in 2021 and there’s a whole year ahead of us, we thought we would take the time to look through some of the trends predicted for both PPC and paid social marketing this year.

Will we be working with less data?

There were some big changes in the way that Google Ads reported on search terms, which means that there will be less data available to review when managing your campaigns. Further to this, there have also been widespread changes in tracking as a whole with the move away from tracking cookies. All of this means that 2021 will require a different approach to measuring and monitoring PPC campaigns through Google Ads. It is also expected that Google will continue this trend of hiding search term data, forcing advertisers to rely more heavily on Google’s machine learning and data.

But fear not, there will still be data available to measure the performance of PPC campaigns, we will just have to approach things differently. Instead of focusing on specific search terms it will be a case of reviewing keyword themes by using the data that is available to understand the performance and search behaviour of these themes, instead of focusing directly on specific search terms themselves.

This will impact on our ability to identify and set negative keywords, but between the data that will be available within Google Ads and more initial research around potential negative keywords when launching new campaigns, we will still be able to identify negative keywords to reduce budget spent on irrelevant searches it may just take more work initially. In addition to this we expect to see more advertisers starting to utilise Bing to supplement their search term data as they are not removing any of this data from their reporting.

We also expect to see more of a move over to using more of the automated aspects of Google Ads such as automated bidding and Dynamic Search Ads. Whilst there will be some resistance to this, as it gives Google more control over you campaigns, it will allow for the time spent managing the account to be focused more into reviewing user behaviour and the best methods of targeting your audience.

Can we expect Greater Focus on Audiences and the User Journey?

PPC User Journey

Further to the above, there is likely to be a greater focus on the User Journey and the audiences you’re targeting as a whole. This is also a cause of the loss of data that we will continue to see in 2021, but this could actually lead to a positive shift in how PPC is approached. Instead of focusing on specific search terms we will need to adapt and primarily focus on who is seeing ads and how many quality leads or sales are driven from key audiences.

This shift into focusing on audiences and the user buying journey will allow for more emphasis on ensuring that your ads are appearing in front of the right people, at the right time, with the best messaging for the point that the user is at in their buying journey. Whilst this isn’t a new concept and is something that is already a part of managing PPC accounts, we expect to see this being critical to success with PPC in 2021.

One of the primary benefits of this shift in focus is it will allow advertisers to reduce wasted spend in a new way with the loss of keyword data, as we will be able to instead ensure that budgets are being focused towards the key audiences that are more likely to convert.

Are you ready for More Automated PPC?

This is something that we have already been noticing in 2020 and we can’t see this slowing down in 2021, in fact we expect to see the opposite with more and more automated aspects being added, with advertisers having less and less control over certain aspects of their account.

This is another thing that we anticipate will require advertisers to adapt as the year goes on as more and more automated features are rolled out. This will mean that more data will need to be fed back into the platform to ensure that there is as much performance data available to these machine learning systems as possible, in order to get the most out of automation.

For many this may feel like it is removing the need for human knowledge and expertise to be applied when managing PPC accounts, but this isn’t the case. What it will mean is that there won’t be a need to manage the smaller details and instead greater focus on the campaigns and account as a whole, using human insight to leverage the automation tools to greater effect.

Will We See More Platforms Being Used?

Paid Platforms in 2021

One impact that the loss of data may well lead to is advertisers spreading their budget across more platforms, such as Microsoft Ads. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft has not reduced the data that will be available within its platform, so we expect to see more advertisers utilising it in order to provide data trends that can then be applied within Google Ads.

We also expect to see more spend on other paid forms of advertising such as paid social ads. This can only be of benefit to paid advertising campaigns as a whole as it will lead to increased visibility across multiple platforms, which will also provide advertisers with an increased ability to stay in front of users at key points in their buying journey.

Prepared For New Opportunities?

We have already seen an increase in social media platforms offering paid advertising in 2020 and we expect to see this continue in 2021, especially platforms such as Instagram.

We anticipate a lot of these platforms will experiment throughout the year and will offer more potential placements for ads on their platforms as they look to monetise more of their real estate as they grow.

This will then present advertisers with further opportunities to target their key audiences.

Are You Going To Be Looking at The Bigger Picture in 2021?

We’ve touched on this as well, but we can’t stress enough just how important the big picture is going to be! This is because there will be less control over the minor workings of paid campaigns as the year goes on, so advertisers will need to adapt to this.

The key to success in 2021 will be focusing on the bigger picture and as mentioned above looking at how best to leverage budgets across multiple platforms as well as multiple audiences to get the best return. Whilst this change may be of concern to many, we believe this will actually allow for paid advertising to become more effective as the focus can be on using budgets effectively for the best possible return.

Have You Perfected Your Ad Messaging?

Perfect Your PPC Ad Messaging

Ad messaging is going to be critical in 2021, not that it wasn’t already, but as we move into an increased emphasis on targeting audiences at different stages of the buying cycle the need for suitable messaging is only going to increase. This year we will need to focus on making ads that closely relate to the user at the stage they are at in their buying journey, as well as relating to the user based on the audience that they fit into.

Ready to Carry Out More Tests?

Testing has always been a part of marketing as a whole, but with the increase in automation and the reduced amount of data we will have to work with, it is going to be even more necessary in 2021.

This means we will need to be constantly testing throughout the year to trial the new features as they are rolled out to understand how best to leverage them, as well as testing out different audience targeting and messaging. Again, this isn’t something that is new to advertisers, but the change will be in just how much testing should be done this year.

So What Does This All Mean for PPC in 2021?

So there’s a lot we’re expecting to see in 2021! To summarise, we expect to see 2021 to be a year of learning as advertisers will need to keep up with the changes rolled out across paid advertising platforms.

We will also need to be experimenting more than ever to get the most out of ad spend, this will include experiments within platforms we’re already using, such as Google Ads, as well as platforms that we may not be using very much, such as Microsoft Ads and paid ads on social media channels.

Written byGareth Torrance

Hello there. I'm Gareth, the Search Engine Marketing Lead at Brave. With almost a decade of experience in PPC and SEO, I've seen everything from Pandas and Penguins to the horrible time that was Mobilegeddon. As a Google Ads Certified Google Specialist, I have lived through almost every major shift in the industry! And that makes me feel old.

Google Partner
Facebook Marketing Partner
Microsoft Ads