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5 Paid Search Takeaways from the PSA Conference

Michael Bragg
Written by Michael Bragg  May 26, 2020

To keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithm, paid search marketers—like myself—frequently get together to discuss the latest changes to the platform. And this year, the Paid Search Association kicked off its inaugural conference officially on May 12.

Due to the current extraordinary global circumstances, our entire conference was virtual and the topics covered were related. We covered not only paid search strategies, but also B2B Linkedin strategies, re-engaging consumers in our post-pandemic economy, and even paid search nuances in Japan. All in all, what this conference captured well was not only broad talking points in the industry but some practical tactics to deploy for many different types of campaigns. Get a clear recap of the top 5 key takeaways you might have missed below.

#1: Utilize Dynamic Search Ads

This phrase was uttered incessantly over the 3-day conference and for good reason. For those unaware, Dynamic Search Ads allow search engines to auto-target keywords for you from your website (either the whole site or certain pages) as opposed to developing manual keyword lists. 

We’ve seen tremendous performance from this search ad type for our clients as it helps immensely with:  

  • Mining new and long-tail user searches 
  • Generating solid performance at a seemingly discounted CPC 
  • Adapting to fluctuating search trends in real-time (which is especially helpful during the COVID crisis) 

From Microsoft to Hennessey Digital, this was a hot topic at the conference and it will continue to be so in the paid search world. This ad format is simple to set up, does a lot of keyword leg work for you, and drives performance.

Expect search engines like Google and Bing to continue to double down here as its popularity grows. 

#2: Use Automated Tactics… Carefully 

Depending on who you talk to, paid search automation is either deeply encouraged or heavily faulted. There are many pros to automation, including unmatched flexibility and its efficient use of fewer resources. However, automation is based on machine learning and relies on stable data—which is very inconsistent right now.

That being said, utilizing tactics like smart bidding, dynamic search ads, and scripts can be very helpful to adapt to the ever-changing nature of search. Having the right monitoring and parameters around it is paramount, and if you use automation, it’s important to use it conservatively and monitor constantly.

#3: Double-check Your Targeting and Bid Optimizations 

One thing that many of the speakers agreed upon was that your ad targeting strategies are probably outdated or at the least need a refresh as of early to mid-March. In simpler terms: it’s time to reevaluate.

Melissa Mackey’s (Search Supervisor at Gyro) presentation on “Search & Social BtoB Ads in a Covid-19 World,” highlighted a few of these new search challenges: 

  • With everyone’s new quarantine habits, should we be dayparting our ads based on user movement and interest?
  • Now that the workforce is at home, should we be IP targeting for certain B2B segments?
  • With a rise in desktop usage, should we focus on mobile bid boosts or mobile-first campaigns?
  • Does your new imagery take into account social distancing or safety precautions?

Fortunately, she also highlighted that competition is down because spending has been decreasing! IAB has noted that as of March/April, channels like Digital Display (-41%), Digital Audio (-33%), and even Linear TV (-41%) are all seeing pullbacks. This is because many users are increasing their screen time.

#4: Change Your Tone, But Lean into Your Brand 

Have you heard this in an ad lately? 

“We’re here for you.” 

“In these challenging times…” 

“The world is different now.” 

Whereas this type of messaging is important to reassure customers, it won’t stick out. At worst, you’ll start annoying prospective users. On the flip side, it’s still crucial to acknowledge the current situation. 

Carefully reevaluate your message, make the appropriate changes, and as Aaron Levy of Tinuiti mentioned, “Be fun—if you are fun.” Adapt your message to the moment in a way that is respectful of what’s going on around the world, is unique to your business, and is strategically connected to your objectives.

#5: Don’t Turn Off Your Efforts

It’s hard to say this especially considering I am in the business of advertising, but I’ll let research tell the story. 

Through Lisa Maier’s presentation on “Re-engaging Customers When The Economy Reopens,“ we learned from a Harvard Business Review report of 4700 companies (after the 2008 recession) that marketing and advertising properly during a recession nearly doubles the odds of outperforming competition post-recession.

What you do right now matters long-term; you are either fading away in a consumer’s eye or you are building future, loyal customers. Be mindful of your budget, but get creative.

In conclusion, this is not a time when you should turn off your marketing efforts and wait for the storm to pass. Try and test new tactics like Dynamic Search Ads, reevaluate all of your targeting, make sure your messaging is polished, and prepare for a post-COVID world.

Michael Bragg

Michael Bragg

Michael has experience working with clients of all shapes, sizes, and industries. Though he focuses on the paid search and direct response media, he has worked on award-winning holistic activations including a 2-time Gold Effie winner. At Vert, he's either touting the latest results of a campaign or bragging about how UGA is the best college football team to cheer for.