I confess, I’m a little late to the party. I’d like to think this 2016 PPC predictions blog is “fashionably” late. Having never been the fashionable type though I’ll just admit that the day job sometimes gets in the way.

Excuses to one side, the delay in posting has provided an opportunity to speak to our search engine partners and get a steer on their development roadmaps for 2016.

In part 1 of the following post I’ll take a look back over how PPC marketing developed through 2015, summarising some of the top news stories from our monthly internal team briefings. If you missed an important piece of PPC news during 2015 I hope you’ll find it here.

In part 2 I’ll make some predictions about the changes we might see this year. Some are based on informal conversations with our suppliers, while others are purely speculative fun. I’ll let you decide which are which… 

Let’s begin with part 1 and a recap of how the world of PPC marketing evolved through 2015.

Winter in PPC

January 2015

  • Yahoo saw global search share grow from 3.5% to 9.3% following a December 2014 deal with Mozilla to become the default search provider for Firefox
  • China blocked Google
  • Google remarketing for Shopping Ads launched into beta testing
  • Google removed right-hand-side Ads from Tablet SERPs (when viewed in Landscape mode), switching to 2 ads above and 3 below organic results, aiming for consistency with the Mobile experience
  • Bing started to repeat Ad description line 1 in both headline and Ad body content, lengthening Ads in the SERPs and increasing CTR by 10-15%
  • Adwords Ad Customizers launched, providing an easy alternative to Scripts for Advertisers wishing to serve real time data in Ad content
  • Gmail Sponsored Promotions beta moved into the Adwords front-end user interface
  • YouTube started to roll out the ‘Mute Ad’ function, giving viewers the option to blocking irritating or offensive Ads
  • Latitude PPC campaigns saw 48% of clicks coming from desktop/laptop computers, 31% from Smartphones and 22% from Tablet devices

February 2015

  • Google rolled out Upgraded URLs in Adwords
  • Google “Trusted Stores” launched
  • Bing updated Quality Score reporting in Bing Ads
  • Bing introduced auction insights into the Bing Ads UI
  • Google Analytics launched a new option to let Adwords Advertisers segment PPC reports by Query Word Count
  • Google launched “Call Only” campaigns into Adwords
  • Minions provided our favourite Superbowl Ad

March 2015

  • Google introduced simplified conversion tracking setup into Adwords, making it easier for Advertisers to correctly set up tracking for App campaigns, website conversions and telephone conversions
  • Google launched the Adwords App for Android devices
  • Bing launched their own version of “Enhanced Campaigns”; unlike Adwords however Bing Ads offered an option for Tablet bid modifiers
  • Bing launched the “Competitive Bid Opportunity” report into Bing Ads
  • Geico played with the 5 second rule and became our YouTube Ad of the month

Spring in PPC

April 2015

  • Google updated the Adwords Keyword tool to provide basic PPC performance forecasting for advertiser specified keyword lists and bids
  • Google introduced the option for Advertisers to show App Download Ads across the GDN
  • Yahoo launched a range of new functions into their nascent Gemini Ads platform, including App Install Ads, Display remarketing, Search remarketing and Custom Segments
  • Bing launched App Extensions for Bing Ads
  • Bing introduced Shopping Campaigns into beta testing in Bing Ads
  • Facebook launched their “Blueprint” online training programme for Advertisers
  • Facebook also launched a free analytics service for Facebook Apps
  • YouTube introduced TrueView Cards, a glossier version of Annotations for TrueView Ads
  • YouTube rolled out Preferred Channel line ups, offering premium channel placements for Advertisers addressing specific audience categories

May 2015

  • The Bing Yahoo advertising alliance reported a 46% uptick in search Ad spending across Europe
  • Bing Ads improved keyword matching to recognize “stop” keywords in search queries (such as “the” & “and”)
  • Bing launched a new campaign planner into Bing Ads, giving Advertisers detailed information for keyword estimates and advertiser competition
  • Google enforced migration of Gmail Sponsored Promotions from the legacy UI into the Adwords UI, giving GSP Advertisers access to the full range of Adwords targeting & reporting options
  • May 5th saw Google make a host of product update announcements in a live event, laying out plans for innovations for Hotel Ads, Automotive Ads & Mortgage Ads
  • The May 5th announcements also signalled the coming of data-driven attribution models for Adwords CPA bidding, as well as Google’s intent to include cross-device conversion reporting in the Adwords UI and subsequently in CPA bidding rules
  • Google launched “Near Me” Ad formats to promote local businesses to search terms including the words “near me”
  • Google launched a new “Campaign Details” report into the Adwords UI, giving Advertisers a tool to spot quick optimisation opportunities for Adwords campaigns
  • Google introduced Google Analytics remarketing; RLSA campaigns with segmentations based on GA stats
  • Custom columns also launched into Adwords, allowing Advertisers to create their own reporting metrics in addition to the default columns
  • Google launched TrueView for Shopping – product Ads within TrueView in-stream video Ads
  • YouTube changed billing for TrueView campaigns, introducing charges for clicks on overlays / companion banners as well as completed video views / 30 seconds viewed
  • Pandora.net produced our YouTube Ad of the Month with an emotive message for Mother’s Day in the US

June 2015

  • Bing introduced a new homepage for the Bing Ads UI, including KPI summaries, top movers reports and performance trend graphs
  • Bing introduced Automated Rules in Bing Ads
  • Bing opened up beta testing of Shopping Campaigns driven by Bing Merchant Centre product feeds
  • Bing became the exclusive search provider for AOL properties
  • Google launched “Target CPA Simulator” in Adwords, letting Advertisers see what campaign performance might have looked like with a different CPA target
  • YouTube celebrated their 10th Birthday

summer in PPC

July 2015

  • Google enforced migration to Upgraded URLs for all Adwords accounts
  • Bing & Yahoo announced they were renegotiating the terms of their search alliance
  • Bing announced their own version of Upgraded URLs for Bing Ads
  • Bing launched Automation Rules for Ads into Bing Ads
  • Columns for Custom Metrics launched into Bing Ads
  • Google reported that up to 50% of Mobile GDN Ad clicks were accidental, introducing measures to reduce the problem
  • Our YouTube Ad of the Month came from Dove Men+ Care

August 2015

  • Google updated Remarketing policies to prevent sharing of remarketing lists between different brands
  • Ofcom announced that the UK is now a “Smartphone society”
  • App download Ad formats launched in the Google Play store
  • Google started to show up to 3 lines of  sitelinks with Ads, meaning that the entire first fold of the results pages on a Smartphone are now entirely occupied by Ads
  • Google launched the “Product Assortment Report” to help Advertisers to spot products missing from their range

Google product Assortment Report

  • Adwords Report Editor began to appear in Adwords accounts, giving Advertisers Excel-style filter, segmentation and graphing options within the Adwords UI
  • Doubleclick Search became compatible with Yahoo Gemini campaigns
  • Our YouTube Ad of the Month was from Always #likeagirl

September 2015

  • Google rolled out their new logo following the formation of their new holding company “Alphabet
  • The death knell began to sound for Flash Ads on the Google Display Network as Google ended auto-play, requiring users to press a ‘play’ button to see the Ad
  • Google began to automate promotional text for Shopping Ads, taking the manual work away from Advertisers
  • Return-on-Ad-spend automated bid strategies for Shopping campaigns launched in Adwords
  • Structured Snippet extensions rolled out in Adwords accounts
  • Gmail Sponsored Promotion Ads became available to all Adwords Advertisers
  • Bing Ads launched a “Notify Me” service to let Advertisers receive alerts whenever their Bing Ads campaigns see a significant change in key metrics
  • Video Ad formats launched for Yahoo Gemini native Ad placements
  • Our YouTube Ad of the month was, well, all 360 degree Ad experiments

Autumn in PPC

October 2015

  • Google launched Accelerated Mobile Pages, an initiative to speed up page load times across the Mobile web
  • Google launched an “Ad variation” beta into Adwords, letting Advertisers test multiple Ad variations simultaneously across multiple Campaigns and Ad groups
  • “Customer Match” launched into Adwords, letting Advertisers upload first-party customer data lists into Adwords to power remarketing campaigns
  • Adwords celebrated its 15th anniversary
  • Google added cross-device conversion metrics to Adwords reporting
  • Google launched the new Shopping Insights tool to show regional search interest for shopping related queries across the U.S.

November 2015

  • Bing Ads retired their “Rich Ads in Search” Ad format, in preparation for a later release of Image Ad extensions
  • Bing Shopping Ads launched on Mobile devices in the U.S.
  • Impression share stats became available for Bing Ads Shopping campaigns in the main User Interface
  • Google launched Black Friday and Cyber Monday Ad Extensions, a custom Ad extension made available only during the week of November 23rd
  • Google launched “Campaign Drafts” in Adwords to provide easy options for Advertisers conducting A/B testing
  • Google launched a Mobile bid simulator in Adwords to help Advertisers to predict the impact of Mobile Bid Multiplier changes on traffic volumes

Google Bid Adjustment Simulator

December 2015

  • Google retired Social Extensions from Adwords, meaning no more Google+ follower counts next to Ads
  • Structured Snippets extensions arrived in Adwords (presumably helping to fill the gap left by Social Extensions)
  • Keyword/Placement segmentations were introduced for Adwords Ad performance reporting
  • Auto-bid status annotations were introduced to Adwords, to let Advertisers know how the Adwords system is adapting to CPA bidding targets
  • Google expanded App Download Ad formats with Trial Run Ads
  • Google introduced Viewable CPM bidding (vCPM) for GDN campaigns in Adwords, opting in all existing CPM campaigns to ensure Advertisers only pay for impressions that are actually seen
  • Yahoo Gemini introduced an “Import from Adwords” tool to speed up the campaign cloning process for Advertisers
  • Yahoo Gemini launched Product Ads
  • Bing Ads launched Ad Image Extensions into beta testing
  • Doubleclick Bid Manager launched new Audience targeting options; Demographic, Affinity, In-market and Similar Audiences
  • Our YouTube Ad of the Month came from Robert Dyas, spoofing a famous Red House Stateside commercial
  • Latitude PPC campaigns saw 32% of clicks coming from desktop/laptop computers, 49% from Smartphones and 18% from Tablet devices

In a nutshell, 2015 saw the development of several important trends:

  1. Linked datasets. As marketers we’re progressing towards a position where all of our datasets can be joined up for smarter, faster analysis and optimisation
  2. Automation. The emergence of machine learning technology, now powering many of the tools that PPC marketers work with on a daily basis, is revolutionising the way digital marketers execute campaigns
  3. Devices. The year of mobile has been and gone. Half of all our PPC clicks now come from Smartphones. The conversation has moved on to marketing to people, rather than devices.

With 2015 now a collection of blog post memories, let’s look forward in Part 2 of this post and make some predictions about things to come in 2016.