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3 Critical PPC Lessons from 2020 for a Brilliant 2021

The past 10 months or so have given PPC pros a crash course in adaptability, ingenuity and nimble marketing. Those who thrived in pandemic-era PPC deserve some sort of advanced honorary degree in “PPC’ology.” In many instances, smart, effective PPC has literally saved brands from the brink of devastation. 

But let’s face it, PPC pros have been in a near-constant state of reinvention since PPC first became a thing. Compared to other marketing disciplines such as print and broadcast, we’re in our adolescence at best, which is actually an exciting place to be. 2020 just made us do a lot more reinventing and adapting in a very short amount of time. 

The tumult of the past several months may be a hidden blessing. Smart PPC pros are now well-positioned to use the tools at their disposal to help brands ride a wave of recovery while adapting to new normals in the way people use search to do commerce. 

PPC automation: 2020’s lessons for a banner 2021

We’ve discussed the power and pitfalls of PPC automation at great length over the past year, in particular. It was the main topic of our October 21, 2020 Search Engine Land article and was a recurring topic during our now-bi-weekly, virtual PPC Town Hall, which launched in response to the pandemic.   

Now, we want to advance the discussion beyond how we work in highly automated channels and tie in lessons learned during the wild and unpredictable months of the recent past. Sure, automation makes it easy to do basic PPC, but it also makes it easy to be lazy. Don’t be lazy. Take some cues from 2020 and learn to adapt and be great. Predicting and responding quickly to behavioral changes using a smart mix of automated tools and manual controls can keep you ahead of the pack.

Lesson 1: Homebodies still do commerce

Early in the pandemic, many people feared that economic and employment concerns would wipe out spending. In many instances, it did the opposite. Pandemic purchasing skyrocketed in many areas. Those who anticipated the shifts won. 

  • More time at home led to more spending on home improvement, home office goods, consumer electronics, landscaping services, and other things to make quarantining more bearable. 
  • Closed gyms led to skyrocketing demand for bicycles, home fitness gear, kayaks, and online health coaching. 
  • Less air travel and more ground travel helped push people to get a nicer ride. Auto dealers who understood changing motivators and used tools like Campaign Automator to prioritize the right inventory cashed in big during 2020. 

Many indicators show that a lot of companies and employees now embrace more flexibility and remote working arrangements. People have enjoyed gaining back an hour or more of their day otherwise spent in traffic jams. And as we saw from the points above, people naturally try to make the best of their situation. It’s this combination of factors precipitated by what happened in 2020 that may well lead to a permanent shift in how people engage with brands and conduct commerce (on and off company time).   

As PPC pros, we can thrive by focusing more on our strategic roles and letting the machines handle the tedious and repetitive button-pushing that we once did ourselves. But let’s be clear, humans are an essential part of the formula for PPC success in 2021 and beyond.

As consumer behaviors continue to morph in unexpected ways in reaction to societal and pandemic-related forces, the machines cannot succeed on their own—artificial intelligence and machine learning use historical trends and data. 

While the machine can change bids in response to external factors impacting conversion rates, it cannot decide that a company should change its distribution model and rewrite all their ads to highlight a significant new trend in 2020: BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store). A big lesson from 2020 was that rapidly changing dynamics on the ground can send signals the machines can use to avoid wasted ad spend, but not always in ways to help businesses capture new opportunities. 

PPC pros have an opportunity (and a responsibility) to master the tools at their disposal AND apply deeper strategic insight to ensure the machines are doing the best they can to reach audiences through paid search. 

Relying solely on the platform tools won’t work in 2021 and beyond. The native, disparate automations within Google, Bing, Amazon, and Facebook can certainly work for basic paid search. Still, they are not well suited to the needs of advanced PPC marketers who strive for stellar results. 

The evolving landscape for digital marketing in 2021 will require PPC pros to remain at the forefront of developments and opportunities. PPC rockstars will be those who maximize all the tools at their disposal this year.

Lesson 2: People LOVE convenience, making eCommerce an omnipotent king

Okay, on the surface, the importance of convenience is self-evident. But during the past several months, the desire for safety and security made people double-down on the need for ease and convenience. Smart PPC marketers are looking more holistically at their marketing mix. Some things to consider: 

  • The notion of “search” extends way beyond Google and Bing. Searches are happening everywhere, including Amazon and Facebook (Marketplace, in particular). 
  • People don’t just search on one channel. They may start in Google before searching for an equivalent used item in Marketplace, and then may look to purchase from convenience-leader, Amazon. 
  • The shift to remote work gave most people a lot more screen time. Some may have even done a little shopping on company time! (and will likely continue to do so). 
  • People need to eat. Many might avoid indoor restaurants for a long time to come, but they might have fallen in love with restaurant food delivered to their door. 

Being a one-trick PPC pony doesn’t cut it anymore. Cross-channel PPC marketing is where the winners soar. Effective, unified campaigns managed from a single interface put more power in PPC marketers’ hands to meet customers where they are and how they are behaving.

With Optmyzr, advertisers can optimize each channel independently to make the most of its unique capabilities and then do a cross-platform budget optimization that prioritizes ad spend in the best-performing channels.

Lesson 3: Supply chain disruptions can wreak havoc on the ability to sell

Even during “normal” times, businesses still struggle with predictability in their supply chains and delivery channels. Minor disruptions can lead to huge challenges in meeting customer demand. 

From toilet paper and hand sanitizer to mountain bikes or available time slots on ski slopes, the supply chain and available inventories can put huge limits on the ability to sell. The global pandemic turned “unpredictable” into a daily norm over the past several months and challenged marketers even further to convert ACTUAL sales. 

  • Disruptions far upstream in the supply chain can make it nearly impossible to predict the ability to fulfill, particularly when demand suddenly surges. 
  • Disparate data sources across supply channels can further complicate a marketer’s ability to know what to market and when to do so. 
  • A big enough disruption, even for a short time, can have a months-long effect. 

With the newly redesigned Campaign Automator from Optmyzr, advertisers can ensure their ads are hyper-focused on just those products that are ready to be bought. After specifying templates for account structure, ad text, keywords, and extensions, the tool automatically builds the necessary campaigns and ad groups to advertise the available inventory. It even makes the ads more relevant by letting advertisers insert dynamic elements such as lowest price, number of product variants (e.g. ‘available in 5 colors’) or limited availability to instill a sense of urgency (e.g. ‘just 3 left’).

Caption: Campaign Automator from Optmyzr makes it easy for advertisers to always have the right ads running based on their business priorities and inventory.

In addition to automating search ads from inventory, advertisers with a Google Merchant Feed can also automate their Shopping and Smart Shopping campaigns with the Shopping Campaign Builder and Refresher. These easy-to-use tools help build advanced shopping campaign structures in minutes and are refreshed regularly to prevent wasted ad spend when popular products go out of stock.

Crushing your 2021 goals requires learning from 2020!

The lessons learned over recent months have made marketers stronger, more adaptable, and more creative. Relying on the platform level tools won’t cut it anymore. 

Before you move on to the next story, we’d like to offer some much-deserved props to all PPC pros out there. When speaking of the accomplishments of NASA’s Apollo 13-era teams, Flight Director Gene Kranz famously said he thought everyone should at least once in their life have a ticker-tape parade to honor their accomplishments.

We wish we could give PPC pros such a parade, but it’s simply not practical from a social distancing perspective, and, in reality, ticker-tape parades just aren’t environmentally acceptable to do! But in the spirit of the era, we’d like to give you all a virtual ticker-tape celebration as we collectively launch into 2021 and its promise of a move back to something resembling normal.

Join Optmyzr CEO Frederick Vallaeys with special guests from Google and leading eCommerce agencies on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, for a PPC Town Hall dedicated to practical PPC tips for eCommerce.
Learn how you master cross-channel PPC and gain greater control over your destiny by scheduling a demo or a free 14-day trial of Optmyzr’s PPR Management Suite by clicking on this link: www.optmyzr.com.

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