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It’s no real news that the best marketers are always on the lookout for the latest trends in search engine marketing (SEM). With Google constantly changing how it plays the game – and the rules of the game – it can be difficult and time consuming to stay on top of things. There’s also an abundance of new platforms popping up almost everyday  that offer many businesses alternative methods to reach new customers. However, if you can roll with the changes and keep up with what’s new you’ll have a much easier time staying ahead of your competitors.

We decided to round up some of the nation’s leading digital marketers and see what they’re saying about the biggest 2019 SEM trends.

Check out what they’re up to, and see what you might need to start implementing for your business today.

 

Automation

Robert Brady @robert_brady

Google Adwords Certified PPC Management Consultant at righteousmarketing.com

“In 2019, small businesses utilizing SEM will see more and more automation in their advertising accounts. Google Ads is actively promoting dynamic ad units that take various lines of text and other creative assets and then creates ad units on the fly. As their machine learning algorithms get more data, the ad creative is optimized.

Automation is also a much bigger part of bidding. There are bidding features that target a specific cost/conversion (CPA) as well as target ROAS for shopping ads.

The small businesses that are able to understand and work together with automation will see better results. Those who don’t begin to leverage it will likely fall behind.”

Wesley Parker @WesleyparkerPPC

Managing Director of clicteq.com

“Automation in the SMB space. 80% of PPC management tasks that are done by humans at the moment will be automated within the next few years and to stay ahead advertisers will need to embrace this to stay ahead. In the future there will be two main skill sets that PPC managers managing accounts will need. Firstly they will need to have a good understanding of code so that they can develop Google Ads Scripts and applications on the Google Ads API, or at least have a basic understanding so they can work with a developer to do it. Secondly they need to be great at strategy that machines are not as good at.”

Kristina Cutura @kcutura

Google Adwords Expert and Consultant at www.kristinacutura.com

“Google is making continued investments into automation in an effort to take the guesswork out of bidding and account management. Advertisers, even smaller businesses with less industry knowledge and fewer SEM resources, are increasingly using advanced bidding options, such as maximize conversions or Target CPA. Unfortunately, smart bidding options remain confusing and vary in terms of effectiveness campaign by campaign, so Google has more work to do in terms of providing more reliable predictions.

The Recommendations tab is becoming more robust with smarter suggestions, but they should not be blindly implemented. For example, many smart bidding options recommended by Google do not show performance improvements when implemented and compared to results prior to the change. Google’s recommendations, while helpful to guide account optimization strategies, still require the human decision making and further testing.

Another great example of Google’s continued automation efforts are the new responsive search ads, which allow advertisers to add in multiple headlines and descriptions, and Google will show and test multiple variations based on your assets. This is a great feature especially for advertisers who do not have the bandwidth and expertise to continually manually test variations in ad copy.”

Justin Freid @Justin_Freid

Executive Vice President of www.cmimedia.com

“Automation and the use of data to make an informed decision on the next best action will continue to play a key role for small businesses. But it is paramount for small businesses to understand that while automation is available in their toolbox, sometimes, human touch can be just as effective. The promise of big data and machine learning can be intriguing, but unless you are sitting on mountains of data, it may not be as effective as promised. It is often best to use rule based alternatives to decide whether boost your bids or engage with an ad on GDN, if you are not ‘data rich’. For companies like Amazon, Ford and P&G, their data lakes contain enough information to determine the best way to engage each individual customer, but not all small businesses have that level of data at hand. So while automation will continue to grow and play a larger role in small business marketing, you should always keep a close eye on the decisions it is making. “

Mark Irvine @MarkIrvine89

Director of Strategic Partnerships at Wordstream.com

“New ad solutions have made Google, Facebook, and other ad networks much more approachable for SMBs to successfully manage their ad campaigns. “Smart” campaigns, Automatic bidding, Dynamic Ad Creation – all of these innovations are replacing much of the manual work that SMBs would have toiled through or hired an agency for years ago.

Instead, now SMBs are finding success online on their own – without the 40 hour work week dedicated to the minutiae of their account work. Agencies and Marketing Directors still have a role to play, but their jobs are becoming more strategic and less tactical.

As more SMBs find early success online – 2020 either has the opportunity for them to learn more and scale with strategic partners or to be just comfortable enough to be dangerous.”

 

Click-less SEO

Alex Genadinik @genadinik

Bestselling Amazon Author, Speaker, and Business Coach at www.problemio.com

“Click-less SEO is approximately 50% of all searches today and increasing. This is where the user gets an answer to their query without having to go to any website in the search results.

Google tries to answer the query with an “answer box” and keep the user on Google instead of going to a destination site.

In a way, Google is stealing a site’s content to put it into the answer box without sending the traffic to that site.”

 

Site Speed & Performance

Kirk Williams @PPCKirk

Ranked in the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero, Owner of ZATO, Paid Search & Social PPC Expert at zatomarketing.com

“My field of expertise lies in Paid Search marketing, so I considered how to answer this in terms of advertising. Is the core trend to be aware of still the mobile craze that has not yet finished but is finally slowing? Or as some claim, is it the onslaught of voice search, especially where smart devices are concerned? Is it shifting budget to social advertising, or Amazon advertising for ecommerce? While all of these are important to consider as we think about growing our individual businesses, there is one trend that needs to be acknowledge immediately by every business owner with a website, no matter what industry they are in or service they are selling. That is, we need to reverse the alarming trend of slow site speed on our websites. 

As website platforms become more complex, and our marketing efforts become more advanced, site speed is a crucial aspect to marketing that is often forgotten or overlooked. The crazy thing is, this is still an issue even with all the tests and articles that demonstrate the importance of site speed. Thanos may be a fictional character who likes to wipe out half of all people, but a site that takes longer than 3 seconds has been proven to have the same impact as that ugly space giant… 50% of your traffic will disappear as if dust. Why does a PPCer like me care so much about site speed? Because our ad success metrics depend on it. 

I can’t make you profitable with Google Shopping Ads if your site never loads, so your customers bounce and go to Amazon. Let’s all work together to make our sites blazing fast so we can focus on marketing your great product or service without losing half of your potential customers because your site won’t load!”

 

Mobile-Friendly Websites & Landing Pages

Jeanne Frazer LinkedIn

President of www.vitalinkweb.com

“While not new, one of the biggest challenges for small businesses is making sure their websites are mobile-friendly and landing pages have value to consumers. We are still seeing a lot of small businesses with websites that don’t work well with mobile. When you combine this with a landing page that is not particularly relevant to your ad, you can expect most consumers will leave your site without looking further. 

Technology has changed. Small business owners need to take a few minutes and look at their websites (and digital ads) with a critical eye; view them as a consumer, then decide whether it’s time for an update.”

 

Google My Business Tool

Kyle Shurtz @KyleShurtz

Director of PPC at avalaunchmedia.com

“More a rumor but if Google My Business becomes a paid tool it will impact SMB’s. Also PPC taking more and more real estate on the SERP is hurting SMB’s with good SEO value.“

 

Authenticity

Russell Davies @RussellDavies71

Owner/Director of lobsterdigitalmarketing.co.uk

“Authenticity is the theme for 2019 with a lot of businesses embracing content as a way to promote themselves but realising that they have to be authentic to their customers. When a brand isn’t authentic and honest they get found out very quickly and this is apparent with a lot of businesses backing off social media because they can’t keep up the workload. If they’re authentic and honest it becomes much easier to keep the content flowing.”

 

Voice-Friendly Content

Kenzi Wood @kenziwrites

Freelance Marketer/Content Writer at kenziwrites.com

“Voice assistants are having a big impact on SEM. While it’s mostly large enterprises that are getting in on voice-friendly content, SMBs need to get in on the trend as well. Over 120 million people in the US have smart speakers and the number is set to rise. How will customers feel about your brand when they can’t interact with you on their device of choice? I recommend investing in Alexa Skills and striving for structured snippets to stay ahead.”

 

Google Local Map Pack Ads & Visibility

Joshua Geary @bestonline

Founder of www.bestonlineresults.com

“There are a lot of factors impacting search marketing today. Almost daily, there are more and more requirements that need to be fulfilled to stay at the top of the charts! 

One of the top trends affecting small business currently is Google local map pack visibility. Even with all the ads stacked at the top of the search results, be it LSAs, Google Ads and Local Map Pack ads. If you can manage to elevate your business to show up organically at the top of the Google Local Pack, it is still one of the most desirable places to promote your business and get free, qualified traffic to your site. 

There are no shortcuts to success. You must do all that you can to claw your way into those top organic Google positions and do what you can to stay there for the long-term to be successful!”

 

Local Search, Branding, and Social Media

Julie Bacchini @neptunemoon

President of neptunemoon.com

“The ever-changing SERP (search engine results page) presents more and more challenges to small businesses. Just this year, Google has increased the amount of the initial screen that is devoted to ads – including introducing new visual ad formats – further pushing organic results down the page. With mobile devices continuing to become a greater and greater percentage of site visits, this can become even more of a critical issue for small businesses. How can a small biz get exposure when the space is so limited? The answer is probably to make sure you’ve got your local search information locked down and invest in highly targeted paid search ads. Don’t sleep on branding initiatives either – social media advertising is great for this kind of campaign and as long as people are spending hours per day on social platforms, it makes sense for your brand to be there as well.”

 

Personalization

Alyona Cherny @alyona_cherny

Customer Acquisition at wave.video

“In 2019, it’s easier than ever to get to know the people you’re advertising to.

I’m sure you already know how old they are, what websites they visit, what videos they watch, and how much money they spend online. What you also know is where they are in your marketing funnel.

Use this information!

Don’t try to sell leather shoes to vegans. Don’t serve the same ad to someone who just spent 5 minutes watching a video on your website and a first-time visitor who bounced. Make sure that your search ads are relevant to your customer’s interests and buying cycle.

Here are some of the practices I use:

  • Tailor your ad copy to highlight the benefits and features most valuable for each audience;
  • Promote the offers that are more likely to resonate with customers; 
  • Allocate more budget and set higher bids for warmer traffic;
  • Limit the ad frequency based on customer’s position in the conversion funnel

And don’t overdo it. When done right, personalization is a great way to connect with your audience, but you should always be careful not to cross the fine line between attracting and annoying your customers.”

 

Landing Pages and Better Blog Content

Adrien Lafond @ouipunk

Chief Marketing Officer at Airboxlab (Foobot), Foobot.io

“When you run a small business, you can’t afford to throw out millions on ads each month: you need to get more bang for your hard-earned bucks.

As always, SMBs should not consider digital ads alone; a quality landing page works in pairs with the ads driving traffic to it. Albeit there are plenty of marketing tools to craft a decent landing page in minutes, it is still harder to build a solid landing page than it is to build a text ad in Google Ads. For this reason, I often have the feeling that landing pages still take the back seat, which is a huge mistake — or opportunity — to improve conversion rates.

Another way to get more impact with the same ad budget, is to make it work in conjunction with your content marketing. Writing blog posts show Google your site is fresh and alive and it helps you build traffic that pile up over time, unlike ads. Ads can be used to promote your recent articles or most read pieces of content. This way, your ad campaigns result in more email signups, which means your transformed traffic you don’t control, into traffic you control.”

 

Voice Search and Live Video

Richard Hale @richardhale44

Professional Trainer/Coach at teachingonlinebusiness.com

“There’s several SEM trends for small business in 2019, one that I see being very important is Voice Search. At the moment, over 20 percent of mobile searches are voice search, some experts predict it can be as high as 40 percent by 2020. Small businesses need to make sure they’re using voice search techniques in their SEM strategies.

Another trend I want to point out is Live Video. Video content is vital to small businesses, video could be responsible for as much as 80 percent of all online traffic by 2021. Think about that. It’s time to get your video assets going! Most consumers prefer video, you need to make sure your small business is utilizing both live video and video content regularly.

The last trend you should keep an eye on is Ad Blocking Technology. I don’t think you should be scared, but it’s going to force advertisers to be more creative (that’s a good thing.) It’s going to force advertisers to think outside of the box, find other strategies to segment their audiences.”

 

Seeing the Bigger Picture

James Svoboda @Realicity

Partner and CEO at www.webranking.com

“The biggest trend that we at WebRanking see affecting Small Businesses is the ability to manage all aspects of their Search Marketing effectively. As SEM has grown and become more complicated over time, it’s become harder to SMBs to know where to start their campaigns and how to track and analyze results to determine what’s working well, and what they should let go of.

We recommend starting with a few of their highest revenue generating products or services. Build and optimize those first to the point of effectiveness. Then branch out from there. Starting small is more manageable for small businesses. This is especially important for ones who are newer to SEM.”

 

Secure Websites and SSL

Adam Connell @adamjayc

Founder of bloggingwizard.com and Marketing Director at UK Linkology

“There are a lot of SEM factors that are impacting small businesses. One in particular is the importance of SSL.

Just search any keyword in Google and you’ll likely see that the entire first page only has results from sites with SSL.

But, this is also important for consumers. Not only is the addition of SSL important from a security standpoint, recent updates to Google Chrome now highlight websites that aren’t secure.

Despite the negligible ranking benefits that some have reported, SSL is critical. Not just for small businesses – for any business.”

 

Changing Keyword Strategies & Audiences

Janice Wald @MrsPaznanski

Blogging Coach and Freelance Writer at mostlyblogging.com

“The focus on keywords is changing. First, in the past, people wanted a 4-word keyword. Now, due to the increased use of voice search, marketers are using longer keywords starting with “how to” The reason is as follows. Consumers dictate their queries now, and their queries start with “how” or “how to.”

Also, in the past, marketers cared about a large volume of searches and going after those keywords that would get them that large piece of Google’s searches for the term. Now, so many marketers are doing keyword research, marketers are satisfied with a smaller search volume. The numbers add up, after all.”

(More information about these SEM trends and marketing trends for 2019 in general can be found at www.mostlyblogging.com/marketing-strategy-plan)

 

Social Media Marketing

Sean Dudayev @SDudayev

Author at frootfulmarketing.com

“In 2019 the biggest trend that is affecting small business is Social Media Marketing. While the buzz word has been popular for quite some time, especially among big companies, the trend in small businesses engaging in it rising. Small businesses are starting to realize how much they’re leaving on the table, and also, how much potential it is for them to succeed in it. It is still at its early stages and small business owners are opening their eyes to the fact that it can be a strong source of revenue and branding, even when done through a single persona. In 2019, and going into 2020, small businesses will start competing heavier on social media, which will mean more content for the end-user. “

 

Shoppable Image Advertising

Jimmy Rodriguez @jimmy3dcart

Chief Operating Officer and Cofounder of 3dcart (blog.3dcart.com)

“One of the SEM trends that are having a positive impact on small businesses sales, is Google’s shoppable image ads.

“This new ad format targets Google’s images results, which became commonplace for shoppers to search for inspiration and products. As a user is searching for home decoration ideas, automatically goes to the Images tab on the SERPs to get visual results, these sponsored ads will include the business’ products in the results, displaying the price showcasing the product for sale in the image.”

Retailers can start using lifestyle images on their sites, optimize them for image search results, and start tagging with the product data from their Google Shopping campaigns.”

 

Retargeting Strategy

Himanshu Gupta @ihimanshu_gupta

Founder of blogrags.com

“I think the #1 trend I see in SEM marketing is the Retargeting. Audience Retention is becoming a big challenge for startups & even for larger enterprises. Retargeting is one way people can bring back users & customer to their website/platform. Usually for a better impact, businesses can easily retarget on different channels & using data figure out the channels giving a better ROI.”

 

Content is Still King

Ryan Biddulph @RyanBiddulph

Blogger and Creator of bloggingfromparadise.com/

“Content drives SEM now and forever. Gone are the days where a small business could game Google with black hat tactics. Now you need to create valuable, practical content for your small business customers to increase visibility on the platform.

I keep my customers and clients in mind before creating any piece of content because people use search engines. Think that through. Google does not use search engines. Google is an inanimate object. Humans use Google to find solutions. If you do an awesome job providing valuable, thorough content as a small business owner you build your SEM campaign on a rock solid foundation because people search for valuable answers via search engines.

Content wins. Remember that before you obsess over meta tags, backlinks, offsite tactics and anything other than good, old-fashioned, helpful content.”

 

Spending Time Away from Google

Raelyn Tan @raelyntan

Blogging and Digital Marketing Strategist at raelyntan.com

“The biggest trend would be exploring alternative ways to spend your PPC budget – not just on Google ads. I have found that Pinterest advertising works really well for me because it is still a relatively new advertising platform. Many people think that Pinterest is a social media platform, but it actually functions as a visual search engine. With the Pinterest IPO that happened just very recently, Pinterest is dedicating a lot more support to helping advertisers like us reach our goals.”

 

Responsive & Consistent Site Design

Srish Agrawal LinkedIn

Marketing Strategist, Angel Investor, Speaker, Founder & CEO of A1 Future Technologies (www.a1future.com)

“Desktop and mobile/tablet usage. Making sure your brand has a completely responsive and active presence on all accessible platforms and devices is of the utmost importance in 2019 and beyond. As more third world countries start using mobile and tablet over desktops, you must be 100% compliant and user friendly across all platforms.”

 

Keeping an Eye on Competitors

Anil Agarwal @bloggerspassion

Founder of Bloggers Passion bloggerspassion.com/

“Not paying enough attention to competitors. Whether you’re doing SEM or organic SEO, you need to keep a close eye on your competitors sites if you want to make your small business successful.

Make a list of 10 to 20 competitors in your industry, find out their top traffic and money generating pages and analyse them carefully as it gives you a ton of insights on how you can go about your small business in 2019 and beyond.

Also make sure to keep an eye on their PPC ads and social media ads (including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on). Analyse their ad copies along with their titles, call to actions and so on as it can help you tweak your ad copies for higher conversions when you’re doing paid ads.

Treat your competition like a friendly army instead of treating them like enemies. That’s how you can succeed in any small business.”

 

2019 SEM Trends Wrap-up

As you can see, everyone has their own ideas of what’s trending now and what will be big in the coming months.

Automation is one of the seemingly largest trends in SEM right now. Others agreed that Google is making it easier for SMBs to use their platform for PPC marketing, and costs have gone down. However, as another expert said, it’s important to remember not to throw all of your money into Google because other marketing initiatives are still important depending on your industry.

Pay attention to what the experts are recommending, see if it applies to your business, and create a mix of methods that work the best for reaching your target market. Be open to trying new strategies, and don’t be afraid to let go of things that don’t work for your specific business.

Have you noticed a SEM trend not on our list? Let us know!

Questions? Call us today!