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Search Predictions for 2015: The Industry Experts Weigh In

Foretelling the future has fascinated us since the 19th century, when methods as bizarre as observing a rooster pecking (alectromancy) and as common as creating earthen harmony (Feng shui) gave us a heads-up on what might be coming our way.

Because we lean closer to data and science than to mysticism (and we’re fresh out of roosters), we’ve decided to foretell the future in a not-remotely-bizarre way: By asking the experts what they think is coming for search advertising in 2015. We call it “expertomancy.”

Here, a round-up of predictions from search tool providers, agencies and experts.

RETARGETING WILL GET REAL

One of the big trends is audience marketing and audience targeting. Everything we’re doing is about understanding intent. It’s all about audience – understanding more and more about them and delivering more relevant messages.

The areas of display and search are going to become very gray and come together in terms of how you think about buying search and display, and retargeting across all those audiences.

Steve Sirich, General Manager, Bing Ads Product Marketing, @BingAds

Key strategies include audience development, dynamic campaign creation, and cross-channel management. Savvy marketers will take search intent data and combine it with social signals and first-party customer data to create complete audience profiles.

From there, you can target those segments (across channels and devices) with customized ads and post-click experiences based on what you know about each individual, what they’re interested in, and how valuable they are to your business.

Aaron Goldman, Kenshoo, CMO, @aarongoldman

I’m pretty excited about the convergence of paid social ads, retargeting, mobile, and content marketing. Basically the strategy of amplifying organic content using social ads, then tagging the visitors, applying demographic and interest filters, and chasing them on social media and across the internet, getting them to convert via remarketing ads.

Larry Kim, Co-Founder, Wordstream, @LarryKim

CONNECT SALES DATA TO MARKETING

In B2B paid search, I predict a new level of insight previously reserved only for large enterprises will be attainable for medium (and even small) businesses. I think we’ll see this in two ways: First is the convergence of data across warehouses, where it is lagging B2C. One core example is connecting of marketing, sales, and support data at granular enough level to enable optimization decisions across the entire lifecycle and all customer touchpoints. Second is making that data actionable and insightful with dashboards in the cloud, instead of data dumps and spreadsheets, to make it easier to find hidden gems and out-smart the competition.

Aaron Bird, Bizible, CEO, @birdstweets

STOP PLAYING CATCH UP, MOBILE WILL BE MASSIVE IN 2015

Make no mistake, “mobile-friendly” no longer means what it used to. Consequently, marketers will need to watch their site analytics and campaign performance closely in order to catch evolving usage trends and optimize for their audience’s current needs. Fortunately, I also expect innovations in cross-device tracking to wean marketers off cookies and equip them with the data and insights they need to best capitalize on changing habits. 

Sam Mazaheri, Director of Marketing, AdStage, @sammmer

Mobile is where it's at, and nearly half of all web searches are done on mobile devices.  Make sure your site is completely mobile-friendly - and this includes tablet.  And even when your IT department tells you it is mobile friendly, test out your homepage AND a few internal pages to make sure it all works well - you will often find surprises, like the pop-over that is impossible to close or videos that autoplay.

Jen Slegg, The SEM Post, @jenstar

Mobile will continue to grow in importance to advertisers and end users leading to interesting new ad formats and experiences.

Dare Obasanjo, Principal Lead Program Manager for Bing Ads, @BingAds

Advertisers will be playing catch-up to capitalize on the huge surge in mobile searches and traffic. They'll make better use of Call Extensions, create more mobile-specific ads, and better account for (and value) calls that occur once a paid search respondent visits the site. Average CPCs will still be a bargain, at least until the end of 2015 - meaning many advertisers would be wise to boost bids for mobile. Advertisers without a comprehensive mobile strategy could actually see clicks and conversions from desktops and tablets drop over the coming year.

David Szetela, FMB Media, @Szetela

The mobile PPC ad experience is often overlooked by advertisers, yet data is showing consumer searches are quickly shifting over to mobile. Consider that mobile queries make up 33% of searches on Bing. That number shouldn't be ignored. In 2015, mobile PPC will go mainstream because advertisers will start to see mobile traffic increases and perhaps desktop decreases as the query shares continue to shift. Advertisers ready for this shift will have a distinct advantage over competition and be ready to grow with their new mobile market.

Lisa Raehsler, Big Click Co, @lisarocksSEM

We're always and still going to be talking about mobile and tablet traffic as we should, but I see obstacles being removed for advertisers that don't have the development resources or mobile friendly sites through additional tools like Shopify, where the transaction and presentation of product info might occur off the main site domain. Cross tracking for devices and URLs are going to be so important as well as multi-touch attribution modeling - but I see us still dabbling with that. The emphasis on those pieces will come out of necessity once we can increase transactions and conversions via the mobile channel more widely.

Elizabeth Marsten, VP of Search Marketing, Portent, @ebkendo

Mobility: Constant connections drive the way we search, discover, and evaluate; context cannot be overlooked. As search breaks free from the desktop, there’s really no limits on where it can go.  Mobile search marketing now includes developing a strategy for wearables, cameras, apps, maps, review sites, directories, in-car navigation systems and vertical sites.

Leo Dalakos, Vice President, Performance Media, Performics, @performics

The hot play going into 2015 and beyond is going to be Video Advertising and specifically mobile video advertising. As more traditional advertising move towards digital advertising, advertisers are comfortable with telling their brand story using video. I have seen predictions of Facebook video ad revenue rising from a mere $151 million this year to $7.2 billion by 2015. Plus we all know that over 50% of traffic is becoming mobile, so we have to count on a lot of mobile video ad inventory. Advertisers are going to realize that they can now tell a more complete and compelling story throughout the funnel with the combination of social, mobile, video and search.

Bryan Eisenberg, @theGrok

CROSS DEVICE TRACKING AND BETTER ATTRIBUTION WILL HAVE ITS DAY

Cross-device tracking is going to be huge in 2015. Bing’s launch of Universal Event Tracking in late 2014 is a harbinger of the importance of tracking across multiple devices, delivering a user experience customized to the individual, rather than to a device or browser session.

Melissa Mackey, Gyro, @mel66

The financial value of identifying high potential points of purchase throughout the consumer journey will push cross-device tracking and attribution forward, ultimately allowing much more hyper targeted messaging in search creative and search retargeting.

LuRae Lumpkin, Head of Client and Business Development, WPP/GroupM, @LuRae5

Conversations on device switching and more accurate attribution of first and middle clicks in the user's journey will be white hot. We'll finally be moving away from the tired reminders of the "importance" of mobile. By now, I think we area aware that a lot of people use smartphones to search for things! And we can easily see in our stats that yes, clicks from these devices make up over 30% of all PPC clicks (and are headed to 50% or perhaps even more). The question is, what to do about that?

Andrew Goodman, PageZero Media, @andrew_goodman

We’re going to see a significant investment in attribution and cross-device attribution.

David Pann, General Manager, Product Marketing, Microsoft Online Services Division, @BingAds

Conversations that will be hot in 2015: cross-device tracking, cross-channel tracking, remarketing for search (RLSA), new ad formats (image formats like Bing/Yahoo RAIS features).

            John Lee, Clix Marketing, @John_A_Lee

PPC GOES BEYOND JUST TRADITIONAL TEXT ADS AND SEARCH PLACEMENTS

We will continue to see the splintering of traditional search share behavior across more specialty sites such as Pinterest, Reddit, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. Consumers are becoming much more savvy about how and where to get the information they want.

LuRae Lumpkin, Head of Client and Business Development, WPP/GroupM, @LuRae5

Shopping on SERPs with Bing and Google. We're going and honestly, should be, seeing more shopping/product specific results right in the SERP as well in Shopping results sections and not only that, more informative ones. Ratings, reviews, shipping and in stock availability are going to be king in pushing engagement and click through as well as conversions. Our crazy instant gratification needs will be met and we're going to get strangely comfortable with buying through platforms that are not the vendor's site, like SERPs, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Elizabeth Marsten, VP of Search Marketing, Portent, @ebkendo

I personally feel like 2015 is going to be all about advertisers fighting to find additional traffic and conversion volume. What exactly does that entail? For PPC, I see advertisers that have been slow to adopt to mobile waking up and pushing harder on mobile search. 2015 will see advertisers looking to features they may have previously avoided or loosely labeled as "irrelevant" (e.g. Bing Ads syndicated partner network, content network). Outside of traditional PPC, advertisers are going to be seeking out their volume growth in other digital advertising channels. Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, etc. will see even more growth in 2015 as a result. 

John Lee, Clix Marketing, @John_A_Lee

I’m concerned about high click prices. Paid search CPCs within established markets are at an all-time high. This obviously erodes ROI of paid search. So search marketing managers will need to get creative on how to squeeze more ROI from paid search by being:

•  More picky in terms of the targeting options they employ

•  Leveraging bid multipliers to ensure that click costs are better aligned with ROI

•  Generating higher conversion rates from paid clicks

Hopefully this trend benefits Bing Ads since we find that costs are lower there on average. Historically, mobile click prices have been lower than desktop, but maybe this year it pulls even, given the ongoing shift to mobile.

Larry Kim, Co-Founder, Wordstream, @LarryKim

SEARCH WILL BE ON THE LEADING EDGE OF “WOW”

Predictive Intelligence: Search will increasingly become a passive and preemptive pursuit, not a constant process of search and refine.

Leo Dalakos, Vice President, Performance Media, Performics, @performics

Consumer use of visual and voice search will further develop as voice technology further evolves and consumers use visual search to find products or snap in-store codes for product and price comparisons prior to purchase.

Wearables will be the gift of choice for the millennial early-adopter segment for the 2014 holiday season. This swell of consumers wearing devices that can be and are naturally ‘search’ enabled will stimulate a new advertising platform for search related offers. Connected devices and wearables will further evolve to offer consumers ‘deals’ or ‘offers’ based upon usage patterns, location and preferences.

LuRae Lumpkin, Head of Client and Business Development, WPP/GroupM, @LuRae5

The real trend to watch in 2015 is our ability as digital marketers to become more personal and valuable to searchers.  Search is a conversation, and our ability to market effectively hinges on our ability to listen to and understand each individual’s question and needs in the moment and provide personalized answers—and then manage this personalization at scale.

Jeremy Hull, iProspect, Director Bought Media, @iProspect

The growth of Siri and Cortana will continue to change SEM. Keywords will finally evolve into statements and questions changing how marketers find their audience. Broad targeting will replace explicit keywords matching intent as questions and queries will grow significantly during 2015.

Chris Doran, Acquisio, VP of Marketing, @acquisio

In 2015, ads will continue to evolve to be more interactive and engaging. Between extensions, product ads for shopping, and display, ads are already visually appealing. With these ad enhancements, I've seen improved click-thru-rates in my accounts (as I'm sure many have). Ads aren't just about the message anymore, but rather how much space they can occupy and how aesthetically pleasing they look. Additional features will be put in place to enhance the standard ad in order to garner more clicks and provide users with a more pleasing search experience.

Matt Umbro, Senior Account Manager, Hanapin Marketing, @Matt_Umbro

The PPC platforms will provide more options to automate common tasks - like bid management. As the features and algorithms mature and improve, there will be less conversation around "Should we trust these tools?" and more about using the automation capabilities to the advertisers' best advantage.

David Szetela, FMB Media, @Szetela

Here’s to an exciting 2015!