You’ve rung in the new year, cleaned out your post-holiday inbox and are ready to make this the strongest year ever for your company’s paid media efforts. But what does that mean in 2017? We asked our top experts to share their thoughts on how to get the most out of paid media in 2017.

Searcher Intent: Understand Their Questions and Answer Them

One of the fundamental tenets of marketing is that the customer’s wants and needs must be central to any campaign, channel or tactic. Fittingly, we’ve seen an increase in ads focusing more on searcher intent than on keywords, as we counsel clients to do, and that trend seems likely to become the prevalent way to target ads this year.

“Ads will be more focused on driving results and helping searchers to find solutions according to different user scenarios. Some of the best Cyber Monday ads we saw last year featured sitelinks targeting shoppers at different stages of the sales funnel (research, compare, ready to buy), or with specific needs,” says Analyst Emma Sun.

“Historically, many advertisers have used sitelinks for items such as About Us, blogs or Contact Us,” Emma continues. “But now, we’re seeing more and more companies switch from ‘business-centric’ to ‘customer-centric’ links, and that can only help the customer and the business.”

While your team is probably already using voice search data for keyword research, it can also be a gold mine for searcher intent. Because voice search terms tend to be longer and more conversational than typed-in terms, they offer more potential for insight.

Attribution Modeling: So Much Data

As we noted last year, marketing has truly become omni-channel, with the ability to track most online (and even some offline) conversions. With the integration of all that data now possible, we predict that one of the challenges of 2017 will be digesting this data and using it to inform future strategies.

Senior Analyst Meagan Finucan agrees: “Companies are really looking to pinpoint where they should be allocating their money to get the best returns. The more they can understand the attribution models and resulting data, the better they can understand the preferences and motivations of their customers.”

When determining which attribution model best fits your sales cycle and marketing channels, don’t forget to consider the amount and depth of data that it will generate. Be sure to allocate time and resources for analyzing that data and applying it strategically.

SERPs Get (Even More) Visual

Last year, Google made several changes to its search engine results page that resulted in a much less text-heavy layout. Featured snippets stood out in “card” format, while shopping and product listing ads featured more images. This year, expect more of the same.

“I think shopping and images as a whole are going to be the big thing for [2017],” says Meagan. “With the change in layout, it seems to be the way Google is already heading.”

She also notes AdWords’ new beta feature that allows advertisers to display sitelinks as images with captions (in a swipe-able carousel for mobile) as a further example of the shift towards visual search results: “With the visual sitelink beta, images seem to be where it’s at.”

ETA for ETAs Is Coming Up Fast

Analyst Tanner Brown wishes to remind everyone, “Google’s deadline to switch to expanded text ads is almost here. No one will be allowed to upload standard ads [to Google AdWords] after the end of January.”

“One thing we learned while preparing our clients for the ETA switch is that because of factors such as rendering and text length, messaging doesn’t always seamlessly translate from standard ads to ETAs. So it’s important to test and adjust your messaging as soon as possible in the new format before it becomes the new standard.”

Bing is still allowing both standard ads and ETAs, and has not (yet) announced any plans to change that policy. This makes Bing an excellent environment in which to test ETAs and standard ads side-by-side to see what works best for ETAs.

Strategy and Specialization

Every year, marketers are increasingly called upon to deliver measurable results, and to create and sustain high-ROI activities that can be repeated and scaled. Insight on media buys, keywords and A/B testing certainly helps, but we’ve found that the best results come from advising our clients on how to use digital marketing strategically to unlock the potential of all their efforts.

We’ve seen that companies aren’t just looking for a strong digital media partner, they are looking for a business partner that can advise them on their messaging, attribution models, sales funnel, conversions—that views their search marketing both holistically and in great detail.

The need to combine a larger view with a deep understanding of all the aspects of paid media means that a team of subject matter experts will be increasingly important this year. It’s no longer good enough to just be generically “good at search.” Specialized areas of focus such as retargeting, messaging, display, social and B2B will demand more specific focus, so now is a good time to make sure you have those experts on your team.

Six Steps to Paid Media Excellence

To get the most from paid media in 2017, we recommend these steps:

  1. Review your ads to ensure that each relevant type of searcher intent has corresponding ads and/or sitelinks.
  2. Have your team begin analyzing voice search terms for intent rather than just keywords.
  3. Have a plan in place for applying your attribution model, gathering its data and analyzing it.
  4. Make sure your team is on target to convert your Google ads to expanded text ad format by the end of January.
  5. If you’re advertising in Bing, use it as a testing environment for ETA best practices, since you can run both ETAs and standard-length ads.
  6. Ensure that your team has a mix of expertise, with at least one team member having deep knowledge of each specialization within paid media. Or call us, ‘cause we already have that.

To get this list in a handy PDF, download it here. If you’d also like its companion list, about starting the year strong in SEO, you can get both with one click here.

Wishing you lots of manageable data, targeted messages and trackable conversions this year!

Donna Lagow

Donna Lagow

Senior Account Manager at 360Partners
Donna Lagow began her 12-year marketing career in national broadcast media with Turner Broadcasting. After shifting to digital marketing, Donna quickly established herself as a leader in online marketing strategies for her client portfolio, including large e-commerce and Fortune 500 financial services companies, spanning across paid search, SEO, and conversion rate optimization engagements.
Donna Lagow