YEAR IN REVIEW: Paid media in 2018

by Dec 19, 2018Blog

Olwyn Walsh – Spidersnet

As a member of the PPC and Paid Advertising team here at Spidersnet I’ve seen first-hand the way the industry has changed over the last 12 months. I’ve put together a piece as part of the YEAR IN REVIEW, focussing on the  biggest changes that we’ve come across in 2018 throughout the industry. I’ve also taken a look forward at 2019 and what we can expect to see as the new year rolls on.

1. Rebrand of Google AdWords to Google Ads

We have seen quite a few changes in the Paid Media industry in 2018, both cosmetic and in actual application. One of the biggest changes 2018 saw was the rebrand of Google Adwords, now Google Ads. This was not just a name change, but rather a reflection of the shift in the available targeting options for advertisers. As the name suggested, AdWords was highly search-orientated, which doesn’t represent Google’s drive to enable advertisers to reach their audience on YouTube, the display network or Google Play.

2. New ad formats on Google Search Ads

Another change Google has introduced is in the creation of ads themselves. What was once a strict character limit for each line of your advertisement now is giving advertisers new options to test more text. We have seen Responsive Text ads come out in beta testing (which means they are currently only available to some advertisers). With this we can try multiple headlines and descriptions and Google will test different combinations to find what works best. This means we, with well written ad copy, have the potential to take up more real estate on the Search page and show better performing ads.

3. CSS for Google Shopping Ads

Google have owned the Shopping Ads market until this year. Due to changes implemented by the European Commission, which last year ruled that Google had abused its dominance in the market, we have seen a major shift in the practices in Google Shopping ads for counties in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Now, we see the emergence of ‘CSS Partners’. CSS stands for Comparison Shopping Sites, which are retailers, or ad agencies, entering the Google Ads Shopping market, meaning there are more now more players in the game. For businesses, this means they have more options in running Google Shopping Ads through third parties.

4. Google attribution

Attribution is the allocation of ‘credit’ to different traffic sources when it comes to conversions. If someone sees one of our ads on Facebook, clicks through, signs up to our mailing list and comes back later through an email to convert, do we say the conversion comes from Facebook ads or Email? Well, with attribution, it’s both. One of the shortcomings of Google Ads previously has been the inability to break down our customers’ journeys. Though this is something we have been able to do on Google Analytics.

This year Google announced that they were introducing Google Attribution, a tool to help understand user journeys across both different channels and devices. This means we can better understand where users are interacting with our business at all stages of their journey.

5. Even more improvements to social media ads

With the continued expansion of Instagram ads, which was really still in its infancy in 2017, we have seen these go from strength to strength. With new ad formats, a shift to advertising in ‘stories’ and more budgets being spent on Facebook and Instagram advertising, we’re seeing brands put a lot more focus here and really utilising it as a channel.

LinkedIn has also improved its PPC offering, having previously played catch up to the social giant that is Facebook, we are seeing improvements in the channel, with a much more intuitive ads manager and ad formatting options.


As all of the EEA has come under GDPR rule, we have seen changes in the way businesses operate in terms of using and acquiring data, this has had a direct effect on the PPC industry. We need to be more careful than ever in how we are using people’s personal information, particularly in how we target potential customers.

Businesses need to be clear in their data policies, and when collecting cookies, with the use of users’ data. Collecting emails? Then we need to be clear with what we intend to use those emails for, and that includes using them for PPC purposes.

What we’re likely to see in 2019

PPC shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Though there are definitely changes being made constantly. With more brands investing time and money into their paid media strategies, we are only seeing the platforms that cater to this improve as a result. Most of the big players in the industry, like Google and Facebook, are keen to break down the barriers to entry, creating user-friendly dashboards and customisable ads. Here’s a look at some of the major changes we expect to see in the next 12 months…

1. Amazon Ads

Amazon may be giving Google a run for their money, allowing users to sponsor product ads on their site. This is only set to grow with more businesses using the retail giant’s ad service to promote their products and we expect this to continue to grow in the next year.

2. Paid ads on social media should continue to grow

Social Media advertising continues to evolve, with Facebook pioneering the latest ad formats and options to help businesses better connect with their customer base. With a shift to video ads being pushed by the platform and the introduction of new, digital virtual storefronts, Facebook’s ad offerings only continue to be more tailorable to businesses objectives, whatever they may be.

3. Shift from keywords to audiences

Though the traditional ‘bidding on keywords’ isn’t going anywhere just yet, we can speculate that will be a move towards audience targeting, building PPC strategies based on audience types and lists. This means we can be showing smarter, more tailored ads based on where our customers are in the buyer’s journey, whether they have previously visited our site, or previously converted, or even exclude certain audiences.

4. Automation is here to stay

With Google pushing automation with their new response ads and encouraging users to use their automated bidding strategies, there has already been a large movement to machine learning. This can help small businesses get in the game and PPC experts to really harness it.

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