2018 search advertising wrap up

By Andy Hunt | 11 Jan 2019

With 2018 wrapped up, it’s a good time to reflect on the biggest search advertising stories from the year, with a view to understand how they’ll influence the coming year. Many changes will affect search marketers differently, with some feeling more significant than others, however these are the changes and additions that stood out to me the most.

Smart Shopping

Starting with Google AdWords, one of the biggest success stories among our retail clients in 2018 came from ‘Smart Shopping’, a new beta. It essentially utilises your original product feed alongside additional assets such as an image and lines of text to describe your product. From there, Google’s machine learning will test different ads across Google Search Network, Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail to optimise towards the set return on ad spend (ROAS) target.

Responsive search ads

The announcement of the responsive search ads beta launch in Q2 2018 caught my attention, and I believe I speak on behalf of many advertisers when I say it was something to get excited about. Setting up one ad by submitting multiple headlines and descriptions sounds like a no-brainer from an account management and efficiency point of view. The machine learning functionality is the icing on the cake. This should test the best combinations of provided text and then use this data to serve an ad to best resonate with a given user. Although we encountered some issues with the delivery of this feature, there’s no doubt that it’s worth keeping an eye on in 2019.

Other notable changes to consider

The below are some honourable mentions from Google AdWords:

  • Exact match keywords no longer mean exact match keywords: Your ads may serve when someone implies the meaning of your keyword in their search. The benefit of this is that advertisers will no longer need to submit and manage as many keywords in their accounts, however this does result in less control.
  • Expanded text ads part two: More changes to expanded text ads mean that you can now include a third headline, a second description, and have ten extra characters in the description, allowing for even clearer descriptions and engaging ads.
  • The new AdWords interface: While it’s fair to say it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, there are a lot of new features, including data visualisation and insights, that have proved very useful.


Look out for Facebook search ads

Interestingly, Facebook has decided to dip its toes in the search space with its new Search ads feature, which is currently only available in the US and Canada. This feature will offer the same functionality as Google Search Ads, but it’s unlikely that this will compete on the same scale anytime soon given that the function will be restricted to appearing on Facebook only. This was still an interesting play from Facebook, though, and it may prove to grow in popularity in the coming years.