Forecasting the future of any industry is always going to be tough, let alone attempting to predict the future of a market as complex as paid search. Although leading analysts are already estimating paid search spend will grow significantly this year, how this growth is going to happen is still uncertain.

However, it’s obvious that more money will mean the number of tactics, targeting options and channels available for search marketers will need to grow to make sure search that campaigns can deliver ever-increasing return on investment (ROI).

With this in mind, I expect that the following trends are likely to drive paid search growth throughout the coming year...

High keyword prices will force marketers to try new strategies

Although the growth of paid searches each month is starting to slow, the amount of money advertisers are putting into the industry will not. As a result, we’re looking at keyword prices getting more and more expensive. 

According to a Forrester Research report carried out in the US, two-thirds of marketers believe high keyword prices to be their biggest challenge in paid search. Unfortunately, this problem can’t just be solved by using a better bidding solution. Marketers will need to focus on increasing ROI from their campaign tactics, through careful keyword management, testing, and targeting. 

Optimising for Quality Score will need to be a priority, as it’s an easy way to bring costs down whilst driving conversions up through effective keyword selection, match type refinement, and use of negatives.

Geographic and demographic targeting are also likely to be more widely used. We should expect geo-targeting tactics to reach further than traditional local and financial services players, and into the hands of national advertisers and retailers.

The marketers that invest in testing and applying these tactics will not only benefit from increased ROI and revenues, but a strategic advantage in a market that will continue to become more competitive.

Paid search will be more integrated

Search represents more than half of digital marketing budgets, so it’s only natural that C-level executives are starting to take notice. For large advertisers, search represents tens of millions of pounds in marketing spend annually, with a recent, sudden increase in spend for most. 

Most search marketing programmes are therefore still being managed separately from traditional marketing departments. In 2010, organisations will be looking to integrate their paid search operations more tightly into the business, rather than running their campaigns as a standalone unit.

Integrating systems will make search marketers change the way they report and organise their KPI’s, leading to a big shift in how this information is communicated upwards in the business. Search marketers will therefore need to adjust to new processes, using dashboards and proposals for investment.

In return, they will be looking to see more executive support and therefore larger budgets.

Paid search will go multichannel

When it comes to search marketing, multichannel marketers have always been disadvantaged. Google recently found more than half of online shoppers research their purchases on the internet before going on to finalise the transaction in-store.

With this in mind, it’s worth noting that search marketers are currently missing out on credit for half of the revenues their campaigns are driving.

Luckily, tools for measuring across channels have become more accessible. Whether it’s linking phone numbers to keywords, or taking in-store surveys to see how the customer learnt about the merchant.

As marketers perfect these techniques, multichannel merchants will be able to make more informed decisions regarding the allocation of their search budgets, to make sure that they are driving both online and offline conversions.

Learning how offline buyers are researching their needs will allow multichannel traders to find new, low cost keywords to drive profitable expansion of their paid-search programs.

Facebook and Twitter Will Give Google a Run for Its Money

At the moment, search engines are handling over a billion queries each month, with a massive share of searches being made through Google. But it’s never too early to watch out for the latest internet success.

Facebook currently has over a billion queries on its site each month, and it’s still growing. With such a large audience, I wouldn’t be surprised if 2010 were the year to end those free searches. 

Soon, social networking sites such as Facebook will extend their own search technology, allowing users to query the user-generated content in their news feeds. When this happens, users will find it much easier to get recommendations from friends on all manner of things; which restaurants to go to for dinner, which mobile they should buy, or which film they should see at the weekend.

Advertising money for keyword placements will be sure to follow this. Search marketers will therefore have to alter and tailor their campaigns to account for a more social set of keywords.

In doing this, they will be able to catch consumers earlier in the consideration cycle than is possible on traditional search engines like Google or Yahoo! And, as people looking for recommendations from friends are still in the research phase of buying a product (and they place a lot of trust in word-of-mouth recommendations) the value of these clicks could be very high.

While it’ll be hard for marketers to adapt to all of these trends, those on top of their game will make sure to apply those that are right for their business. 

Whether it is improving measurement, campaign quality, audience targeting, or simply finding new channels, the marketers who can capitalise on some of these trends first are likely to be a step ahead of the competition.

Ed Stevenson

Published 5 February, 2010 by Ed Stevenson

Ed Stevenson is Managing Director (Europe) of Marin Software, a paid search technology firm, and a contributor to Econsultancy. He also writes the Big Search blog. 

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Comments (9)

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Magnus Nilsson

Good points highlighted. Think in particular there are big wins to be made in terms of integration as use of online is getting increasingly fragmented, so communications hit users whenever/wherever.

over 8 years ago

Matthew Phelan

Matthew Phelan, Director and Co-Founder at 4Ps Marketing

Hi Ed,

Some interesting points. Working in a PPC agency @4psmarketing I would like to expand on a few of your points;


We are already seeing lots of our retail clients move to Facebook in various ways ; 1) Move a % of existing budgets from search engines to Facebook due to good targeting and lower CPC rates. 2) Finding new budgets for Facebook 3) It integrates well with their new social media plans


A shift towards ROI is absolutely essential. At 4Ps Marketing we integrate where possible our clients margin data. With this information you can ensure a client gets the ROI they need and make a good return.

Broad match;

In the last 6 months I have personally seen 4 accounts we have taken over from other agencies that basically cram a load of keywords into a campaign on broad match with no targeting. Non targeted campaigns will be impossible to run due to the increasing CPC rates.

Kind regards


over 8 years ago


Jack Thorogood

We're getting good results linking paid search marketing to in-video hotspots.  This changes the dynamic from users seeing something they like in a video, then going to search for it through to seeing something they like in a video then clicking on the link there and then.

Conversion rates are particularly good for ecommerce clients.

over 8 years ago


Jamil Kassam

@Matthew - fully agree with your broad match comment. Used the right way it is indeed a valuable tool but the way in which many search marketers just put loads of broad matched keywords into one ad group with a piece of DKI ad text really irritates me.

Not only will this mean that CPCs are going to be higher, but a large chunk of irrelevant traffic will be being attracted through the advanced broad match functionality, directly impacting on key metrics such as conversion and ROI.

over 8 years ago

Matthew Phelan

Matthew Phelan, Director and Co-Founder at 4Ps Marketing

Spot on Jamil

over 8 years ago


multi-obligor security

Since the advent of email marketing in the mid-1990s, companies have embraced the misconception that email is virtually “free” as a marketing medium. This false impression often leads to over-communication, which, in turn, triggers diminished response rates, spam complaints, and unsubscribes.

over 8 years ago

Ruth de Wynter

Ruth de Wynter, Paid Search Consultant at Grow Online Marketing

Joe, I completely agree with you regarding the pitfalls of broad-match and c. It's been a source of endless frustration to build targeted adgroups with the aim of displaying targeted adcopy and send users to the most relevant page only to have the terms broad-matched to more generic terms. So much for the relevancy mantra! In some cases this regularly means paying a higher CPC off a broad-match. So it's often going to be in Google's interest to keep it going. Judiciously applied negatives can help of course, but in some cases this can quickly become unmanageable.

over 8 years ago


Alan Mitchell

I agree that higher keyword prices forcing PPC advertisers to invest time and effort in improving Quality Score, targeting and relevancy. Despite many PPC advertisers believing the paid search market is now saturated, there are countless opportunities everywhere to provide highly-relevant ads and really stand out from the competition (have a look at the numerous examples I found in a supposedly saturated industry ).

Interesting point too about conversion attribution. I guess with PPC being so trackable and accountable, it can often fall foul to being too trackable and accountable. As we focus on trackable sales, conversion and ROI, it's often easy to forget the indirect benefits of PPC (branding, repeat visits etc), making PPC an unrecognised hero.

As conversion attribution improves in 2010, making it easier to accurately assess the true value of paid search at all touch points in the user journey, hopefully we'll see a shift in favour of PPC.

over 8 years ago



Wow, this is almost too good. Thanks for this article.

over 8 years ago

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