The signs of this are already emerging on Google now, like with the new message extensions allowing users to chat directly with businesses from search ads. Another example is the new sitelink image extensions which allow ads to showcase attractive and clickable images making for a more “edgy” user experience (very reminiscent of the 2013 image ads though, which are now extinct). With additions like these, paid search will be changing so rapidly that users will hardly notice that they are clicking on ads anymore – making it a very native experience.
What I find most interesting about these rapid changes that we’ll see in 2017 are the motivations behind them. Could it be that this continuous revamp is not just about aesthetics and catering to the end-user, but also about something larger – like Google working to outrun the evolution of programmatic search?
To better understand Google’s motivations behind the changes, here’s a quick recap on programmatic search:
Many people believe that eventually, one of the major ad tech companies will introduce the ability to create, target, buy, optimize and fully-manage paid search ads programmatically, similarly to the way programmatic display is purchased. At its most basic level, this means search marketers could target beyond the search term – adding in other layers of complexity to target their potential customers (think: Customer Match and way beyond). With that targeting, they’d also have a sliding adjustable bid scale, that fires off the ideal bid for that person – a bid not based on what we “think” is ideal, but a bid based on historical data and predictive algorithms that gauge the probability of that person to convert. Also inherent in programmatic search would be the ability to purchase search ads from multiple publishers, particularly as users fragment off of Google and onto other engines like Amazon (which we are already seeing).
That being said, does this mean Google will be releasing its own programmatic search platform? It’s hard to say. If AdWords continues to evolve and other platforms can’t keep up, the default is for paid search marketers to stay put, using their existing UIs and BMPS rather than testing out a programmatic search platform, keeping their budgets in just a few places. However, if Google finds too much fragmentation and sees users rapidly moving off of Google Search, they would benefit from becoming the first programmatic search platform and could make a percentage off of other publisher’s inventory (envision a percentage of media cost similar to what you see with DoubleClick Search).
While I would double down that the continued new releases will change the look and feel of search for the end-user, I would place a side bet that there’s a larger game being played between ad tech companies.
This post first appeared on the Search Engine Journal.