All Things Digital


The Changing Landscape of PPC Advertising: 10 Trends to Watch in 2020

Let’s take a minute to get the skinny on pay-per-click advertising (PPC)—what exactly is it, does it work in general, is it right for your business and, if it is, what do you need to know to make PPC a valuable part of your digital marketing strategy in 2020?  But, before we get started, let’s clear up a couple of PPC myths.


PPC sometimes gets a bad rap, maybe because SEO seems “cleaner” (read, less obviously sales), or maybe because some marketers aren’t really sure how to leverage it, or perhaps because some marketers don’t think it works.  So, before going any further, it’s important to know what’s true—and what isn’t—about PPC advertising. Here then are 3 of the biggest PPC myths and the truth behind them:

  • Myth #1: people don’t really click on sponsored ads—in fact, more than 60% of consumers in one recent study said they regularly click on the PPC ads. 
  • Myth # 2: PPC has a weak return on investment (ROI)—the fact is, on average businesses make $2 for every $1 they spend on PPC ads. 
  • Myth #3: People who click on sponsored ads are just window shopping—the reality is that consumers who access websites through a pay-per-click ad are about 50% more likely to make a purchase than those who go there via an organic search result.


There are plenty of nuances when it comes to PPC (sometimes called “paid search), so much so that leveraging it effectively can be downright confusing if you don’t have the guidance of someone who’s spent years learning how to do it right.  That said, PPC is essentially a way of identifying and influencing prospective customers who, based on the keywords they type into search engines, are highly likely to be interested in the products and services your business sells.

As WordStream explains:

PPC is an online advertising model in which advertisers pay each time a user clicks on one of their online ads…These ads appear when people search for things online using a search engine like Google…This could be anything from a mobile search (someone looking for “pizza near me” on their phone) to a local service search (someone looking for a dentist or a plumber in their area) to someone shopping for a gift (“Mother’s Day flowers”) or a high-end item like enterprise software. All of these searches trigger pay-per-click ads.”


Like other staples of digital marketing, the one thing that’s certain about PPC advertising is change.  The combination of emerging technologies and marketing innovation is continually providing marketers with new ways to identify and influence prospective customers for their businesses.

That’s as true in 2020 as in previous years.  Here then are the 10 trends that will dominate PPC advertising this year:

  1. Automation will increase:  to work, PPC advertising takes a lot of time, a lot of testing and a lot of nurturing.  Increasingly, marketers are relegating many of the more time-consuming PPC tasks—things like tweaking bids, A/B testing ad copy and selecting the best keywords—to machine learning and automation. 
  2. The role of the traditional PPC manager will change:  as automation and machine learning take on more mundane and time-consuming PPC marketing tasks, PPC managers will have more time to think about (and will increasingly be accountable for) strategic PPC thinking.  The nature of the innovative strategies they create will be a function of the specific marketing challenges their companies to face—but expect things like more fully integrated marketing campaigns and more precise audience targeting.
  3. PPC will become more contextual:  perhaps the biggest trend of 2020 will be a greater emphasis on integrated marketing campaigns that touch prospects across multiple channels.  It’s always been the case that effective PPC meant aligning ad copy with landing page design and content creation—but in 2020, PPC ads will take their proper place in more intentionally multi-channel marketing campaigns.
  4. Audience targeting will become more granular:  as powerful as PPC is to boost lead generation, marketers are beginning to understand the uses of PPC to nurture leads throughout the buyer’s journey.  Look for PPC campaigns that address the concerns of consumers at every stage, from initial awareness to sales opportunity to purchase.
  5. Consumer data privacy will be more of a priority:  recent legislation like GDPR in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have pushed compliance and privacy concerns front and center.  PPC marketers will need to find better ways of getting the tracking data they need (for example, to enable accurate attribution) without violating legitimate consumer needs to protect their sensitive, personal data.
  6. Look for new guys on the block:  to this point, the lion’s share of PPC advertising has been confined to Google AdWords and Facebook—but as competition in those arenas stiffens, marketers will be on the lookout for new opportunities, and growing platforms will be all too happy to provide them.  Look especially at growing platforms like TikTok, Amazon, Snapchat and Pinterest to more boldly enter the PPC arena this year.
  7. PPC advertisers will push branding to the next level:  to some extent, PPC has been responsible for little more than creating initial brand awareness.  Just as PPC will increasingly include not only lead generation but also lead nurturing, look for PPC campaigns that also move from creating brand awareness to building brand affinity.
  8. Expect some degree of cost-per-click (CPC) inflation:  as search volume peaked in 2013 and leveled off in subsequent years, PPC advertisers are competing in an increasingly limited marketplace. That necessarily means both that CPCs are likely to go up across many industries—and that marketers will need to become more thoughtful about the ways they deploy their PPC campaigns.
  9. PPC advertising campaigns will need to better incorporate conversion rate optimization (CRO):  this is the flip side of the previous trend. To justify more marketing dollars dedicated to CPCs, PPC managers (among others) will need to spend more time converting the site traffic that comes from their PPC campaigns.
  10. PPC marketers will gain more technical skills:  to accommodate increased marketing costs, PPC marketers will need to become more proficient at things like leveraging CRM data in their campaigns and helping other departments (especially finance and IT) predict likely campaign performance.  Making a virtue of necessity, in other words, more PPC marketers will add a technician to the portfolio of job responsibilities.


Effectively leveraged, PPC advertising can be among the best ways to generate and nurture leads, boost conversions and increase sales—but it can also be both complicated and confusing.  Fortunately, there are experienced digital marketing agencies who can give your business the guidance and advice you need to make PPC a critical component of your digital marketing strategy.

To learn more about the ways our PPC, SEO, content marketing, conversion rate optimization, growth-driven design, and analytics services can make your business more visible—and more profitable—contact us today.