The annual end-of-year flurry of predictions and forecasts for the search industry had some clear themes. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on voice search and the array of algorithm changes ushered in during 2018. I did some thinking about the trends and have come up with five I think will be genuinely influential over the next 11 months. I’m sure Google will throw us a few curve balls, but there are a some things we can probably bank on…

1. The changing role of the keyword

While audience targeting in search is clearly growing in importance, I don’t share the view that it’s a death knell for keywords. Keywords will remain a vital tool to understand who is looking for your specific products. Plus, the expansion of Google’s exact match criteria and now its launch of responsive ads will help keep keywords relevant. It’s unlikely that Google would retire keyword match types any time soon given the value of advertisers who adopt broad match or near exact match off the bat. I also anticipate that the importance of Amazon Sponsored Product Ads (see below) will only grow.

2. The changing role of the human

AI is continuing its march toward ubiquity. Just look at all the automated features and bidding strategies Google introduced in 2018. But the human vs. machine conversation is overblown. Automation displaces the need for some human functionality, but it also creates more space for human ingenuity. I’m all for AI taking on grinding manual campaign management tasks, and it’s certainly the ideal mechanism for monitoring brand infringements, thus leaving the more valuable aspects of analysis and discretion to warm bodies. Granted, the role of the account manager in PPC is in transition, with managerial value driven by how good you are at segmenting data, how well you apply automation, and how good you are at knowing when to ignore AI’s recommendations.

3. The expanding role of Amazon

Among the array of new opportunities and alternative channels emerging, I think Sponsored Product Ads will be most influential for helping marketers create new reach. Google is no longer the automatic first stop for search, which means most brands—albeit begrudgingly—can benefit from an Amazon presence. What’s more, Amazon’s bidding tools now include more flexibility, including the ability to manually set your own bids or apply a more automate dynamic strategy.



Amazon will be increasingly influential in the PPC advertising world in 2019.


4. The expanding need for brand safety

Too often, attention brand safety considered a display advertising problem and neglected in the PPC world. But as keyword pirating and other types of brand infringements become more lucrative, brands will begin to feel more pain in the form of lost sales, disrupted buying journeys, and customer confusion. More brands will be seeking ways to incorporate brand and trademark protection into their search strategies.

5. The end of channel-based thinking

Thinking about search as part of a cross-channel strategy has become deeply embedded in the digital marketing psyche. As more tools become available for true cross-channel attribution and reporting, I think the borders between channels will continue to blur – as they already have for consumers, who move fluidly among social and e-commerce and search platforms as part of a single journey. Ultimately, we will plan our search campaigns holistically and without reporting or organizational silos.

Do you agree with my predictions? What do you think will be the big PPC trends for 2019?