The Biggest Paid Search Trends of 2017 – Year in Review

The Biggest Paid Search Trends of 2017 – Year in Review

The biggest paid search trends of 2017 include changes to AdWords budgets, attribution, expanded functionality for Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads (PLAs), enhanced audience targeting tools and more.

The biggest paid search trends of 2017 made this an interesting year for paid search professionals, to say the least. While there were PPC trends in 2018 that could arguably be considered helpful to search engine marketing professionals, there were definitely changes that seem less than favorable. To make a long story short: big things happened this year. Let’s review them and figure out what they mean for PPC trends in 2018 and how we’ll all do business in the future.

2017 Paid Search Trend #1: The AdWords 2x Budget

On October 4 of this year, Google AdWords abruptly increased the daily budget cap of AdWords campaigns from 120% to 200% – announcing the change on the same day. This understandably raised significant concerns from the paid search community, particularly since the high-traffic holiday season was rapidly approaching. While this change only affects those campaigns that run for less than a month (and for campaigns that do run longer than a month, Google refunds overage charges), the suddenness of the new AdWords functionality – from which it is impossible to opt-out – this news wasn’t exactly well-received.

How this affects you:

As a paid search professional, this change highlights the importance of being strategic with your budgets in advance, particularly as you approach seasonably high-traffic periods. In those cases, it may be worthwhile to parcel out a larger budget, or, in extreme cases, throttle your budget to as little as 50% of your maximum intended budget (so, if you end up spending 200% of your daily limit, the final amount will work out to 100% of your intended budget). How do you know when high-traffic periods are coming? We recommend consulting as much historical data you have for your business as possible to anticipate future market changes.

2017 Paid Search Trend #2: Attribution – The Google Way

Throughout the year, one of the biggest paid search trends for 2017 has been Google’s strong promotion of its multiple attribution models, which include first touch, last touch, linear position-based, time decay, and data-driven. Google is strongly promoting data-driven attribution for high-volume advertisers who have recorded a minimum of 15,000 clicks and 600 conversions in the past 30 days.

How this affects you:

Attribution is absolutely important to fully understand your marketing funnel. Specifically, which touchpoints are most effective and which could be improved or replaced. However, it’s possible that Google has its own reasons to promote this so strongly. Earlier changes to the Ad Rank threshold and the removal of the Enhanced CPC budget cap (both of which make PPC marketing potentially more expensive and less efficient), as well as the addition of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) for Google Shopping to Google Display Network could very well be to encourage advertisers to spend more on top-funnel channels such as display. Google promoting the contributions of top-funnel channels through its attribution efforts seems to confirm this. However, as a digital marketer yourself, because you know your digital marketing programs best, you’re most likely better off focusing on what has been proven to provide value for you.

2017 Paid Search Trend #3: Audience Targeting

Google AdWords made two significant launches for AdWords this year. Similar Audiences, previously available only for GDN, lets you target search audiences who are running similar search queries as those users added to your remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) lists. In-Market Audiences, previously available for GDN and YouTube, is now available for search to target users by interests/products.

How this affects you:

These new targeting options can be combined with features like Gmail Customer Match and key search modifiers such as time of day, location and device to better segment and target relevant prospects for your business. While this represents a real opportunity to find more-relevant prospects and push them through the bottom of your funnel to convert, it will also require in-depth segmentation, including separate messaging for different audiences in different funnel stages, in order to reap the full benefits.


2017 represents a year in which Google has both given search marketers more tools to precisely target audiences while also potentially making search marketing less efficient to encourage adoption of top-funnel channels such as GDN and YouTube.

Andrew Park

Andrew Park is a content marketing manager at QuanticMind. A UC Berkeley graduate and lifelong Bay Area resident, Andrew has done tours of duty in editorial, PR and marketing, and now works with the QuanticMind team to communicate the importance of data science and machine learning in digital advertising.