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Search-based marketing is more complex than ever before, and many digital marketers struggle to maintain a firm hold on keyword relevancy.

Avoiding the Zero-Click Pitfalls of 2020

Phillip Reinhardt

PPC innovations have come a long way—and the digital marketers who’ve made them, even further. Despite 2020’s search horizons being bright, they’re not without turbulence. 2019 might’ve birthed a variety of new avenues for powerful campaigns, but the very same campaigns have tripped up more than a few campaign creators.

As Possibilities Rise, Clicks Fall

Last June, a majority of browser-based Google searches resulted in zero clicks—a trend spanning across Google Maps, Images, and YouTube combined. Millions of queries being drawn from branded websites, Google’s organic search environment remains a primary PPC campaign cornerstone for many.

When approximately 55 percent of Google searches yield no results, what can brands do? Firstly, they can double-down on determining an important distinction between the two major avenues of clickthrough loss—taking care to hold off on website-centric problem-solving stints which might expense valuable time.

The Distinctions: External and Internal Click Losses

A lot of marketers prioritize their website's SEO to rectify clickthrough losses. Sometimes, however, approaching Google's seemingly impossible semantics is more cost-efficient.

In most cases, branded websites lose clicks to other branded websites—an unfortunate result of accidentally “cannibalistic” keyword campaigns. In these cases, a brand’s keyword accuracy isn’t necessarily off—it’s just over-applied, weighing the campaign down. When this happens, brands with similar keywords tend to rise in Google’s search results—making Brand A’s click rewards far less frequent.

The second biggest way branded websites lose clicks is through Google’s redirecting of traffic to its own properties. While the former click-loss misfortune can be attributed to internal pitfalls, this one can be considered an external one. About six percent of Google searches, and 12 percent of clicks, are already funneled into Google Maps, its blogs, and YouTube.

Ranked first among the most frequented multi-platform web properties, Google sees about 259 million unique visitors per month. The property’s market share sits at a lofty 97 percent, scooping up roughly 94 percent of the Internet’s searches in general.

The Two-Crunch Clickthrough Pitfall

Successful PPC marketing comes down to two factors: The questions customers ask, and where they're asking them from.

Despite both internal and external click losses presumably being impossible to differentiate, Google’s big data bite doesn’t necessarily muddy the waters of research entirely. Clear connections link diminishing organic click returns—and even the zero-click campaign runs which have marketers scratching their heads.

So, if you’re scratching yours, you can start narrowing down your PPC campaign’s pain points by covering two important bases currently perched at the edge of pitfalls: Google’s mobile advertisements and its “People Also Ask” feature. To understand the latter, however, one must understand where the formal currently stands in terms of modern PPC.

Check out today’s biggest PPC pitfalls which connect these links, as they lead us into some interesting directions indeed.

The First Pitfall: A Mobile Ads Conundrum

A lot of digital marketers consider Google Ads to be a maker of no wrong—predicated and refined by intuitive approaches to boosting traffic. The tech giant’s mobile advertisement resources have gained considerable inertia since 2016, proving to many marketers that a much-suspected approach to successful PPC was a truism: Mobile PPC is, simply, more effective than desktop PPC.

More effective when it’s aggressively pursued with a keen eye for relevance, that is. Mobile PPC might be booming across the Google realm, but staying up to date in terms of its most lucrative avenues has only become tougher. Yes, Google’s Discover is still the way to go—as it’s the best way to reach consumers who’ve grown to love newsfeed-first social media platforms. What might not be readily understood, however, is how vital beacon-based technology has recently become.

The Second Pitfall: Beacon-Based PPC Misuse

Location-based marketing has always been a major component of successful PPC campaigns, but not every marketer has made it their number-one tech tool.

Because Google’s Eddystone and Apple’s iBeacon have become interwoven in iOS and Android app development, however, 2020’s beacon-enabled applications, if they’re used intelligently, might be casting wakes too large for uninformed brands to keep up with.  The beacon tech market is expected to breach the $25 billion mark by 2024—Android currently being responsible for pulling over 40 billion search queries, alone.

We’re talking about much more than map-linked Google Discover approaches, too. To stay ahead, the brands of 2020 will need to consider adopting a slew of beacon-based features they haven’t approached in the past. Among these features, several beacon-driven features, in particular, seem to have come of age: mobile payments, app games, tourism tools, and anything health-related.

The Third Pitfall: Wearable Underestimation

It’s understandable why fledgling brands, and even those recently boosted by some PPC breakthroughs, don’t include wearables in their list of mobile-related PPC targets. They’ve been called irrelevant by some marketers, in the past, and they’ve been considered to be mere trends by more.

Much like virtual reality devices, however, wearable adoption has spiked: Newer models are far more affordable, accessible, and diversified. The WearOS app of Android wearables, as well as Apple’s WatchOS, have been streamlined, re-streamlined, redesigned, and refined numerous times. In 2019, we even saw somewhat of a market spectacle: The adoption of wearables jumped by 35 percent.

The Fourth Pitfall: “Temporary” Wearable Tech

Much like the two “major” pitfalls of current PPC—mobile ad mistakes and “People Also Ask” mistakes—the pitfall of wearable technology is a little more complex. For this reason, our Third Pitfall and Fourth Pitfall yet again hit on this topic—despite predicating their relevance in other areas entirely.

The first wearable-related mistake marketers make, as mentioned above, is simply neglecting to acknowledge wearables as useful PPC tools entirely. For some, wearables might seem too foreign to invest considerable time in—like time, for them, is precious. For others, once more, they still might seem too “temporary” to invest in. Both are untrue, however, as WearOS and WatchOS can be utilized as any other smartphone app—having finally grown enough to serve as such.

The Fifth Pitfall: “Unavailable” On-Demand Possibilities

Here’s the second pitfall, which is hidden in paradox when considering the first: Wearables in 2020 rely far less on smartphones than they have in the past. So, despite the doors of wearables being propped open by mobile apps, mobile devices are being removed from the equation entirely—or so it seems.

This is because smartphone users are turning to on-demand apps, such as grocery delivery apps and rideshare apps. While both are inherently mobile-bound, both are also used via desktop. Consider the user who orders an Uber, destined to use the app yet again throughout the night. In many cases, their initial “Uber call” might be monitored on their desktop’s Uber application—a Microsoft Store download.

As such: The real pitfall, here, is mistaking the first pitfall’s solution to be a done-and-done solution in and of itself. It isn’t enough to simply embrace the use of wearables as viable PPC tools—as any following marketing techniques will be erroneous by design if they’re crafted with a mobile-conservative approach. When it comes to wearables, marketers constantly see red, flashing signs warning them that smartwatches are still niche; that, even if used for app-accessibility, are bound to be inaccessible eventually—because “they’re breaking away from smartphones, entirely.”

So, to avoid most pitfalls concerning wearable tech PPC marketing, approach such apparent barriers to entry as opportunities, instead. Wearables are “moving away from mobile,” but deceptively so. They’re just as mobile-bound as ever—and they’ll likely never depart entirely. The only thing that’ll change, in 2020, is their importance as cross-channel PPC tools—being an emergent, and powerful, gap-closer between mobile and desktop experiences.

After all, 86.5 million Americans have already used on-demand apps this year.

The Sixth Pitfall: A “People Also Ask” Problem

Google’s related questions search prompt, known for its small, SEO-centric dropdown list beneath the “People Also Ask” blurb, is one of the platform’s SERP elements that even today’s digital marketers are hard-pressed to crack. While it’s a popular topic in the SEO industry, the validity of its use as an actual PPC tool is nevertheless questioned by many. Digital marketers don’t hold power over Google’s engine elements, and even maximizing one’s use of this feature poses a number of time-value risks.

A venture of less risk, however, is the pursuit of healthy semantic analysis education. Google generates related questions based on current search queries—and said queries rely on, well, search intent. By giving users topic-related questions to benefit their searches, Google sheds some insight into the keywords currently spearheading any given month’s trends. These keywords aren’t easily found, either, as “People Also Ask” can often prioritize un-common terminologies per query.

Much of the struggle in adopting this Google feature evolves from a marketer’s fears about the very same semantic search qualities. In a marketing world governed by big data analysis, standing toe-to-toe with Google’s astounding semantics algorithms suggests that one ditch their digital tools entirely—manually approaching every keyword string with human-driven intent analysis.

Fortunately, there’s a way around. In 2020, Google’s implementation of its structured markup tool, Schema, has made it easier for marketers to dissect these semantics. Users can mark up any snippet of given information with schema tags depending on their business’s surrounding elements—including its product listings, reviews, and even product ratings. This is far more useful than relying on a marketer’s typical tools of the trade: meta descriptions and website URLs.

Currently, 45 percent of websites still don’t use Schema—which is a good thing, as opposed to a cautionary flag. Schema, while being the most likely tool to break through the smoke and mirrors of “People Also Ask,” is still a little obscure itself. It’s expected to become popular in upcoming years, however, so don’t let its opportunities pass you by.

Mapping the Future: PPC in 2020

It's impossible to know what customers want, all the time. To close as many pathway-to-purchase gaps as possible, however, marketers can make the most of semantics.

Marketers currently struggling with PPC can likely find solutions by exploring modern requirements in semantic analysis, as mobile marketing has become more intertwined with semantic search than ever. Consequently, marketers capable of decoding Google’s understanding of on-the-go queries often find undiscovered avenues of consumer outreach.

At the end of the day, search-term clusters will always be worth their weight in clicks—and this will probably never change. What will change, though, is the way these clusters are distributed—transcending the historical classifications of “mobile-based” and “desktop-based.”

The idea behind the semantic search is to better understand customer intent, resulting in a higher clickthrough. To pull ahead of the curve in 2020, however, it might pay off to reconsider this idea as a step-based process. If you’re struggling to garner leads, try easing up on analytical segmentation. Your customers haven’t changed—but their environment has. Sometimes, branching out into wearables, unconventional search strategies and beacon-based mobile apps isn’t a waste of money. Sometimes, it’s a golden strategy.