5 biggest challenges for PPC marketers in 2024

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5 biggest challenges for PPC marketers in 2024

Trends and hurdles are already taking shape for all PPC marketers in 2024. Changes in the privacy and data landscapes are dictating most of them, alongside continuing economic struggles.

But what are those challenges and how can we prepare and react to them? Here are the five biggest I foresee for the rest of the year.

1. Audience targeting

With the end of third-party cookies and stricter consent rules, website data coverage will decrease, limiting your leverage. This means remarketing audiences will gradually decrease and these campaigns will have less impact.

First-party data will become even more important than ever. The fallback is that we rely more on clients and businesses to engage and build their data. Many don’t understand the significance, and our job is to help them understand.

First-party numbers will be significantly lower than GA4 audiences, Google Ads remarketing audiences and Meta custom audiences, which means there will be a shift in direct usage of that data as an actual campaign-level targeted audience and more of a component to enhance your account’s smart bidding and automated features.

The quantity of audience data will suffer, but with the right approach and data capture strategies, quality should prevail.

2. Account optimization

Your day-to-day campaign optimization has evolved drastically over the past few years. The improvement of Smart Bidding has changed your manual bidding habits and negative keywords are still important, but not as time-consuming as they once were. Performance Max has brought with it a different approach for analyzing and optimizing campaigns.

And with the new Demand Gen campaign type giving Performance Max a run for its money in the favorite Google child category of late, the growth of campaign types with limited targeting input and insight grows.

For Performance Max, in particular, we spend less time in the Google Ads accounts trying to improve performance.

Yes, the whole point of Google’s multi-channel automated campaign type is to spend less time on the tactical improvements and more time on the bigger strategic opportunities.

However, feed-based campaigns put a bigger focus on the Google Merchant Center (GMC). This was an area most PPC marketers only needed to know the basics in. Now, it’s becoming an ever more important battleground for improving your campaigns through feed optimization.

Google knows this, which is why you’ve seen it evolve over the last few years with additional growth reporting features, such as the price competitiveness report, best seller reports and the shopping experience scorecard. Valuable resources for that wider strategy support Google wants us to embrace.

But change is coming with the likely full migration to Google Merchant Center Next, which is supposedly a simpler way for retailers to manage their feeds. For advertisers, it’s another learning experience they will have to adapt to.

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3. Content

Like everything else on this list, the focus on Content has evolved drastically over the past few years in search. We’ve gone from standard text ads, to extended text ads, to the current responsive search ads ad type.

Even though the number of titles and descriptions has expanded, the amount of custom variations has diluted. Campaigns don’t have (or shouldn’t have) endless ad groups tailored to single keywords.

Within Performance, we are still skeptical about how Google uses our creative, so we often go against best practices to take back some control with feed-only assets groups.

Allowing Google to prioritize the order of titles and descriptions can be unsettling, but it’s becoming more of a reality. Yes we can pin our titles and descriptions, but with the current new AI features being rolled out, it takes even more control out of our hands if we want to test.

It could also take out the authenticity and originality out of ads, if you are happy to embrace the evolution and hand the keys over to Google. For an account manager or a marketing department, control is difficult to give up.

All advertising platforms are shifting toward AI content creation, so the ability to stand out is becoming more and more difficult and an opportunity.

AI will have a key role in PPC for the foreseeable future (and again, this is a whole article in itself), but those who use it for time-saving daily tasks and content guidance rather than creation will rise above the noise and prosper.

Dig deeper: How generative AI is revolutionizing PPC

4. Tracking

This used to be a much more straightforward practice that most of us buried our heads in the sand over and relied on web developers to carry the burden. We still rely on that technical support, particularly with some of the more advanced conversion features.

However, with accounts more reliant than ever on accurate conversion data and the ever-growing list of tracking features, advertisers must be more knowledgeable and proactive.

2023 was a big year with GA4 migration and a greater reliance on Enhanced conversions. That can now be said for consent mode V2, along with offline conversion tracking and (a personal favorite of mine) profit tracking.

Although there is plenty of information and conversion tracking courses, many advertisers still aren’t comfortable in this space and many agencies don’t provide tracking implementation as a direct service, even with help from the Google implementation team.

But with cookie deprecation upon us, these features are now necessary rather than nice-to-haves. Those who are upskilling and providing technical support and guidance will be in the minority, and when ecommerce is struggling, many cannot avoid being ignorant of their clients’ needs.

Even with that support, many clients and businesses have shifted their internal objectives in the last year or so away from revenue generating or a ROAS model more toward profit generation, which is fair given that the cost of delivery, manufacturing, etc., has eaten into margins. Again, advertisers tend to stick their heads in the sand on this. Tell us a ROAS target or a revenue target and we will work toward that! Profit is your problem.

This is where an opportunity lies, with more than 90% of ecommerce accounts optimizing toward revenue or ROAS, when neither are the priority objective of a lot of those businesses.

Some third-party tools (such as Profit Metrics) allow you to create conversion tags that report on profit only per transaction. You can then optimize toward profit on ad spend at the campaign level. This is a potential game changer for many accounts and I can only see the use of this type of tracking software growing.

5. Reporting

I’ve already touched on how we continue to struggle with the black box of Performance. Google has improved some of its insight reporting in the past year, while Mike Rhodes’ excellent Performance Max script continues to evolve and help us all. Still, with AI features being introduced, the fear is Google will continue to hide some reporting under the carpet so there won’t be a backlash.

Even with account-level conversions, how accurate will this data be with consent mode coverage increasing and remodeling in place? And what will the impact be on GA4 with less audience coverage here with users opting out of cookie tracking?

I’ve had to rely more on platform reporting in the past eight months than ever before because some of the GA4 underreporting is too low. Shopify and Magento reporting stack isn’t as strong as GA4 overall, so workarounds have to be put in place to choose the most relevant data between each. This can be difficult for some clients who are just used to certain reports on Universal Analytics but who have had to adjust their internal reporting.

Although there is still a struggle with plenty of advertisers to adapt to GA4, there are some new reporting features that add value. We might not be able to do a like-for-like switch, but continuing to learn GA4 custom reports and covering old UA reports with alternative GA4 features is the best way to adapt.

As Google intended, with the advanced reports on Google Merchant Center, we make up for what we lose from a tactical perspective within Google Ads platform reporting in new, strategic-focused reporting within GMC.

So there are fewer conversations about what search terms have come through a specific campaign, but instead, where our product’s prices are positioned in relation to the market or what product catalog opportunities there are to lean into based on the bestseller shopping reports. Conversations that the majority of retailers would prefer to have, as they are the bigger questions that help them scale.

Tackling PPC marketing challenges

Clients will look at their agency and freelancers to guide them through this advertising period and economic uncertainty. With chaos comes opportunity, and those who embrace the changes and adapt will come out on top and grab the initiative.

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