These days, the average PPC bod is a very busy one. As such, it’s not always easy to keep tabs on current trends in paid search, or how PPC slots into the wider marketing landscape.

Thankfully, the number crunchers over at Hanapin Marketing have come to the rescue with their illuminating 2017-2018 State of PPC Report. This digestible offering is based on hundreds of responses from agency and in-house marketing professionals working for both large and small businesses, who spill the beans on current trends across AdWords, Bing, Facebook and Instagram.

Hanapin’s report is arguably the most comprehensive of its kind, and for marketers, it’s the ultimate ‘how did we do?’ report for 2017. More importantly, however, it offers concrete insights on industry trends as we move further into 2018.

Eyebrows will have remained firmly in place at the news that Google and Facebook continue to lord it over the realm of paid advertising. Bing Ads, Mobile, and Instagram follow eagerly behind; again, eyebrows will remain in-situ.

Search continues to underpin PPC – with Google Adwords remaining in the ascendancy. The platform hasn’t rested on its laurels, though: improvements in device and location, reporting and ad features mean AdWords delivers an impressively personalised experience.

Meanwhile, the desired success rate of social has yet to materialise, but that hasn’t stopped marketers from investing in it. Most firms are increasing the social components of their PPC budgets, year-on-year.

Social, along with Programmatic, Native and Mobile are all eager for a bigger slice of the huge PPC pie.

Verticals spending the most

In terms of verticals, Retail, Education, Travel and Publishing spent the most, while Automotive, Home Improvement and Consumer Packaged Goods spent the least.

84% of respondents feel positive about the PPC market

Marketers – both brand and agency – feel good about the PPC market, with 84% looking forward to a successful year. This compares to 65% last year.

social media

Most effective PPC channels

Marketers haven’t changed their tune about the most effective PPC channels this year, with Text Ads still ahead of the pack on 87%. Remarketing follows on 66%, just ahead of Mobile (60%) and Social (53%). Shopping comes in at 40%, Display 25%, Programmatic 16% and Native 13%.

Why are Mobile and Social under-performing?

Hanapin highlights the improved features offered to advertisers on Mobile and Social but suggests that their underperformance is due to poorly-defined goals and a lack of effective strategies.

“Advertisers should be thinking first about the endgame and then moving backward. For example, if the goal is for mobile users to call, the ad and landing page should clearly emphasize the phone call. Or, if the goal is more Facebook likes, the brand should put out engaging and relevant content.”

– Hanapin

Budgets are going up – mostly

72% of respondents said they were spending ‘more’ or ‘significantly more’ on paid Social this year compared to last.

More than 60% said they were spending ‘more’ or ‘significantly more’ on Text and Mobile Ads.

But Native advertising saw a decline in investment, with 18% indicating a budget cut for the channel.

PPC’s hard-won merits

The Hanapin report reminds us that even as recently as 2014, PPC was not always considered an essential component of the marketing arsenal. Today, however, what the channel can achieve is much better understood, not least because features across Search and Social have become more user-friendly.

And the money bears out PPC’s success. 79% of respondents reported that budgets went up in 2017, and that they foresee further increases across this year.

Growing importance of Mobile

Hanapin’s report goes on to underline the importance of Mobile going into 2018 and beyond. They remind us that 80% of Americans own and use a smart phone, meaning that creating a great mobile experience is more than simply a box-ticking exercise – such as making a site mobile friendly – it’s becoming a main focus. Smart phone ownership in the UK is comparable, with one 2017 report revealing 96% ownership in the 16 – 24 age group.

The report makes it clear that PPC isn’t the only specialism over at Hanapin’s Bloomington HQ. Conversion Rate Optimisation has long been a crucial bedfellow for PPC – whichever device is being used. And while the report’s publishers make an unabashed pitch for CRO work, their assertion that marketers “need to focus on curating a unique experience for each device,” is undeniably true.

Budget changes moving forward

On budgets, the Hanapin crystal ball foresees no substantial changes in the imminent future. 75% of respondents say AdWords budgets will increase; 71% for Facebook. At the other end of the scale, only 18% plan budget rises for Native, and just 15% for Snapchat.

Will social media advertising threaten AdWords’ crown?

However, Hanapin puts the long-term dominance of AdWords and Facebook in question, suggesting that “inventory or price” will compel marketers – whether working for multinationals or SMEs – to consider the likes of Instagram and LinkedIn more seriously. However, any move away from paid search advertising and Facebook could take several years.

But in order to be ready for that shift, the authors say, you need to start testing and mastering these platforms right now.

Here at Brainbroker, we couldn’t agree more.