SEO – PPC 2022 in review: Performance Max, Apple Search, chaos at Twitter, and more
2022 was a wild ride and we’re not just talking about NyQuil chicken or the slap heard ‘round the world at the Oscars. The digital marketing world was inundated with a new Chief twit, old platforms making comebacks (enter Microsoft), and more campaign automation features then we really care for.
As the year comes to a close, let’s take a look at some of the most headline-worthy, controversial, biggest-impacting changes that rocked the PPC world over the last 12 months.
The bigger picture
We asked and you answered. This year marketers told us that although the adoption of Google Ads automation is high, it’s their least favorite part of PPC. The gradual loss of control, as well as forcing automation and broad targeting on marketers, doesn’t give us that warm and fuzzy feeling after all. Who knew?
But automation and economic uncertainty aside, search advertising is thriving and spending in 2023 could hit $112 billion (nearly double the spend in 2019). Google dominates that spend, holding over 56% of ad revenue. Even Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit record numbers this year. So it’s no surprise that digital marketing ranks in the top 3 hottest skills Americans are learning in 2022.
Speaking of skills, our Search Engine Land PPC Award winners were announced. NP Digital was the big winner this year, taking home Agency of the Year along with 2 other awards. Streamline Results took Small Agency of the Year, and Workshop Digital blew us away with Best B2B Search Marketing Initiative. And who can forget Melissa Liu from RPA taking home Search Marketer of the Year. Congrats to all of our winners!
Security concerns and legal woes
Google had to tighten their policies surrounding explicit content after Reuters found illicit ads advertising liquor, sex toys, and high-risk investments. Large brands are even leaving Twitter after finding their ads next to adult, harmful, or violent content. More about Twitter later.
Google security remained in the spotlight when Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) wrote a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai claiming that Google wasn’t doing enough to crack down on deceptive ads originating from their platform. The claim was citing an investigation from last year claiming that Google advertisers are impersonating government websites and purchasing ads in an effort to scam consumers.
Location data concerns also plagued Google and they were sued by Washington D.C. attorney general Karl Racine. Lawsuits were also filed in additional states.
But Google users concerned about privacy and security may be happy to know that Google updated their My Ad Center features to allow for more control.
TikTok, though making aggressive moves toward a more secure and safe platform, isn’t a stranger to security flaws. The FCC even told (recommended?) that Google and Apple remove it from their app stores for breaching user data. The request claims that U.S. data had been accessed by China and that “TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data.”
Speaking of TikTok, in an effort to play nice, the social media platform banned political fundraising and started requiring accounts that belong to U.S. government departments, politicians, and political parties to be verified.
We can’t talk about safety and security without talking about Meta. From 12:01 AM PT on Tuesday, November 1, 2022, through 11:59 PM PT on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, no new ads about social issues, elections, or politics were allowed to be published, and most edits will be prohibited. This policy runs every year and is likely in response to the 2016 presidential election.
Russia declared war in Ukraine. In response, Google and Microsoft Bing halted ad sales in Russia. A smart, necessary move to protest Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but they also help search engines avoid brand safety debacles like misinformation campaigns making it through their automated systems and showing to users.
In July Google eased ad restrictions for at-home abortion providers, making it easier for at-home abortion providers to distinguish themselves from other services that try to discourage the practice. Telemedicine providers who mail FDA-approved medications to people looking for at-home abortions previously weren’t allowed to label themselves as abortion providers. But in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade, Google has amended its policies.
Gmail, YouTube, Smart Shopping updates; and is Google Search getting worse?
Freakonomics podcast asked us if Google Search was getting worse. What do you think? According to their research, maybe.
Gone but not forgotten
Automation & Performance Max
- Google starts automatically upgrading Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max. Like it or not, PMax isn’t going anywhere, and if you missed the deadline to switch your SS campaigns over, don’t worry, Google has got your back.
- Google Ads launches placement reports for Performance Max campaigns finally giving advertisers a view into where their ads served, how many impressions they received, and insight into brand safety.
- Google launches automated vehicle ads and are designed to allow auto advertisers to promote their entire vehicle inventory to potential customers on Google.com. This format includes an image of the vehicle, make, model, price, miles and the advertiser’s name.
- Google will automatically switch some advertisers’ attribution models. In a bold, but unsurprising move, Google took it upon themselves to switch advertisers’ attribution models to data-driven.
New & improved
Cookies will remain active on Chrome until 2024. In July, Google announced that their Sandbox initiative has been delayed and developers are aiming for a Q3 2023 launch. Google developers also predict that it will start phasing out third-party cookies in the second half of 2024 – not 2023 like originally planned.
Microsoft is making a giant comeback
Microsoft isn’t new to PPC. But over the years it’s become third, fourth, or even fifth string to Google, Meta, twitter, LinkedIn, and even TikTok. But 2022 impressed us with just the sheer volume of new, improved, and updated features that Microsoft released.
One of the biggest announcements this year was the acquisition of AT&T’s Xandr. By joining forces, Microsoft hopes to combine their audience intel and technology with Xandr’s powerful platform. This could allow Microsoft to leverage their audience network and provide additional inventory such as native video and digital TV.
Microsoft even announced plans to double the size of its ad business to $20 billion. I’d say they’re on the right track, since they also launched in 29 more countries in Europe and Africa.
As if this year couldn’t be any more busy, they also won the bid to partner with Netflix for their ad supported tier. The deal gives Microsoft access to a quality streaming video inventory – something they previously lacked.
- Cruise Ads were launched and appear on the right-hand side of the Bing search results and appear alongside mainline text ads. They can trigger for queries such as cruise name, location, length, etc.
- Multimedia Ads. The new video and image formats are “infographic-inspired,” meant to “innovate and disrupt web search.”
- New ad type for service providers. Professional service ads can also be used to promote regional offices, branches or even national brands that provide relevant services.
- Cash back incentives. This is a new ad offering that will incentivize shoppers via a rebate upon purchase. Microsoft will choose the “right amount of cashback for the right ad and right user” allowing for advertisers to gather the best possible return on ad spend.
- Pinterest import, Performance Max beta, Multimedia ads support in Editor, and subdomains in DSAs. Whew!
- New audience network markets, automated bidding data exclusions, URL tracking for auto extensions, doctor and clinic beta.
- Credit cards are now available globally. Plus, 10 other updates were announced in November.
- Auto-generated remarketing lists, flyer extensions, and expanded coverage of hotel and property promotion ads closed out the month of December.
- Crypto exchange ads are now allowed on the platform, with pre-approval of course.
- The dreaded auto-apply of recommendations has hit Microsoft, too. In February, auto-apply was out of beta and users started seeing recs being applied to their accounts.
Meta takes a backseat
Meta stayed pretty quiet in 2022. With Zuck focusing so much time and resources on the Metaverse, they didn’t launch as many new products or features as Google or Microsoft. That said, there were still a few new developments.
Twitter – where do we even begin
Twitter has had an interesting year. It’s not even over and new Chief twit Elon Musk is still making headlines. As always, we try our best to keep you updated with the latest news, as it happens. But Twitter updates are happening faster than we can report, so thanks for sticking around while we try to navigate what’s post-worthy and what’s too ridiculous to even mention.
After the Musk takeover, security policies seemed to loosen and 30+ brands suspended their marketing campaigns after finding their ads next to child pornography accounts.
But despite all the drama, Twitter has released a few new useful tools and features. Let’s take a look.
TikTok shopping debacle, longer videos, and unhappy creators
TikTok continued to compete against Facebook and Instagram to gain an edge over the short form video market. In doing so, they extended the length of their videos to 10 minutes, and updated the description character limit to 2,200.
But the longer videos and descriptions wasn’t enough to keep creators happy. In July we reported that TikTok’s history of low Creator Fund payouts were forcing some influencers to leave the platform for good. Some creators claim they’re paid between $0.02 – $0.03 per one thousand video views. Yikes!
You would think that TikTok would be doing everything they could to get a leg up on other social and ad platforms. So it was surprising when Meta announced their plans to scale back on shopping, TikTik followed suit with its own announcement to abandon plans to bring shopping into the US. Though, understandably after a disastrous launch in the UK.
But just one month later, TikTok announced three new shopping ad features, including video, catalog, and LIVE ads. So what gives?
For their LIVE feature, they aimed at enhancing the experience and promoting greater brand safety, something that the app has been accused of neglecting in the past.
They did this by introducing:
- The introduction of Multi-Guest
- Increasing the LIVE minimum age from 16 to 18
- Introducing safety reminders for all LIVE guests
I think they were hoping that brands that saw features being cut on Meta would abandon the platform and move to TikTok. But has that happened? We shall see.
And to further compete with Meta, TikTok also launched Photo Mode as well as 7 other photo editing features including:
- Edit clips: Stack, trim, and split video clips
- Edit sounds: Cut, trim, and set the duration for sounds
- Edit and position text: More easily edit, position, and set the duration for text
- Add overlays: Add photo and video overlays for picture-in-picture (or video-in-video) stacking
- Adjust video speed: Speed or slow the pace of video clips
- Frame content: Rotate or zoom in and out of frame of individual clips
- Add sound effects. Add musical soundtracks to videos and photo carousels
Competing with Amazon, too?
But Meta isn’t the only media giant TikTok is going after. In November, they launched TikTok Shop, where users can now make purchases directly through the app. At the time of this publishing, TikTok is currently inviting select U.S. businesses to participate in the initiative. That means live streamers from places where the feature is not live will need to continue directing shoppers to third-party websites.
Apple is trying its hardest to join the ad game, but unless you’re a publisher or game developer, there aren’t a ton of options for you right now. But nevertheless, Apple made some noteworthy changes and updates this year. Let’s take a look.
Apple is expanding ads on iPhone and iPad. Display ads are currently shown in the search tab. But soon Apple will expand the ads to the main Today tab as well as in third-party app download pages, according to Bloomberg. For search ads in the app store, developers can pay to have their apps featured in the results when users search terms related to the app.
Four new Apple Search Ad placement options. Apple released four new options for advertisers to drive visibility and downloads in the App Store. The new placements are:
- Today tab
- Search tab
- Search results
- Product pages — while browsing
Apple could be building an ad network for live TV. In November we reported that Apple was holding discussions with advertising partners and MLS sponsors with the plan to launch next February.
Apple Search campaigns shifting to cost-per-tap (CPT) pricing model. Starting in June, Apple shifted their model to Cost-per-Tap, or CPT. CPT is Apple’s version of CPC, or cost per click. It is calculated by dividing your total spend by the number of taps your ad received.
Other platforms making headlines
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that there are plenty of other platforms that made waves in 2022. Although these may not have been big enough to deserve their own category, they definitely deserve mentioning.
Best Buy to sell search ads under its own in-house media company. Best Buy has launched Best Buy Ads, its own in-house media company. Best Buy Ads offers paid search ads and sponsored product listings on Best Buy’s website, among other ad offerings.
- Walmart is expanding their self-service Marketplace platform. Search Brand Amplifier gives products listed in the Walmart marketplace higher visibility by boosting advertised products to the top of search results. Walmart says this benefits newer and smaller brands that haven’t achieved high organic listings within the Walmart platform.
- Walmart is now selling ads on TikTok, Roku, and Snap. For the first time ever, Walmart has expanded its ad reach beyond its own ecommerce platform by powering ads on TikTok, Roku, and Snap. They’ll also have the capability to measure any sales that come from those ads.
- A podcast network aimed at professional audiences. The LinkedIn Podcast Network is a pilot program that will include shows about topics such as technology, recruiting and mental health, from external experts as well as its own in-house news team.
- LinkedIn announces Business Manager. Finally! The new Business Manager will aim to simplify how marketers keep track of their accounts by offering their Campaign Manager and Pages options easily visible from a central location.
Pinterest is doubling down on Shopping by adding 4 new features. Pinterest introduced four new merchant features to help retailers promote their stores.
- Product Tagging on Pins
- Video in Catalog
- Shop Tab on Business Profiles
- The API for Shopping
Uber ads are coming, and they’re already raising privacy concerns. Ubers’ new journey ads will be shown in the Uber app at least three times during the riders’ journey. The new feature will let brands place ads using data drawn from riders’ travel history and their precise geographic destinations, according to Uber.
SMX Advanced and SMX Next
We can’t wrap up our 2022 year in review without talking about SMX. We had 2 epic virtual conferences this year with expert speakers discussing topics such as how to leverage automated bidding to finding success with an audience-first strategy. Let’s take a look back.
Did you miss SMX Next, or wanna watch it again? You still can. Registration is free.
- SMX Next PPC kicked off with an incredible keynote from Google’s own Ads Liaison (and former Search Engine Land Editor in Chief) Ginny Marvin.
- Melissa Mackey taught us how to make automation work for lead gen.
- Navah Hopkins gave us the guide to permission based audience targeting.
- Anthony Tedesco showed us how to level up our analytical skills using Excel.
Well that’s a wrap on 2022. What a year it’s been. Looking forward to 2023 I think we’re going to see more automation, a bigger push into GA4 as Universal Analytics gets sunsetted, big moves from Microsoft and other smaller platforms like Walmart and Instacart, and privacy-first strategies as third-party cookies finally retire.
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