5 SEM Trends & Tips for 2019

Laura Rowe / 2nd January 2019 / Comment / From the Blog

The Guidance You Need to Navigate the Ever-Changing World of SEM in 2019

I started in Search Engine marketing in 2014; five years in the SEM space may not seem like a long time, but man, have things come a long way. Automation is at an all-time high, mobile is finally a big deal, and exact matches no longer have to match exactly.

With all of these new developments in the space, how do brands and agencies stay relevant? Stay on top of your game with these five tips and you’ll find yourself in good shape!

1. Embrace campaign automation

I’ll admit, I’m a traditionalist. I want control over bidding. I am going to fight the good fight against handing over my budget to Google and letting them have their way with it. However, don’t knock anything until you’ve tried it. Even if you’ve said “hard pass” to products like …

  • eCPCs
  • Dynamic Search Ads
  • Smart Shopping campaigns
  • Responsive search ads

for all these years, it’s time to retest. Using products designed to make campaigns easier to manage doesn’t make you a lazy marketer, it makes you a smart one!

2. Reevaluate exact match

I’m not saying you need to restructure, but I’m not not saying you need to restructure. Google rolled out changes to exact match in September 2018, so it’s worth analyzing performance by match type before & after to determine if the change had a negative impact on your program.

Typically, exact match should be performing above its broad and phrase counterparts, so if conversion rate took a turn for the worst after September that’s an indication that some of the more generous matches are dragging down performance.

You may find yourself needing to cull keywords, and consolidating ad groups particularly those broken out to accommodate misspelling and “close variants.”

3. Take audience strategy to the next level

Two years ago, I was using audiences exclusively to boost return on ad spend; if CVR rate wasn’t through the roof I wasn’t interested. Today, I’m expanding audiences across almost all of my clients to learn more about who’s shopping. Applying audiences to campaigns provides a new layer of data to analyze.

I’m particularly keen on the Detailed Demographic data:

  • A garden client knowing if a user is a homeowner? Groundbreaking!
  • A retailer for infant’s clothing knowing if a user is a young parent? Oh, baby!

Promise me you’ll make it your New Year’s resolution to add at least three audiences to your campaigns.

4. Leave manual reporting in the past

I’m letting you in on a big secret here – this is a major initiative for the Wheelhouse team in 2019!  Instead of taking hours each week pulling reporting, find ways to automate the output.

If you’re in Excel, adding macros for formatting can save tons of time. If you’re not tied to using Excel for reporting, consider Google Data Studio for charts and visuals that link to Google Ads and automatically refresh your data saving you tons of time and effort.

5. Think beyond SEM

Did you read #1? Automation is getting bigger and better every day. It’s no longer enough to be able to effectively manage a campaign. A robot can do that too. So, how do you stand out?

You have to understand the big picture. Knowing how SEM fits into the overall marketing program is the first step to making yourself an invaluable asset. Understanding the overall marketing goal can help you think outside the box and outside the SEM channel.

All of our analysts are crossed training in SEM + one additional specialty (like Paid Social or Amazon) for this very reason! By working across practice areas, we’re able to optimize spend between channels and create efficiencies by taking learnings from one channel into the next.


To quote one of my favorite movies, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Take a step back, think about where our industry is going, and update your strategy.

Do you have more tips for conquering the SEM world in 2019? Share them with us!

By Laura Rowe