Paid Search Considerations in 2021

Author: Michael Wickham
26th January 2021
PPC / Search

With 2020 now behind us (and already a distant memory), we’ve been looking ahead at some of the key things to consider for your Paid Search strategies and planning in 2021.

1. Loss of search query data

Late last year we learnt that Google would start to minimise visibility of search query data. This means you can no longer see all of the search terms that trigger ads. Ultimately this reduces the amount of data available to optimise campaigns, so it’s important to adapt with new strategies. Looking at patterns of search queries rather than individual search terms might be one new piece of analysis that can add to the decision making process. Signal, our proprietary data platform allows us to import and query this data however needed. So even though less data is coming from search queries, it can still be aggregated to find patterns that simply wouldn’t be apparent to the naked eye. N-grams are one example of this, where terms are grouped by individual words or the length of the phrase to identify the themes that work (or don’t work).

2. Loss of data in general

With the looming disappearance of third-party cookies, marketers will soon need to rethink their marketing strategies. 2021 will definitely be the year to plan and test how this will work. Without doubt new martech solutions from the major engines will be rolled out, but it’s definitely time to start consolidating your owned data and really get to the bottom of those key questions; who the target audience is, who is most likely to convert; where do they interact, what information do they need. Start segmenting these users into buckets and plan how to manage them separately. The key to this is having the ability to manage all of your data in one place where you can easily aggregate and analyse it.

3. The Lockdown Spikes

2020 threw up a lot of curveballs. Depending on which vertical you work in your marketing activity could have seen vast growth or unfortunately been put on pause entirely. So, one key thing to understand as we go through 2021 is how we benchmark. We have a tendency pin our success on year-on-year growth, so a new system might need to be adopted this year. Most of the brands we work with saw a significant spike in sales between April – July 2020, so expecting that to happen under a new set of circumstances and buyer behaviours isn’t a fair comparison.

4. Automated formats becoming more efficient?

We’ve definitely seen this happening over the last few years. All of a sudden, those DSAs that we refused to touch because of their varying keyword relevancy and questionable ad copy are now becoming a main-stay. Not only have they come a long way in terms of the ad copy and user experience, but they can on occasionally perform as well as some of your highly granular exact-match ad groups. In theory this should never be the case because a singular exact match term should be the most efficient targeting option, but Google is beginning to reward use of these automated formats with lower CPCs (Smart Shopping being another example). Definitely one to watch out for.

5. The year of Bing?

With the continuing loss of control that marketers face in Google Ads, Bing does start to have its benefits – even if it’s just used as a research tool to uncover the full set of search queries. But also as an easy way to drive efficient revenue when diminishing returns have been reached on Google.

Additionally, the privacy-led search engine Duck Duck Go has recently claimed to have surpassed  100 million queries in a single day. So with consumers continuously growing more privacy-conscious, this is another consideration (and opportunity) for 2021 if you’re not already utilising these engines.


In summary, 2021 is bound to throw up a few more curveballs. Consumer behaviour certainly changed in 2020, and although large elements will undoubtedly return to status quo, others will have shifted for good. Data has always been an important part of online acquisition, but now it’s imperative to find a partner with great data skills and technology. We’ll be posting more content on similar themes throughout the year so please subscribe to keep up to date!

POSTED IN: PPC - Search