If your urgent care center doesn’t have a strong online presence, you’re not going to stay in business for long. That’s why pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns should be an essential part of every center’s marketing plan. Search Engine Journal consulted 25 marketing experts and released an extensive list of their predictions for the biggest paid search trends in 2018.

We dug through Search Engine Journal’s list (so you don’t have to) and highlighted the top three trends in pay-per-click advertising that you should watch in 2018.

The biggest question heading into 2018: are keywords dead?

Well, are Keywords Dead?
The marketing experts say not entirely. The majority of the experts Search Engine Journal consulted said keywords aren’t going away any time soon; however, there will be a much stronger focus on audience targeting and user intent in 2018.

Many predict that Google will put more resources into improving audience targeting to stay competitive with social media behemoth Facebook, which has cornered the market on audience targeting. According to Larry Kim, CEO of MobileMonkey, Google’s search audience targeting is extremely limited in comparison to Facebook’s, yet “Google has just as much data on our identity as Facebook does; they just choose not to expose it as Facebook has done for privacy reasons.”

But that may change over the next year. Mark Irvine, senior data scientist with WordStream, says there’s been a depreciation of exact match keywords over the last year and an increase in keyword-free solutions, such as dynamic search ads. “Search isn’t dead, the keyword isn’t dead, but you’ll find yourself behind in the next year if that’s still your sole focus,” says Irvine. “Instead, digital marketing is turning toward the personal and targeting the right people.”

Urgent care operators should think outside the keyword-box in 2018 and look for ways to do more precise targeting until additional audiences become available in AdWords.

Will Voice Search Create New Ad Formats?
While voice search is still evolving, the devices that support this feature are emerging on the market with increasing frequency. Not only can consumers use voice commands to conduct internet searches and make purchases on their mobile devices, there are now gadgets such as Amazon’s Echo/Dot/Show series and the Google Home that use voice commands to perform similar functions.

Ilya Cherepakhin, executive director of Acronym, says, “Marketers need to rethink their strategies – for both PPC and natural presence – as voice taps into a different type of behavior than that of a typical mobile user. It won’t be enough to continue using your current mobile search approach.”

Justin Freid, senior vice president – search, social & emerging media for CMI Media, predicts this most likely will happen in the form of new advertising formats, so urgent care operators should watch out for new ways to advertise to their target audiences in the near future.

Will Google Add More Automation to AdWords?
Many of the marketing experts are predicting that Google will continue to emphasize its automation strategies in AdWords, letting the algorithms do the heavy lifting. “In 2018, we’ll continue to see more improvements in PPC automation driven by more sophisticated machine learning and artificial intelligence,” says Frederick Vallaeys, CEO of Optmyzr.

Kirk Williams, founder of ZATO, says this means urgent care marketers should focus on learning how to use automation well. Don’t get lazy and rely too heavily on automation, but don’t ignore automation altogether either.

“Identify what things can be automated in an account, and embrace it,” says Williams. “Run bidding rules, rely more on (good) automation for picking successful ad tests, accept our machine learning overlords’ suggestions for ad variants, and identifying keywords to exclude at scale. Then, you as the human PPCer can be freed up to focus on what you bring to the account.”

A strong pay-per-click strategy will keep your urgent care center at the top of relevant web searches – and top-of-mind for your target audience.

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