2011's Key Developments in Paid Search at Google

We all know that the search engine marketing industry moves at break-neck speed.

This has always been the case and it doesn't show any signs of slowing. Now that we've reached the end of 2011, this is a good chance to take a step back and review the new PPC tactics, tools and strategies that have become predominant over the past year.

Some of the items on this list were freshly introduced to the world during 2011. Some of these items were launched before 2011 but they have gained more importance to PPC managers within the previous 12 months.

Mobile devices and tablets go prime-time: Sure, ads have been running on mobile devices for a while now. However, in 2011 things really took off in regards to search volume via mobile devices and tablets. These devices can no longer be ignored by advertisers. If you didn't get on board with mobile this year, don't miss the train in 2012 or you'll get left behind.

AdWords call metrics opens the phone lines: Advertisers can track calls generated directly by their PPC ads on Google. You can track metrics such as cost, completed calls, phone-through-rate, time of call and duration. If your business generates sales or leads via the phone, you need to explore the new bid-per-call and call metrics options in AdWords.

Multi-channel funnel analysis gets good: For a couple years there has been chattering about the lack of actionable, reliable cross-channel analysis. There are some third-party software providers that have excellent multichannel reports, but the general advertising public was lacking these features. However, in 2011 Google Analytics released its own cross-channel reports and they are now mission-critical for advertisers. You should be reviewing and analyzing yours now.

Landing page Quality Score gets serious: This element of the AdWords Quality Score has been around for years. Until recently, this metric has been a negative signal; your landing page didn't directly contribute to your Quality Score but it could hinder your score. Now, landing pages are assigned positive scores making sure that their content is highly relevant to a user's search query. This means that if you've been using the same landing page for a while, you need to get serious about relevancy quickly (like right now).

Social PPC spells ROI: Facebook and LinkedIn have been generating a great deal of traffic for advertisers for a while now. However, in 2011 I think advertisers are getting smarter and learning how to interact with users on social networks and getting them to buy. In 2010, the main question on social PPC was if it could generate a positive ROI. Advertisers will have settled the ROI question, and in 2012 will start wondering how to get more volume from these networks.

Automated rules in AdWords make life easier: Google rolled out a series of automated rules for AdWords that can help save advertisers time and focus their optimization efforts. These automated rules can schedule ads, pause low-performing ads and keywords, adjust bids automatically, and control daily budgets. These can be a great time-saver if implemented properly.

adCenter Quality Score revealed: One way to grasp how your campaigns compare to other advertisers is by analyzing your Quality Scores. In 2011, Quality Score metrics were introduced within the adCenter interface. Analyze these stats to see where your keywords and landing pages may be coming up short.

Google+ and +1 Button is what's next: One of the latest-breaking developments in the PPC world is the launch of the Google +1 button. Within Google users can now "+1" search results they find helpful or interesting, and they can also "+1" pages and websites they like as well. These social interactions can appear directly within the Google SERPs (for users who are logged into their Google accounts) as well as on the Google Display Network. Just as recently as mid-November, Google released new reports within AdWords that allow advertisers to review their ad performance when the +1 social signal appeared within their ads.

These are just a few of the PPC industry updates that occurred in 2011. As you can see, it was a very busy year - and 2012 should be even busier. Hold on to your hats, folks, we're only just getting started.

About the Author: Joseph Kerschbaum has been working in the SEM industry since 2006, sharpening his expertise in PPC advertising, search engine optimization, conversion optimization and social media marketing. Joseph is the co-author of PPC Marketing: An Hour a Day, and a client services director with Clix Marketing.