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In April, Google caused a stir in the tech industry by announcing that it plans to reduce the search query data for pay-per-click (PPC) advertisers. Instantly, the conspiracy theories and grumbling began.

Google tried to soften the blow by releasing an undetermined number of Google Glasses in “cotton”, but it wasn’t enough to keep techie critics off the company’s back. Originally, the news of the PPC changes were vague, perhaps intentionally misleading, and had a number of people believing that AdWords’ search query reports would be empty.

As the situation became clearer, however, experts started tracking down Google spokespeople for the cold, hard facts.

The news definitely put a scare into people. A number of online conversations ensued between PPC experts. Since Google wasn’t nixing all query data, what was it trying to accomplish?

If there were no search queries, and no keywords, what exactly would the reports look like? The biggest question of all was what exactly will PPC and AdWords look like if the keywords go missing?

Back to the future

Lest techies forget, product listing ads (or PLAs) already give you a pretty good idea of what such a PPC ecosystem would look like. After all, Google is still looking over your data and matching keywords to products to see if the algorithm thinks it makes sense.

It’s quite possible that even traditional search campaigns will take the same approach, eventually. You’ll simply make a product/service feed and then target your audience so Google can take over from there. It’s simple, but some critics find it scary due to the lack of control.

This is what it comes down to — no control — but that’s the road PPC has been headed down for awhile, honestly. With Enhanced Campaigns, you no longer managed bidding or device segmentation, but that was “only” two issues.

Then there were the shopping campaigns that put a serious dent in most of the PLA campaign control. There’s no telling what’s next, at least not until Google’s changes are more clearly explored and understood, but it’s a fair bet that you’re probably not going to be getting more control from the search giant.

Finding the silver lining

Nobody ever said paid search marketing was easy, which is why so many businesses depend on PPC and SEO pros to handle things. Even though there was plenty of controversy over 2013’s Enhanced Campaign changes, the end result was that AdWord campaigns weren’t as badly affected as people imagined they would be.

In fact, a number of predicted side effects from recent trends haven’t come to fruition over the years. People adjust, especially those in the tech industry, and everyone will (eventually) figure out how Shopping Campaigns work.

Keywords have been the core of PPC for so long that it’s difficult to imagine life without them. What happens when AdWords is working in a scenario with zero keywords, and what brand new controls are going to arrive? It doesn’t really matter because so long as there’s search, PPC is alive, and digital marketers will learn to adapt.


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