2020 will be a year full of challenges for e-commerce businesses! Although conventional approaches to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) will continue to be effective, advertisers will also need to be aware of the upcoming trends in the behaviour of the customers as well as the search engines. Even so, there will be a lot of opportunities to capitalise on these upcoming trends and get ahead of the game. Here are some SEM strategies for 2020 that will give a head start to your SEM campaigns.

SEM & SEO Integration

SEM and SEO go hand-in-hand. In 2020, when the competition in the e-commerce market is way higher than it ever used to be, you can’t rely solely on either one. For keyword strategy, the data you collect from your paid campaigns can inform SEO of the most effective and profitable keywords to use for boosting organic rankings. On the other hand, organic SEO can identify keywords that are worth bidding for. Additionally, brands that have their organic and paid listings alongside on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) look naturally more dominant than their competitors. Therefore, your goal must be to use a mix of both and give equal attention to either.

Responsive Search Ads

Google launched Responsive Search Ads back in 2019 and they are expected to be a big trend for 2020 as they spread, develop, and become even more intuitive. Responsive Search Ads use a combination of highly sophisticated data analysis techniques and Artificial Intelligence to test different combinations of headlines and descriptions on your ads. This testing will lead to the combinations that are most effective with your target audience and have the potential to attract maximum clicks and conversion.

Using Responsive Search Ads will hence save you a lot of time and money which you would otherwise spend in testing ad copies on search engine ads, and lead you to the right combinations straight away.

CRO Now a Must-Do

Advertisers have been investing in Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) for years, yet 2020 is the year it moves from “should do” to “must-do”. While you continue to develop your website and social platforms, you must also pay close attention to the leaks in your conversion funnel. 

A robust Conversion Rate Optimisation program in 2020 would circle around a data-centric approach where you use customer data to better understand their behaviour and then make changes accordingly. For this, you could use cookies or record website sessions to see what goes wrong and where, and then fix the particular leaks in the funnel. This way you would be able to convert maximum traffic coming from search engines and get a better ROI from search-engine ads.

Video Advertising

Videos are an extremely effective way of communicating with the customers and delivering a brand’s message to its target audience. Video content will dominate all other content forms in 2020, making it extremely essential for advertisers to use videos in their campaigns. 

The best part about video advertising is that it is much easier to rank on the “Videos” tab organically than it is on the “All Results” tab on a search engine. If you’re more focused on gaining on-site traffic to push leads towards conversion, consider posting the video on your own website instead of other platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. Also, make sure your transcripts, video-title, and description include all the relevant keywords for SEO. Lastly, use a catchy thumbnail to ensure that once you’ve ranked, you start getting clicks as well.

PPC Automation

One of the biggest trends for 2020 will be PPC automation – the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will help automate labour-intensive tasks associated with ads on different search engines such as Google or Bing. 

The rise of automation in PPC ads on search engines puts manual bidding in the shade. You can use Google’s automation tools to guide you with your bidding strategy and identify bids that are going to drive the most traffic. This saves a lot of time and money in trials and testing and you could get straight to the most effective bids.

Optimising for Alternate Search Methods

About 50% of all searches in 2020 will use voice. Another technology that will revolutionize consumer discovery and the online shopping experience is visual search. As a brand, you’ll need to redesign your SEO strategy as a whole to rank better on voice and visual searches.

While these alternate methods of search are not as popular within SEM, you can get ahead by using more long-tail keywords in your mix, while also ensuring that the content on your landing pages is more conversational. Taking these simple steps will increase the chances of matching a voice search query. For visual searches though, you’ll need to develop an extensive image catalogue with proper metadata implementation.

Alternate Ad Platforms

For advertisers using SEM for their e-commerce businesses, Google Ads has traditionally been the first choice for any paid campaigns. This is expected to change over 2020 when alternate search engines allow for ‘niche’ marketing. 

The e-commerce giant Amazon could be a perfect example in this regard. Amazon’s search engine surpassed Google a few years ago in terms of the online shopping related queries they both received. LinkedIn is another major example where despite the higher advertising costs, companies still prefer to advertise directly to get to the specific segment they’re targeting. You also need to reconsider your preferred paid ad platforms and optimise everything according to that particular platform.

A Cookie-Less Future

In January 2020, Google announced its plan to restrict the use of third-party cookies in its Chrome internet browser by 2022. Third-party cookies are mostly used in retargeting ad campaigns where users who visit an online store are shown ads from that store when they go to other websites. While this could be an alarming situation for most ecommerce businesses, you need to be fully aware of this trend and find alternate strategies when the cookies finally go away.

One potential solution Google has announced for this is the “privacy sandbox,” which would ideally still allow advertisers to show relevant ads while also allowing the users to share as little about themselves and their browsing history as possible.


In a nutshell, most of the SEM trends for 2020 are guided by Artificial Intelligence and Automations. As an advertiser, if you’re able to keep up with these trends, there is no one stopping you from getting ahead of your competitors.


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