Targeting, Touchpoints & Bing: Paid Search + Social Trends for 2021

By: Jeff Tyson

Trends in paid search and social media are always in motion; a reflection of the tech industry’s rapid growth and constant evolution. For specialists like me, staying on top of changes is a key part of our profession—and we don’t do it alone. 

Conferences like Search Engine Journal’s eSummit are essential educational settings for SEO and digital marketing professionals to embrace all kinds of industry tips, tools, trends and insights. I attended SEJ’s eSummit 2021 in January and had a front-row seat to a number of key takeaways and actionable insights that will likely be part of boosting paid search and social programs in the coming months.  

LinkedIn Audience + Microsoft Bing

Microsoft’s 2016 acquisition of LinkedIn means today the giant is allowing digital marketers to import audiences from LinkedIn into Bing, or Microsoft Ads. This is huge, since LinkedIn allows us to target tons of business-related areas we can’t on other platforms, such as job title, company size, industry, etc. Combine that with something only available through paid search—purchase intent—and we can segment like never before, allowing for an extremely valuable layer of data in our reporting.

Persona-Based Campaigns

The days of running a paid social campaign with five different target audiences are over. Now, data from some of the world’s top brands suggests building a single campaign for a single persona. Siloing social campaign efforts into individual personas allows us to see which groups respond best to a particular message, and allows us to focus more resources on the most engaged audiences. 

Targeting in Ad Copy

Paid search specialists are finding increasing success baking targeting information directly into ad copy. For example, a software company wanting to target companies with 100-300 employees might directly state in the description “top software for organizations with 100-300 employees.” It also provides an opportunity to test audiences against copy and helps convert the audiences we care about most, by speaking directly to them. 

Online Forms

There is more psychology that goes into online forms than ever before. It’s possible to have a form with two fields that nobody would fill out, and a form with twenty fields everybody would fill out—it just depends on what the questions are and how they’re being asked. We design form structures for a variety of clients and have been getting increasingly scientific with how we organize them. 

Optimizing Campaigns

How do we get better conversion rates at a lower price? Relevancy. By hitting relevant targets—which can be done based on the aforementioned persona targeting—more users take action, all while paying less to do so. It’s also possible to better optimize campaigns by excluding audiences that have already completed a conversion on a given website, to stop paying for clicks, impressions or actions by already-engaged users. 


Marketers are using search data to better inform SEO efforts and vice versa. Using the universe of keywords created for paid programs, content creators and SEO specialists can build out topics and copy using the search performance of certain words, queries and phrases, allowing for more relevant content to be created for and found by the audiences that engage with brands the most. 

Google Conversion Path Reports

Google Analytics recently rolled out conversion path reports which illustrate what actions the user took before they converted on a website—including the platforms they were referred by. This illustrates how most consumers need multiple touchpoints in different places before they convert—consumers take longer and do more research before converting, and all the pieces must be in place to build an effective marketing campaign. Google’s tool allows us to find trends surrounding what these consumers are looking at—and where they came from—before taking final action. 

Connecting Sales Data to Digital Ads

While a consumer brand may receive sales data from retailers, it’s currently difficult to gauge which digital ads drove a portion of those purchases. But a number of third-party tools are being introduced that can make that connection. While the accuracy is unknown, the data at least allows marketers to build out attribution models to benchmark sales numbers and determine the digital metrics needed to reach those goals. This also allows us to properly budget and tell our clients how much it will cost to achieve success.