In January, we predicted what we expect for 2021, and it is already shaping up to be a year of great change for digital advertising. Covid, automation, and new privacy policies have led channels to introduce new tools, ad types, etc. to adapt to the changing landscape. We took time with some of Metric Theory’s subject matter experts to capture the trends they’re seeing and how to prepare for the rest of the year and beyond.


Contributor: Sarunas Kvederys, Director of SEM
One of the major changes Google Ads released this year is significantly decreasing reported search terms in our so-loved search term report. Google is claiming this change was made to ensure user’s privacy and hide any sensitive search terms. Unfortunately, it has significantly impacted all paid search advertisers with an average of at least 20% of searches removed from the report.

We are always adapting, and this is just another curveball we’ll need to adjust to in 2021. Relying on Google’s algorithms so far has proved to be a successful strategy. Leveraging broad match type keywords, pairing them with automated bidding, and, most importantly, supplying the bid algorithm with high-quality 1st party data often generates positive results at scale. For example, in an account where we added Firebase app converters into the smart bidding algorithm, Firebase conversions increased 1,362% and overall conversions increased 110% period-over-period. Testing these types of strategies, while keeping the algorithms in check, will be a crucial part of search strategy for this year and beyond.


Contributor: Alyssa Codd, Director of Learning and Development
As with many of Google’s advertising products, automation has become a larger driving force for YouTube. In 2020, we saw the introduction of Video Action Campaigns, which allows the creation of Responsive Video Ads (RVAs). With an RVA, Google’s algorithm can either serve an In-Stream or Video Discovery ad on YouTube’s mobile homepage from the building blocks of a single ad unit. Similar to Responsive Search Ads and Responsive Display Ads in search and display, this cuts down on the number of ads and campaigns needed, letting Google’s machine learning do the heavy lifting.
Examples of responsive video ads throughout google territories

In our initial testing, we have found Video Action Campaigns drive strong performance when compared with traditional TrueView for Action campaigns, but we have also learned a few key things along the way:

  • Since the ads can serve in the Video Discovery format, the ad thumbnail is important to draw attention. Consider uploading custom thumbnails if the default ones presented aren’t compelling.
  • The ideal way to test the campaign type is setting up a head-to-head test using the Video Experiments tool
  • View rate will be much lower for this campaign type since it’s combining In-Stream with Video Discovery – don’t be alarmed if you see a larger drop in overall YouTube view rate while testing. Instead, consider evaluating success based on CTR or even conversion rate and CPA

Moving into 2021, we expect the theme of automation to continue playing a big role in YouTube’s ad products. We would love to see an expansion of this ad format to allow advertisers to add multiple headlines or descriptions for the algorithm to pick from with reporting on the different combinations. We also expect the introduction of tROAS and Maximize Conversion Value bidding to leverage automation capabilities in Video Action campaigns.


Contributor: Jeff Mortensen, Senior Manager of Paid Social
With the transition to remote working in 2020, many businesses had to quickly adapt their event marketing strategies to a fully remote, digital format. As a result, advertisers began leveraging LinkedIn’s multitude of event marketing tools, including LinkedIn-hosted Live events and webinars, as well as event promotion via InMail. LinkedIn Live Streams increased more than 400% in 2020, with 21 million members attending them. They’re seeing increases in engagement as well, with LinkedIn Live gaining 23 times more comments per post and six times the reactions per post when compared to native video since April 2020.

Additionally, LinkedIn introduced a new feature which allows advertisers to retarget users that attended events or livestreams hosted within the LinkedIn environment. LinkedIn also improved its retargeting capabilities significantly in 2020 with the release of engagement retargeting. Until last year, LinkedIn only offered standard site visitor retargeting. Now, advertisers can retarget engaged, high-intent users that have opened or filled out in-platform lead forms, viewed videos, and or followed company pages.

It’s likely that LinkedIn will continue to release more ad formats and features geared toward virtual event promotion as long as remote working is the new norm.

Amazon Marketplace

Contributor: Adam VanBaale, Associate Director of eCommerce
With Amazon releasing so many new ad types and features, your strategy needs to be more robust now than ever before. Like with social ad platforms, this is headlined by content production capacity. Amazon advertisers need to add more relevant copy, photo content, and videos than ever into the Product Detail Page (PDP).

Now is the time to take advantage of new ad features to test ahead of peak shopping periods of Prime Day and the holidays. Sponsored Display Ad types have expanded targeting features past page views and audiences or categories. You can now enhance the targeting precision of these ad types by including customer demographics, location, interests, and more. Sponsored Brand Video Ads are getting higher placement in Amazon SERPs across desktop and mobile. Start preparing videos for both PDPs and ads now to generate learnings so that you can max out peak selling days. Amazon Posts, once a small focus for brands, are now expanding to more potential new customers, and we feel it will be essential for brands to have a presence.

In addition, Vendor Central brands should be testing Amazon Attribution in 2021 to see how much traffic is going to Amazon from your other digital advertising. Seller Central brands can test embedding URLs into social ads or PPC ads to drive more offsite traffic to Amazon to increase sales and organic revenue.

Mobile Apps

Contributor: Mischa Kregstein, Senior Manager of Account Services
Contributor: Kevin Hunt, Associate Director of Account Services
We have consistently noticed one large opportunity for app advertisers that will be even more important moving forward – video creative. You only have a few seconds to communicate to users what your app does, how it will benefit them, and what you want them to do once they install your app. Video creative is your best chance of delivering all of this information. Strong video creative improves install rate as well. On average, adding a video to an App Campaign
can drive a 20% uplift in installs without a significant increase in cost-per-install.

Upload video to your app store listing across the Apple and Google Play store. Not only will using a video preview give you a competitive stance in the results, it will also give you a chance to qualify users by showing them exactly what will happen in the app. This preview does not need to be a significant production cost. It could be as simple as a recording of your in-app flow, highlighting the core functions.

Once you’ve updated your app preview, it’s time to update your video assets across your app marketing channels. We recommend starting with testing two video variations to see what works best for your app. The first variant should be very in-app focused. Demonstrate to your target audience how your app works and what unique features it offers. The second variant can be more focused on your target audience and their use-case. Identify the need or problem that your app solves and showcase people using the app. This can also be a great place to utilize user-generated content. Test and determine which variation delivers a stronger balance of install rates and in-app actions, and create new variations from there.

Another important factor for app advertisers will be adjusting to Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy coming to a future version iOS 14. We discussed this policy in the 2021 Performance Advertising Predictions post.

Much is unknown about the impact of these new policies. Some things we are recommending in preparation for the rollout of ATT include:

  • Ensure your brand’s domain has been verified in Facebook Business Manager
  • Prioritize pixel events in Facebook (if a user opts-in to being tracked, 8 pixel events will be passed to the UI, if they opt-out, 1 event will pass through)
  • Make sure Google’s Global Site Tag or GTM is implemented on the website
  • Link Google Ads and Google Analytics
  • Pull static reporting with all attribution windows, device, and demo reporting for all platforms/partners for historical benchmarks.

Further impacts and learnings of ATT will become clearer as the adoption rate increases through 2021.

For help staying on the bleeding edge of performance marketing this year, contact us to learn more about these new features and strategies.