Remember those days just a few short months ago when search marketing was simple? Our counterparts on the display and video side of digital marketing were frantically trying to keep up with the rapid changes that forces like programmatic and Facebook were bringing. Search, on the other hand, was fairly stable.
That all changed when Google decided to shake things up and bring search into the mobile era. Albeit a necessary shift, the changes that came with it require search marketers to conduct campaigns differently and view search through a new mobile lens. The old practices were geared for desktop search and, with Google's new focus on mobile, those old ways of doing search no longer apply.
But don't fret. This is all good news for marketers. Google made these changes to coincide with shifting consumer behavior. Marketers need to be where their customers are, so by using Google's changes to their advantage, search marketers will ultimately be able to better reach their target audiences and continue to capture hearts, minds, and dollars with search.
What does this new search frontier look like? Below are 10 approaches that should now be a part of every search marketing campaign.
Search is mobile
We already covered this, but let's explore in more detail. Just how pervasive is search on mobile? By next year, more than 70 percent of all search queries, across categories, will happen on mobile devices. That statistic should say it all. Rethinking the search marketing experience and pivoting it to mobile is not an option. It's a must. Search marketers need to create custom, mobile-friendly ad messaging and think mobile for their keyword selection. For example, marketers need to focus on "near me" searches, be granular in device level bidding, keep a close tab on the mobile searcher behavior, and serve relevant results during various times of day.
Search is local
Mobile and local go hand-in-hand. One of the biggest impacts on search from desktop to mobile is the added dimension of location. Often, people are using their devices to find a specific store, restaurant, museum, or other point of interest near them on their phone. Sometimes, they don't even know what they want to find. They are looking for suggestions! Google has jumped on this opportunity with newly launched features like promoted pins on Google Maps. These types of ads are specifically designed for local listings. They are Google's way to crack the "near me" monetization code and get credit for driving these searches. Another big driver of the local trend is beacons, which are increasingly being used by retailers. As a result, in-store customers will be targeted more effectively with relevant content.
Demographic targeting plus programmatic
These are terms with which digital marketers outside of search are very familiar. Now it's time for search marketers to become acquainted with them. These capabilities will move search into a hyper targeted arena where relevant messages can be served for different demographic segments in a highly relevant manner.
Search vs. social
The lines between these two disciplines are blurring because of consumer behavior. People are not just using Google for their searches anymore. They're searching on social media like Facebook and Instagram. The growing popularity of content curation platforms like Pinterest is also causing search and discovery to be one and the same.
Amazon vs. Google
While social is taking a share of Google's pie, Google's other biggest threat is Amazon. More product searches are now happening on Amazon than on Google. Adding to this threat is that Amazon is getting a larger share of bottom of the funnel searches, which frequently convert to purchases. It may not be exactly how consumers discover the products. They may still be using Google for most of their research and then going to Amazon to complete the purchase. But because marketers are using conversion rates to measure campaign success, Amazon is getting the credit.
Apps for search
App store search has opened up an entirely new search experience to consumers. Users are able to search through an app store to find a specific product or pieces of information. Already the Android and IOS app store visits per day are more than daily Facebook visits! That offers a unique opportunity to make app searches stronger and more efficient.
YouTube is the second largest search engine. We believe that by 2020 it will be the largest. Currently, the majority of searches on YouTube are used for informational purposes. YouTube accounts for a high percentage of "need to have" searches that are conducted prior to actual decisions being made. YouTube's influence on top of the funnel searches will only grow bigger over time.
PLAs gaining ground
The growing popularity of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) is interesting and a trend to watch. This holiday season, we expect as much as 50 percent of paid search revenue to come from PLAs. Also, PLAs are fundamentally changing search behavior. The images and descriptions that they provide are leading to quicker purchases than through standard text search ads. PLAs are thus getting an increasing percentage of last clicks prior to conversion, which is increasing their appeal for marketers.
Though it hasn't taken off as predicted, voice search is definitely on the precipice of becoming a huge phenomenon and another game changer. Digital personal assistants like Siri and Alexa are quickly becoming household regulars. There is a strong consumer demand to beef up voice search capabilities to make more mundane searching easier. A good example is buying household items. Amazon has had some success with Echo in this regard, but some consumers are complaining about inconsistent pricing on Amazon. If highly personalized search ads were incorporated into voice search functionality, it could prove valuable to consumers looking for a deal on the products they buy regularly.
Other search engines?
Google has been the dominant search engine for so long that it's hard to imagine that another search player might ever be able to beat Google's dominance. And maybe we will never see that. However, it's clear that Google is moving in the direction of making a larger percentage of its search engine results page dedicated to ads. Might consumers start finding the experience of getting subjected to sales messages frustrating and migrate to another search engine like Bing? It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
We believe that search will become more fragmented, which is exactly what we see happening with media. This is the other trend to watch and something we've already gone over in several of these points. Consumers will search YouTube for advice on the things they need, research these findings on Google, search social networks to see what their friends think about certain products, and then go on Amazon for products they already know they want to buy.
One thing we know for certain is that the search that was, no longer is. With the prevalence of mobile, social media, and video, search is forever changed and will never look the same again.