How have your clients adapted their paid-for and organic strategies in the last 12 months and what are the key drivers?
The most fundamental change in paid search has been brought about by Google Enhanced Campaigns. Marketers now need to think about the context that an ‘always on’ user is in when they search for their site and how to target the perfect combination of device, location and time. We have worked closely with our clients, ad technology tool providers and Google to migrate their campaigns, whilst mitigating the potential negative impact of EC and taking advantage of its new features.
Google’s Penguin and Panda updates have made marketers more aware of the risks of spam SEO techniques and the importance of working with an agency that only uses ethical SEO practices. Our clients are now beginning to design for mobile first and migrate away from m. domain to more responsive/adaptive layouts. In addition, HTML 5 elements are being used more frequently, and, over the last 6 months, authorship has become increasingly important. These changes, when combined with the ongoing algorithm updates from search engines, highlight why it is vital to keep strategies fluid.
How has Google’s recent Penguin 2.0 update changed the search lanscape?
In all honesty it hasn't changed much – you either play by the ‘rules’ or you don't. Pleasingly, many of the spammy tactics that used to support rankings have reduced in impact but unfortunately some still work and are still used within the industry. This is a risky game of brinksmanship as we expect Google to continue to shut down the use of these techniques with further Penguin updates, which will result in sites that use spam SEO techniques being penalised or seeing rankings fall dramatically.
At Havas Media, we have always taken an ethical approach to SEO focused on content and social media. The major change we have seen is that the algorithm and link building tactics are now much more on marketers’ radars and, in new business pitches, this is a key discussion as clients become wiser to the 'rented' ranking game.
What are your top three tips on designing a global search strategy and working in territories where Google isn’t #1?
For most marketers, a hub and spoke model works best. That way, strategic direction comes from a central team and local teams work within the central guidelines.
Translation isn’t good enough – you need native speakers to understand both the nuances of the language and local culture. There is no substitute for boots on the ground when running international search campaigns.
In markets where Google is not the dominant player, such as China (Baidu), Russia (Yandex), South Korea (Naver) and Czech Republic (Seznam), it’s a huge advantage to have a local team with a relationship with the search engine as it’s often difficult to do business with these companies outside of their home market.
How is the video search market maturing and what campaigns have caught your eye?
Video search is still very nascent but increasingly important (especially as YouTube now ranks as the 2nd largest global search engine).
SEO for video is similar to the old days of SEO for websites – optimising meta data is still the primary tactic. YouTube’s Keyword tool enables marketers to understand how content is being searched for and how to optimise titles, descriptions and tags accordingly. As Google moves away from ‘10 blue links’ on the SERP, it’s also important to maximise the number of links to the video and sites that embed the video to improve its ranking in Google organic search. In addition to these basics, you can also explore video sitemaps and uploading the video script to provide context to the video content.
One recent campaign that Arena Media (Havas Media Group) ran for their client Three was interesting. By mining the YouTube Keyword tool and optimising meta data and links/embeds they were able to ensure that Three’s ‘Pony Dance’ video ranked well on both YouTube and Google for all relevant search terms. This search based seeding campaign has resulted in over 7 million views of the original video and a number of user generated mash-ups with over 100k views each.
How do you expect search to evolve in 2014?
I think we'll see five key trends set the tone next year:
Paid search strategies will continue evolving to take advantage of the Enhanced Campaigns features that roll out in Q4-13, including cross-device attribution and offline conversion tracking.
Optimising search campaigns and destination sites for mobile will be a continued focus as over 1/3 of all Search traffic will soon be mobile. Marketers and agencies will also have to start thinking about optimising campaigns for wearable devices, such as Google Glass, as their penetration increases.
Marketers will increasingly focus on SEO/PPC integration and understanding the effect of dialing down budgets – in particular, areas of their paid search campaign (e.g. branded keywords) and re-deploying budget in other areas (e.g. on non-branded/generic keywords).
More trademark cases will be decided and I anticipate that buying competitive trademark keywords will become an increasingly niche tactic.
There will be greater emphasis on the intersection of Social and SEM as Google and Bing continue their efforts to make Search more natural, conversational and personal.