The search marketing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Gone are the days of a walled garden between a company’s organic and paid search programs and the rest of its online marketing strategy. Now, there is a recognition by marketers that search, like any form of marketing, must be engaged in a holistic and interconnected manner. It must create measurable results that tie into the whole of a company’s marketing campaign, rather than being off in its own universe.
As addressed in a recent report published by MediaWhiz, a performance media company, search marketing means a lot more than it used to. Whereas in the past, Google largely ruled the search marketing roost, newer powerhouses like Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are grabbing search marketers’ attention.
What should modern search marketers make of this upheaval? What do all of these changes portend for the future of search marketing? More importantly, how can marketers can ahead of these changes and tap into the latest search marketing trends that will help them engage, acquire and retain customers more profitably?
Here are five trends that will help you make sense of these significant changes in search marketing.
- Search is not just for online retailers; it’s for everyone. Online searches influence offline purchases. Forrester Research estimates that more than $1.1 trillion of retail sales in 2011 were “Web influenced” versus $173 billion of actual online sales. This is especially true for considered purchases such as autos, financial services, education, furniture, and etc. For example, JD Power estimates 90 percent of potential car purchasers research their purchase online before going to a dealer.
- Search means more than Google. It is important to diversify your company’s paid search (PPC) efforts. Google attracts the majority of paid searc, but Bing and Yahoo are gaining share. Similarly, Facebook appears intent on charging into the search market, but search audiences at Bing and Yahoo differ from Google. In 2012, click-through rates for small and medium sized businesses grew 109 percent for Bing, 123 percent for Yahoo, but only 32 percent for Google. As Facebook emerges, targeting and response rates will likely vary from the other providers. Search success will require the ability to manage all four platforms successfully.
- Local and mobile search will explode. Local results are increasingly dominating search results pages. Businesses must maintain local registrations with the search engines to ensure presence in local search results, maps and geo-location queries. Segmenting customers through geo-targeting with paid search also helps focus the right ads to the right customers. Use of mobile devices to conduct searches is exploding. Search on Android devices grew 300 percent in the first half of 2012. Like registering your locations, configuring your website for mobile compatibility is paramount.
- Integrated paid search and SEO programs boost overall search performance. Vanessa Fox, creator of Google’s Webmaster Central and author of “Marketing in the Age of Google,” tells of several studies where click through rates, conversion rates and revenue are all higher when organic and paid listings appear together for a given search. Advertisers must coordinate their SEM (paid) and SEO (organic) efforts. For example, they should have a common keyword portfolio to ensure optimal search marketing results.
- Getting search right means getting social right. It remains unclear whether Google or Facebook will win the race to assimilate the precision of social influence with the power of consumer intent in the search experience. It is crystal clear that this integration is on the way. Having a well-designed social media strategy, one that anticipates the impact that corporate social initiatives will have on search marketing efforts, is essential. Moreover, taking advantage of the hyper-targeted ad opportunities available through Facebook and other social venues to tap new customer segments will prepare a business to maximize the effectiveness of these converging audiences.
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