Heading into Q4 of 2013, search engine marketers are wondering what the outlook is for the future. In this SMX session, three panelists shared their predictions of search trends in 2014.
The 90-minute discussion covered four topics: SERP changes, verticalization, data and encryption, and mobile. Panelists were Joseph Kerschbaum – Senior Client Strategist at 3Q Digital, Frank Kochenash – VP Products & Services at Mercent, and Gagan Kanwar – Director of Partnerships & Research at Marin Software. Here are the highlights:
SERP Will Continue to Change
Search engine giants like Google and Bing will continue their focus on improving user experience by rolling out new features that are responsive to consumers’ needs. Some of the interesting predictions include: 1) product listing ads and local targeting ads will continue to grow and evolve, 2) paid search listings will become more prominent in the SERP, and 3) listings are likely to become shorter. Search engine marketers should get prepared to change course as we go along and adapt to the changes in real time.
Vertical search engine type of sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon have entered the mix of search investment. Marketers who advertised there reported decent ROI despite relatively low volume. Diversification of search efforts and investment beyond just Google will become the norm as the consumer shopping journey is now more fragmented. More complex media planning involving more engines/sites will also emerge. Advanced 3rd-party platforms like Marin can provide a simple and seamless experience for agencies and advertisers to consolidate search activities across different engines/sites.
Data and Encryption
Data strategy and DMP will become a key piece for digital agencies and marketers. Demographic multiplier that works like mobile multiplier in Google enhanced campaigns is an interesting prediction made by one panelist. Target audience persona needs to be thought through when we get away from keywords and think about the people behind the searches.
Google recently announced that it will begin encrypting search queries from organic listings regardless of whether a user is signed into their Google account. By doing this, Google is one step closer to building a self-contained ecosystem. For marketers, it means that SEO and SEM teams need to work together more closely. While user behavior varies between clicks on organic and paid listings, paid search query data still provide valuable insights for SEO.
Mobile is now at a place where Social was a year ago. People are still trying to understand its value. Marketers need to define clear goals and KPIs before they invest in mobile. Not only are mobile optimized sites necessary, but mobile optimized content is also crucial for conversion rate. In most cases, consumers are probably looking for different information on their mobile devices than on desktops.
Cross-device tracking and retargeting is a hot topic. Google recently rolled out estimated total conversions that aim to address the conversion attribution among devices and between offline/online channels. Companies like Facebook and Amazon, where users usually sign in to their unique accounts on different devices, have advantages in terms of mobile retargeting.
No matter what changes will eventually come along in 2014, the magic bullets in SEM remain the same: Employ effective search strategies and tactics to drive traffic to your sites/landing pages. Build compelling creatives that differentiate your brand in the marketplace. Invest in landing page conversion optimization to improve conversion rate, which will ultimately impact the bottom line.