Search marketing has changed dramatically in recent months. If we expand our vision and look at the industry over a period of years, it is almost unrecognizable to what it was even three or four years ago. The most drastic change has probably been how all the different facets of search marketing are now interconnected, rather than every aspect seemingly being separated by a high fence topped with barbed wire.
Today, webmasters, SEO agencies, and those who are more familiar with traditional marketing channels are aware that search marketing only works when everything works together and it is a strong part of a company’s overall strategy. This fact alone means there are many trends that need to be embraced, albeit with an open mind as the dynamism of the industry means they could change the minute Google decides to release the latest Penguin or Panda algorithm update.
Having an awareness of these modern search trends will enable webmasters, small business owners, and marketing professionals around the world get the most from their SEO strategies and activities as search evolves and changes again in the coming months.
According to Statistic Brain, 75% of small businesses in the United States don’t have a website. While we don’t have figures for the rest of the world, it’s a safe bet that the number would be similar elsewhere, if not even higher. Unfortunately, we don’t know the reasons why these businesses don’t have a website, but we’d be willing to gamble that the vast majority of them, given that they’re clearly offline businesses, believe a website would add no value.
At the same time, research conducted by Forrester demonstrated the following (data is for 2011, which is the most recent available):
$1.1trillion of global ‘physical’ retail sales, made in stores, in person, were ‘web influenced.’
$173billion worth of products was sold via ecommerce channels.
For all we hear about ecommerce being the present and the future, it is clear that the internet still plays a massive role in driving footfall to retail locations. A difference of $927billion isn’t one that can be swept under the carpet easily!
If you’re an offline business, you simply have to have a website and a robust SEO strategy in place.
We all know that Google is the runaway market leader in search. This doesn’t mean Google is the only search engine you should use to pick up traffic. This is especially true if you’re invested in any pay per click (PPC) advertising, where Bing and Yahoo! are fast gaining ground on Google.
Last year’s click through rate growth figures for small and medium-sized businesses from paid search demonstrate as much:
Google traffic increased by 32%
Bing traffic increased by 109%
Yahoo! traffic increased by 123%
If PPC is an avenue you’re looking to explore, you should also consider the way in which Facebook is beginning to target search aggressively, too. Instead of researching whether Google or Yahoo! is your best option for PPC, for example, you should be sitting down and planning how you can manage your budget to have effective campaigns across all platforms.
Articles predicting SEO and web design trends have been focussed heavily on local and mobile for a number of years. Geographical search is the biggest feature of search becoming more personalized, while people are commonly conducting searches for local businesses and services on mobile devices.
The first part of investment in these areas is time, making sure your website has as many citations as possible, has the correct details in all of these, and has active profiles on Google+ Local and Bing Places for Business.
The second aspect is financial, and ensuring if you invest in PPC, you’re doing it at the local level. The final thing you ought to consider is whether your website is optimized for mobile devices. Rather than paying for a mobile site to be designed separately from your desktop, invest instead in responsive design and web development so you have one site that works brilliantly on all browsers and devices.
In our introduction we mentioned how modern search demands that all aspects of digital marketing are interconnected. This is certainly true when it comes to organic search and paid search. For years, many webmasters and small business owners thought they were doing the right thing if they targeted some keywords on their website, and paid to rank for some different ones in order to give themselves what they thought was a better chance of hitting the heights of page one of the SERPs.
However, there are several studies, pointed out by Vanessa Fox, ex-Google employee and author of Marketing in the Age of Google, that prove the most successful search campaigns are those that combine organic and paid marketing targeting the same keywords. If your organic and paid keyword targets and portfolios aren’t the same, then you’re missing a trick.
Most people in the search industry are tired of hearing about “the death of SEO” and “social is the new search” over the last 24 months. Neither point is true, but we do know that social signals are continuing to become a bigger part of search, whether it is how results appear in Google search or Facebook Graph Search.
That means your social sharing buttons need to be prominent on your website, on every page and on every piece of content you publish. You also need to put together a plan for your social media strategy, so that you’re able to engage your audience and build a following without simply posting links back to your site and ignoring responses and mentions. As social media advertising becomes more refined and targeted, you should explore the opportunities your website will have from this channel, too.
All of these trends are happening as you read this article, and they aren’t going to go away. Ensure that your search marketing efforts take all of these points into consideration, and you’ll be in a great place to maximise your strategy, and to evolve when the industry expands and search becomes more focussed on these already important areas.
If you need help in navigating the modern search landscape or putting some of these trends into practice, our range of SEO, PPC, and social media packages are designed to enable you to do that. To discuss your digital marketing needs, you can contact us here.