The Future of Search Engine Marketing

Tim Davidson
Dec 18, 2018

How we search for things online is changing right in front of our eyes. As we move into 2019, we will continue to see search evolve while advertisers scramble to keep up. From desktop, to mobile, to voice, the search engine landscape is constantly being disrupted to provide us with better, quicker answers from any device—saving us we what we cherish most: time.

However, despite this rapidly-changing landscape, three search trends seem to dominate:

  1. Voice Search
  2. Personal Assistants
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Voice Search

According to comScore, by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches (with the three main players in voice search currently being Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod).

Voice Search Statistics 2019

This trend brings to life the cultural and consumer behavior shifts that are evolving around us. Smart speaker devices are no longer a gimmick—they are here, and people are using them. They learn our habits and give us personalized, relevant content and answers in real time.

 When we consider the possibilities of voice search, we can boil it down to someone being able to fulfill a search need without having to pull away from their current activity—like decorating the Christmas tree or baking cookies. We no longer have to leave the room during the Bills game to grab our laptop and search for a local pizza delivery service. Wiping off our flour-covered hands to pull out our smartphone to find the closest organic supermarket is becoming a thing of the past.

 Voice is a different experience, and the search terms show it. With typing, we are much more concise. For example: instead of typing, “best restaurant Buffalo, N.Y.,” you are more likely to use a complete sentence with voice search.

 “Someday, pulling your mobile phone out to search will feel as archaic as a dial-up modem.”  Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President and Software Engineer at Google

 Now, imagine you’re having dinner at the kitchen table on a rainy night and water starts dripping on your head. Instead of having to get up, grab your phone or laptop, pull up Google, type in “roof leak repair near me,” and then comb through ads and organic listings, you can simply say “Alexa, schedule a roofer to fix the leak.” Your Amazon Echo will already know your schedule and will set it up for you in a matter of seconds. This just saved you loads of time, hassle and mental space.

 What does this mean for brands and marketers?

In an example like this, when users don’t request a specific roofer, Alexa will pick one based on several factors, most importantly, which company spends significant ad dollars with Google Ads for voice. Unless your organization is committed to a high level of ad spend, the best way to generate leads is by increasing brand awareness—so users ask for your company specifically in their search. Modest search spend alone is unlikely to deliver consistent results as voice technology improves and becomes even more widely used.

 Marketers should also keep voice search in mind when optimizing their current online content. Since voice searches are different from manual searches, keyword phrases and target keywords should be long-tail (keywords or phrases that are more specific) and conversational.

Personal Voice Assistants

 "My vision when we started Google 15 years ago was that eventually you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all.”  —Sergei Brin, Google Co-Founder (2013)

 Google Assistant, Siri, Google Home and Alexa are becoming our personal assistants, closing in on the human gap, fast.

 To see what I mean, check out this Google Assistant video. And that’s only the start.

A personal assistant is a device that is seamlessly present wherever you are. They are easily accessible and you barely realize you're interacting with a computer or phone. These personal assistants are training us to rely on automation and speed, setting a new standard. According to the ADI Consumer Electronics Report, more than half of people with voice assistants use them at least once per day, and more than 20 percent rely on it for online shopping.

Personal assistants will soon perform searches in the background based on information they pick up from conversations, consumer locations and even biometric information. They will consider a consumer's daily commute schedule and use real-time traffic data to recommend when you should leave home to make it to work on time – never mind the fact that they already go through emails and apps to produce info cards for your upcoming flights, incoming package shipments, and your purchased movie tickets.

The possibilities with personal assistants are nearly endless. In the future, we can expect that assistants will schedule hair appointments based on how often you go, schedule oil changes based on the mileage of your car, and order your favorite pizza on gameday, because it’s the same one you’ve ordered every Sunday for the past two seasons. This will present a new challenge for brands looking to effectively surface their content in these new arenas over the next 3-5 years.

 What does this mean for brands and marketers?

  • Marketers will now have to consider whether consumers really need to go to our company website for more information or whether their question can be answered with a quick, simple query to their voice assistant;
  • Content such as FAQs will help surface answers for personal assistants, making them more important in our content strategy than ever before;
  • Optimizing ads and content to include synonyms, slang, abbreviations or symbols will play a key role in helping consumers find our products (e.g., using the word for “shades" when referring to sunglasses).

 Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings us relevant content and ads based on our behavior. AI automates tasks and learns on its own in order to bring the most value in the shortest amount of time. Amazon has been saving consumers time for years with its recommended products and one-click ordering; this is just one example of how machine learning and AI are changing the landscape of search (and now, we can combine AI with voice to get things even faster!).

Overall, AI is making search a smoother process for both the consumer and the advertiser. AI knows your customer’s buying behavior better than you can imagine; machines now know what your customer is in the market for, how they buy, how long they take, and much, much more. This allows marketers and advertisers to tailor messages for each consumer in the right place at the right time, making it easier for customers (or potential customers) to find what they need when they need it.

 What does this mean for brands and marketers?

While marketers should concern themselves with automated content and ad creation, one very important thing to keep in mind is what machines cannot yet do: express emotion. As humans, we are constantly making decisions based on emotion and, at the end of the day, we still want to see content created by humans—and ads that touch our hearts. Robots cannot do that…yet.

 As marketers we can also learn a lot from changes in Google Ads. Over the past year, advertisers using Google Ads may have noticed the platform’s big push for local and relevant ads—this is Google’s way of telling us to get on board. Additionally, factors like website load speed should also be top of mind. Google’s own research shows that 53 percent of people will leave a site that fails to load in three seconds or less. This is why site speed plays a factor in Google Ad rankings, and why Google is pushing its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project.

In summary, marketers should try all AI capabilities offered in Google and other platforms—we can learn from AI as much as AI learns from us.

Final Thoughts

As marketers, it’s crucial to consider voice search, AI and personal assistants when creating our content. Big change is coming, and we must be prepared to adapt. Branding and awareness will be more important than ever, and voice search optimization needs to be top of mind.

Voice search, artificial intelligence and personal assistants are no longer “the future”—they are the present. As such, it’s imperative to focus on the people behind the searches and less on the searches themselves. We must approach consumer intent in a new way and avoid getting hung up on individual keywords—because if we don’t, our competitors will.

 Related Article:  Google's Responsive Search Ads: Everything You Need  to Know

 Related Article:  8 Tips To Improve Your Google Responsive Ad Copy

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