As the marketing landscape expands and new digital channels and formats are introduced, consumers are still relying on search to find information and products at a massive scale. In response, marketers are investing heavily to ensure their brands are prominently featured at the top of search results. In fact, according to IAB, desktop and mobile paid search brought in roughly half of all 2015 digital ad revenue and Borrell Associates estimates that companies will spend $65 billion on SEO in 2016.
A tried and true marketing channel, search engine marketing has been around for two decades and continues to rapidly evolve. While other channels – like display – are still ahead of the curve when it comes advancements such as using behavioral and contextual data for optimal ad placements, search’s capabilities are not far behind. Below we outline the channel’s progression throughout the past two decades and share our predictions for the future of search.
A Look at the History of Search
It’s hard to remember a time before “Google” was a verb and answers to any questions were available nearly immediately. Search has come a long way in the past 20 years; here are the highlights.
Collectively, these developments have provided marketers with a number of ways to reach customers more effectively. However, there are still many opportunities for improvement and growth within search.
The Next Frontier of Search Marketing: Signal-Driven Search
Today, search is advancing more rapidly than ever, creating an abundance of opportunities for marketers. By leveraging customer and performance data, we are able to drive targeting, messaging, and spend. At Rise, we call this “signal-driven search." Soon, marketers will see even further advancements that allow more specific targeting based on customer signals, enabling them to better allocate their budgets and provide more relevant experiences to their customers.
Here are a few of the main areas in which we predict search will evolve:
- Behavioral targeting - Search marketers will be able to look at site behavior and other user behaviors to target them more effectively.
- Demographic targeting - While Google recently launched demographic targeting that enables marketers to hone in on inferred user intent based on age and gender, this will become even more granular to include income, education level, and more.
- Propensity/look alike targeting - As with display, marketers will have an opportunity to better identify the characteristics of their existing audiences through search and build similar audiences based on that data.
As we look toward the future, it’s valuable to note that many of search’s fastest-growing areas have only been around for the past couple of years. For example, voice search has surged to account for 20 percent of all mobile queries. Consumers are also quickly adopting increasingly diverse methods of finding information through the Internet of Things (IoT). This is evidenced by their interactions with cars and refrigerators to the presence of Alexa in their living rooms.
From the brand and agency perspective, search campaign optimization has also dramatically matured from those early days where the ability to “optimize” was really only limited to and dependent upon click-through rates. While search is not currently able to leverage all the robust first- and third-party data signals of display and social, it’s quickly evolving. We anticipate the channel will soon overcome these limitations and continue to be one of the most powerful and popular ways to reach consumers. Marketers should be excited to see what the next few years of search hold.
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