Same Resources, More Complexity, Bigger Opportunities
As expected, #SMX Advanced 2016 gave rise to some great discussions. It was a sold-out show: 1,600 of the smartest minds in SEO and SEM came together to share case studies, unveil new technologies, and start discussions for next year. But still, we at QuanticMind feel that there is much more to the story—and that the world’s smartest advertisers aren’t quite ready to start talking about the challenges that are really bogging us down. The reason? Uncertainty is the new norm in marketing: with technology changing so quickly, it’s almost impossible to prepare for the biggest changes that are taking place.
But fortunately, as an industry, we are on the right path. See why by skimming through our three biggest takeaways from #SMX Advanced 2016:
1) Consumer behavior is shifting and evolving—and will continue to do so at an unprecedented rate—in ways that we cannot predict. From voice searches to location “near me” searches, user experiences are no longer desktop, tablet, mobile, or offline, only. Now, audiences are relying on a series of interactions and touchpoints to form opinions about brands (Think with Google refers to this concept as “micro-moments”).
2) Constant tweaking is a strategic must—when it comes to search engine marketing (SEM), the concept of a status quo is obsolete. #SMX made it clear that the first-mover advantage goes to the advertisers that can absorb publisher changes faster. Sundeep Jain, director of search ads quality at Google, for instance, highlighted all of the subtle details that marketers need to prioritize to effectively engage audiences. From customer matching to demographic targeting, device-based bidding, and mobile SERP ad copy optimization, advertisers have more moving parts in order to manage successful campaigns.
3) The future of search is about consumer preferences. Lynne Kjoloso, Microsoft’s general manager of global search sales and service, pointed out Bing’s strategy to move to feature parity with Google, to grow search volume, and to innovate. One big Microsoft innovation is Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant that competes with Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now. I was shocked to learn that: there have been 6 billion voice queries since Windows 10 launched. There has also been a 60 percent increase in question queries on voice search 2015.
It’s a brave new world for marketers out there. And in many ways, we don’t quite know where things are going to land, given the pace of change today. What will make us more competitive as advertisers? How can brands adapt to new tools and technologies? Here are the questions that we need to be asking after SMX:
What are the axes along which consumer behavior is shifting? Will voice searches cannibalize text search volume? What is the economic model for voice searches? Will there be ad inventory? These questions are missing from the consumer behavior conversation. We know that consumer behavior is shifting, but we need to dig into why and how. From drones to wearables, new technologies are giving rise to a consumer landscape that marketers could not even imagine today. Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics are beginning to surface insights into this question. Steve Guberman (@whiterabbitcult), director of search marketing at NBC Sports subsidiary GolfNow, gave a live demo at SMX with practical examples within the tool—for instance, the ability to measure how much of a page users scrolled through. These signals illuminate how consumer behavior is and will continue to become a bigger puzzle than predicted.
What will be the role of emerging platforms? Much of #SMX focused on known leaders in the search landscape such as Google and Bing. But what about platforms like Snapchat and Instagram where advertisers haven’t yet made their marks? Major opportunities for advertisers are beginning to surface on emerging platforms. The level of scale that we see from Google and Bing are just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps best practices for emerging platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, areas where advertisers are actively exploring, will be key themes for #SMX Advanced 2017.
When should marketers say ‘no’? As Travis Wright (@teedubya), CMO & Chief Marketing Technologist at CCP Digital pointed out in his #SMX session "Let's dance: search+social", marketing technology stacks are quickly becoming overwhelming. Now more than ever before, advertisers have a wealth of tools at their disposals. But that doesn’t mean that we have enough time in the day to try everything. Not to mention both Google and Bing are changing their search products very quickly. One big challenge that marketers are going to face is staying current. You may be using the wrong tools without realizing it—and if you are focusing on the wrong areas, you may miss out on valuable opportunities. At what point should you say ‘no’ to a new technique? What should you test immediately? How can marketers take a step back from what they’re hearing? What should the ‘right’ path look like?
How can marketers handle the explosion of data? At #SMX Advanced 2016, Sandeep Day (@sdey), staff data scientist at Groupon, pointed out in his session on Bidding Models Complex & Simple that as the future of advertising becomes more complex, data science will become a marketing team’s biggest competitive advantage. There’s a wealth of information that requires a quantitative approach to analyze—and what’s important to keep in mind is that Sandeep’s role and vantage point are pivotal in terms of the evolution of what an SEM team should look like. Advertisers have large sums of money at stake with their campaigns. Everyone is competing for audience attention spans at all sides. Data scientists aren’t ‘nice to haves’ on SEM teams—they’re musts.
Utilizing the same resources that they have now, how can marketers take advantage of bigger opportunities in the future? The answer is more granularity, more streamlined campaign management, and closer integration between search and social. It’s critical that we continue the discussions that we started at #SMX Advanced 2016.
Want to bring predictive advertising management to the discussion? Get in touch with the QuanticMind team.