#SMX East 2016: Search Engine Marketing Strategies & Top 5 Takeaways

Search engine marketing strategies, social, expanded text ads (ETAs), product listing ads (PLAs), cross-device attribution and many other topics headlined this year's #SMX East. Here are our top takeaways.

Search engine marketing strategies at #SMX East 2016

Search engine marketing strategies were front and center at this year’s #SMX East 2016, one of the largest search marketing events on the East Coast. Now that we’re back, we’ve condensed our learnings from the event’s sessions into 5 key takeaways:

1) Your SEM strategies need to incorporate new and upcoming ad changes

In the world of paid search, change is in the air. Google’s dearly-departed “right rail” ads are a thing of the past, having been replaced with image-based product listing ads (PLAs). Standard text ads (STAs) are also on their way out come January 2017, to be replaced by Expanded Text Ads (ETAs), which are still very, very new. ETAs are perhaps so new that despite expert search engine marketing analysis, some marketers report significant performance changes when using them, while others have seen marginal improvements (or even losses) at best. 

In the Google keynote on search engine marketing strategies, @jdischler of the AdWords group suggests that tomorrow’s most successful implementations of ETAs will be those that are as painstakingly and conscientiously managed as the most successful STAs run by the most diligent advertisers of today. 

2) Search engine marketing strategies power rapidly-developing retargeting tactics

While the world of paid search has matured over the years, there exist new, extended opportunities to supplement paid search with more-targeted search engine marketing strategies. Retargeting - in the form of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) on Google and Universal Event Tracking (UET) on Microsoft Bing - offers strong opportunities to engage high-intent customers at considerably higher rates of conversion, though at the admitted cost of having a much smaller pool of traffic.

On Day 3 of SMX East, @ebkendo points out that retargeting offers powerful new marketing opportunities with big revenue upside, but also faces challenges in the form of abandoned shopping carts and the constantly changing preferences of fickle customers. @larrykim suggests while Google RLSA is already a powerful tool, Facebook’s Audience Insights let ambitious advertisers create cohorts of demographically similar target lists to extend the strong relevancy of RLSA to new audiences. @PronouncedAhndy observes that Google Customer Match, which lets advertisers target customers that have shared their email information, also offers an alternate method for retargeting prospects, with the possibility of doing so directly in their Gmail inboxes.

3) Smart SEM strategies take advantage of “near me” searches, driving local conversions to storefront

With Google having observed that “near me” queries doubled in 2015, and with such queries expected to continue  skyrocketing in the future, it’s more important than ever for your search engine marketing strategies to include an intelligent geo targeting component that specifically targets high-intent prospects by location.

@phixed@si1very@danleibson@conradsaam and @mattmcgee discuss the importance of eye-catching local sponsored ads on mobile, which take up a significant amount of screen real estate on most devices. @kevinflemingjr points out that taking the extra step of both including a target geo and its components (targeting the USA as a country, as well as all 50 individual states), and also specifically excluding the individual components can act as a catch-all to target the 2% or so of the population that might have been excluded by Google’s algorithm.

4) Attribution continues to be a key piece of intel to inform your SEM strategies in a cross-device world

With the increasing prevalence of multiple-screen viewing habits - a larger and larger population that watches TV while simultaneously browsing on their phones or tablets, for instance - attribution for platforms and publishers is more important than ever. 

Daniela de Simone, @erinever@jknob8@simonheseltine and @CJSherman point out that attribution is especially important for e-commerce and shopping-focused businesses that need clean data feeds as they prepare for the holiday rush...and that it’s never too early to start cleaning up your feeds. @MaddieMarketer points out that although attribution tracking on mobile continues to be more challenging than it is on desktop, 37% of retail transactions are cross-device, and ads featuring local storefront phone numbers have been shown to drive 300% more conversions - emphasizing the growing importance of call tracking.

5) Consider expanding your SEM strategies with social strategies

Many businesses still consider paid search and social to be siloed operations that have little to do with each other. However, several speakers discuss important new insights from social that can enhance search engine marketing strategies with more-targeted customer information and preferences and even specific tactics.

@MagsMac makes the interesting suggestion to incorporate social research into keyword research - keywords that work well on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may work well in paid search, and vice versa. @sahilio suggests that judicious use of paid social can act as a powerful mid-funnel tool to accelerate engagement after a brand has built significant trust with a prospect through altruistic, no-strings-attached offerings such as informative content in the form of eBooks, webinars and the like. 

Looking ahead, 2017 will likely be a year of continued transformation for performance marketing, as shrewd advertisers look to evolve their martech stack by enhancing paid search efforts with new and developing tools such as social, mobile, offline/local and retargeting.

For more in-depth SMX East 2016 learnings, please see our full session recaps:

About the Author

Andrew Park

Andrew Park is a content marketing manager at QuanticMind. A UC Berkeley graduate and lifelong Bay Area resident, Andrew has done tours of duty in editorial, PR and marketing, and now works with the QuanticMind team to communicate the importance of data science and machine learning in digital advertising.

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