Search is a staple of digital culture. In an increasingly online and connected world, there are so many options available for nearly every facet of life. From deciding to buy a certain product, try a new style, eat at a restaurant, travel, and so much more, people turn to the internet with their inquiries. People search through typing, speaking, or scrolling to populate millions of answers — since the dawn of search, brands have vied for the top spot to best capture a user’s attention. But search marketing is evolving into an entirely new search experience.
The verb “to search” is shifting focus to the most important element of a search query: the person who is looking for an answer. However, how, when, and where people search and the results they desire will change overtime alongside expanding consumer interests, trends, behaviors, technology, and more. The power of search marketing rests in adapting to changing parameters and showing up on people’s search results at the right time, across a multitude of channels and feeds.
What Is Search Marketing?
Search marketing is the means of gaining online traffic and brand awareness and visibility through organic and paid efforts across search engines. With the advent of Archie in 1990, the first search engine was born. Of course, since then, Google has refined and dominated the search engine landscape and has largely shaped search marketing’s trajectory. Now, however, with more unique platforms operating within their own ecosystems, search marketing needs to adapt to each unique platform.
Importance of Search Marketing
While the core nature of search marketing remains the same, the role of search engines is expanding. It is important for brands to show up wherever, whenever, and however their customers are searching online. There are tons of opportunities for brands to capitalize on search marketing to strategically promote their brand, content, and products and reach the customers that matter most.
Keeping up with the future of search marketing is crucial for e-commerce brands to continue to meet new and returning customers, deliver experiences, and succeed.
Let’s dive into how search marketing is evolving.
Types of Search Marketing
Traditionally, search marketing has been defined by two solutions, SEO and paid media. SEO helps brands organically reach the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) by building site authority, regularly posting relevant and helpful content, leveraging meta data and alt text, and so much more. Paid advertising helps brands reach the top of the SERPs ad feature through strategic keyword strategies, bidding, and placement to win out over the competition.
While SEO and paid media are as critical as ever in maintaining a strong online presence and connecting with customers, search has evolved beyond the traditional parameters.
Advancements in AI and search prediction have launched us into an era of anticipatory marketing that aims to meet intent at every context, constantly engage the user, and continue to do so responsibly and at scale. Google is reimagining the search engine results page by focusing on visuals and omni-buyers.
The modern consumer is disrupting traditional search means. With more choices and control than any other digital predecessor, the modern consumer’s path to purchase is no longer linear or neat. Google is introducing the concept of the messy middle; a recent study of theirs found that the average shopper has over 500 digital touchpoints before making a purchase.
Today’s consumer is empowered and receptive to a ton of information. Digital technologies have to transform to meet the needs and expectations of today’s consumer to thrive in the matured digital space. As marketers, we are no longer casting a wide net to see what sticks; we have the technology to bid on the most profitable customer and focus our efforts on engaging and winning the right customer.
In current campaigns, there are three things you can control:
- Initial campaign set up, including creatives and assets
- The quality of audience input and signals
- Overall end goals
AI handles the rest.
Google’s search marketing landscape is increasingly run by AI and machine learning to serve the best ad asset combination to the right customer at the right moment. Recognizing who your target audience is and how they shop will help you structure your brand to own the search bar to better position yourself as the answer to your customers’ queries.
A few years ago, YouTube became the world’s second largest search engine. YouTube processes more than 3 billion searches a month and sees more than 100 hours of videos uploaded every minute. Video is a critical element of a strong content strategy; optimizing your video content and descriptions for search is as crucial as ever to rise above the competition.
Similarly to Google, YouTube search results rank based on relevance, engagement, and quality, while also taking an individual user’s search and watch history into account. YouTube also has its own means of discoverability through recommendations in its up next and endless scroll home page.
Amazon and Marketplaces
Amazon is currently the largest search engine for products: according to eMarketer, over 61% of US consumers start their product search on Amazon. Walmart comes in third in eMarketer’s findings with 32% of U.S. consumers starting their online shopping journey with the superstore.
Adapting to Amazon’s algorithm means writing strong product descriptions, generating customer reviews, and more. The trick of Amazon and other marketplaces is that while their products appear on other search engines like Google, once a user is within their ecosystem, there are no other external ads. Having a brand presence on Amazon can be a strategic advantage to capturing a new range of audiences.
Social As Search
Social platforms are quickly becoming new avenues of search. Gen Z is increasingly opting to turn to their social pages — and peers thereon — for answers and recommendations rather than traditional channels. TikTok, unsurprisingly, is paving the path forward for social platforms as a search engine.
TikTok is swiftly becoming a contender in the world of search. eMarketer’s survey, previously mentioned above, found that 11% of U.S. consumers start their search on TikTok. Almost 40% of Gen Z use TikTok, Instagram, and other social media channels as a search engine, rather than Google.
Why? The human connection, endless answers, and timely content. As AdWeek puts it, “TikTok can’t be viewed as an exact search match. And that’s part of the appeal.”
How to videos, reviews of the highest-rated beauty products, and restaurant recommendations (among countless other queries) feel more authentic coming from a peer rather than an algorithm. While Google is shifting to visual search, TikTok was built for visuals as the primary content.
A search for something as simple as “nail polish” will show the latest trends in colors and style, how to create unique designs, and deep dives into personal collections. TikTok’s search results put their users in the culturally relevant moment, with controlled filters based on likes and views for a highly curated feed. The short form content of TikTok also means that creators have to share information quickly and succinctly; a user can quickly gather a lot of information from several TikToks in the time it takes to watch the average YouTube video (the breakdown: the average YouTube video is 11.7 minutes, while the optimal recommended TikTok video length is 21 to 34 seconds).
Search on TikTok is not as precise as Google, as creators have not been making content with search and optimization best practices in mind. For recommendations and the latest trends, TikTok has the answers. And, for some among the younger generation, browsing through videos is a lot more fun than reading through Google results.
The Future of Search Marketing
So where do we see the future of search marketing progressing? While trends are changing rapidly to accommodate shoppers’ behaviors, we expect a few key elements to remain steadfast throughout any future of search marketing.
Exponential Growth of AI
Within NetElixir’s dataset over the Cyber 5 2022 weekend (the days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday), Performance Max campaigns accounted for nearly 50% of Google ads. For a product that launched just ten months before the holiday season, this is a phenomenal growth story. Performance Max campaigns are highly automated, relying on machine learning to infer best asset configurations and target new audiences.
TikTok’s AI will heavily influence other channels; already, TikTok has changed the social game. TikTok’s For You Page shares highly curated content based on each user’s individual app interactions, likes, and interests. Expect to see Meta and Google tweaking their own algorithms to follow suit and take steps to create a highly personalized search experience.
Brand Power To Build Owned Retail Media Channels
Amid stricter privacy regulations and hikes in advertising costs, more brands may consider building their own retail media channels or walled gardens. Each of these will have their own search function to facilitate user experience, reach specific customers, and grow their brand recognition and experience.
The Only Constant Is Change
The safest bet to make on search marketing is that it will continue to evolve rapidly and, often, unpredictably. Stay in constant communication with your customers to know their wants, needs, and expectations, as well as with your agency to ensure you are ahead of current trends. Adjust to what fits in with your brand style and resonates with your customers to keep everyone engaged and clicking.
NetElixir’s Search Marketing Experts
NetElixir’s high-tech and high-touch approach to digital marketing empowers brands to humanize their customer relationships and draw the line between invasive and inventive marketing. Back in 2004, we started as solely a search engine marketing agency and throughout our nearly two decades of experience, we’ve evolved with and became leaders in the digital marketing landscape. We help brands own the search bar across platforms, channels, and apps.
Find what you’re searching for with NetElixir.