Search Marketing in 2019 Will Focus on the User

As each year ends and the new year is about to roll in, it is time to think “big thoughts” about what will define search marketing in the coming year.

As each year ends and the new year is about to roll in, it is time to think “big thoughts” about what will define search marketing in the coming year.

Last year looking at the challenges ahead, I thought that the defining trends would be Google’s move to mobile-first indexing and the growing use of voice search. This, coupled with changed SERPs, were anticipated to make 2018 a year with mostly incremental change.

These 2018 predictions have come to pass.

Mobile has continued to grow, voice search has gained momentum and the changes to the SERP have shown an intense focus on keeping the user on the page, while directly answering the query.

In 2019, what trends will impact search? This year, perhaps it is time to look to the user and away from the search engine itself. How are users changing and how will this change SEO? Machine learning and AI have made it easier for Google to understand user intent and provide search results that directly address their queries.

The Questions Yield the Answers

Understanding user intent and delivering semantically accurate search results have long been the Holy Grail of search. The advances in AI and machine learning have made it possible for Google to develop a much keener understanding of the user’s intent. What did the user really want to know? All those questions in the SERPs pages have surely yielded a treasure trove of data on user intent. It is now time in 2019 for SEOs to target our messages more directly to the user. It is time to question whether just targeting keywords is the answer. In my opinion, it is time in 2019 to marry keywords to user intent and our marketing messages.

Content Still Reigns, Better Content Conquests

Recent years have shown that for search, content is king. But now, it is imperative to move beyond content for content’s sake into a new realm. Content must be highly valuable and directed with surgical precision to the user. For those who expect to drive sales from search, this will mean creating content that attracts the visitor and addresses the precise need. In my opinion, the value of winning the SERP for the so-called head terms will decline as users demand answers to increasingly specific queries. Voice and mobile searchers no longer fill their queries with Boolean strings of keywords. They want the answer to a specific question now, not after plowing through pages and pages of search results. Content that addresses the user’s immediate query will conquest over imprecise, generic content.

Users Will Broaden Where They Search

In October, I urged readers to optimize their Amazon product listings. This was in response to data that has shown that users begin their product searches on Amazon, not at Google product search. There is a lesson to be learned here: Users will shift where they search to where they believe they will get the best answer. This will continue into 2019, and it is imperative for marketers to broaden their focus to embrace changing user behavior.

Customer Privacy Concerns Will Creep Into Search

The data breaches and wholesale exchange and use of highly personalized data across some big tech firms can be expected to have a corrosive impact on consumer trust. This is particularly important as search becomes more able to target exactly what consumers want. In my opinion, it will be increasingly important in 2019 to build brand recognition and trust so that when your brand appears in the search results, consumers feel confident that yours is a brand they can trust.

User Focus Still Requires Optimal Site Performance

It is not enough to just focus search marketing efforts on meeting users’ needs, but the site itself should not get lost in the shuffle. Solid technical search is still going to be needed. Mobile optimization is essential. So, too, are site speed improvements and adding more rich text. This means that you must not take your foot off the gas on site optimization. While you are at it, consider enhancing your metrics expertise and technology so that you can determine how well all your efforts are working.

Mobile Search vs. Traditional Search: How User Behavior Differs and How to Optimize for It

Fighting for real estate atop search engine results pages (SERPs) has always been a challenge. Thanks to smartphones, it’s getting a lot tougher. Gone are the days of searching exclusively from your desktop from work or home; now, most people carry search engine access in their pockets and are using Google on their mobile browsers.

mobile search resultsFighting for real estate atop search engine results pages (SERPs) has always been a challenge. Thanks to smartphones, it’s getting a lot tougher. Gone are the days of searching exclusively from your desktop from work or home; now, most people carry search engine access in their pockets and are using Google on their mobile browsers.

Not only have smartphones taken over, but mobile search results pages are changing, too. When using Google on your smartphone, you’re far more likely to get results with locator maps, call buttons, hours of operation, reviews and more. To the Average Joe, this is incredibly convenient. But for online marketers, this is somewhat frightening. Now all those SEO experts are vying for top positions on tiny smartphone screens with significantly less real estate.

The players are changing, and so is the game.

This paradigm shift can’t be ignored. Cling to your desktop strategy, and eventually your website will be outranked by those adjusting for mobile. Adapting is the only way forward. Here, we’ll review some key differences between mobile and traditional searches and how to make the most of the changing behavior of Web users.

Differences Between Mobile and Traditional Web Searches

So, mobile search usage is picking up and showing no signs of slowing down — what does this mean to you?

First, consider the factors driving the change. We already reviewed the reduction of real estate; most desktops are hooked to 20-inch monitors, while the new iPhone 7 sports a relatively tiny 4.7-inch screen.

Then there’s the fact that most smartphones are viewed vertically, while desktop searches are viewed on horizontal monitors. Desktop users scroll and click; mobile users swipe and tap. Studies have also shown that mobile users tend to know what they want; mobile searches result in more short-term sales at local businesses than desktop searches.

Keep that in mind as we review these important differences between mobile and desktop search pages:

1. Top organic search results are pushed further down on pages.

First, the good news. If you have a coveted top organic SERP placement, you’ll still get good traffic to your website. However, Web users need more time to find these placements on mobile devices. A 2014 study by the marketing firm Mediative found that people took 87 percent longer to find the top placement for a car show when it was placed below a Google Knowledge Graph (that box containing a summary of information either on the top or the right side of SERPs).

There isn’t much you can do about this problem — at least, nothing in the short term — other than to make your content as unique and compelling as possible. Never before has standing out on SERPs been more important.

2. Getting a top-four placement is a MUST on mobile.

We capitalized “MUST” for a reason. Getting a top-four placement was important even on desktops considering just 16 percent of organic clicks went below the fourth-ranked result. But 16 percent is still a sizeable portion of traffic. For mobile searches, on the other hand, the Mediative study found more than 92 percent of clicks went to the top four organic results, leaving just 7.4 percent for everything below. Ouch.

This is a huge problem for marketers who haven’t optimized their websites and landing pages for mobile Web browsers. It’s not enough to be content with moderate search rankings on desktop searches. Those searches are shrinking. Mobile is the future.

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: The Search Engine Results Page of the Future

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Search engine results pages (SERP) continue to evolve before our eyes, consistently becoming more relevant to consumers. Marketers seeking to stay ahead of these advancements in usability and relevancy to own more of tomorrow’s SERP should focus on developing three types of content:

  • paid content: paid search ads;
  • owned content: native websites, videos, social media, local information and blog posts; and
  • earned content: user-generated materials like YouTube videos, tweets and consumer reviews

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Real-time owned content from blogs and social media; user-generated earned content from blogs, tweets, and videos; and such local brand information as addresses, phone numbers and maps will likely all continue to be important in the SERP of the future. These represent just a sampling of the trends directing SERP evolution, but let’s take a closer look at the following three other likely influencers:

Sitelinks and deep navigation
.The SERP of the future will continue to incorporate more anchor links and clickable ad text, clickable search snippet text and clickable URLs. Sitelinks and deep navigation enable users to more easily find the exact page they’re looking for right from the SERP. Incorporating sitelinks into paid search ads, utilizing breadcrumb navigation, clear URL structure, and clear sitemaps helps spiders display more links in natural search listings. Expect more links in body content to permeate the SERPs moving forward.

The growth of mobile
. Predictions say that mobile search will rise to 73 percent of the mobile ad market by 2013 (Kelsey Group, Sept. 2009). With more than 140 million worldwide mobile social network users, consumers increasingly hold the future SERP in their hands; therefore brands must ensure visibility in mobile search by catering to an altogether different and separate SERP experience.

Personalization . Based on the search results that users click, Google already changes the results over time to make them more relevant and personalized. Google’s social search also pulls in results from the searcher’s social circle, such as tweets or Picasa pictures from friends. The highly personalized SERP of the future makes search marketing more complex—brands must have a deep understanding of their consumers to be able to most effectively target them, and this only becomes truer going forward.

How can brands manage the SERP of the future? Simply put, marketers must create and embrace holistic strategies to fully manage owned, earned and paid content that lives on the SERP of today to succeed on the SERP of tomorrow. A working combination of these trends – and more – can help marketers develop a comprehensive search strategy to take advantage of the SERP, while enhancing user experience and relevancy.