By David Stout, Bayshore Solutions Director of Digital Marketing 

2016 SMX West digital marketing insights I’m very excited to be attending SMX West this year in San Jose, CA. Search marketing is still one of the biggest and most powerful forms of digital marketing. For anyone not able to attend this outstanding SEO/SEM conference – here’s what you missed.

The future of search is here and it’s never been more mobile, more intuitive, or real.

For those of us who’ve been involved in the digital marketing space for any significant period of time, we have seen incredible advances in Google search.

  • In 2002 synonyms were introduced to search
  • In 2007 Google began using Universal Search to vet and categorize different forms of content in search results
  • In 2012 Google’s Knowledge Graph was implemented, allowing search to better understand the relationships between “things”
  • In 2015 mobile search eclipsed and passed desktop search

Like any form of evolution, the changes on the timeline built upon the development standards of the past; giving birth to something familiar, but all-together new. The next phase in the evolution of digital search will be no different, but the transformation may be more human and more active than most of us are anticipating.

While we prepared our clients for “Mobilegeddon” last year, the adoption of wearable, voice-activated electronics also grew. Apple Watch and Amazon’s Echo, a hands-free device that is always on and designed around your voice, have hit the market and have already become quite popular items. More voice-activated tech is expected to roll out in the next 2 years. This will increase our ability to reach more mobile audiences, further segment our targeting, and allow specified tactics to be applied to a wider-range of mobile devices. A Google engineer stated that they have brought the word recognition errors down to less than 8% with their voice recognition software. So what does this mean for search?

Lucky for us, search and website development is not going away anytime soon. In fact, there has never been a better time to be an agency that combines both sophistication in web development and marketing implementation services under the same roof. The nature of search and the techniques applied to search marketing are becoming more conversational, requiring better customer segmentation, more upfront research, and an understanding of script management that allows marketers to leverage real-time delivery of content into mobile search. Web developers will be challenged in new ways as their assistance will be required outside of build phases in order to properly install the multitude of different AMP-HTML scripts and tracking codes which make social media attribution an even more valuable and measurable component in the digital marketing mix.

Change can cause both opportunity and discomfort, but those who are willing to embrace both quickly with resolve and preparation will reap the rewards of being an industry leader. Fortunately, the conference had many great Breakout Sessions that drilled down into SEO/SEM-specific trends, tips, and tricks.

Below is a high-level summary of the Breakout Sessions that I found to be most informative.

Breakout Session 1:

Getting AMPed: What You Need To Know About Accelerated Mobile Pages & Google

Accelerated Mobile Pages are a new way to instantly load content for people using mobile apps that support them. Google’s a major partner in the AMP project and promising AMP pages will be integrated into its regular search results. The session was highly technical with an emphasis on code installation.

Key takeaways are as follows:

  1. Google has not fully adopted the AMP-HTML (a subset of HTML5) code, but reading between the lines one could safely assume that this is the next stage of evolution for ranking sites and apps – as it fundamentally involves improving the user experience
  2. AMP Accelerates Load Time and makes content instantly accessible to search
  3. Of the 150+ in attendance of this session, only 5 stated they had implemented an AMP script; very few more said they were ready to test and try

Breakout Session 2:

How Dynamic Ads Can Supercharge Your SEM Campaigns

Both of the speakers for this breakout session were extremely strong and I was impressed how responsive they were in social media. They covered how a display marketer’s ultimate goal is to create personalized ad content for each individual searcher and how many segmentation models, personalization tools, and data sources still need refinement. Their overview also demonstrated how Ad customizers, DSAs, and Dynamic Remarketing can automatically help personalize ads based on website content, user behavior, time of day, and many other criteria.

Key takeaways are as follows:

  1. Testing different variations of ad copy and customer segmentation is essential prior to implementing dynamic campaigns
  2. Dynamic Ads are aligned with the future of search – which is conversational
  3. The “Countdown” function in Google AdWords text-based ads is a highly-recommended conversion tactic for creating urgency on limited-time ads
  4. Using AdWords scripts with Ad Customizers makes it possible to fetch live data from inventory and shopping carts in real time and incorporate this data into your text ads

Breakout Session 3:

Search Engine Friendly Web Design

“I’m not designing my site for search engines” is a common designer objection to SEO recommendations during the UX/UI design process. The reality, however, is that search engines are still the starting point for many internet users. If your site is difficult for Google, Bing, or other engines to “read” because of elaborate bells and whistles, not only will the site be ignored by search engines, it’s also not going to work for the real human beings with whom you are hoping to do business. Search-engine friendly design is a website created for users AND accommodates the various requirements of search and social medial channels.

Key takeaways are as follows:

  1. First law of digital commerce is, “if the consumer can’t find the product online, they can’t buy it online either”
  2. Focus on balancing SEO discoverability with website usability; once they can find what they are looking for, you still need to make it easy for them to continue down the conversion funnel
  3. In the long run, technology-centered design is generally counter-productive to project and business goals
  4. It’s not enjoyable to move the mouse around a site in hopes of finding something noticeably clickable to interact with – make interaction points visual and distinct!

I know, I know – this has been a big recap for just Day 1 of the SMX West conference! But, remember, this is a BIG conference with lots of great SEO/SEM content. I hope you find at least some of this information helpful… Now, on to Day 2! Stay tuned, more to come!

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