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Google’s big secret: what search engine marketing will look like next year

Search just ain’t what it used to be. Search engines used to be about helping customers find information. But new products like Google Now, Google Glass, and the redesigned Google Maps are beginning to flip the script, moving to an environment where information finds your customers instead. And “OK, Google,” unveiled at Google’s I/O developer conference offers a glimpse into another yet another interface your customers will use to interact with search. Coupled with the upcoming release of Penguin 2.0, these represent significant changes in the world of search. But what will this mean for your business? Let’s take a look.

The significant changes coming to the search landscape will likely change the way your customers find you. Here’s why:

  1. Fewer search results. Thanks to Penguin forcing spammy sites out of the index, Google Now offering relevant details before your customers even search, and OK Google reading the “best” answer, your customers will receive fewer different links on each query. Note how much screen real estate the search engine results pages have already surrendered to maps, addresses, Google+ posts, paid ads, images, videos and all the other aspects of Google’s Universal Search results. Add the smaller screen sizes afforded by mobile devices limit the usable number of results. This trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
  2. Increasing numbers of “search engines.” Forget Bing or Yahoo. Google’s biggest competitive threat comes from consumers using non-traditional search engines, primarily in the form of mobile apps, to accomplish their tasks. Tools like Yelp and TripAdvisor, Apple’s Maps and Siri, location-based services like Foursquare, social apps like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and vertical-focused apps like Hipmunk, Spotify, and Kindle offer consumers myriad ways to find the information they seek. And all without ever using Google.
  3. The era of “peak search.” In an address to a group of travel marketers, Google’s UK head of travel Dan Robb, said this:

    “…travel sector searches are still in double digit growth although it has slowed but all the growth currently being seen is from mobile and tablet.” [Emphasis mine]

    Now, desktop search volumes continue to grow across many verticals, but not all, as Robb’s comment illustrates (and, to be fair, the growth of mobile and tablet is significant). The fact remains that Google will look to ensure paid search, its largest source of revenue, grows regardless of the direction search volume takes.

Of course, it’s impossible to predict who’ll “win” as time goes on. Too many variables exist to say definitively which service or services will capture the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers. For instance, despite the challenges outlined previously, Google’s continued innovations in search and its increasing market share with its mobile Android operating system position the search giant well for the future.

What’s more important is how well you’re positioned for the future. And it’s not too soon to start planning for that.

  1. Build your email list and social connections. Bypass any intermediary and talk directly with your customers.
  2. Explore alternative marketing channels. Evaluate channels in use by your customers and seek ways to help them accomplish their goals in those channels.
  3. Learn from market leaders. A number of outstanding companies are using mobile to deepen their relationship with customers. Watch for best practices and look for opportunities to apply them to your business.

Search engine marketing faces enormous changes in the coming months and years. But by focusing on your customers’ needs and how they find, browse, shop, and buy, you’ll position yourself for continued success no matter how they choose to find you.

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Tim Peter

Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs.

Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line.

An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association.

Tim currently serves as Senior Advisor at SoloSegment, a marketing technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies.

Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies.

Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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