January 29, 2016
Consumers are constantly changing the way they search for products and services because technology is always changing. With the changes in both technology and the consumers search habits that means that social media, SEO, content marketing, local SEO and, of course, search will have to adjust to meet the always evolving needs of the consumer.
A few of the notable changes that impacted digital marketing and search are below along with a view of how each of these continue to affect marketing and businesses in the coming year.
Social Media Connects More Consumers to Local Businesses
Consumers are online almost constantly and connected to social media through their mobile devices and through social media sites. They are talking about what they are eating, buying, where they are going and anything else that happens to them daily. Because of this, businesses are implementing social media strategies as a major component of their overall digital marketing strategy. They are using social media sites to connect with consumers and move them into their brick-and-mortar locations. To make it easier for users to search on their platform and connect with the businesses they need, Facebook has even introduced a pilot program of a new “Facebook Professional Services” area. Make sure to keep an eye on Facebook as well as the other social media sites as more changes continue to be made in the area of improving the user search experience.
Make Customer Experience the Priority
Brands, businesses and marketers should base everything they create on the customer experience. As searches improve so should the customer experience businesses give the consumer. As search engines become more intelligent and searches become much more specific, it is more important than ever that your brand stands out in the minds of consumers. In addition, the increased popularity of review sites puts the spotlight on the customer experience as being the means to get consumers to a business’s website or to a brick-and-mortar business location.
Smartphones Brought Local Search and Mobile together
Mobile and local search converged with the introduction of Smartphones and this melding of the two will continue to increase in importance as Smartphones get smarter with increased use of things like geolocation. Most consumers now search for products and services on mobile devices and businesses and brands must have a website that is not just fully mobile optimized but also optimized for local search. To further highlight this, Google has been making changes to its algorithms. These algorithm changes included one that earned the name “mobilegeddon” which related specifically to removing websites from mobile search results if they were not mobile optimized. Businesses used to be able to focus on either mobile optimization or local search, but the search engines are making sure they now focus on both.
Evolving Content Marketing Strategy
A business’ content marketing strategy should always evolve to match the needs of the consumers and their changing search habits. Businesses have to understand more than just who their target audience is but also what that audience is doing and where they are spending their time, then tailoring each message to meet their needs. This method of creating targeted content starts with creating a persona and developing a content marketing strategy focused on reaching that persona. The message must be customized and not one size fits all.
Micro-moments Coined by Google
Micro-moments was a phrase coined by Google based on the way consumers are now using their mobile devices. Google observed that mobile devices, especially Smartphones, have “…fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments.” This means that brands and businesses must now be prepared to meet these new “Want-to-know moments. Want-to-go moments. Want-to-do moments. Want-to-buy moments” by delivering real-time information and results.
Local Business Online Visibility Optimization is Key
Having a consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone number), optimization of a business’s information on directory sites and local profiles have always been important. However, making sure this information is 100 percent accurate and maintaining that accuracy will be even more important in the future because it is a trust signal for both consumers and search engines.
The AMP Factor
One of the main buzzwords for 2015 had to be mobile optimization and, to keep that buzzword going into 2016, Google has announced its new AMP html which will be launched in the next couple of months. When this type of html is used on a website it amps up the load time of pages on mobile devices. When consumers are searching on their mobile devices they aren’t going to wait for a webpage to load. Businesses need to continue to manage and monitor the mobile-friendliness of their sites as a regular practice.
Voice Search Will Gain Popularity
While it started out as a novelty, people talking out loud to their Smartphones and other devices has become much more a part of our daily world. In response, voice search technology such as Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana is improving. As this technology changes almost daily (or so it seems), search will change with it and will begin to be conducted more via voice and less by manually typing in keywords. With this constant change in search, businesses and brands would be wise to keep their ears to the ground and watch where this will take local SEO in the future.
A.I. Changing the Way Search Engines Work
Science fiction used to be the only place you could find Artificial Intelligence. In 2015, RankBrain was introduced by Google and it integrates A.I. into the Internet’s largest search engine. This technology enables Google to serve search results based on consumer intent. RankBrain takes into consideration the thought process and motives behind the search phrase. Search engines are becoming more intelligent daily. This is just the beginning.
The Google Knowledge Graph
The way businesses and brands do SEO is being affected by Google’s Knowledge Graph — and it will continue to be affected in the future. Businesses need Google to rank them high in search results and Google needs their websites to serve up when consumers run a search. In order to make both sides happy it is important to feed information on your business to Google so it can then match your business with searches which will, in turn, add to your business’ knowledge graph. The more information (or knowledge) a business feeds Google, the more search queries it will match to that business. Keep feeding Google and edge out competitors.
Local SEO and search underwent a number of changes in this past year which affect what brands and businesses need to do to market themselves both now and moving into the future. More changes are still to come, so stay up-to-date on technology, search and consumers for a successful 2016.
Bernadette Coleman is the CEO of Advice Interactive Group an award winning Inc 500 digital agency. She has been actively involved in SEO and Internet marketing since 2001. Bernadette is passionate about all things digital including content, search, social and local. Her knowledge and experience have made her a leader in the industry and her passion for innovation and growth has led her company to become one of the leading online marketing and technology firms.