Search Party: Just How Can Marketers Keep Up With the Search Revolution?
It has been a busy couple of months in the search engine arena. With the main sites all adding upgrades and new players arriving on the scene. New Media Knowledge canvassed the market for advice on how digital marketers could possibly keep up.
The search engine market looks set for a shake up after the market leaders – Google, Yahoo and Microsoft – all announced new functionality. As competition between the main three engines heats up new players have recently entered the arena, including Oparla and semantic search tool Wolfram Alpha, each promising a different search experience in a bid to attract users.
Wolfram Alpha, described by its creator Dr. Stephen Wolfram as a “computational search engine”, has caused a particular stir using an algorithm machine that was 20 years in the making. While the hype labelling Wolfram Alpha as a potential “Google killer” may prove inaccurate, the concern for marketing managers keen to make the most of search engine optimisation (SEO) is how to respond to the fast changing new ways in which search engines hunt for data.
For Dan Williamson, head of content and search at digital marketing agency Cimex, Wolfram’s appearance on the scene should not be seen as a direct rival to Google, rather marketers should focus on Google’s impending Show Options changes.
“[Show Options] has a big impact in two areas. Firstly, the main thrust of the new tools is ‘timeliness equals relevance’, so if web owners updated their content on a regular basis to improve their rankings in search previously, they'll have to now step this up big time, given that their twice weekly updated website won't now appear to millions of users who'll now refine their search results to timely pages published in the last week or last 24 hours,” he told NMK.
“Secondly, brands now have powerful (and free) brand management and crisis management tools at their disposal in the shape of forum-only searches. What impact this has on the many enterprise PR tools in circulation is now worth watching,” he continued.
Automation for Engines
SEO has become a crucial component of the marketing mix and therefore should be viewed as an ever changing process rather than a one-time exercise, according to Laust Sondergaard, chairman of content management firm Sitecore UK. This process can be automated by the deployment of Web Content Management (WCM) systems, which Sondergaard argues enables digital marketing managers to create organic SEO without adding resources while keeping up with the latest search engine changes.
“WCM can automate and optimise SEO processes without changing the way you publish your site’s content. This ensures long-term, sustainable SEO success without adding additional resources and budget,” Sondersgaard said.
The hospitality industry is a particularly competitive market online, especially in the tough current economic climate. Adrian Land heads up SEO at online booking site Hotels.com, and he believes the key is recognising and responding to the ones that will gain the most serious influence and market share is a priority for him, regardless of the latest developments in search.
“We use a variety of expert sources to make this judgement, including in-house search specialists, external agencies and key industry experts, writers and bloggers,” he told NMK. “Our customers are searching for us in a growing number of ways, from traditional search engines like Google through to social media sites such as Twitter. As a result, we make sure our marketing messages and promotions are distributed through a wide variety of media.”
Searching for Answers
Martyn Jobber of Web analytics and optimisation specialist Omniture does not believe the latest round of search engine modifications alter the challenge for marketers, as they will have to continue doing what they have always been doing, which is measuring and optimising.
Jobber says that evolving search engine technologies can influence consumer behaviour and recommends the following practices:
- Watch to see the influence these new launches have by looking at referrals generated
- Understand if your target market is using them by looking at their impact on site Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for success
- See if they are indexing the site correctly, picking out those keywords and phrases that you have optimised for
- See if their influence is changing your optimal marketing mix
- See at which point in the customer lifecycle the new launch has its greatest influence, on the first visit or the last visit that drove conversion.
“Ultimately, in the ebb and flow of consumer trend there will be many factors which drive behaviour and visits to your sites. No one channel should be included in exclusion of another, but refining the mix of marketing spend to optimise for these new arrivals is how we can increase return on investment and drive business success,” he concluded.