Search marketing focus: What is the single biggest development in search marketing at the moment?

As part of a series looking at search marketing trends, sponsored by Epiphany Group, The Drum catches up with agencies operating in the space to establish their views on what's happening across SEO and PPC.

What is the single biggest development in search marketing at the moment?Al Mackin, CEO, theEwordAuthorship is hugely important now. The search engines want to understand who’s written a piece of content and what else they have written. We’re well in to the ‘age of content’ for SEO, and authorship metrics are the natural extension to that, and it all neatly fits in with the launch of G+ and the author microdata. The opportunity for people to abuse the system is far less than with previous focuses (paid links, keyword stuffed content) and it eases companies towards quality-focused content plans. Matt Isaacs, CEO and founding partner, EssenceThe movement towards trying to understand and even anticipate the user's query. With the integration of the knowledge graph, Google has already started going further with results provided to users. With the advent of products like Google Now which delivers information to the user that it predicts they will want, the direction that Google seems to be going in is towards having the engine understand the query, not just look at the words within it.To do this, search engines will need information about the user and their life, not just how they search. This is where the integration of all of Google's products will be key.Stephanie Villegas-Ross, digital strategist, 4Ps MarketingWith the UK’s mobile internet infrastructure improving and the technology becoming cheaper, usage levels are increasing fast. More and more customers are browsing and buying on mobile or tablet devices, and marketers and SEOs are having to broaden strategies to effectively plan around a mobile user’s intent. Studies have shown that approximately 85 per cent of people use mobile devices to ‘pass time’ or for ‘entertainment reasons’, so I predict we’ll see more keyword and content strategies built with this in mind. Alex Jeffries, head of communications strategy, LBi2013 will be the year that we finally kiss goodbye to SEO as a standalone endeavour, siloed from the rest of the marketing function. In the post-Panda/Penguin world the goal of the search marketer is to make content so good that people want to share it, and to distribute that content appropriately and effectively. Google has been explicit: don’t optimise for the bots, make great content that engages your target audience. Doesn't search marketing feel just like marketing?Tony Sanios, chief operating officer, CaliberThe single biggest development in search marketing is the advancement of social personalised search by Google and the need for every marketer to have a Google+ strategy. This can no longer be overlooked, no matter how hard it has been combatted. Google is increasingly showing a bias towards social search. Google+ results already have their own section on the results page coupled with a link to show how other companies can become part of those results. Matt Evans, SEO executive, iProspectThe million dollar question! I think it has to be AuthorRank. It’s been in the mix for a while now but it seems to be heading to the forefront at a time when blogs could be blurring at the edges. If you’re not implementing AuthorRank on your website or for your clients then you’ve got to do it in the next six months. It could be the make or break of your content marketing in 2013 and while it’s still in very early stages it’s the perfect time to get it actioned. There’s no doubt it’s on its way in as we’ve had small signs of confirmation and as a potential “PageRank for content” then it’s a necessity and could really be the next big step in content marketing for search. Duncan Parry, COO, STEAKThe continual pressure on natural search listings by Google. Its core product – the one that the public loved and that is the overwhelming reason for their success – now seems to be in a paradoxical position within Google. It continues to invest engineering time into countering poor quality search results and detecting dubious SEO tactics whilst incorporating wider signals from social activity into the ranking algorithm – all of which should be a positive for natural search. But many in the industry feel it has often gone too far and ‘innocent’ sites have been penalised; their updates also lack subtlety and feel more like carpet bombing than precision tweaks to the system. So what should be a positive time for natural search is actually negative for consumer and companies. Google, increasingly, is losing the last vestiges of being an engineering and innovation driven company – management who are focused solely on shareholder value and fighting competitors are clearly now running all of the important areas of the company. Adrian Durow, head of SEO and CRO, Thinking JuiceBrand. Search marketers need to consider how a brand can be developed, in order to gain solid rankings and great inbound traffic. Panda, Penguin, Exact-Match Domains: all underline the importance of trust, quality, relevance, and advocacy... all attributes of a strong brand. Strong brands with solid web platforms and content and social strategies get more mentions, positive reviews, shares, higher click-through rates, likes and links = SEO and PPC! Dan Robins, head of search, CaratManageable attribution modelling. Finally the days have passed where we talk about running attribution models which take months to build then are unwieldy and nobody really knows what to do with. Technology from providers such as Marin and IgnitionOne is make it really easy to run models, in both PPC and across media, that give quick, easy-to-implement outputs which have definite impact on how advertisers use their budgets and drive additional volume.Sri Sharma, managing director and founder, Net Media PlanetThe single biggest development at the moment has to be in the field of Google Shopping. Google Shopping provides the ability for a consumer to search for a keyword term, for example ‘sofas’ and find pictures with links to advertisers right from the Google results page. Google Shopping has existed for some time but it is becoming simplified, consolidated, and made importantly more prominent. From an advertiser perceptive, the change is that it is no longer a free model but will be paid on click. Also, all of Google Shopping will be managed within Google Adwords, so I recommend that you liaise with your search marketing agency to help you get prepared for the changes in February 2013.Mathew Barnes, SEO executive, StickyeyesAs we all know Google is currently dubbed the “king of search”. They are constantly expanding into new markets with every passing year. However, 2013 could be the year that sees Google take a slight step back, in order to focus on increasing efforts to defend its undisputed crown.Microsoft’s Bing search engine has steadily been increasing its global market share and has surprisingly obtained 16 per cent of the US market share in 2012. There is a strong possibility of 2013 being the year that we see Bing continuing to grow, sparking a fierce battle between the giants of search. Could this well be the year that companies need to think harder when optimising their site for search; do you need stop thinking purely about Google, and more about Google and Bing?What is the single biggest development in search marketing outside of Google, going into 2013?Matt Evans, SEO executive, iProspectFor me, with all that happened in 2012 with the progression of image and media sharing (Pinterest booming, Facebook buying Instagram, for example) then it’s got to be the very recent release of the Pinterest business profile. Pinterest was just bordering on being a crucial part to most businesses’ online profiles but it lacked the corporate business side, with that now in early stages and with more developments in progress then it’s a good time to go and get verified on there. With the progression of content, them being at the forefront of your industry’s media creativity and sharing could be pivotal in 2013. Adrian Durow, head of SEO and CRO, Thinking JuiceWell, search marketers (SEOs in particular) have been talking about content for a long time now, spinning the now-tedious ‘content is king’ line. I believe that content strategies will actually become more of a focus than SEO strategies in 2013. Great pieces of content, promoted in the right way, can actually pull in more traffic than having traditional product and service keywords rank high on Google. Marketers need to invest in content teams and great creatives and writers if their search/inbound strategy is going to succeed in 2013. Sri Sharma, managing director and founder, Net Media PlanetA huge opportunity has to lie within Facebook. This autumn, Facebook launched Facebook Exchange which enables brands to use Remarketing as an approach to connect with potential customers within Facebook. Based on the powerful results from Remarketing we have achieved working with technology platforms including Google Remarketing, Criteo and others, we expect this will offer a lot of potential in 2013. Chris Rowett, head of PPC, EpiphanyThe merger of Bing and Yahoo! means advertisers can optimise their paid search campaigns more easily and now Bing is powering the search results on a lot of devices as well as Facebook. This is a real threat to Google, and it is more important than ever to setup Bing paid search campaigns to take advantage of increased traffic levels and potential returns. Mathew Barnes, SEO executive, StickyeyesAs we all know, Google is currently dubbed the 'king of search'. However, 2013 could be the year that sees Google take a slight step back, in order to focus on increasing efforts to defend its undisputed crown. Microsoft’s Bing search engine has steadily been increasing its global market share and has surprisingly obtained 16 per cent of the US market share in 2012. There is a strong possibility of 2013 being the year that we see Bing continuing to grow, sparking a fierce battle between the giants of search. Could this well be the year that companies need to think harder when optimising their site for search? Do you need to stop thinking purely about Google, and more about Google and Bing? This feature is part of a wider search marketing supplement published with The Drum's 14 December issue.

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