The changing role of the search marketer: Multi-device challenges and a return to 'traditional' marketing principles


By Katie McQuater, Magazine Editor

March 19, 2013 | 5 min read

As part of The Drum's first quarterly search supplement of 2013, search industry experts share their insights on how they see the role of the search marketer changing this year.

In the first of a series looking at search marketing trends, The Drum catches up with a cross-section of those working in SEO and PPC.

With multi-device complexities and Google's emphasis on quality content creating new challenges for the search marketing industry, how will the role of the search marketer change over the year ahead?

Malcolm Slade, SEO project manager, Epiphany Google made great strides in 2012 with regard to getting SEOs back in line with its own vision for the web. Chasing algorithms and competitors is now largely a thing of the past. SEO now focuses on human users and understanding people’s intent online, and this is certain to continue through 2013.

SEO practitioners need to embrace more aspects of ‘traditional’ marketing to get under the skin of how users digest content and engage with it, to ensure everything they do improves the user experience. And if the goal is still to generate backlinks, SEOs need to find ways of generating them naturally by earning coverage.

Jon Myers, VP, commercial director, EMEA, Marin Software Search marketers have to deal with increasing complexities in a multi-device world, with tablets and smartphones now accounting for nearly a quarter of search clicks. Also, there is an increasing number of ad formats to consider, whether it’s PLAs on Google or new ad formats on Facebook. Search marketers have historically had to spend a lot of time on manual tasks which left little time to develop campaigns across new ad formats and devices. In 2013, as these new ad formats and devices increase in prominence, search marketers will need to automate manual tasks and focus more time on strategic development of campaigns in these fast developing new channels.

Ben Hatton, managing director, Rippleffect It’s been a long time coming, but search marketers need to roll their sleeves up and get involved. Almost every part of a digital presence can impact on search in today’s landscape, so they can no longer stand back and wait for the final product before optimisation begins.

SEOs need to be involved at the stage the site build begins, from content strategy to site structure to social media and, in some cases, technology. PPC have previously got away with sneaking in a few landing pages and perhaps a bit of conversion rate optimisation; now their input should be taken of a much wider range of subjects, including mobile/multi-device strategy.

Andy Gaukrodger, search manager, Freestyle Interactive The release of Panda and Penguin showed just how serious Google is about its focus on the quality of the content we find via the search engine. In 2013, the quality emphasis will endure and Google will continue to keep the search industry on its toes. This rapid pace of change means that search marketers will continue to play a key role in providing valuable technical insight into the impact of Google algorithmic changes. But, as the latest Interflora penalisation by Google demonstrates, a search marketer also needs to accomplish a longer-term objective by thinking creatively beyond an appetite for ‘hits’ at any cost.

Mike McDougall, head of search, Blueclaw I think as search marketers we expect the bar of expertise to be raised year-on-year, and 2013 isn’t going to be any different. The search landscape is constantly becoming more complex. We see our role as being a lot more consultative; helping clients to understand how to get the mix of paid and organic search right – as well as designing and implementing campaigns. Search now needs to be far more integrated into the marketing mix to be effective – and we think making this case and explaining more about our tactics and processes is key to this year. Also, understanding how the search journey to conversion changes across different device types is going to be key to strategy development in 2013.

James Collins, product marketing manager, Stickyeyes Search marketers must be innovative. Not in the sense of being technically gifted or understanding the labyrinth that is search engine algorithms, but in the sense of being innovative in the ways in which they acquire that much needed search ‘juice’. This will undoubtedly be driven by a fusion of technical and creative marketing skills to leverage traditional and ‘new’ marketing channels which drive search performance. Understanding and utilising these creative channel relationships will be critical to search marketing success in 2013.

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