Search Marketing: five pointers for 2019

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Voice search is becoming more prevalent.

Over the next few months we’ll be publishing a series of blog posts from our specialist in-house teams which take a closer look at some key elements of digital marketing. To kick things off our search marketing experts have compiled some important search marketing trends to be aware of in 2019.

1. Taking on The Duopoly - the rise of Amazon Search

A Kenshoo study last year showed that over 56% of consumers visit Amazon first if they want to shop online, and 51% cross check with Amazon if they have found something elsewhere. This tells us that Amazon has become the Google of e-Commerce: if your products are not on Amazon you are potentially missing out on 56% of online customers.

For SEO this shows the importance of building ‘Amazon optimisation’ into any eCommerce SEO strategy and using Amazon for keyword research directly, if existing tools don't have this built-in.

In 2018, advertisers started to shift budgets from traditional Google Search to Amazon. It has now come to light that approximately 80% of those same companies plan to increase their Amazon advertising expenditure in 2019.

This is a significant development as Amazon attempts to wrestle market share from giants, Google and Facebook. As Amazon advertising adoption rate increases, and marketing budgets likewise, there is an opportunity for agencies using automation software to find a solution that works on Amazon for their clients.

Machine learning is front and centre when it comes to optimizing Google campaigns and we can expect even more of an emphasis on efficiency and ROI when it comes to managing Amazon campaigns in 2019.

Google and Facebook may find themselves not only competing with Amazon for advertising budgets in 2019 but also with automation specialists who can offer services that span all three platforms.

2. The rise of the machines

In late 2017 and into 2018, Google started making noise about attribution and suggested that advertisers start to move away from the ever-reliable first and last click attribution. This was the first step taken to make way for machine learning.

For a while now, Google has also been advising advertisers to move away from the traditional manual bidding that most advertisers were using, and to introduce an automated bidding strategy called ‘Smart Bidding’. This is essentially a machine learning algorithm that “rapidly evaluates vast sets of data signals to proactively set the optimal bid for every keyword”. Google states that the algorithm can “analyse up to 70 million data signals within 100 milliseconds” in order to influence real-time auction bid adjustments.

This tool can consider a converted user’s age, location, device, operating system, time of day and many more signals in order to apply an optimal CPC bid to “Maximise Conversions”, “Target CPA” or “Target ROAS”. Google suggests that applying these automated strategies should save time and maximise performance. This doesn’t mean we need to worry about being replaced by machines, at least not yet.

While we believe the adoption of Smart Bidding will be a huge push for all advertisers in 2019, we believe that cross-referencing and challenging these algorithms will also be an important step needed to further develop and increase performance.

3. Alexa, hey Google, hey Siri… what’s next?

Now that voice search is becoming much more prevalent and assistants are hitting their stride, SEOs need to optimise for natural language and speech. Google is using Natural Language Processing (NLP) computational AI techniques to better understand natural speech.

Traditional on-page SEO is designed to target a primary phrase, near-related terms, and long-tail variations. Then to use them in a website’s text, placing them in strategic locations on the page i.e. page titles, tags, early in the content, and throughout the content.

However, catering for NLP requires extra steps and considerations. Basically, NLP is the process of parsing through text, establishing relationships between the words, and understanding the meaning of those words.

SEO here would dictate content/sentence clarity, incorporating questions into answers, using a structure such as lists, headings, structured data, and including conversational phrases such as “where is my nearest…”

4. Video will be key

By 2021 Google expects video to make up to 82% of all the global data traffic and predicts that over five million years’ worth of videos will be watched every month. It’s no wonder Google is pushing video and specifically YouTube to advertisers.

One big change across the platform in 2018 was the introduction of new ad formats, specifically TrueView for Action. This new ad format combines robust audience targeting with the ability to add a call to action, to persuade the user not only to click to site but also to convert. Gone are the days of YouTube just being used to drive awareness: we are now in a position where we can now use the channel to deliver quality traffic to site.

YouTube now also has its own specific algorithm updates just like its big daddy Google, with flags and checks and video-specific penalties. An example of optimising for video is the use of hashtags (#), which can be used directly in video descriptions, (no more than 14 to avoid getting penalised) and will take the viewer to related videos. In YouTube, search hashtags are used as another method to search for related videos as users might search for related tweets on Twitter by searching on #keyword.

It’s not a new fact that Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world, clocking up billions of searches per month, but it is predicted that by 2020 video will be the target for 75% of all search traffic. So, video should be a large part of any digital strategy and optimising those videos for search is essential.

5. Local SEO

Last but not least for our key 2019 search trends is strategising for local SEO. Google now uses the mobile version of websites as the ranking factor for their index (mobile first), and with mobile search use ever increasing and over a third of all mobile searches having ‘local’ intent, it’s key to optimise web content to have a local focus even when a target audience is national or international.

Google is ramping up Google My Business features, and the use of business information in Google Maps is ever expanding. Success in 2019 will entail ensuring good visibility for local search and all main maps from Google to Apple.

So – there you have it. A comprehensive round up of some of the main areas to watch out for in the search space in 2019.

If you want to discuss your search strategy with our experts, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll have more digital marketing content to share with you in the weeks and months to come, but until then – have a great festive season!

Steve Harrington is managing partner and Donal Langan is head of SEO at Space & Time

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.