January saw lots of 'Future of Search' crystal-ball gazing, and it's certainly exciting to look at how SEO & PPC would fit into a future based on Google Goggles, Google Translate, App Store Optimisation, and always-on devices (mobile phones, natch). Nokia's recent white flag acceptance of Windows as its future platform over Symbian is a signal of the end of this 'dumb-phone' dominance.
Don't get me wrong: real mobile marketshare is still in dumb-phones - and mobile website designs & SEO strategies should heed that marketshare if they want to truly succeed - but as sub $100 smartphones ship their 1st generation, we should look to the 2nd & 3rd gen to see the same massive marketshare pickup for free handsets on cheap pay as you go contracts that dumb-phones got in developing countries, radically reshaping the smartphone landscape and audience-share.
Core search, therefore, is changing radically. Vanessa Fox's' point of asking how we would conventionally struggle to perform a search to identify a bright star in the sky, yet can now achieve that search with little more than a click captures this change perfectly.
Search has already changed, and it's obvious what the core of it will continue to be in the future:
- Always Localised (geolocated via our handset or our IP)
- Personalised (logged in, best guess, or search session history)
- Super Minty Fresh (pull in Twitter's firehose. Or buy the joint. (Either works.)
- Consumer Led - not Searcher Led - Results.
It's the last point that's most significant - search is returning to its marketing roots in a profound way. When search was about the engine's performance, user experience and reducing SPAM, Google became king by executing better than anyone else. Now it's accepted that results are good. People know SPAM - mostly - when they see it.
What searchers really want, therefore, is instant gratification of their demands. And that, regardless of if you are buying something or not, is what defines a consumer online these days.
This is most obvious, naturally enough, in eComms.
Five years ago, a good SEO eComms campaign would deliver indented results hitting the top two spots for a suite of keyphrases that ran the length of your arm (and you had to have a really long arm!). PPC would be dynamically supporting that core plus capturing seasonal, product-led and brand targets.
Today, you still need that basic performance but you're also delivering dynamically updating feeds to Google Products (or PPC product PlusBoxes) optimised to trigger Google Universal results on keyphrase sets trigged by consumer searches.
You're showing this consumer offers or value in the organic results via the meta description and targeting a different message via the PPC ad off to the right. The landing page backs up both these propositions and is itself backed up by other consumer's ratings and reviews of the product in question - hopefully including a friend of this particular consumer if they're socially active (and they are socially active).
You have coupons hitting Twitter to distribute through further networks - but you're certainly not double posting in any of these streams. These are picked up on the retailer's Google Places page along with those reviews and offers from earlier. You've tagged the page well to trigger on the right generic + location combinations to capture the early stage shopper who might miss your long tail SEO & PPC campaigns.
Should they leave the page your carefully placed PPC Network Reseller Ads kick in and reiterate the offer they've just seen on the next site they visit, so they click back.
And still you're not done with this consumer.
You're pushing through better conversion rates into your checkout funnel, and that's being improved each week as you revisit your multivariate tests and roll out statistically significant improvements.
You're improving your retention and upselling rate with confirmation page tell-a-friend incentives and exclusive offers triggered via follow-up email campaign triggers over the next 3-4 months. Some of these will push them to become the trigger for further sales as a cheerleader for the brand. Hey, we're investing in our brand value here - that's pretty old-school marketing, isn't it?
Given your consumer probably started thinking about the product purchase for 2-3 months before the purchase anyway (depending on the product value), that's the best part of half a year of a single purchase path you've tweaked...
…and you're still just calling this optimisation? It sounds a hell of a lot like traditional marketing from here. Especially that bit towards the end where we tried showing the consumer the product in different ways to see how they perceived the product's value don't you think?
So finally, as you start thinking about how getting the best conversion relies on developing good variables to test, you're slap bang back in the middle of traditional marketing.
Welcome to the future of search optimisation, everyone: it's all about traditional marketing.
Oh, and the guaranteed success part?
There's no guaranteed success in SEO (no-one can guarantee that), but will doing all of the above guarantee an increase in your sales? Absolutely. And that's the metric that counts.