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The Big Trends for 2018

As the digital and search marketing industry changes quickly, 2018 will be no different. New trends will continue to shake up the marketplace so it’s critically important that your company plans ahead to stay on top of what is coming down the line, writes Shane Lyons.

Four main trends will affect the search marketing landscape in 2018 and it’s important that businesses start to get their heads around them and understand how they can become part of the marketing mix.

These trends are the introduction of Amazon to the search marketplace, machine learning and automation, the increased rise of voice search and the impact of GDPR.

1Advertising on Amazon

What will Change?

Last year, Amazon’s ad offering grew to over $1 billion and its market share for ads was higher than Twitter’s or Snapchat’s. Looking ahead to 2018, it is likely that they will be aiming to challenge the Google-Facebook duopoly.  Especially as it is Amazon, not Google, that plays the central role in the online shopping process.

No other online platform has data as robust as Amazon’s about the products that people are researching and ultimately purchasing. It’s also interesting to consider the other Amazon owned platforms such as Prime video, Kindle, Echo, IMDB and Twitch (a video-game streaming network with over 100 million users) to get a full idea of the kind of ecosystem on which Amazon can build its ecommerce foundations.

In Ireland in 2018, we will see Amazon offer new ad formats, expand advertising inventory, and most interestingly, enter the search marketing space. It will prove to be a very different kind of advertising player to Google or Facebook and so may represent a huge growth opportunity for some online businesses.

How will it affect your business?

Beyond the search world, Amazon advertising becoming available in the Irish market will mean new opportunities for us to bring to our clients with regards to targeting people surrounding related purchase intent. Our own team will be fully versed as it is rolled out, so we look forward to sharing our learnings.

On top of this, if your business has an eCommerce store you should get set up on AMS, Amazons Marketing Service and look to incorporate Amazon into your 2018 digital strategy.

2Machine Learning / Automation

What will change?

2018 will be the year when best practice management of bidding and other tasks will move from manual to automated. The traditional method for search professionals has been to manually bid on each keyword and obviously prioritise keywords that deliver strong performance.

Artificial intelligence has progressed to the extent that it now makes more sense to hand over bidding to the automated system, which considers numerous contextual factors (a user’s location, previous search history, sites visited etc.) and so is far better placed to decide how aggressively to bid for that individual user.

While AI can improve performance, it will be important to remember that ultimately, human reporting and optimisation will still be critical to ensure eCPC campaigns run smoothly.

How will it affect your business?

In Q4 2017, we ran a number of eCPC and target ROAS (return on ad spend) trials for different clients. The results were very interesting – the volume of conversions weren’t necessarily higher but on every single trial artificial intelligence beat manual bidding. For our clients, that means cheaper CPC’s and lower cost per acquisitions.

Hence, to ensure you are maximising your search marketing budget for 2018 make sure you run an initial trial where you split test some high volume generic keywords between manual bidding and eCPC. If, as I would expect, eCPC delivers more efficient results…then we should get ready to hand over all bidding to the machines.

3Increased Propensity to Voice Search

What will Change?

With rise of in-home devices as well as the increased shift from text to voice for long tail queries on mobile, it is likely that the number of voice searches will increase dramatically in 2018.

At present, ensuring your brand has a presence through voice is an organic (SEO) rather than a paid search issue. From a paid perspective, we are still not able to report on text vs voice searches (although if the search term is four words or longer it’s more likely to be voice activated) and we are not able to serve unique ad formats to voice searches.

The results that are being served for voice search queries are the featured snippets (text embedded in search results) within search engine results pages and the only way to achieve featured snippets, especially in competitive verticals, is by having an SEO strategy. However, it would be very unlike Amazon and Google not to capitalise on this shift in consumer behaviour, so I predict that we will see new advertising formats tailored to voice in 2018.

How will it affect your business?

More than ever it is going to be important to have an SEO strategy that incorporates achieving the featured snippet position. Try these two things:

Carry out some quick market research by searching for some long tail queries relevant to your vertical. i.e. for banking – ‘which bank has the best mortgage rate in Ireland’ and benchmark which brand is appearing in the featured snippet.

Plan a strategy with your SEO manager. By using structured data and other SEO best practices it will be possible for your website to appear here.

In the short term you could also add longer-tail keywords into you paid search account, in the hope that text based ads will trigger a user’s attention. Realistically, I think it will be later in the year when we see if Google or Bing incorporate a paid voice ad format into their search engines.


What will change?

There’s no doubt that GDPR is going to shake up digital marketing, so it is important for businesses to ensure they are ready to implement the changes necessary to comply in advance of the deadline of May 25th, 2018. Online advertising isn’t going anywhere, given that online media consumption will continue to increase. What GDPR will mean is that with stricter laws on capturing and retaining personally identifiable data, unless you stay ahead of the curve, your ad campaigns may be less targeted.

Establishing explicit consent from users is going to be paramount if publishers are to comply with the new GDPR rules. However, finding an unobtrusive way to do this will be the challenge for them going forward.

When it comes to consumers opting in, search has the benefit that it can continue to target people based on what they search for and so should be less affected than areas of digital media that involve targeting based on audience insight. Certain features of AdWords however such as remarketing, similar audiences, demographic targeting and cross-device tracking may be affected so the efficiencies built up by search marketers in previous years may fall back in 2018.

How will it affect your business?

Organisations must analyse the extent of the consumer data they capture and ensure that they are compliant within the rules set out by GDPR. In terms of making sure the targeting of your online campaigns isn’t affected, it is important to share any changes to your company’s data policy that affect the ‘cookies’ that are used to power some online targeting. With this in mind, plan early and liaise with your agency to ensure that there is no significant drop in online performance from late May.

The hope is that consumers realise that they are always going to be served ads to access free content on the internet and, that by consenting, the ads they see will be significantly more relevant.

Shane Lyons is Client Director, Search & Analytics, with Mediaworks.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ January 2018)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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