Search Marketing Influencer Series – Toby Evers (Part 2)

Toby Evers - Search Marketing Influencer Series
Jan
11
2016

Toby Evers is the founder and CEO of acKnowledge Digital Marketing, a New York-based firm helping traditional brands and businesses in need of digital marketing expertise, but lacking the resources to manage effective marketing campaigns on their own.

Now with the holidays finally over, is there anything left on your search marketing wish list for 2016?
Three things come to mind: 1) the expansion of search indexing within apps; 2) improved cross-screen optimization; and 3) more integration between local and e-commerce among brands.

In-app advertising is now taking off thanks to our evolving ability to search index inside applications. Look what native applications are doing from a local perspective from the likes of YP℠, Yelp, and Foursquare – they are all connecting our personal world to a specific location or place. Which isn’t surprisingly why we’re seeing search results, now more now than ever before, being connected to a specific user’s physical (or mobile) location.

SEO in the months and years ahead will be about inter-connecting apps to the rest of the search ecosystem. I firmly believe that SEO’s future will wholeheartedly depend on it. We have already seen the standardization of the web via Schema.org and related organizations. We will see the same thing happen with apps as we evolve as an industry to standardize in-app functions, processes, and even day-to-day use cases. When apps are indexed properly, search results will offer better targeting and relevancy within these environments.

How far along are we at indexing the multitude of available apps?
No question about it, we’re in the early days of this. However, how often are we now prompted, upon downloading a new app, with the following request for permission: “This app would like to access your location.”

Most users say “yes” now because they equate an app’s ability to access a user’s location with a perceived promise of increased personalization. The two terms are essentially becoming synonymous in the minds of consumers (whether that’s a good or bad thing is for another discussion!). It’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about search. As a consequence, this shift will dictate how advertisers integrate search behavior and local.

When it comes to the cross screen front, however, we are always seeking ways to improve targeting and create better consumer experiences. At present, we are actively reviewing the cross screen tracking options out there, including both probabilistic and deterministic approaches. In fact, we had an internal strategy meeting on this very topic just yesterday.

While impressed with what we have seen from vendors thus far, there are plenty of opportunities for innovation, such as addressing increased use of private browsing among consumers as well as the continued industry reliance on cookies.

Lastly, integration is becoming a more critical part of the overall equation. We actively promote the growing benefits of combining local and e-commerce into a single experience. Brands, larger retailers in particular, have a tremendous opportunity to harness the true power of local and drive greater e-commerce sales as a result. At the moment, however, brands seem to have a tendency to separate e-commerce from more traditional in-store strategies and practices. We believe local will take over the search landscape in the near future – meaning these two consumer touch points will need to be more effectively integrated.

If there is such a clear benefit to combining the two, why do brands – larger retailers, in particular – still separate e-commerce from their brick and mortar strategies?
Big players tend to focus on national e-commerce goals because they are not automated enough, from a marketing perspective, to do a deep dive into hyper-local. This is truly a ground up, location-by-location process for many retailers. What we’ve seen, again and again, is that it’s not easy for big retailers take this kind of ‘top down’ approach. In contrast, small businesses, including regional and specialized brands, can do this much more effectively because they can easily focus their attention on one or a handful of locations. The industry just hasn’t quite figured out this type of integration at a truly national scale (yet!).

That being said, e-commerce is omnipresent. In many ways, there is very little “local” about it. The way we hope to further drive e-commerce innovation in a mobile-saturated consumer landscape is to help individual store locations use it to their full advantage. It’s an under-utilized pivot point (in the attribution process) at this current point in time. Even avid online shoppers may want to physically see or touch a product before deciding whether to purchase it – whether they choose to do so either in-store or online. Regardless of the outcome, layering local into the overall marketing strategy will undoubtedly drive and boost e-commerce sales.

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