In our last Great Marketing Minds post, we asked several experts from across the field of Digital Knowledge Management to talk about their favorite trends in consumer engagement, and where they think those trends are headed. Today they discuss the future of search, and what brands will have to do to stay competitive as the organic search landscape continues to change.
What’s it going to take to be competitive in search in the years to come?
To stay competitive, brands will have to think beyond Google as the only place to target their content. Even though Google continues to hold the lion’s share of visibility in the search engine market, searches no longer stem exclusively from users typing questions into online search engines. Brands will have to think about how they can become true partners with consumers, offering ways to make their lives easier — and encouraging their customers to form relationships with the brand. This may include providing exclusive information to customers within apps or skills, or finding a way to integrate with customers’ daily routines, such as offering daily recipes, tips, or advice via push notifications or voice search alerts. It’s also important to think about the other search engines beyond Google and Bing — Amazon, Airbnb, and Walmart are examples of websites substantially growing in market share, all with their own organic algorithms. SEO strategies should expand to ensure brands are at the top of the search results on all relevant search engines.
The first part is to realize that search will move away from being something you type into a search box to something that is spoken. The way that will unfold is not 100% clear, but we know that search will become a distributed experience. That means you are going to need to be nimble and see what platforms will actually dominate.
But in the near term, I would start paying a lot of attention to the personal assistants. You’re going to need to have a strategy for those. At a minimum, learn how to generate featured snippets in Google and Cortana, and figure out what it will take to become the answer of choice in Alexa.
Going beyond the minimum — build out your own Actions on Google app, or Alexa Skills. Learn how to build a conversational interface. Figure out how to create your own voice persona that reflects your brand and target audiences. Dive in. Learn. These things are going to be critical skills in the very near futures.
To remain competitive in search you have to continue to focus on SEO best practices, and make sure that you are creating great content that people engage with. Instead of thinking of digital as a push strategy to get your answers out, think about it as a conversation. You want content across all stages of the conversation — from the opening, to the close, to providing help after the purchase. The main digital assistants (Cortana, Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant) are pulling the spoken content from the web. If your brand doesn’t like the existing spoken responses coming from the digital assistants about your brand, you need to identify where the spoken response is coming from and rewrite the content so it sounds more natural and conversational.
If I was to look at the value proposition for most large companies, the ones we consider untouchable (e.g., Amazon, Google, Facebook), they focus on user engagement and influence. I think that in the future, to really be competitive in search, you have to envision a world where personalization is virtually the starting point.
Where links have been the driving force for authority for close to two decades, I think the future of search is reinvisioned utilizing individuals’ actual interests and connected user data to determine users who would value a specific product or company.
To be competitive, you will continue to have to test and pay attention to emerging technology and trends, to see how you can position your company, product, or service in front of your target audience where they are using search technologies.
There will always be an “algorithm,” and we will always chase it.
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