2017 search marketing predictions

The theme of search marketing these past few years has focused on mobile, and it looks like 2017 will be no different. This coming year, the power of these small handheld devices many of us are glued to will rule the search marketing world. It’s all about serving the best quality in search results to users, whatever size screen they’re using.

The Future of SEO

First and foremost, let’s talk about the user. For a while now, the user has been the center of SEO rationale. And rightfully so! If users on your site are happy, search engines will read your content as being valuable and will include it in search results more often and at a higher ranking. It’s a win for users, for search engines and for your website.

Now this is not to say it’s easy to make users happy. On the contrary, it takes time and effort. Relevant, useful content is a big part of creating a positive user experience. That means using unique titles that draw searchers to click – and then providing valuable content once they get to your site.

Another major development in the coming year will be voice search. 20% of all mobile queries are now done using voice search, so it’s important to factor this in as you optimize your site. Think about how users might verbalize a question that your website can answer. These types of phrases should be worked into the content you publish.

As has been the trend over the last couple of years, Google will be increasing its focus on semantic searches in an effort to understand the meaning behind search terms and user’s intent. The sophistication of Google’s semantic matching is only growing, so bear this in mind as you optimize your site by answering common questions your audience may have and providing true value in the information you present.

A Shopping Feeds Prognosis

Google has already notified its Shopping Campaign users that key changes are necessary for higher quality PLA’s (Product Listing Ads) going forward. The deadline is February 14, 2017, so there’s still time if you haven’t already made the changes. In order to optimize ad quality, Google has requested an increased image size for non-apparel products and added the requirement to submit a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) for all products. Other specific changes can be found on the Google Merchant Help Center.

Product Listing Ads have been building momentum for years – and that’s not expected to change in 2017. These ads have taken up an increasing amount of the space that’s traditionally been reserved for Expanded Text Ads on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), and many in the industry believe this will be the trend going forward. Strong shopping campaign management in Google Adwords & Bing Ads will be an essential part of e-commerce retailer success in 2017.

The increased trend of mobile optimization is expected to rise even higher in 2017, which is an opportunity for shopping campaigns on Google and Bing. Just as Product Listing Ads are taking up more space in the Search Engine Results Page on desktop browsers, the same is expected for mobile browsing this year. More consumers purchasing through mobile devices mean that PLA’s are more valuable than ever before.

A potential developing threat to e-commerce retailers investing in PLA campaigns involves the online retail giant Amazon. Merkle has discovered that Amazon is testing its own PLAs on the Google Shopping platform, which it hasn’t participated in since 2012. For now, it appears that Amazon is testing PLAs mainly on home goods products, gaining up to 25% of impression share per search result. If this is more than just a test for Amazon and they do intend to utilize Google’s Shopping advertisement platform, then it could be a huge hit for small retailers struggling to compete with Amazon’s massive bidding budget. While it’s not yet clear if Amazon will continue to expand their Google Shopping presence, it is a clear threat to smaller retailers who utilize the platform to drive click-throughs and sales.

The Forecast on PPC

2017 screams increased efficiency for pay per click (PPC) marketing. Ads are more dynamic than they’ve ever been and the process of creating them is extremely straightforward. It only takes a few seconds to put the ads together with a title, description and landing site, and then posting them in responsive sizes with product photos. Ads are also gaining prevalence by camouflaging themselves amid organic search results. The release and now-required expanded text format for all Google and Bing ads make the consumer even more likely to click on a paid search result assuming it was organic. Many ads offer even more extensions and other sitelinks than the organic results.

2016 marked the year that mobile search dominated desktop search. What does this mean for 2017? Even more significance is going to be placed on mobile. For PPC, this could mean debunking or removing ads that may lead to sites’ non-mobile friendly versions or sites that are less mobile friendly than others. Be sure that your ads are not affected and make sure your site is mobile friendly!

From Siri to Amazon Echo, voice search is becoming more and more prevalent. When you ask one of these systems a question, more often than not, they are going to give you just one answer. This means it is imperative to improve the relevance of your ads. Attempt to use more colloquial language in your ads, something that a person would say rather than type. Consumers tend to be more methodical when searching through a device and more “in the moment” when using voice search. You want your ad to be a potential option for a voice search result.

The number one PPC tool, AdWords, is also expected to go through some transition this year. In 2016, Google offered us a small insight into what a new interface for AdWords would look like. It makes the current version appear antiquated. The new one will incorporate all of the ad updates including bumper ads and ad extensions. In addition, all the attention that ads got in 2016 (removal of right rail ads, introduction of expanded text ads, etc.) is not expected to stop in 2017. Local search ads and responsive display ads have also taken off. All of these features are expected to flourish throughout 2017. Google is all about creating that quintessential user search experience while maintaining efficiency, so expect them to clean up both SERPs and ads even more.

Only time will tell what search marketing developments we see in the coming year. These are just a few theories on what will be the main hitters. Don’t delay – get on top of these measures and ahead of your competition!

By Katie Dodd Syk, Brendon Hoeferkamp & Allison Schlosser