(L to R: Khaled Sharrouf and Adrian Turcsan)
We were recently at SMX London, Europe’s largest search marketing conference, and were pleasantly surprised to see the transformation of search. Having attended the conference for many years now, it was interesting to witness the breakdown of barriers between search and other digital marketing practices this year. In fact, we realized that search, as a discipline, has evolved significantly and it’s time for marketers to catch up.
With the convergence of search and social, the challenge that marketers face is finding the perfect balance to engage audiences. Users want seamless, platform-agnostic content, but this isn’t an easy task. It requires mastering content creation as a creative art on one hand and a technical, data-driven craft on the other.
One way of striking this balance is to utilize user-generated content by looking into what the audience is already hooked on and using that to inform content strategies. For instance, one can scan through Reddit to qualify content ideas based on user up-votes or scroll through Pinterest for inspiration.
Once the content ideas – essentially the “art” – are set, the success of a content piece becomes dependent on the marketer’s fluency in both search and social. These disciplines are merged to empower the piece of content with the right keywords, formats and delivery in order for it to reach its intended audience.
It is this combination of art and science that is increasingly becoming integral to effective marketing communications. However, the act of infusing science here is still tricky, making it our current focus.
There’s no question that SEO is becoming more technical, which is widening the gap between technical and non-technical teams and departments. This is especially true in our region, where SEO practices and skill-sets were anyway lagging. Therefore, there is a clear need for non-SEO digital marketers and clients to receive technical training and education in the field. All marketers need to have practical knowledge of SEO in order to fully embrace it. Once everyone is on the same page, collaboration with SEO specialists will become a seamless process, ensuring that marketers get the most out of their digital marketing.
As search expands to encompass new device types, its very role and functionality changes. Consider Google: it isn’t a standalone search engine, but is quickly becoming an AI-powered personal assistant that can access and control multiple devices, as seen in the recently announced Google Home system. Google’s voice-activated search and its semantic, structured content databank will be powering smart devices in an effort to make our lives easier. These developments command new search strategies, content formats, technologies and skill-sets, ultimately changing the way we practice SEO and content marketing.
The gap between discovery-based marketing and intention-based marketing continues to diminish. We need to provide users with a unique and integrated brand experience, regardless of whether they are actively “searching” for a brand on Google or “discovering” interactive content from the same brand in their social media feeds. Gone are the days of the divide between different channels. For example, Facebook is now a key screen with huge reach, just like TV; and mobile sites are crucial touchpoints in the same way that desktop websites were a few years ago. We need to ensure that we engage users with messaging that is coherent across platforms and devices. The convergence of disciplines within the digital realm will only continue as technological advancements simplify the way consumers interact with and within the world. As marketers, our mission today should be to ensure that we integrate our practices even further, in order to deliver the most seamless experience possible for consumers in this new era.