In this edition of Inside the Search Studio, we sit down with Laurie Sullivan, search correspondent for MediaPost, to gain her perspective about search marketing in 2014 and beyond. As a longtime writer, reporter and editor for the search marketing industry, she provides valuable insight for digital marketers and advertisers.
Q: In your tenure as ‘search correspondent’ at MediaPost, what’s the most interesting aspect of the beat?
A: Speaking with some of the brightest minds in online advertising and hearing about innovative technologies remains two of the most interesting aspects of reporting on search engine marketing. It’s also interesting to see how trends in search marketing continue to follow the footsteps of other industries that have already gone through similar growing pains.
Q: What made you become interested in search?
A: A fascination of how the Internet works and the consistency in which technology can identify, process and serve an ad on a desktop or a mobile device within a fraction of a millisecond, made me interested in search engine marketing.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise for you in your time at MediaPost?
A: Too many marketers have a fixation on the immediate outcome of a technology or a campaign, the results they see today, and don’t give enough thought into exploring future probabilities and possibilities.
Q: You recently finished the winter Search Insider Summit. What are some of the industry’s biggest themes in search you saw come from the event, and what do you think will be a theme for 2014?
A: The MediaPost Search Insider Summit supports a think-tank type of environment where search marketing executives can explore trends and talk through industry challenges. Some of the trends emerging from the conference point to the use of data through Google’s Knowledge Graph and Microsoft’s Satori, both databases that help search queries make a connection between persons, places and things.
Each database can provide devices with a deeper understanding of the physical world by connecting the dots to show the relationships between them. Today we actively ask a search engine for answers. In the near future we won’t need to ask the question because the technology, built into operating systems like Windows 8, will anticipate a question and just tell us.
Q: What has surprised you in terms of the way search has evolved?
A: I’m more surprised in the lack of vision and unwillingness by some marketers to explore options. It’s almost as if they wear blinders and only see what’s in front of them. They have no peripheral or long-term view. They do not look at an emerging technology and envision how it will evolve in two to three years. They only see what’s in front of them today. It’s a dangerous practice. It stifles creativity and increases anxiety. In 2014, companies need to form groups or business units within marketing departments that forecast trends.
Q: What are three predictions you see for search in 2014? What are you predictions for the next 5-10 years in search? In social?
A (Search 2014):
1) Marketers will finally realize keywords are not the answer to successful search ad targeting, and will learn to analyze and identify a variety of new data triggers based on human behavior.
2) The industry will see a hybrid paid search ad that integrates the product listing ad format.
3) Alternative forms of search, such as voice and gesture, will become common in engines and applications. The shift will eventually lead to technology that pushes information to users, such as Google Now, rather than the user having to pull information from multiple sources.
A (Social): Social campaigns will begin to look and act more like traditional search engine marketing campaigns.
Q: What was the biggest news in search that shaped the industry this year?
A: Encrypting all searches using HTTPS that eliminated the use of keywords as a tool to follow queries from search engines to Web sites was one of the biggest events shaping the search industry in 2013. The others were programmatic media buying, mobile search campaigns, and new uses for data to drive conversions.
Q: What are your biggest challenges covering this industry?
A: You ask “what are your biggest challenges covering this industry,” but I think the more important question remains what is the biggest challenge brand marketers will face in 2014? For major companies like P&G and Macy’s, it becomes integrating enterprise resource planning tools and backend systems like inventory replenishment. Marketers finally know what they can do with the data they collect from campaigns, but they’re not sure how to combine the silos that will give them one view of their customers. It will require companies to make online advertising part of the enterprise system. While the tools exist, the processes to make it happen are still too complicated.
Very interesting. Thank you, Laurie!