The first two days of SMX focused on search marketers chasing Google and Google chasing the searcher. Day three was about everyone chasing the conversion. The sessions I attended on the third and final day were very much about where searchers turn when they’re ready to buy. The answers consistently came back: social, local and mobile (SoLoMo in SMX speak). The social piece of this is obviously the ‘who’ of the SoLoMo equation. Social signals are showing up in more places. It’s increasingly likely that when you search for a product or service, you’ll see which of your friends have liked, +1’ed or recommended it in some way. These annotations are becoming the norm for search engines, and it’s almost certain that soon they’ll weigh on how results are ranked. Local is the ‘where.’ Speaker after speaker talked about the importance of local signals in today’s search landscape (location-aware applications, local business listings, etc.). Quova’s Miten Sampat called it the most important online signal after search. With 75% of conversions taking place offline, including the local component in your campaigns and appearing local to your customers is critical.
Mobile is the ‘what’ of the SoLoMo formula — as in what consumers are using more and more when they search. This was the topic of the day. There is a growing chorus of voices heralding the impending supremacy of mobile search. The volume of mobile searches is growing and they are dripping with purchase intent and urgency. Dennis Glavin from Microsoft’s mobile team pointed out that they see 70% of desktop query chains (the set of searches involved in answering a single problem or request) taking a month or longer from initial query to resolution. By contrast, 70% of query chains on mobile search are satisfied within an hour or less. The rest of the mobile stats are pretty well worn at this point.
Mobile queries continue to grow rapidly, and they are expected to pull even with desktop by 2015. I found it interesting that this traffic seems to be incremental, as Google’s Barnaby Pierce noted. It’s not that people are conducting fewer searches on their desktops. In fact, desktop search continues to grow consistently across categories. Mobile is actually getting people to search more often in much the same way that the proliferation of broadband and Wi-Fi did some years ago. On top of that, these are searches that are highly likely to convert. The good news is that the pie is getting bigger. Searchers are declaring their intentions at an increasing number of intervals throughout the purchase cycle, giving marketers more valuable touchpoints. The challenge is that the ask for search marketers is growing right along with it.
The biggest takeaway from this year’s conference is that the practice of search marketing is evolving at a dizzying pace. The approach of buying some keywords and going after a few quality links is woefully inadequate today. You need a content strategy, a local strategy, a social strategy, a paid strategy, an organic strategy (on and off-page) and an integrated strategy that pulls all of these elements together into a coherent and effective search marketing program. So, I guess what you really need is an agency. Go figure.
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Scott Ensign, Vice President of Digital Media