Search Isn’t Dead — It’s Transforming

by , , Op-Ed Contributor, (June 01, 2016)

Cory Treffiletti, vice president of marketing at Oracle Data Cloud, recently headlined his weekly column “Is Search Dead?” 

While he admits that “realistically, the answer is no,” he says: “I hear fewer and fewer brands talking about search in a way that signals a focus on innovation or growth.” He is mistaking sexiness for innovation, and missing a transformation with massive implications for marketers. 

In fact, search has never been more alive or productive. This year, Google will field more than double the number of searches it did in 2012. More than 500 million (15%) of the 3.5 billion searches people do on Google every day have never been seen before. And they are answered with far more effective, targeted ads than the traditional text ads and queries that launched the medium.

Cory writes: “Even Google doesn’t do so much with innovation in search these days.” The fact is, Google is going pedal to the metal on new methods of search ad delivery — where it makes sense, when and to whom. In the past six months, Google has introduced new Shopping ads and Mobile App Install ads, and modified the character length for text ads. Every day, Google is making search more integral to YouTube, Google Video, and the resurgent Google Display Network.

As mobile dominates search, Google is deploying new ad formats, placement and delivery methods faster than ever. For example, the new Top Categories feature answers generic retail queries with results segmented by category. Google PLA/Shopping ads now run not just within your traditional SERP results but also are being displayed within Google Images searches in a carousel format above the organic images typically displayed, and retailers can allow users to check nearby store inventories and order from the ads. Just last week, Google Maps added the ability for retailers to sponsor map pins — so Starbucks can have its location show up first in the listing, and in a different color pin, when someone searches “coffee shops.” These features alone expand the arsenal for marketers in the SEM space.

Search is also becoming more personalized and transactional. RLSA and Customer Match allow search to deliver ads that are unique to the person searching. Google’s Instant App for Android feature allows users to experience applications without having to download them. And while I’m sorry that Cory is still having issues with Siri and Alexa, the fact of the matter is that voice search has improved considerably since it was first released. Now more than 20% of mobile queries are conducted as voice searches. Given the pace of innovation, it won’t be long before we can decipher the emotional impetus for a search. It’s no accident that the new head of search at Google was previously their head of Artificial Intelligence.

Search can learn in ways other advertising can’t. Before long, we will all apply cross-channel attribution to create sequential messages for individual users across search and social media. That’s why third-party bid management technology firms Marin and Kenshoo have evolved into search and social platforms, with an eye toward ultimately illuminating activity and results across the spectrum of search, social and display. When they do, we’ll be able to work all three media as one channel.

As a result, we will be able to give consumers personal advertising experiences with a click to purchase. More people will search and buy, and we’ll know what motivates them as well as what works across the media. We’ll be able to focus our campaigns on the combination of people, place, desire and time that comprises the real driver of return. We’re racing into search like you’ve never seen it before. To those of us who care about commerce, it’s sexy as hell. Search Marketing Daily


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