It's that time of the year when annual marketing budgets are defined and decisions are made that will set the stage for wins or losses next year.
As if the planning, accounting, and administration isn't enough, brand marketers are also expected to maintain the latest strategies and tactics that lead to incremental wins in organic search--a landscape where change is the only constant.
Although, CMOs can implement strategies to embrace new changes in search by focusing on macro trends in the industry rather than micro changes in the algorithms. Taken from the 2015 Enterprise Buyer's Guide to SEO, here are the top 8 organic search trends that CMOs and marketing organizations need to plan for in 2015:
#1 Increasing value of truly earned links
Inbound links have long been, and still remain, the primary off-site indicator of value, authority, and trust to search engines.
CMOs concerned about their organic search channels should focus on creating valuable content and promoting this content to specific audiences with the intent of earning branded content citations. These are mentions and links to high-quality branded content, not a text link to a product page.
A relevant citation from an authoritative publisher or influencer affects SEO, brand awareness, online sales, lead generation, audience growth, and just about every other hard-to-earn and extremely valuable marketing metric--so why not use this strategy for SEO?
#2 Increasing importance of mobile
2014 was a monumental year in marketing as mobile Internet use finally surpassed desktop Internet use. This event marked a fundamental change in consumer behavior that divulged major implications on search and search engine optimization.
Mobile search algorithms call for different best practices than those of desktop search algorithms, so it will be crucial for CMOs to understand the mobile search landscape in order to guide marketing spend accordingly. The ability for a brand to quickly and effectively deliver high-quality mobile experiences for consumers will certainly provide a competitive advantage.
#3 Fragmentation of search across platforms, devices, and channels
Not only are search queries fragmenting into long-tail keywords, they are fragmenting across a variety of platforms and channels. Online service providers, mobile devices, and software applications are building internal search functionalities to better serve their own audiences--and this means search volume is being taken away from engines on Web browsers.
In 2015, CMOs will have to shift greater focus to optimizing brand presence for search across platforms like Amazon, Wikipedia, Yelp, and mobile applications--not just Google.
#4 Merging of thought leadership and social engagement
Thought leadership has been a hot term in recent years as many brands have aggressively pursued content marketing strategies with the intent of positioning themselves as experts in their respective online communities. As some thought leadership campaigns have fallen flat, light has been shed on the path to search visibility growth through off-site signals, an integral part of an organic strategy.
On its own, thought leadership content without social engagement from relevant audiences is not enough to drive sustainable success in search. The two must go hand-in-hand.
#5 Increasing importance of long-tail search traffic
One- and two-word key phrases are costly to rank for and often don't covert well. In contrast, long-tail keyword queries tend to be more relevant and convert at higher rates as a result of greater specificity, and ultimately, purchase intent. Brands that can wield the power and influence of long-tail queries will see the needle move in 2015.
A study from 2012 suggests that 16% to 20% of daily keyword queries had never been seen before. The stage is set for these figures to increase, especially as mobile devices roll out applications for vocal search queries and the engines become increasingly more adept at understanding long-tail intent. While taking advantage of long-tail search traffic can take significant time, it's a promising direction that can yield results in the long run.
#6 Changing display of search results
As Google strives toward becoming a destination, we can expect to see more in-stream answers to queries like those for sports scores, weather information, and retailers. Google's Knowledge Graph and Carousel features are fundamentally changing the way consumers view and interact with search results. CMOs must be conscious of how their brands appear online in the search space as Google transforms from an information engine into a knowledge engine.
#7 Diminishing focus on keywords and rankings
Google's encryption of keyword search data was an indicator of what is to come in the near future. As information consumption fragments across platforms, channels, devices, and applications, search engine optimization will likely lose even more of its touch with keywords and rankings. CMOs can prepare by starting to think of search optimization as increasing brand visibility across a multitude of properties, expanding presence to each and every corner of the digital space where prospects and customers can be found.
#8 Increasing need for personalization
As search functionalities become more sophisticated, consumers will be exposed to higher levels of personalization. Each person may see different results for the same query depending on local, psychographic, and demographic data gathered from previous engagements. Conversions will go to the brands that are prepared to deliver a higher level of personalization to customers across all search platforms. A brand's visibility may ultimately depend on its ability to become the most prominent content marketer in its digital space.
Organic search is still on top
As the channel that still drives the most visitors, conversions, and customers across B2B and B2C companies, organic search is not a channel that marketing executives can afford to overlook, especially given its volatile nature. The handful of companies that are able to maximize this channel will ultimately own a disproportionate share of its digital space, and thus, profits.