Before Google entered modern culture to the point where the brand name became a verb, the marketing landscape was very different. Yes we still had the early incarnation of the internet but the Yellow Pages and business directory was still our main source of getting the name out there to rank ourselves against peers and competitors.
Today, Google’s influence is far reaching and it is those companies who understand its power who often have the highest rates of success. So how powerful is Google in the current landscape and what lessons can we take away from the operating platform?
Popularity in Numbers
Google’s own statistics are staggering if you stop to consider the sheer volume for one moment. Their data from 2017 told its own story with 40,000 individual searches occurring per second, 3.5 billion per day and 1.2 trillion over the year. Google’s influence on marketing can be explained by a series of intricate points, but the one fact that stands head and shoulders above the rest is its popularity. Ignoring Google today is the equivalent of ignoring television, print and radio advertising combined before the age of the web.
Google’s partnership with YouTube is a bold and strategic play on their part as it happens to incorporate another media form that dominates the landscape. For marketers, video is the most powerful engagement tool to attract viewer attention and maintain it for longer periods. The streaming service passed the 1 billion active monthly users mark in 2013 and that figure has only been rising. Combine this with an ease of application to include YouTube in online marketing material with a powerful search engine capacity, and this has been a tool for good in the field of commerce.
Our searching behaviour has changed and so has our shopping habits. The boom in smartphone use across the globe has seen us buy more products and order more services with our Samsung or iPhone more than any other time in history and this expansion is influenced by Google’s model.
Not only have they introduced their own smartphone into the market but their search engine algorithm changes has shifted how brands perceive their web presence, something that is dominated far more by mobile compatibility than just through the lens of a tablet or desktop. Google were not at the forefront of the mobile phenomenon, but their alterations have had a major hand in how we behave as a society online and through the marketing prism.
Digital marketers don’t require the most intricate or advanced technology out there. Just by adapting some key software from the largest search engine on the planet, you can take your brand to the next level on optimisation.
Many business owners will throw good money after bad hoping that they can crack the code and rank highly without going through the necessary steps. The reality is that the enterprises that master the basics see a much healthier return on investment, and they can achieve that all with free online outlets.
If you happen to be a business with a physical postcode, then it is a great idea to utilise Google Places. This will allow you to establish a map and control the domains that are vital for your consumers to know. That will include the phone number, the website, the opening hours and the address – all vital elements to seeing online traffic convert into actual sales.
Being aware of topics that are trending is not for every niche, sometimes there won’t be any breaking news in your field that will be relevant. Yet for winemakers who see a spike in exports to Asia or computer technicians who are operating while an online scam/virus is spreading, then why not take advantage? This search term data can work as a healthy short-term boost to your branding visibility.
Google Keyword Planner
Riding solo on your keyword campaign is a recipe for disaster. Simply guessing what your consumers are looking for is a fool’s errand and this is where the Google Keyword Planner can prescribe some order to the chaos. It will issue the marketer a comprehensive and up to date spreadsheet of information on keyword volume, relevance and competition to help you decide on which terms are ideal for your endeavours. The same principle can be applied to the pay-per click world too.
How do you know if a digital marketing campaign is successful if you have no means of analysing it in the first place? This is where Google Analytics acts as a platform that should be mandatory for all users as it provides a real time gauge on clicks and ranking points over the course of days, weeks, months and years. It is the type of insight you would normally have to pay dearly for through a third party, but this gives the information at your fingertips.
The practice of SEO is not what it was just a few years ago. It was not the same even 12 months previous. In fact, with hundreds of algorithm changes occurring (and that is just the alterations that are made public), this digital marketing endeavour through Google is one of the most intricate activities you could embark upon.
With that in mind, it is worth noting the monumental algorithm updates that changed the game. It will give professionals and amateurs alike an opportunity to appreciate the rapid pace of change as well as the powerful technology at the disposal of Google.
First seen as of February in 2011, the Panda update would be a landmark moment for online optimisers. Before this moment, sites could rank highly purely on the stuffing of relevant keywords where the algorithm was more concerned with quantity over quality. Panda flipped that script to focus more on the standard of the actual content, a switch that would see a significant amount of domains drop down the rankings while others rose in their place. Further Panda updates have occurred and are likely to continue.
Penguin took the Panda principle and applied it to links and backlinks rather than keywords. Websites could essentially spam their content prior to April 2012 and be rewarded for that type of behaviour. Google stepped into the breach and the brand adopted an aggressive approach to this field by acting in real time. No longer would they let sites manipulate their standing just by including links – they had to derive from authoritative and relevant sources.
August of 2013 would see the Hummingbird introduced. This allowed websites to branch out to be more creative and flexible with their keywords, a scenario that was not possible up until this point. Exact matching keywords were the only game in town, but the Hummingbird opened up businesses to expand their repertoire – a change that has been widely embraced by many.
There is an argument to be made that the mobile-friendly update is the most significant algorithm change to date, although that is not as widely shared in the SEO community. April of 2015 saw websites that catered to a more mobile-friendly market rise up the rankings whereas their competitors fell dramatically. With smartphones becoming more prominent than desktops for internet use, this was a natural progression that forced every brand to focus on their mobile campaigning and optimisation priorities.
The world of digital marketing is still in an infancy when we look at the timeline of the practice. With the likes of newspaper and print adverts being phased out in preference for Facebook spots and Google Adwords space, that trend will soon have a shelf life that will elapse for a new technique that comes out of the shadow.
Here is it worthwhile examining what lies beyond the horizon to predict what disruptive technologies are likely to emerge. Much like the current marketing landscape, these advents will be a cause for change where brands that accept and embrace this shift quickest will maximise their potential the best.
Bitcoin has been viewed quite cynically by the larger populous in the last few years, but since its recent boom there has been a series of other blockchain brands come onto the scene. Time will tell if this is just an experiment that enjoys a 15 minutes of fame, but there is evidence to suggest that encrypted banking that avoids banking fees and other regulations could revolutionise how we bank and most importantly from a marketing perspective, how we shop. Consumers could feel liberated being able to send and process payments more efficiently than through this current system.
Could you envisage a scenario whereby a retail brand sells a jumper to a customer overseas, seeing that user ending up printing the product at their own home? A bit daunting, right? Well the world of manufacturing is accelerating at a higher rate and this could very well shift how we buy and sell items online in the near future. It won’t be possible for a number of products or services for that matter, but it would still have a major impact on the market at large.
With artificial intelligence becoming more of a regular occurrence with our technology, the ability for users to conduct searches on smartphones, tablets and other devices like fridges is changing the marketing game. Google’s algorithm has already begun the process to rank brands according to keywords that are used in a conversational context, breaking up the sites that were operating well from the exact-matching keyword framework.
There is much to consider in this field when it comes to voice search terms that are easy to pronounce as well as those that have their sights on other markets overseas with other languages. This is a trend that has already seen progress and is ahead of time on other emerging technologies.