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Mobile Search is the Key Battle Ground

9 min read.

Shane Lyons, Head of Search Strategy

by Shane Lyons, Head of Search Strategy

Core

Spend on search marketing continued to grow in 2019, but at an increase of 9%, this represents the lowest growth rate since 2015. Search marketing boomed over the last ten years; in 2019, global spend on search reached approximately €122.7 billion — equal to 22% of all advertising spend worldwide.2 Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising has, in recent years, reached a mature stage. While investment has continued in the space, the only area capable of growth will be ‘mobile.’ Mobile search ad spend is expected to rise by 19.2% this year and represents almost two-thirds (64.8%) of total search spend worldwide.1

In Ireland, when we talk about search we mean Google, which has an almost complete monopoly here, with 96.3% of all searches happening on its browser or app.2 Bing and Yahoo’s market share remains around the 3% mark, so rather than a rival search engine, it is Amazon that represents the most realistic threat to Google, which likely comes from its digital marketing offering, Amazon Web Services (AWS).  While you can advertise with AWS on a direct-buy basis here in Ireland, we continue to wait for the full launch of the platform.

Looking to the year ahead, there are four key issues to be aware of:

 

1. THE BRAND PPC DEBATE

We expect there to be continued scrutiny of brand PPC (bidding on your own brand’s keywords, such as Nike bidding on ‘Nike running shoes’) into 2020. With search budgets mostly growing by small percentages year-on-year, you may need to free up PPC budget to ensure that you are more active with your generic strategy (e.g. ‘running shoes’), so you have a strong presence in the early research stage. This will be particularly relevant for brands without high competition on their brand terms.

We recommend running a trial period with branded PPC paused, so that you can monitor the impact on organic results. Hopefully, there will be no loss of leads, and you can re-invest the saved budget further up the marketing funnel.

 

2. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO DRIVE EFFICIENCY

Another key trend will be the continued use of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) based features. We use A.I. in our daily lives from personalised Spotify playlists to real-time traffic information on Google Maps. Increasingly, A.I. is the central component in all smart bidding strategies. In one particular case, by introducing this technology to a client’s bid strategy we saw an increase in the amount of bid modifications of 70,000 per month; this is due to the A.I.’s increased sophistication and ability to adjust in real time. A.I. has taken control of the more menial tasks, allowing search marketers to focus more of their time on strategy and optimisation.

 

When it comes to A.I., our advice is to hand over the reins to the machines and reap the efficiency benefits. Clients for whom we have run smart-bidding strategies have also seen cost-per-conversions reduce.

 

3. VISUAL AD FORMATS
In 2019, Google introduced Gallery ads, a mobile-specific format that delivers a large ‘swipeable’ carousel of images. Google Shopping ads was the first format to introduce images to paid search back in 2016, but we predict that search results will be increasingly image-based. 5G is now available in certain cities across the country, and while mainstream adoption may still be a while away, the increased internet speeds and reduced latency that 5G will deliver will likely mean the arrival of more interactive (and possibly even video formats) to search in 2020.

 

 

4. VOICE SEARCH / NO-CLICK SEARCHES

On the organic side of search, ‘voice’ continues to be the most newsworthy area. While ‘digital assistants’ are now in everything from fridges to cars to wearables, recent industry usage studies show that adoption and daily use remain very low. It’s still early days for voice technology, in terms of search, marketing and ecommerce. While the potential is there, there are many unknowns about what the future of voice will look like. In the short term it is important for companies not to place too much emphasis on voice technology.

One area that is worth examining is the rise of no-click searches. A study by SparkToro recently found that 56% of searches on mobile now return no-click, meaning the user simply finds the information they were looking for within the search results rather than having to click through to a website.3

An important task is to carry out an organic rankings report of your top traffic-driving keywords. With the re-design of Google Search for mobile, organic search results are becoming less impactful on mobile.

Across hotel and travel sectors in particular, brands have no choice but to advertise in order to be seen across mobile search, as the flight and hotel finder from Google is pushing ‘Position 1’ further and further down the page (and we are less likely to scroll on mobile). If your business generates a lot of leads on Google, to remain competitive you must have plans for how to diversify your traffic sources, and how to optimise your content to benefit from zero-click searches.

 


 

Sources
1. Search Growth has Cooled and Voice is a Niche Pursuit, WARC, November 2019
2. Search Engine Market Share Ireland, 2020
3. Less than Half of Google Searches Now Result in a Click, SparkToro, August 2019
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