2020 and the pandemic brought forth a new phase of digital transformation at break-neck speed. Whether your business did or didn’t change the way it markets its goods and services, you, as a consumer, were unavoidably affected and you may not even realize how drastically your expectations were realigned. This enormous shift in consumer expectations, along with the slow death of third-party data and increasing concerns over privacy, is laying the groundwork for the return of more creative marketing.
Google is Changing
In a recent episode of Freakanomics called “Is Google Getting Worse?,” the podcast explored the changes we’ve all noticed about the ubiquitous search engine. There are more ads, more snippets of information that Google is providing instead of relevant search results. Their updated search page means small businesses need to rethink their target audience’s unique search experience when it comes to how they plan for the search engine.
- Understand the Journey: Your customers act differently at different stages of their buyer’s journey. While they’re researching, they may be looking for articles, calculators, and pricing information. When they’re comparing their options, they may be looking for more in-depth information about processes, looking at demos, or looking for features or sizes. When they’re ready to buy, you don’t want to be hard to find.
- Answer Your Customer’s Questions: Since Google is looking for snippets of information when a question is asked, formatting your content in an audio-friendly manner/snippet friendly manner can help your content rank.
- Use Ads for Ready-to-Buy Customers: Consumers handle 90% of their decision-making process online (according to our SXSW 2022 Panel). When they’re ready to buy or take advantage of an offer, don’t make them look for it.
- Keep Your Local Search Up-to-Date: Your Google Map listing is still very important. You have to make sure your reviews are relevant, your content on your Google My Business profile is up-to-date and suitable, and that you are really showcasing how great your company is. Even if your business only serves local customers, potential employees and clients in other regions are still looking at your reviews.
In addition, Google Analytics is evolving and some of the performance metrics that affect search results have changed. That being said, Google has not changed what it cares about, which is trying to drive the most relevant search result for the user.
Google cares about Proximity, Relevance and Prominence. Throughout its history, any changes made to the algorithm have revolved around these three main principles. Last year, Google introduced Core Vitals to the mix, and this shook up website performance for many businesses.
- Emphasize Driving Branded Search: Neil Patel spoke about his top tips at Inbound 2022 in Boston in September. His number one piece of advice for companies wanting higher organic search traffic numbers is to get more people to search for you specifically – otherwise known as branded search. For example, the more people search for “Hot Dog Marketing,” the better our website will rank for other terms like “marketing agency near me.” The only way to drive that kind of search is with a holistic, creative marketing plan.
- Your Site Experience Has to Be Top-Notch: In recent years, Google has focused on prioritizing the user’s website experience and “awarded” high-performing sites that are mobile-friendly, responsive, and secured with https. In 2022, it updated its algorithm again to prioritize page loading time, interactivity, and stability. This triple-punch change shuffled results for a lot of small-to-medium size businesses who have put off updating their websites. Visit Google Search Console and pull a report for your website.
Finally, this year, Google has begun to sunset its Universal Analytics product and is encouraging people to convert to GA4 or Google Analytics 4, which works with websites and apps. This newest digital transformation has led to more companies having frictionless buying experiences via web apps instead of static websites, and obviously Google sees more of this coming in the future. GA4 is event or action based and doesn’t work out of the box – it needs custom set-up for the kind of actions/events and attributions you want to track.
Also, GA4 shows Google’s commitment to phasing out third-party data tracking, as AdSense or third-party data tracking is not included. Google’s push to move everyone to Google devices and to use its browser means the company is collecting its own data to drive these reports with more detail and accuracy.
Privacy and Data
Cookies are a marvelous thing. When they were invented, they were added to browsers to enable better experiences for users. Features we take for granted now like adding items to a shopping cart and then returning to the website to keep browsing are powered by cookies. In the early 2000s, Google acquired DoubleClick, a company that used cookies to track a user’s activity across the web in order to show them relevant advertising. This kind of third-party data tracking is going away as tech companies work to prioritize privacy.
What You Need to Know
In today’s day and age, it's safer and smarter to collect your own data and work on your own creative approaches to advertising. Previously, marketers had become comfortable letting machines pool data and create ad placements based on third-party data. With privacy concerns now at the forefront, companies should use a tool like HubSpot to collect and analyze their own user’s data and make intelligent and creative decisions around ad placement.
Consider Contextual Advertising
Contextual advertising is almost a throwback to how advertisers have chosen channels in traditional media over the years. If you’re a doctor, you may choose to run an ad in your local paper's health or medicine section. In the digital landscape, understanding the buyer’s journey and related categories of content is a more efficient springboard for posting ads in the future as third-party, data-led campaigns are phased out. Good examples of this might be businesses like Instacart or H-E-B or even a restaurant placing an ad on a recipe page.
Email Marketing and Privacy
Apple rolled out email privacy with their iOS platform update in September of 2021. By early last year, all Apple Mail users were reading their email without having any of their information tracked by email marketing systems. Apple Mail is the most popular email client on desktops and mobile devices. Constant Contact estimates that over 50% of marketing emails have been affected by this update.
The way this update works is by opening email when it’s received to check for tracking codes. It then blocks tracking pixels that are used to look at time, date, and location information. This update makes open rates look artificially high. But worse, if your company utilizes marketing automation and any of the triggered actions are based on emails being opened, those sequences are no longer accurate. Now you must drive action and base your email marketing triggers around clicks and visits to your website.
The Customer is King
Frictionless and Omni-Channel Customer Experiences
The last trend was a major point of discussion at SXSW last year and it continues to be a hot topic this year for small-to-medium size businesses – how can you sell more and have a more self-guided experience with your customers regardless of what you sell?
As mentioned earlier, 90% of the buyer’s journey now happens online, and even B2B purchases are reflecting the same consumer behavior we’ve seen in B2C. Consumers want to do “it” online, wherever “it” is at, whatever time of day suits them best. And the less they need to talk to a human, the better.
This means that building rich, digital experiences with connected platforms to handle communication is how you create a frictionless buying experience for your audience. Some examples to consider for your business include:
- online meeting or appointment booking
- seamless email follow-ups
- email or interactive onboarding
- online purchases for services – both custom and productized
- using chatbots to guide someone towards a purchase
- having pricing and FAQs on your website
- video demos
Implementing different tactics means opening more communication channels with customers so you can meet them wherever they may be. Living out of an email inbox or voicemail is no longer the best way to handle communication. For omni-channel customer experiences, you must implement a platform that connects web chat, email, phone, texting, and web forms into one channel for easier management and helps prevent a customer from having to repeat themselves across multiple channels.
Just as you have likely enjoyed easier buying experiences online over the years as retailers and other sellers fine-tune their processes, know that your audience – regardless of their age or whether they are a B2B or B2C buyer – is looking to do business with a company that can prioritize the customer experience with the least number of hurdles.
Hot Dog Marketing is a Platinum HubSpot Partner and award-winning branding and digital marketing firm. Our team is uniquely positioned to help small-to-medium size service companies grow their brands. Join us for an upcoming free Hot Dog Marketing University Lunch n’ Learn. Check out our calendar of events here: https://hotdogmarketing.net/hot-dog-marketing-university/
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