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Future of Search: Open Content, Context, Mobile + MillennialsJuly 03, 2015

A Recap of the MNSearch Summit from the Spyder Trap Search Team

Written by Erin Greener, Chris Hamilton & Tom Sullivan

Spyder Trap at MnSearch Summit gaining insights on the future of search
Spyder Trap SEM Strategist Tom Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer Aaron Weiche, Senior PPC Strategist Erin Greener and SEO Strategist Chris Hamilton @mnsummit

Online marketing leaders at the recent MNSearch Summit praised the new(ish) gospel of crafting handy, free thought leadership versus barely overt promos that savvy web users inoculated themselves against years ago. In other words, stop producing junk promotional content!

“Great content, in my opinion, wins hearts and minds — and it’s not trying to sell me some sh** in the first minute I’m reading it,” said Wil Reynolds, founder of Seer Interactive, and the afternoon keynote speaker for second-annual MNSearch event June 26 in St. Paul, Minn.

Still, he and other speakers said, many of us keep pumping out safe, but ultimately less-effective, content/advertising to mollify clients, hedge our bets and placate our fears over what many still consider risky, long-shot content strategies rather than the proven Best Practices they’ve become.

At least for now.

That was one recurring takeaway of many Spyder Trap’s Search Marketing team walked away with after industry experts shared their thoughts on where search marketing is today and what the future of search marketing will look like.

Speaker session topics ranged from high-level to granular strategies and tactics spread across Search disciplines, including SEO, PPC, social media, email, content strategy, video optimization and analytics.

Duane Forrester, senior product manager – Webmaster Outreach at Bing, kicked-off the conference by focusing on Millennials, another recurring theme in themselves for the all-day affair: Millennials and mobile.

They are the first generation that never experienced a time in their lives without the Internet, started entering the workforce during the recent financial crisis and in the next 10 to15 years will collectively control $7 trillion of the world’s wealth.

As a group, Millennials are massively important and have some interesting quirks that you need to understand if you want to succeed, Forrester said. Most importantly, “they value experiences over products,” he said.

They don’t want stuff, they want “offerings” that enhance their lives – and currently their lives are centered around their mobile devices.

MN Search Summit at RiverCentre in St. Paul
The summit at RiverCentre in St. Paul

Local = mobile = optimization

If you think mobile is still coming, you are already behind the curve, Forrester said. Mobile is here.

In order to gain real traction with Millennials, he explained, you need to focus on local search, mobile and optimization. Fail at one, you fail at all of them, he said.

“Usability will unlock the success for your business,” Forrester said. “Stop thinking about driving traffic — and start thinking about visitor task completion.”

One of the keys to optimization is marking up all of your content with schema, he said.

In this age of advanced machine learning technologies, use of schema increasingly allows search engines to deliver rich experiences by understanding the context for content (Context – and organization — for content was another driving Search future theme.), Forrester said.

Schema markup SERP

Content markup will have more impact in the next 20 years than mobile, Forrester said. The primary driver behind this view is how machine learning employs the extra layer of contextual data with schema.

In essence, if you aren’t marking up all of your content now, get on it, he said.

Voice search = game changer

John Gagnon, Bing ads evangelist at Microsoft, shared his thoughts on how voice search is changing the search landscape.

Voice search is different from text search in that it’s more mobile, local and conversational.

Gagnon said that at Bing they are observing year-over-year growth for question-based voice search phrases that begin with words like “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and, perhaps most importantly, “how.”

More importantly, he said he doesn’t expect this trend to change.

Voice searches also are making search queries longer, with voice searches tending to be four-plus words, which should continue the emphasis on long-tail keywords or queries in search strategizing.

Gagnon said to adapt PPC for voice search you want to look at question phrases to determine intent and recognize the significant opportunity for these longer search terms.

Interestingly, voice searches also have shown a strong tendency to deliver clicks for brand names.

Gagnon recommended bidding on brand terms, even when you have a strong organic ranking, because in studies conducted by Bing, bidding on your own brand terms is a distinct competitive advantage for voice search. He said this tactic correlates to fewer clicks for your competitors.

PPC campaign managers should start thinking about how the ramifications of voice search can be leveraged in campaigns, so you can capitalize on this new opportunity to stay ahead of your competition, Gagnon said.

MnSearch Summit 2015 logo

Query + useful content – forms = more leads

Another MNSearch Summit takeaway was that companies should offer valuable, useful content for visitor queries – free and without requiring form submissions.

While advertisers may initially balk at this, let’s look at the benefits and how to convert a user into a qualified lead.

While we as advertisers prefer our marketing efforts to return immediate ROI, there are gains to be had in offering free and ungated content. Ungated content promotes shareability, which in turn allows your brand to have further reach, at no cost to you.

Removing barriers will improve downloads while building trust in your brand.

Advertisers may ask, “How do we turn our visitors into lead generations, if we don’t require contact information?”

Retargeting visitors of your landing page will assist in nurturing prospective leads. By initially sharing only high-level, yet useful information, you allow your remarketing efforts to offer a landing page with additional, and applicable, but gated intelligence.

Utilizing targeted display ads that includes text pertaining to your relevant content entices users to come back to your site in search of a greater solution for their needs. Here is when you capture contact information among otherwise leery potential customers and get the visitor further into your lead cycle or sales funnel.

When you use forms, “put some real content upfront, so people can actually see what they are going to get,” Reynolds said.

Will Reynolds of Seer Interactive at MnSearch Summit
Wil Reynolds after his entertaining and informative keynote @mnsummit

Great content + context + organization + social targeting = rankings

Worthwhile content isn’t free or one-off, said Reynolds, who also discussed the concept of patient, quality “native advertising.”

“’Free’ traffic is a farce,” he said. “It takes talent and experience (to create). I don’t think that stuff is easy.”

When we do our job well, people are finding what they are looking for – when they need it – and we are not purely focused on great rankings. The traffic and rankings will come, he said.

“So when the dude next to you says, ‘Hey, I rank No.1 for my porn.’ Ask, ‘But is it good porn?’” Reynolds said in his bring-the-house-down presentation.

Oh, and link buying is passé, too, he said.

“I’ll take loyalty over links any day,” said Reynolds, who has 15 years experience as a Search leader and runs the “lab” at Seer.

Another takeaway: Look at what older content of yours is still ranking and who is sharing it, then update it and target those amplifiers on social networks using influencer tools such as BuzzSumo.

Why is that piece of content from 2013 still ranking, Reynolds asked. Because people still are sharing it, so let’s capitalize on that fact by giving them more of what we know they want and continue to build on those relationships.

Reynolds said to think of finding and executing great queries and keywords for your content as an opportunity, not just a goal.

Also in the vein of semantic search, or “optimizing for humans,” Cyrus Shepard, Moz Content Marketing team head, implored online marketers to go beyond keyword research.

Today, it’s about predicting what people will need next by applying Best Practices that provide extra context and is well organized.

“SEO success is answering questions that people haven’t asked yet,” Shepard said.

For more information on 2015 MNSearch Summit speaker presentations, many of them are available on SlideShare, @mnsummit or through individual profiles.

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