Desktop Search Has Stopped Growing

For a few years now we have collectively wondered about the future of search. The rise of smartphones, social networks, and apps have had many people predicting that search was being replaced.

Search is dead, the headlines read, as they tend to do when we sensationalize the impact of new technology and trends.

But now we have data. And although search is far from dead, it’s become clear that desktop search, the business that Google was built on, has peaked.

In fact, this article from Quartz makes it quite clear that desktop search peaked a couple of years ago and is not trending downwards.

What does this mean? Should we panic?

No one needs to panic just now. Search as a whole is still growing, thanks to mobile.

If you’re a company that relies on search to generate new business, it is important to recognize that most of your growth from this channel in coming years will be from mobile, not desktop. Your ads and landing pages should be adjusted accordingly.

For Google it will mean even more focus on mobile as a source of traffic and revenue. They can’t make people search on desktops, nor should they want to.

Instead of trying to squeeze the juice out of a shrinking business, they’ll be smart enough to shift and show us what comes next, as far as search goes.

There will continue to be billions of desktop searches every year for quite some time. So desktop search is not dead, but it is now fair to say that it’s in decline.

Marketing Trends – Part 1

Welcome to the first installment of our brand new weekly blog series, Marketing Trends. Each week, we will identify a key trend in the world of marketing. We’ll discuss the trend, why it’s important, and suggest ways that you can take advantage of this trend in your company.

Today’s Trend = Audience Targeting

What do I mean by audience targeting? It used to be that companies in their advertising efforts would target a broad group of people. TV advertisers could choose time of day and networks to air on. Print advertisers can choose the type of publication to advertise in. Outdoor advertisers could choose the location where they display. And even online advertisers could target folks by keyword, or website, and even some basic behaviors.

But the world has changed, especially online. Advertisers now have a greater ability to target specific audiences they know are most likely to respond to their ads.

Now, companies like Facebook and Google, as well as many others, let you target an audience. You can do this in a number of ways.

  • Site Visitors – target marketing across the web to people who visit your site through retargeting.
  • Leads – target those people who have filled out a form on your site or requested more information through remarketing and email.
  • Past Customers – target existing customers through remarketing and email.
  • Interest Categories – take advantage of the data Google and Facebook have collected on their users to target people who have identified an interest in what you do through past purchases or browsing behavior.
  • Lookalikes – Share a list of your customers with Facebook or Google and they’ll do the data mining for you, identify those key elements that your customers all share, and then look through their users to find others who share those characteristics, letting you target people who are similar to your customers.

Using these different kinds of audience targeting allows you to have more faith that your ads are being seen by the right people. It may not be the way to reach the masses, but it’s a great way to make the most out of a limited budget.

The more targeted your ads, the greater the ROI.

While most of this audience targeting activity is still confined to the online world, expect the coming years to see this trend evolve as other channels adopt these opportunities. See also Direct Mail, which has allowed you marketers to do things like this for years.

What marketing trend should we cover next? Now accepting submissions for marketing trends that we will cover in an upcoming installment of this series. Submit your ideas via our contact page or in the comments section below.

The Future of Advertising: It’s Everywhere

Google and Facebook are the same in one key way. And that is, their users are the products.

Think about it. Where does each company make its money? Selling advertisements. So the advertisers must be the customers. And what are they buying? Us.

The world has evolved with the internet in such a way that advertisements can be targeted to the individual. Companies large and small can pay only for ads delivered to the people they want to reach. And the companies that have created the platforms, the ones with the most information about us that they’re able to sell, are the ones that are reaping the rewards.

But who does this hurt? Advertisers are getting the benefit of better targeting, and in most cases, cheaper ads. And the users are getting the utility of a Google, or a Facebook.

In exchange for ads (and a lot of behind the scenes data collection) it appears that we are more and more willing to accept useful, free or low-cost products.

Old media companies, think of television or newspapers, made money on both ends of the equation. We paid for the products, and we got ads.

Today, it seems to be more of an either/or situation. Netflix is a paid service that removes the ads. Spotify and other internet radio services have free versions with ads, and paid versions without. And when we’re given that option, some of us pay. But most of us accept the ads if it means we get something for free.

We are so used to ads because we have been overexposed to them since birth. Advertising is everywhere. And that trend is not fading. As companies like Google and Apple begin to make their way into the home, with internet connected consumer goods and other products, can’t you imagine a world in which almost everything we buy is subsidized by advertisements.

This is a double-edged sword for advertisers and for the end user. For the advertiser, it means more opportunities to reach people, but a more ad-burdened audience that will be trained to ignore them.

For users, if the ads work, we spend more money than we would have had we just paid full price for the product without ads.

The future of advertising appears to be ads everywhere. Our response to those ads might mean the difference between whether the ads everywhere strategy succeeds or not.

Will Google Kill Email Marketing - Revisited

On April 23rd, I published “Will Google Kill Email Marketing”. That post generated a lot of feedback and online chatter. It was featured on Business2Community. There was enough response that I thought it justified a follow up.

Since that post went live, a number of things have happened that are worth mentioning. The list that I published of things that Google has done with Gmail has grown.

1. Gmail launched mobile versions of the Gmail Sponsored Promotions.

If you use the Gmail app on your phone, you may have started seeing these yourself. As of the first post, I had not seen one myself. But to prove that I’m seeing them now, here is a screenshot of the latest (ignore the fact that they are targeting an ad for wedding dresses at me I guess):

2. Gmail added a second layer of Gmail Sponsored Promotions on the desktop version.

Again, back when the first post went live, I had only ever seen one ad at a time in the Promotions tab. But judging from the photo I used, you knew more were coming. And sure enough, in the past week it’s become a regular occurrence to find two in there, sitting at the top of my emails, pushing marketing emails further down the page. How many will they stop at? 3? 4?

On a personal note, I am now working on a project that will include testing the Gmail Sponsored Promotions. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? I plan on reporting back on the results of those tests so that we can keep this conversation moving forward.

Your turn to tell me what you think. Is Google out to kill email marketing? Answer below.

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Will Google Kill Email Marketing?

As far as I can tell, there are two questions to answer here:

  1. Does Google want to kill email marketing?
  2. Will they succeed?

Let’s look at the facts.

First, Google separated all Gmail inboxes into tabs.

On May 29, 2013, all Gmail inboxes were updated to show three tabs instead of just one inbox. The tabs, Primary, Social, and Promotions, were meant to help users deal with overcrowded inboxes. They simplified the user experience and kept personal emails separate from marketing emails.

For many people, this was a clear shot across the bow of email marketers. Times were changing. And the power of Google was out to get you.

Next, Google launched their Gmail Sponsored Promotions ad unit.

While I could not find an exact date, Google recently rolled out their new Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSPs) to all Gmail users. In the past, your Gmail inbox was surrounded by ads that companies could manage through AdWords managed placements. But now, the GSP ad shows up at the top of the Promotions tab, looking just like an email, but highlighted to stand out.

That means that not only are your marketing emails separated from the main inbox, they will never show up at the top of that tab.

There are other things in the works.

Google is testing a new “Pinterest-style” layout for the promotions tab, showcasing images first and subject lines/senders second. Take a look.

Google is just the first to take these steps in a web email client. But who would be surprised if others, like Yahoo and Microsoft, followed.

Imagine a time not too far into the future when marketing emails were never in the primary inbox and never the highlight of the promotions tab. That time is coming.

So back to our questions…

First, does Google want to kill email marketing? My answer is no. I don’t think that is their goal. But they clearly see opportunity in making money from email, and the steps they are taking will have the impact (intended or not) of hurting email marketers.

And second, will they succeed? Email marketing is not dead, and will not die anytime soon. But Google is not a company you want to have against you. So we may soon see major changes in how email marketing works, what it looks like, and how effective it is.

Stay tuned for more…