Search, Social, Content and Rankbrain: Updates from SMX Advanced 2016

Well folks, SMX Advanced 2016 is now officially down in the books and it gets 2 thumbs up from this girl. SMX is a digital marketing conference founded by Search Engine Land where industry people go to learn about new trends, share ideas, report on successes and to network with some of the best and brightest in the industry. Some conferences have a heavier search focus. This was one of them and therefore was sponsored by Google and Bing.

Because the digital landscape changes so quickly (I think Google just changed their algorithm twice while writing this) there is usually an a-ha moment, idea or key take away from each and every conference that is quite different from the last. There are a few key takeaways from this conference that I’d like to share. Ready? Brace yourself!

  1. No. More. Silos. No more absolute separation of SEM, SEO, social, etc. We are all playing in the same sand box and the castles we are building are quite lovely. It used to be SEO and then everything else. Now SEO is about content, AMP, rich cards and integration with social and other media. According to Dr. Pete Meyers, Marketing Scientist from MOZ, “Google is now composed of search information units, we’ve moved straight past organic.” In fact, content, links and RankBrain are the 3 most important signals now contributing to search rankings.
  1. SEM and paid social are starting to look a lot alike with targeting capabilities. Customer match, similar audiences, remarketing, custom audiences and more. What digital marketers have realized is that while people behave differently in search and social, their intentions are the same. If you want to buy a new pair of shoes, you want to buy a new pair of shoes. It doesn’t matter if you’re on Facebook or a search engine, that part doesn’t change. But there are key performance metrics from each digital platform that when shared, can make for better results across channels. “Omni channel”. That is the buzz word of the month.
  1. One of my favorite moments was to hear Bing Ads’ Lynne Kjolso, general manager of global search sales and service at Microsoft, talk about voice search and bots. This is the future, people. Bots will rule the world. And if you don’t currently talk to your phone or your laptop yet, you will. Since the launch of Windows 10, according to Kjolso, last year there have been 6 billion voice searches through Cortana. This is a space where Microsoft plans to dominate and they have a good head start. Bots and Cortana already have a relationship.

In other significant announcements…

…Google confirmed that paid ads are coming to the local stack. The timing and precise appearance/placement are to be determined. ..

…text ads will expand to 2 times bigger than current text ads and will give advertisers a total of 140 characters. This will roll out in phases by the end of 2016.

So what does all of this mean for advertisers and business owners? Here is what I think you really need to know.

  • Content is very important. Make sure you have good content on your website, written in a way that the search engines can understand. Example- if you are a dentist, make sure you have content on your site about oral hygiene, cavities, veneers, gum disease, flossing, tooth decay, etc… Don’t just stack “dentist” keywords.
  • Integrate your social media and paid search strategy by using customer match, similar audiences and remarketing. Key performance metrics when shared can make for better results. Test. Test. Test.
  • Mobile is not just important, it’s everything. Make sure that you have a mobile friendly website and that you have a mobile first strategy.
  • Employ a good SEO vendor or agency that understands RankBrain, rich snippets and AMP (accelerated mobile pages)
  • If you have active PPC campaigns, start experimenting and writing ad copy for expanded text ads.
  • And last but not least, don’t be afraid of bots. They can simplify our lives as long as you don’t mind talking to a machine.