Just like a US President gives Congress information on the "state of our union", Forrester has just released a state of the union on the search marketing world. But instead of constant interruptions for applause or the opposition's response to the state of the union, let's cut to the chase.
The state of search marketing is strong. But there are cracks forming in its foundation. That's not to say that search marketing is under immediate seige from foreign adversaries, but it is to say that there will be challenges and opportunities for agencies, vendors, and marketers that are tasked with owning SEO and/or paid search.
Change is nothing new in the search world -- especially when you consider how often Google updates it's ranking algorithm. And 2016 was no different. There were a few major highlights in my eyes:
Google nixed right-hand rail ads. Back in February, Google confirmed that all ads (except PLAs and some knowledge graph ads) would no longer appear on the right hand side of desktop search results. The reason Google did this was to provide a more consistent experience across devices, which it did. The good news for marketers though? The decrease in total inventory didn't increase CPCs. In fact, CPCs on Google declined 5% since Q3 2015.
Organic search is still top of mind for marketers...and customers. Let's face it: SEO is not the sexiest digital marketing topic. But it works: according to Forrester's Consumer Technographics data, natural search engine results are the top way customers find websites. So it should be no surprise that my top inquiry topic in 2016 was on all things SEO.
Apple's Siri for iPhone and iPad, Google Now for Android, Samsung S-Voice for its Android phones and tablets, and Microsoft's Xbox/Bing voice command have all played a role in popularizing the use of voice control. Forrester’s workforce survey reveals that 37% of information workers who have smartphones say they use voice command at least occasionally. So voice control is already a mass-market behavior.
But users haven’t truly embraced voice control just yet: Only 3% of information workers say they "use it all the time," while only 1% claim it's their "preferred way to use a phone." When they do use voice control, it’s for short-task computing activities like sending a text, conducting a quick search, or activating maps and navigation. As of today, voice control remains a nice-to-have, an adjunct to “real” computing interfaces.
But in a new Forrester report published today, we argue that voice control itself isn’t the main story. Rather, it’s about the new breed of data-rich intelligence – which we call intelligent agents – that will bring voice control to the masses.