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.
This week Google started promoting mobile optimized websites in their search results:
Frankly I'm amazed it's taken Google this long to implement, however for mobile users it's a welcome addition to the search experience that alleviates the pain of clicking on a link only to find a desktop site at the other end. Now the consumer is in control and armed upfront with a Google endorsement of mobile readiness. This strategy is part of an evolution of preemptive warnings for mobile search users. Earlier this year Google started warning mobile users of destinations using Flash or destinations with broken links that would result in a re-direction to the destination homepage.