4 Search Trends That Made Waves in 2017

For the past two decades, the pinnacle of search sophistication was talking to a search engine like you’re Tarzan. “What are the best hiking boots for men?” became “best hiking boots men.” “How many ounces are there in a pound?” became “number ounces pound.” Question words, articles, adjectives, or any such linguistical fanciness would confuse the humble algorithms.

But search is finally getting smarter. Search engines can parse whole phrases, decipher intent, zero in on results that will delight the searcher. And search is moving beyond the desktop or even the smartphone touchscreen, accepting new kinds of input, and displaying output in other formats than the standard ranked list of links.

In short: What consumers expect from search engines has evolved, and search engines are changing to meet these expectations. Marketers need to adapt to the new search ecosystem. If we’re still optimizing for Tarzan, we’ll miss an ever-increasing amount of traffic.

Here are four major trends in search that made waves this year, and will continue to reverberate in 2018 and beyond.

#1: Visual Search

This first trend is the newest on the list, but it seems poised to change the search landscape substantially in the future. When every smartphone has a built-in camera, why bother typing or speaking queries when you can search with a picture? Google Lens is an app that can identify buildings, products, text, and read barcodes – and it uses machine learning, meaning it’s going to get more sophisticated over time.

Right now, you can take a picture of a movie poster, book cover, or even consumer products like shampoo or mouthwash, and the app will serve up search results based on the image. The technology isn’t perfect yet, but it should be on every marketer’s radar.

#2: Voice Search

Five years ago, the only reason to talk while using a phone was if you were having an actual conversation with another human being (gross, I know, but those were different times). Now, a growing number of conversations are with Siri and the nameless Google Assistant. Voice search has exploded in popularity, rapidly approaching the tipping point when it will overtake typed search.

Studies say one in five consumers use voice search on their smartphones, and industry experts predict 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

Voice queries tend to be more complex, more like natural human speech, than a typed search query. Marketers optimizing content for voice search should think in long phrases, whole sentences, questions and answers, rather than short keyword phrases. Think of how someone would ask you in person for the information you’re providing, and make sure your content addresses that type of query.

#3: Home Assistants (Smart Speakers)

Voice and visual search ultimately lead to the same result: A screen displaying search engine listings. Search on home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo do away with the screen entirely. The entire interaction is verbal – you ask a question, the smart speaker responds with information.

There are over 35.6 million of these voice-activated assistants on the market right now, a 129% increase over last year. As these devices get smarter and cheaper, we can expect sales to continue to soar.

One of the reasons these home assistants are appealing is they simplify search results. Instead of a page of listings, they give a single definitive answer. To optimize for that type of search, marketers need to pay close attention both to local search and to sites that partner with home assistants, like Yelp and CitySearch for business reviews.

#4: Featured Snippets

For marketers, the point of a search is for the user to click on our link in the SERP and read our carefully-crafted content. For consumers, the point of search is most often to get a single piece of information. Google is on the consumers’ side in this case – they’re constantly adding new features to keep people from having to click search results.

Featured snippets occupy a “rank 0” space in search results, above the actual SERP:

Basically, Google pulls content from one of the top 10 search results and displays it, along with a link to the source. According to Ahrefs’ exhaustive snippets study, these little answer boxes can “steal” nearly 9% of clicks from the top organic listing. And Google is doubling down on the feature, displaying multiple snippets per query, increasing the length of text appearing in the box, even adding a carousel of options readers can browse without clicking through.

The good news for marketers is snippets most often appear for long-tail keywords. If your content is a comprehensive explanation of a topic with multiple sub-topics, you’re already optimizing for snippets.

Me Content, You Audience

Searchers no longer have to dumb down their queries, which means marketers shouldn’t dumb down content to please a search algorithm. Search is getting more convenient, more conversational, and accessible across a wider array of devices.  So it’s time for marketers to evolve our content to match. Unless, of course, your target audience is actually Tarzan.

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Content Conversations: Content Marketing Predictions for 2018

Last year around this time, we asked reached out to a series of content experts (many of which are included in this post), to ask them for their top content prediction for 2017. By and large, the explosion of video content was a top prediction and rang true this year.

We also received predictions related to the mistrust of news sources (#FakeNews anyone?), the need for restructure within marketing departments as content marketing roles become more defined and the necessity for a defined content marketing strategy.

And while each of these predictions were spot on) or very close to what we’ve experienced this year), some of them were very aspirational. This year, content marketers have been through alot. They’ve had to do even more with less, focus even more on marketing performance and try to navigate a very saturated marketplace.

In the past few weeks we’ve discussed the biggest content lessons in 2017 and how to hit the ground running with content in 2018. This week we get a glimpse at some raw, grounded and actionable content marketing predictions for 2018.

Digital Platforms Will Evolve

The platforms and tools that we use on a daily basis are in the midst of a revolution. Advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are having a significant impact on the industry, one that we can’t ignore.

As content marketers begin to rely more heavily on this technology, they’ll find that they will have even more insights and data which should make for better, more impactful content.

Ann Handley

Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

“We’re going to see new art forms emerge for content in 2018.” @annhandley tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What additional data do we need to create more impactful content?
  • What tools and plugins already exist that can help to better inform the content we create?
  • How will technologies like AI and Machine Learning shape our approach in 2018 and beyond?

Marketing Will Become a Profit Center

Traditionally, marketing has been viewed as a cost center within organizations large and small. Marketing is the thing that costs money, that doesn’t create new business and is often the first department to experience budget or resource cuts.

Jump to 2018, and it’s time to change that narrative. Good marketers have been lead and revenue obsessed for years, and use data to show their worth. Now it’s time for everyone else to catch up.

If content marketers can narrow their focus and spend time nurturing their audience and developing marketing strategies that move them through the purchasing funnel, they’ll begin to see the direct correlation between marketing and sales made.

Joe Pulizzi

Author & Keynote Speaker

“What if we can build a loyal audience, and generate direct revenue from that audience and have marketing be self-sustaining.” @joepulizzi tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • How does my company value our marketing department?
  • Are we a cost or profit center?
  • What steps can we take immediately to gather, analyze and act on data to become more efficient?

2018 Will Leave a Content Crater

Everyone and their dog (literally), consider themselves to be content marketers. The landscape is saturated with crappy content that is leaving many audiences unsatisfied and turned off, even when it comes to the good stuff.

We are in an era where people know that they need to be creating content, but they aren’t always equipped to create the right content. In the coming year, we’ll see even more people creating even more content without purpose.

Chris Brogan

CEO, Owner Media Group

“We’re on the tail-end of people knowing they need to create content. Content 2018 is Applebee’s announcing $1 margaritas every day of the week.” @chrisbrogan tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Does the content that we create have purpose?
  • What can we do to ensure we’re creating the right content for the right audience(s)?

Marketers Will Focus More on A/B Testing

Creating and promoting content a certain way because it’s “the way you’ve always done it”, won’t help you become a better or more successful marketer.

The best marketers, take the time to test different variations, analyze the data and optimize based on the results. When you do start an A/B testing initiative it’s essential that you keep the variables to a minimum. That way you can determine which variable had the impact and optimize your approach moving forward.

Alexandra Rynne

Content Marketing Manager – Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

“In 2018, we’ll see a lot more companies A/B testing.” @amrynnie tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What content or content promotion assets can we begin A/B testing immediately?
  • What types of content do we want to A/B test moving forward?
  • What tools do we have in place or need in order to effectively A/B test?

B2B Brands Will Inject Humor into Marketing

Most B2B marketers think that content is serious business. However, that notion runs counter to the buzzwords we’ve been throwing around for years about humanizing brands, showcasing authenticity and ultimately creating content for people.

Smart B2B brands will take the time in 2018 to begin testing adding humor into their marketing in a way that creates a more meaningful connection with their audience.

Tim Washer

Writer & Producer, Cisco

“2018 will be the year that we’ll see more B2B brands using humor in their content. Using humor is a wonderful way to share our flaws as people.” @timwasher tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Would my audience be open to consuming content from our brand that is more humorous?
  • How can we add humor to our content in a way that makes sense?

Content Measurement Will Reign Supreme

In 2018 marketers will need to be even more data driven than ever before. Reporting on KPIs will no longer be accepted as marketers have access to information that can help them measure true content impact and performance against business objectives.

Additionally, marketers will need to use this data to map the full buyer journey to determine the correct place for each piece of content.

Dayna Rothman

VP of Marketing & Sales Development, BrightFunnel

“Marketers will need to go above and beyond KPIs and determine what content is moving the needle for pipeline and revenue.” @dayroth tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Do I have access to the data I need?
  • What impact is my content having currently?
  • How can we create more impactful content that maps to business objectives?

Marketers Still Won’t Have a Documented Strategy

Documenting a formal content strategy still seems to be a struggle for many marketers. And while there is a slight increase each year in the number of marketers who do have a content strategy, it’s not enough.

Without a plan, it’s impossible to meet or exceed expectations. Simply formalizing your plan can provide a framework for how you’ll approach content, what your goals are and how you can make decisions based on the data you collect.

Chris Moody

Content Marketing Leader, GE Digital

“We have to get to a point where every marketer is data driven and showing ROI.” @cnmoody tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • If you don’t have a plan, what is hindering you from creating one?
  • What are your biggest content marketing goals for 2018?
  • How can you work backwards to determine how you will reach them?

BONUS: In 20 Years, Content Marketing Will Be ______

As an added bonus, we asked our experts to predict beyond the coming year and share their vision for content marketing in 20 years. Here were their responses:

What is Your Content Marketing Prediction for 2018?

Content marketing changes so quickly that these predictions can’t possibly cover all of the changes that we will experience in the coming year. So that begs the question: what is your top content marketing prediction for 2018?

Disclosure: BrightFunnel & LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. |
Content Conversations: Content Marketing Predictions for 2018 | http://www.toprankblog.com

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