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 five 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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How, When, & Why Should You Use Personalization in an Email Marketing Campaign?

Dale Carnegie, author of the famed How to Win Friends and Influence People, said in his book, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

That concept is a powerful truth that you can spin to your advantage in practically any aspect of your marketing strategy, most of all in email since it is the most personal, one-on-one online marketing channel.

That being said, let's explore how and when you should use personalization in your email marketing campaigns and why it matters so much.

How to Personalize Your Emails

Using the recipient’s name is certainly the foremost way to personalize your emails and start the one-on-one conversation with your subscribers but it’s not the only way.

Here’s a quick list of more options to personalize emails that go beyond using just the name:

  • Location
  • Industry (esp. for B2B marketing)
  • Age
  • Browsing data (from visit sessions on your website)
  • Customer data (previous purchases)

The important thing, however, is to remember to collect all of this data. Some of this data can be collected through form fields when a new subscriber initially inputs their data. The rest of it, such as location and browsing data, can be obtained through user tracking and the like.

One of the keys to implementing personalization is not to go overboard with it. Often, just the mention of a name can pique subscriber interest, then adding in one or two more data points really makes the email seem individualized.

Here’s an example of how Shopify uses personalization to keep subscribers to their forum interested:

Not only do they use a first name, but they also utilize the user’s browsing history on their website to match up forum threads that the subscriber will actually find interesting and relevant to Jonathan.

When to Personalize Your Emails

Knowing when to personalize an email and when to withhold revealing information collected on a customer is tricky but extremely important.

The first email, serving as the initial contact point between you and the subscriber, is critical to the future of your relationship. First impressions do matter, and if you can make the user feel like you’re paying them attention right from the get-go, by at least including their name, chances are you’ll preserve a favorable perception of your brand.

Other important email types to personalize are transactional emails, upsell emails, and emails during the course of a sale.

Personalization can help to make a purchase memorable to your customers, and it will also go a long way towards your current customers feeling comfortable with purchasing other related products, ultimately boosting sales and revenue.

On the contrary, including too much super-specific information, like location, can be off-putting to some users. Given the current climate surrounding the whole privacy issue, subscribers, particularly older generation Internet users, may be disturbed by how much you know about them. Keep this in mind and choose when to use data wisely.

Why Personalization Matters

So now that we’ve discussed when and how to implement personalization in your email marketing strategy, let’s drive home why it matters to your business. There’s no better way to do that than by taking a look at the results other marketers have achieved through personalization:

If you haven’t yet started using personalization to revamp your email marketing strategy, you’re missing out. Download The Personalization Playbook today to deliver on your customers' expectations and in return win their loyalty and increase revenue! 

The Personalization Playbook

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How to Improve Your Confidence and Conquer the World (or at Least Your To-Do List)

“That idea is stupid. Your headline sucks. Your headlines always suck. Everyone else on the planet is better at this than you are. No one will ever want to read this trash. I wonder if Starbucks is hiring.” – That crappy inner voice in our heads In the late spring of 1997, I went to
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What I Learned About Domains From a Bad GoDaddy Experience and What ANY Business Can Learn From How It Was Handled

You should know that I rarely choose to use the privilege of your attention to bark at companies that rub me the wrong way, but when Jacqueline told me about her GoDaddy problem, I knew that I had to lay it all out in a post and get loud about it. While the problem is technically resolved, there’s a lot to learn from this and I have a lot to share with you.

First, I’ll Recap With New Understanding

So here’s what happened (corrected) from my perspective:

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