Transformation of Search Summit roundup

This past Friday we held our inaugural Transformation of Search Summit here in NY. Let’s just say, we’re already looking to book our venue for next year! On a scale of one to success, it was smashing.

Firstly, thank you (yet again) to all who came out to sponsor, speak at, and attend the event — couldn’t have done it without you.

As frequenters of many events ourselves, we did our best to ensure this one was full of high quality, fluff-free content. None of those talks where you get the end and think, “okay, but take out the buzzwords, and what did they say?” We asked for the moon, and our wonderful speakers delivered.

Some particularly rich (dare we say featured) snippets from the day:

Where search is heading

Siddharth Taparia, SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation, SAP, kicked off our morning speaking on the future of where search is heading. Social is the new storefront. The top 500 retailers earned 6.5 billion from social shopping in 2017, up 24%.

With the rise of voice search, position 0 is the ultimate prize. Over half of search queries will be voice based by 2020. A quarter of US homes have smart speakers. 92% of 18-29 year olds have smartphones. 90% increase in capabilities for voice search with only 8% error rate

Protecting privacy is a big deal. Alexa is coming to the office, the hotel, healthcare, the car, even learning. When you put a chip in everything, the whole world becomes a security threat. Even Google and Amazon are not immune to these.

New research: The Era of Ecommerce

Kerry Curran, Managing Partner, Marketing Integration, Catalyst & Clark Boyd, Research Lead, ClickZ, presented our headlining research report for the day: The Era of Ecommerce. Among many things, this research found a notable gap between how consumers browse, purchase, and behave online, and where advertisers put spend to reel those consumers in. Hint: not the same places.

There’s a lot more we could (and surely will) write about this report — not to mention that it was already 50+ pages long. For now I’ll direct you here for more information and here for the free download — enjoy!

How blockchain will affect search

Jeremy Epstein, CEO, Never Stop Marketing. For those who have never heard Jeremy speak, he is the best kind of fireball on stage. Spirited and smart, with the perfect sprinkle of self-deprecating humor. Jeremy speaks often on blockchain and the decentralized economy, and at this summit he focused on what those will mean for search. There’s a new sector — still in its infancy — of decentralized content that poses unique challenges in the search world: hard for search engines to index, curated by the audience, and where revenue generated goes directly to the creators of that content.

Panel: ClickZ, Adobe, Microsoft, Google

Panel discussion: Clark Boyd, Research Lead, ClickZ. Pete Kluge, Group Manager, Product Marketing, Adobe, Christi Olson, Head of Evangelism, Microsoft. Juan Felipe Rincón, Global Lead, Trust & Safety Search Outreach, Google

This was an interesting panel discussion on what awaits us in the future of search — things like connecting content and searches over several days, and more gender equality for women who search in emerging markets. They of course touched on types of search, and how Amazon is affecting the industry.

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Visual search, which starts to answer the long-held question of “how do you search for something if you don’t know what it is?” and which particularly rings true for retail: this person has a nice scarf, where did it come from, where can I get one?

They also discussed how the input:output exchange of search is changing. It used to be only text:text. Now it can be image:voice, voice:voice, or any number of expanding options.

We need a bit of a mindset shift. We do a lot of our planning in terms of old paradigms, but more and more searches are being done by default, through lots of entry points.

They voiced how the future of search is no search, because search implies uncertainty. Instead, it will be about how you populate something before someone knows what they don’t know. In the future we won’t be searching, AI will do it for us. The experience of a user going through search is not here’s a keyword, here’s what I need. Sometimes we actively search, sometimes we want to be kept informed about things interesting to us.

And finally, bringing us a bit back to our feet — they reminded us that while we talk a lot about the future and transformation of search, a lot can be done now. Particularly around visual search, there’s still a lot of basic groundwork that people aren’t doing, such as using alt tags on images and making sure our visual content is properly described. As Rincon put it, “Look at the web as if you didn’t have eyes.

Mobile search

Jason White, Director, SEO, Hertz. Fun fact about Jason: he started off doing SEO in 2003 because he competed in cycling races and worked at a bike shop to get discounts on parts, and the bike shop wanted to sell excess inventory in the winter. Fifteen years later, he’s Director of SEO at Hertz. Yet another quintessential example of great, self-taught SEOs who stumbled into the field and were pleasantly surprised to find it stuck.

Best quote from Jason? “You’re going to have a smart toilet bowl at sometime in your life. What will it say about you?” He talked about the future of IoT and security. We learned our data is worth $250 per year, and it’s going up every year. And finally, that billions of queries are made every day, 15% of which are completely new — ones Google says people had never searched for before.

Amazon and Amazon Marketing Services

John Denny, VP Ecommerce & Digital Marketing, Cavu Venture Partners (formerly Bai Brands). Luis Navarrete Gomez, Head of Global Search Marketing, LEGO

This was a particularly hands-on session with 7 excellent tips for leveraging Amazon and Amazon Marketing Services, i.e. both paid and organic search. And it was certainly from a trustworthy source — John Denny helped lead Bai beverages to be named 2015 Vendor of the Year by Amazon.

They related how running search campaigns on Amazon has been a struggle, one which many compare to what it was like running Google search campaigns in 2005. Happily, there’s been some rapid development of ad tech platforms changing the game of late.

They also talked about the tangible nature of Amazon campaigns versus elsewhere on the web — marketers selling physical products. As John put it, “A lot of execs hear about Amazon ads and think great, let’s rock and roll! But the reality on Amazon is that you can’t rock and roll anywhere if your product is out of stock. Build your foundation first.

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The full-funnel search approach

Claudia Virgilio, GVP of Strategic Partnerships, Kenshoo spoke to us about the importance of taking a full-funnel search approach. Amazon advertising has 197 million monthly unique visitors, and $4.6 billion spend.

How to optimize for voice search

Melissa Walner, Director, Global SEO, Hilton led another particularly practical session, coming from a brand that certainly gets asked a lot of questions — everything from “what’s the address of my hotel” to “what are fun things to do in Maui with kids?” Melissa had great insight into how to optimize specifically for voice search, and viewing SEO these days as not just search engine optimization so much as search everywhere optimization and search everything optimization.

She pointed out that 1 billion voice searches are made each month already, and that by 2020, 30% of all searches will be done without a screen.

In a voice search world, position 0 is queen: 80% of google home responses stem from a featured snippet. She then gave great tips for securing those featured snippets, on both high-level strategic and in-the-weeds technical levels.

Visual search and ecommerce

Clark hopped back up to cover visual search and how it affects ecommerce. One key quote from this session was pulled from our research report, from Amy Vener of Pinterest: “Shopping has always been visual. We’ve just been taught to do the opposite online.

93% of consumers consider images to be be key deciding factor in a purchasing decision.

61% of consumers aged 18-34 discover new products through social media. If consumers start purchasing directly through these social platforms, that could pose a big problem for someone like Amazon.

We also learned about structured data to help search engines understand content, and the importance of always marking up price, availability, image, and product name. For the curious, the Pinterest engineering blog is quite open on how their visual search works.

Panel: UPS, Codecademy, Heineken, Condé Nast

Panel: Andrew Spikes, Head of Global Paid Search, UPS. Kunal Arya, Performance Marketing Manager, Codecademy. Nikolai Zeinikov, Ecommerce Director, Heineken. John Shehata, VP, Audience Development Strategy, Condé Nast

To close out the day, we had a final panel discussion on strategies for search transformation. Panelists from UPS, Codecademy, Heineken, and Conde Nast carried us through with light-hearted, quippy, down to earth thoughts on how they strategize search at their organizations.

They reminded us that almost 80% of successful add to baskets happen through search, and that people use search because they can’t easily find the products.

They also exemplified how SEO teams are still very much “lean beasts.” One of them mentioned that even at such a large company, their “search” team was a mere four people — and two of them were UX/UI. “When I first started, it was a huge mess,” he said. Further proof that a lot can be done with few hands on deck, and that strategy has a lot to do with choosing what not to do.

All in all, it was an excellent, enlightening day. We’ll have some more in-depth video content to come on specific sessions. Until then, another s/o to those who joined us!

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