The future of search at Google includes fascinating changes that will deeply affect the course of B2B marketing.
Google’s search and other services jointly hold vast influence over what people see and do online, a powerful position that isn’t likely to significantly change anytime soon.
Like ocean waves, search always changes at Google, and whether it’s through tiny incremental shifts or explosive changes of course, the future this tech giant is enthusiastically creating is one savvy B2B marketers can’t afford to ignore.
Let’s explore some of Google’s future plans and most recent search changes, while also looking at what they mean for B2B marketers.
Google Search & The Sands of Time
Although change has always been swift in online search, the sands of time leave none unaffected, and eventually even Google may one day find itself as the next to meet the fate of Yahoo or Ask.com. I remember the sad day in 2003 when I had to say goodbye to my longtime beloved search engine from AltaVista, one of the major casualties of upstart Google’s rise to search dominance.
Most agree that Google is well-positioned for many years of continued success however, and learning how to best work within the future of search the firm is pursuing may be more important right now than ever before for B2B marketers. Let’s look at how and why.
What Should B2B Marketers Do? Orchestrate What You Can Control
For many years now most of the mechanisms Google uses to show search results have been hidden and proprietary. Long gone are the days when you could completely reverse-engineer or decode a search algorithm, as Brett Tabke, search pioneer and founder of the Pubcon series of conferences and the WebmasterWorld message forums, did with the circa-1995 Excite search engine.
B2B marketers are well-served by focusing on the qualities that make your business’s marketing efforts unique, and turning them into best-answer content, the kind our CEO Lee Odden has spoken and written about extensively over the past several years. “How A Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results” offers a good introduction to what best-answer content is.
By creating best-answer solutions that Google will want to present to searchers, you’re focusing on what you have the most control over rather than on forever trying to catch up with the maneuvers of another business — even if it’s Google.
There’s nothing wrong with also devoting some of your resources to attempting to understand the private portions of Google’s search algorithms, however it’s important to recognize where your marketing efforts will reap the greatest dividends, especially as the search landscape matures and changes.
Let’s examine how these search and technology shifts at Google are poised to take place — and how some are already happening.
Prepare Your Business For Touch-Free Gesture Marketing
When it comes to Google, B2B marketers should prepare for a future in search that features more touch-free phones and devices, controlled by body gestures and sometimes even helped by special connected clothing and accessories.
Google’s newest efforts in these areas will arrive first this fall, as its forthcoming Pixel 4 phone is set to include the type of gesture control features that will let users perform tasks by waving a hand, finger pinching, or even by simply blinking.
When touch screens appeared they brought with them new opportunities and challenges, however Google’s touchless features of the immediate and distant future will go much farther, and require B2B marketers to work even harder to adapt if they wish to embrace and drive gestural marketing in search.
Using a small radar chip with sensors, Google newly-FCC-approved Motion Sense technology is set to be the firm’s newest public release of the gesture controls it has been working on for some five years in its Soli project through X, the skunkworks test lab formerly known as Google X.
Whether it’s Google, Apple, or another tech firm that makes the touchless search future mainstream, B2B marketers can prepare by learning as much as possible about gesture technology, and anticipating the many ways it could be used to create better, more immersive kinds of best-answer content.
When the touch-free future arrives in earnest, it’s bound to have many implications in search and other marketing areas. Just a few of the possible marketing tactics incorporating gesture controls we may see include:
- Business websites that detect visitors who are using gestural tech and present full navigation, search, chat, and contact elements optimized for touch-free customers
- Organic and paid advertisements that go far beyond today’s virtual reality and augmented reality experiences do, being able to more efficiently deliver your business’ campaign messaging
- Always-on touch-free messaging to reach your audience — and allow them to reach you — wherever they are and at any time, which means that smart businesses even in the B2B world should prepare for inquiries arriving when a customer is in the car, out walking, or up getting a late-night snack in the kitchen.
How strong will your campaign’s messaging need to be — and how powerful your storytelling — when in a touch-free marketing landscape all a consumer needs to do in order to skip your ad is blink?
Google’s new phones are also slated to include facial recognition features, presenting marketers with a slew of fascinating possible targeting options once advertising delivery systems catch up.
These and other innovations at Google will alter how people search, learn, and lead their professional and personal lives, but most of the fundamental elements of search — the query and the answer — will thankfully remain, and continue to be an important area for B2B marketers to have a real impact connecting with audiences.
Discovering the questions that are important to your audience is a great way to help make the most of your search strategy, and we recently dug into how to do this in “10 Smart Question Research Tools for B2B Marketers.”
Keyword Planner’s Future Starts Now
Changes in search at Google aren’t all über-futuristic technologies like touch-free gestural controls and face recognition. Most of the changes the firm makes are gradual and continuing efforts, such as some of the recent updates it released for marketers using its popular Keyword Planner tools.
Just last week Google made several changes to Keyword Planner — more robust keyword filtering offering related keywords, and brand-related term exclusions — which may seem minor when taken on their own, but which also represent Google’s continuing efforts to refine its search offerings for marketers, publishers, and individuals.
Google’s path forward in search evolves almost daily, and B2B marketers wanting to get the most from their Google-related efforts will increasingly need to adjust to both the minor changes and the major innovations coming down the pike.
Plan For Fewer Organic Opportunities as SERPs Evolve
Google continues to refine the SERP — a term and abbreviation short for Search Engine Results Page that’s now mainstream to those in the SEO industry and beyond, coined by Brett Tabke in a post on his WebmasterWorld message forums.
In the past several years Google has more radically changed the way it displays SERP information than ever before, incorporating ever-more elements on what for many years was a rather simple and straightforward list of search results.
Just a handful of some of the SERP elements that Google is using or has experimented with include:
- Search Box Auto-Complete
- Featured Snippets
- Answer Boxes
- Localized Results
- Knowledge Panels & Carousels
- Image Results
- Video Results
It’s been no secret to those in the SEO world that the percentage of the SERP page dedicated to showing organic results has significantly diminished, as they’ve largely become surrounded or even at times drowned out by these additional types of results.
In Google’s defense, some would say these elements are primarily aimed at providing answers on a single SERP listing, however as many marketers know, by giving searchers answers in this way Google also decreases the likelihood that people will ever need to visit your website.
Google sometimes calls this “good abandonment,” and some types of B2B firms — those whose businesses revolve around providing static answers to questions — are especially prone to being affected.
As Google continues to present more information panels and answers without having to click and visit the website where the answer originated, or when it shows similar rich snippets and knowledge graph information, B2B marketers face a very real struggle in surfacing their content — a difficult challenge that’s driven many to shift resources from Google search to social platform solutions.
These types of changes happen frequently — just the other day Google made changes to how it incorporates video suggestions in search results, playing video directly from it’s YouTube property, without taking searchers to YouTube’s site.
With today’s non-linear SERP layouts at Google — ones that vary depending on which device you use — it’s also more challenging than ever to get your B2B marketing messages into search results, especially in the coveted non-paid organic segments.
Create a Future Google Search Preparedness Action Plan
What’s a poor B2B marketer to do in the face of so many rapid and radical changes coming from seemingly every direction at the world’s largest search firm?
Focusing on the areas you have control over while also keeping up with Google’s newest changes and upcoming plans gives B2B marketers the chance to develop best-answer content while simultaneously working with the world’s largest search platform.
These days B2B marketers are also lucky to have no shortage of digital avenues outside of search to follow for sharing great content, and below you’ll find four lists — each offering five helpful recent articles we’ve put together that dig in to the alternatives in content marketing, influencer marketing, social media marketing, and of course SEO and search marketing.
Social Media Marketing
You can also learn more on these subjects by joining us at upcoming speaking events and conferences. Our CEO Lee Odden will be speaking at Content Marketing World this fall, where on September 3 he’ll be presenting “How to Develop a B2B Influencer Marketing Program That Actually Works” with Amisha Gandhi of SAP, and a solo session on September 4 exploring “Content Marketing Fitness – 10 Exercises to Build Your Marketing Beach Body.”
Our Senior Director of Digital Strategy Ashley Zeckman will also be speaking at Content Marketing World, in “Guardians of Content Vol 1: How to Scale B2B Influencer Content to Save the Galaxy.”