5 Fundamental Shifts That Are Shaping Search & Digital Marketing

The last six months have seen a climatic mix of chaos, uncertainty, empathy, challenge, and opportunity.

All over the world, companies have had to adjust operations.

They rapidly scale up or down, and rethink their entire business model as conditions continue to change.

At the same time, the transformation to digital accelerated, with the demand for SEO at its core.

In this article, I will share five fundamental shifts that I see in the market with some insights into search behaviors.

1. The Traditional Customer Journey Is Changing in Many Industry Sectors of the Economy

Suppose you look at big B2B companies like Salesforce, Adobe, and IBM.

They historically relied heavily on tradeshows and field-to-field meetings.

Now they are investing in online content for their websites to replace what customers would have gotten from offline events.

They are creating content and mechanisms for one-on-one online interactions so their account teams can connect with customers.

For example, practically overnight retail consumer questions about takeout menus, seating charts, and COVID policies have changed what customers are looking for.

Global companies are struggling to understand how they should adapt to a new normal and modify their content for different regions to address regional lockdowns and re-openings.

Pro Tips

  • As we enter Q4 and holiday shopping season, search can help reveal these radical changes in real-time.
  • Continue to invest in virtual connections and be prepared to balance them with in-person events when the time comes.

2. Narrowcast Marketing Fails in Times of Dynamic Change

Marketers that are looking at a narrow range of metrics are failing to capture important Business Intelligence (BI) to understand the full extent of market shifts to inform search strategy.

Analytics that look at a narrow range of metrics fail to grasp the extent of market shifts I have seen in search.

Typically, SEO platforms look only narrowly at trends.

That’s not enough to really see the scale and breadth of what is happening in search.

It’s essential to process massive amounts of data to see the full scope of changes happening across the whole search landscape.

Pro Tips

  • Ingest as much data as you and your team can, use it better, and utilize AI where you can.
  • Invest more time to gain a better understanding of market data and not just user data.

3. What’s Past Is Not a Prologue

I’ve seen a significant shift away from over-reliance on historical trends during COVID.

There’s a greater and more critical role today for real-time data in the search and content space.

It’s critical to detect how markets and customer intent is changing massively and quickly.

SEO and digital marketers have to speed up their cadences when things are rapidly changing and the magnitudes of those changes are great.

Looking at data quarterly or even monthly can miss essential inflection points.

Pro Tips

  • Going forward, marketers need to respond more quickly to thrive in this kind of market.
  • Marketers need to look for timely data to rethink their search strategies for the holidays and the new year.

4. Big Trends Can Hide Important Things

Valuable insights – particularly in markets that have been hit hard by Covid-19, are found at a very granular level.

For example, flights are down overall.

But it’s city-by-city changes, city-pair changes, and timing of regional lockdowns and local quarantine requirements that marketers need to be able to see.

Similarly, interest in regional flights is growing, whereas interest in international flights is down.

Marketers need to look at a granular level, find where the opportunities are, even in a market like travel that has been depressed.

  • Marketers need to go both broad and go deep at the same time.
  • As marketers, we have to process vast amounts of data and get better at looking at it at a granular level to reveal insights and patterns that are actionable.

5. Marketers Need to Seize Q4 Opportunity & Try New Approaches to Understand User Intent

What digital marketers and SEO professionals have long known is finally coming to fruition: online shopping is convenient and easy.

Shoppers are browsing more frequently, which is leading to more purchases and overall revenue, according to research from the 2020 BrightEdge Holiday Planning Guide.

However, these purchases are smaller in value.

A recent survey revealed that 60% of consumers have been shopping online more often since COVID-19.

Of that group, 73% plan to continue after the pandemic.

Now has never been a better time for marketers to test new ways of understanding intent from a macro industry and a micro user perspective.

For example, earlier this year Best Buy, Kohl’s, Walmart, and Target announced they won’t be open on Thanksgiving Day.

It’s still a little unclear if major retailers are sitting out Black Friday altogether, but smaller stores will likely be shifting everything online to generate sales.

With fewer Black Friday customers, self-isolating shoppers will be keenly focused on Cyber Monday deals.

The more marketers build up their knowledge and understanding of macro trends that affect their industry and combine this with search intelligence, the better they will understand different types of intent – not just in the holiday season but in the year ahead.

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Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, October 2020