The lowdown from Googleplex

Posted by Sertan Djelal
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Netcel recently won the Google Engage All-Stars Search Marketing contest, and here are the search marketing highlights from the event.

The Google Engage All-Stars competition sees the world’s top performing search marketing companies go head-to-head for the chance to win one of Google’s highly coveted prizes.

The best part of winning? Aside from recognition of our efforts and achievements on our clients’ accounts - was winning a trip to Google HQ in Mountain View, California for a two-day Search Marketing Summit.  To put this into perspective, visiting Googleplex for someone who does search marketing, is like a visit to Disney World for an eight year old!

Now that the dust has settled and the jet lag has passed from this whirlwind trip, I wanted to share with you the key information and insights from my trip to the Google All-Stars search marketing summit in August.

But first, a little about the trip itself… On day one, we were picked up from our hotel at 7:30am, just a few miles away from the Googleplex. Fifteen minutes later we were dropped off at building 41 – aka the new Google Partner Plex.

After checking-in, we were invited to ‘pin’ our agency’s name up on the giant map of the world. Netcel were one of only three winning agencies representing the UK. We were then led into the ‘breakfast room’ which featured the ‘Google Trends Staircase’. We were then directed to the conference room for an introduction and the start of the presentations, keynote speeches and Q&A sessions, which ranged from the future platforms of advertising to the latest trends in search marketing and web analytics.

Unfortunately, due to the Non-Disclosure Agreements we had to sign, I can’t share everything I learnt with you, but there were some main themes which were discussed over the two days.

1. The Future is Almost Certainly Mobile

Not a huge surprise, granted, but you would be surprised as to how few companies have actually embraced mobile to date. Smart phones and tablets are allowing people to spend an increasing amount of time online as the restraints of desktop computers are lifted. Smarter companies are taking a pro-active approach. They have already optimised or are in the process of optimising their online presence and offerings for mobile through a responsive re-design, a mobile-site or an app. It is essential to jump on the mobile band wagon sooner rather than later, unless you want to be left behind.

Google, who own the vast majority of world's search data, could have been more forthcoming with the statistics. The best we got from them, was that currently around 30% of all search queries are performed on a mobile device. And even though we have already had the main growth spurt, Google believes that mobile will become the dominant platform for search (50% + of queries) within the next 12-18 months.

2. Searchers Intent

More often than not, websites and pages are optimised for specific keywords, where prospective customers are at the ‘purchase’ stage of their buying cycle. The main reasoning for this, is that this is the optimal method for maximising ROI.
Just for reference, the 5 main stages of the online buying cycle are, as follows:

1. Research & Awareness: customer has a specific need and embarks on a mission to identify businesses that can potentially fulfil that need.

2. Consideration: customer evaluation of how your offering meets this need, including the evaluation of offerings from other online vendors.

3. Preference/Intent: a customer’s logical and emotional inclination towards one offering or another, ultimately leading to a decision to purchase.

4. Purchase: The action of placing an online order and buying from your website.

5. Repurchase: The emotional and logical process that (hopefully) leads to repeat custom as well as referrals.

This isn’t something new. However, the stats highlighted in relation to the pure volume of businesses only catering for potential customers at the ‘purchase’ stage were quite staggering. It is essential to cater for searches at each stage in order to capture leads early on in the process, with the view to help them move through the various stages and to maximise overall ROI.

3. Always ‘there’ – Multi-device Optimisation

It wasn’t that long ago that we were all checking directions before leaving home or the office, and printing out maps to take with us, in the hope that we wouldn’t get lost along the way.

How about looking up a phone number (and entering it into your phone) for a restaurant that you were planning on visiting or a movie time if you were going to the cinema?  How quickly things change…  Today we live in an ‘almost always connected world’ where all this information is available at our fingertips at all times.

This is why it’s becoming increasingly important to maintain a visible online presence optimised for our multi-device, always connected world.

4. Relevance

The ability to display ads that are relevant to the searcher in real-time is now easier than ever. Ads can now be targeted depending on time of day, location and by device type (mobile, tablet or desktop).

Optimising ads and campaigns for each can make all the difference with uplift in conversion rates and ultimately your ROI is almost guaranteed.

I say ‘almost’, as with everything, you are provided with the tools and means but how these are used is an entirely separate blog post. A good search marketing campaign strategy and structure does need to be defined and constantly monitored and optimised to reap in the maximum benefits.

5. The End of the World – Cancelled?

Back in February, the whole paid search world was up in arms with Google’s announcement of ‘Enhanced Campaigns’ in Google AdWords. What made it worse was the fact that every campaign would be automatically upgraded in July. The main concern was to do with the loss of control over mobile ads as they would now be combined under one ‘enhanced campaign’.

The reality is that the introduction of enhanced campaigns has actually brought with it a whole host of additional features which allow marketers to control accounts at an almost granular level.

As an example, we are now able to increase bids when the searcher is closer to your place of business, show them an offer to redeem in your store, decrease bids if they are not on a mobile device and much, much more…  What’s more, we are now also able to track other forms of conversion, not just through the AdWords platform, but also by incorporating CRM and offline data for a more inclusive and holistic view of campaign performance.

Greater control and additional features do however add an additional layer of complexity to online search marketing, adding more variables and metrics to track in order to fully optimise campaigns is now a more time-consuming job than it once was but it does make the feeling of satisfaction all that much greater when you do a good job!

All in all, Netcel’s trip to Googleplex was a valuable learning experience, which has provided us with a wealth of knowledge and insight to benefit and share with our clients. And to top it all, it was an absolutely amazing rollercoaster of a trip!