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    Highlight reel Search Engine Watch


    transformation of search summit highlights

    On Friday we held the Transformation of Search Summit 2019 here in New York City. Huge thank you to all of our speakers, attendees, and sponsors who made the day a success!

    In this article we’ve compiled some key quotes, stats, and otherwise tweetable highlights from the event.

    Keynote: The transformation of search

    First we heard from Carolyn Shelby, SEO Manager, Audience Development at the Walt Disney Company / ESPN.

    One of the key quotes from her session was “The trick is to understand the psychology of people. Get in front of the consumer. That’s where search engines are going. What is the least amount of thinking that I can make a consumer do? How can I get them what they want the fastest?”

    She also walked us through a brief SERP evolution, from collecting and organizing, to scoring / ranking relevancy, to now delivering immediate gratification.

    The future of search is visual

    Next up we heard from Michael Akkerman of Pinterest on the growth of visual search and its role in the future.

    He talked about the evolution of consumer expectations, from physical stores, to digital convenience, to omnichannel promise, to the inspired shopping of today.

    Where it once may have seemed that consumers were only focused on convenience, we’re now seeing the re-emergence of shopping and discovery in the consumer experience.

    He also talked about the role of Pinterest in consumer discovery. On Pinterest, he says, they have billions of text-based searches every month. Of those, 90% are non-brand searches. “People don’t know what they want,” he says. For brands looking to focus on the discovery portion of the consumer journey, Pinterest could be a great option.

    Michael was joined on stage by Dave Fall, CEO of BrandNetworks. They did a Q&A about what brands can do to get started with visual search.

    For many brands, they said, it can feel like there’s a big barrier of entry or that it has to be a huge undertaking. But, they noted, remember that your brand does have visual assets already — think about what you use for your website, display ads, Amazon product listings, etc. Consider how you can re-purpose those to get started.

    What DTCs and legacy brands can learn from each other 

    Next we heard from Kerry Curran of Catalyst (GroupM). She talked about what brands can do to flip their performance marketing mindsets.

    One particularly interesting finding she shared was that in campaigns, when brands communicate like a human, it can improve conversion by 900%.

    She also noted that in the US, women over age 50 have $15 trillion in buying power. For many marketers, it might seem like younger generations have more appeal — but older generations have deeper pockets.

    Embarking on a search transformation project

    After this, we had a panel discussion on “embarking on a search transformation project.”

    The panel included experts from Conde Nast, Microsoft, Mindshare, Volvo, and McKinsey.

    John Shehata from Conde Nast shared some work they did to refresh and consolidate older content in order to boost keyword visibility by up to 1000%.

    The challenge, as he pointed out, is that 90% of online content was created in the last two years, and 90% of that content gets no traffic. And, 50% of searches on Google end in no clicks. To face that, his team is working on taking past content, consolidating multiple pieces, and focusing on making each piece amazing.

    Noel Reilly of Microsoft also touched on the speed at which new content is created. She encouraged marketers to think more broadly about what people want and are looking to discover. At Microsoft Ads, she said, 18% of queries each month are new queries.

    When inputs are continuing to change so much, she recommended marketers really look at their search query reports to build content around those.

    John Shehata of Conde Nast also spoke a bit about what they’re doing to prepare for voice search. Overall, he’s adopting a more conservative approach: investing a little, getting the foundation ready, and waiting for more clarity before diving into larger scale investment.

    He likened the current discussion of voice search to the conversation about mobile a decade ago: “Remember when we said ‘mobile is here’ for ten years? But then it took ten years.”

    And to wrap up from this session, we heard another great point from Noel of Microsoft: “The most successful brands I see are the ones putting people at the center of their advertising. Regardless of what the next big thing is in search, your job as a marketer is to understand your customer.”

    Amazon search

    Next we heard from John Denny with some interesting statistics and expert tips on Amazon search.

    When it comes to how different generations search, he revealed that 52% of Gen Z named Amazon as their favorite site for shopping. The number two spot went to Nike, who claimed just 4% of votes — putting Amazon at 13 times that.

    He also discussed three of the main options CPG brands have for driving purchases / traffic: a brand’s own website, a brand’s detail page on Amazon, and in-store traffic.

    For the largest 100 CPG brands out there, he said, there was five times more traffic on the Amazon detail page plus in-store than there was on the brand’s own website.

    His message: for brands not on Amazon, might be time to consider it.

    Optimizing for voice search

    Next, we heard another panel, this time specifically on voice search, from Mastercard, Synup, and Advantix Digital.

    While earlier in the day we heard a more cautious perspective from Conde Nast, this panel was a bit more bullish on voice search.

    Synup CEO Ashwin Ramesh gave one interesting rationale around the rapid adoption of voice search globally in countries like India, Indonesia, and parts of Southeast Asia. In India, he says, 50% of all searches are already done via voice. “They’re leapfrogging markets,” he said. He also gave the personal example that his grandmother — she doesn’t type and has never used a computer, but she sends him voice messages via her iPad.

    Paradigm shifts in search

    After this we heard from Stephen Kraus, Head of Digital Insights at Jumpshot. He shared many interesting statistics about the current state of the search industry and how it’s shifting.

    90% of all search happens on Google, he says, and it skews branded (unlike on Pinterest). Of the top ten most used search terms on Google in the past couple months, seven are brands: Google, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Walmart, Craigslist, and BMW.

    The other three, interestingly, were “you,” “weather,” and “news.”

    While 90% of all search happens on Google, when it comes to product-related search, 54% happens on Amazon.

    Stay tuned for part two with highlights from the afternoon sessions, as well as some deep dives into specific insights!

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