How marketers can prepare for the future of search

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the first (of what will hopefully be many) Manyminds: Give it a go conference.

The name may be a mouthful, but the premise of the event is anything but hard to swallow. The day revolves around giving first time speakers the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and try their hand at proper conference speaking in front of an eager (and supportive) audience.

Experts in beginners clothing

Full disclosure, the speaker list features a few close friends of mine. Having said that, I’ve got to make a quick note on the calibre of all the speakers. Despite this being their first talk, every single person expelled phenomenal amounts of confidence and proficiency. Their expertise consistently shone through, and if you’d have told me that they’d being doing the marketing conference circuit for years, I’d have had a hard time not believing you.

The presentations were diverse and insightful. From voice search to hats for cats (no really), each talk was filled with useful knowledge, applicable skills and unique learnings.

The future is voice search

So, let’s start with voice search. Currently a hot topic among the digital marketing community, we heard multiple takes on how it will impact search, how brands can prepare for its rise and why it has risen so prominently in the last year.

What I wasn’t prepared for was just how big voice search is. Luke Monaghan, SEO Manager, stated that “50% of all searches are expected to be voice searches by 2020”. This is an astronomical amount of people talking to their phones or computers to do something that previously required physical input.

To give you a better a feel for just how many people that is, it’s estimated that 326 million people used voice search in the last month alone.

Frictionless search

Part of the reason behind this popularity could be the fact that it removes those physical inputs. As Operations Director Tom Pratt pointed out, like the many successful advances in technology before it, voice search removes a level of friction.

To quote Luke’s slides again, “it evokes a more natural, conversational search behaviour”.

Voice isn’t just changing how people search, it’s changing what they search as well. Due to it’s conversational, frictionless nature, voice search is much more impulsive, and intent-driven, than its counterparts.

Marketers no longer need to just focus on need, they must now consider intent. Brands need to understand what it is their users may want from them and how they may go about asking for it, then build content around those questions. This means a shift in focus from using as many short keywords as possible to building thematic, longtail key terms, that address and expand upon queries.

Luckily, there are tools to help marketers better understand both how and what people are searching for. One of my favourites, Answer the Public, is great for reaching the popular queries related to keywords. Another, Storybase, is fantastic at generating content ideas by providing questions surrounding your key terms.

Use the above to help expand your content strategy and get a handle on creating with voice in mind.

A framework that actually works

Voice search wasn’t the only theme being discussed. CRO, technical site migrations, content ideation, outreach and user psychology were all covered in great detail, among many other topics.

One talk that particularly resonated with me was Anna Corbett’s presentation on building a marketing framework, that discussed the prevalent divide that currently exists in the B2C.

To bridge the knowledge gap between industry and companies, Anna developed a flexible marketing framework that in her own words, helps “eradicate the disconnect between brands and their customers.”

Marketing for intent

As with voice search, this framework is based around user intent; considering what users see, think, and do along every step of the customer journey, then using this information to separate and align goals, channels and content.

The example Anna used was hats for cats:

  • Users see stylish cats in cute hats in videos and content on social media
  • They then think about the ways they could accessories their cats by asking questions through search
  • Once they’ve figured out which cat clothing is the coolest, they can be converted through PPC and paid social

As you can see, the channel, goal, and related content changes along each step of the way.

I highly recommend trying out this framework for yourself (and reading the related slides). It’s even flexible, so can be tailored to help build trust, refine keywords and explore other audiences, and is sure to become an invaluable tool in your marketing arsenal.

In summary

I think one of the speakers, SEO Consultant Emily Clayfield, summed it up best when she said, “a good idea solves a problem with a simple & relevant solution”.

The day was filled with not just good, but great ideas; each of which was tailored to help effectively and efficiently solve issues many marketers face daily. Manyminds: Give it a go conference was a hub of knowledgeable professionals sharing their knowledge, and a haven for first time speakers to build their confidence.

Looks like I better buck up my ideas and get my talk ready for next year.