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A Plain English Guide to Real Time Bidding

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A Plain English Guide to Real Time Bidding

Because of its efficiency and cost-effectiveness, real-time bidding (RTB) has become one of the most popular ways to purchase ad inventory online.

But even for experienced marketers, real-time bidding can be a very confusing concept. So let’s break down what RTB is, how it works, and the pros and cons of using it — all while keeping it jargon-free.

In this post, you’ll learn: 

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Let’s get started. 

Real-time bidding is the driving force behind most programmatic advertising campaigns. Programmatic advertising is “the automated process of purchasing and selling online ads.” Real-time bidding allows advertisers to automatically buy ad inventory, place the ads online, and get a certain number of impressions in their programmatic advertising campaigns. 

⭐Don’t have time to read the entire post? Listen to our podcast below about real-time bidding and programmatic advertising: 
Click here to find more valuable content from the MarTech podcast. 

In a traditional media buying process, you have to manually buy ads. Let’s say that you find a magazine that serves your buyer persona. You ask for the media kit, choose the ad dimensions that fit your budget, and then buy the ad for a certain amount of time. Once time runs out, the ad is taken down.

Real-time bidding takes out all of that work. You can get space on that magazine and hundreds of others by letting a Demand-Side Platform (DSP) automatically choose the best publishers and ad spaces, then bid on them for you. You set several certain targeting parameters, such as maximum bid price and target audience. These parameters then determine where your ads are placed.

The publisher accepts your ad only if you place the highest bid. But remember: real-time bidding automatically does all the bidding. You don’t have to take any additional steps.

Still confused? No worries. We break down the concept further below.

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How does real-time bidding work?

There are several pieces involved in the real-time bidding process. Let’s take a look at each one of them one-by-one before putting it all together.

  • Advertiser: The advertiser is the company or brand that wants to place an ad online.
  • Demand-Side Platform (DSP): The Demand-Side Platform is the service advertisers use to launch ad campaigns.
  • Publisher: The publisher is the website or online property that wants to sell ad spaces, often referred to as “ad inventory.”
  • Supply-Side Platform (SSP): The Supply-Side Platform is the service publishers use to make ad inventory available. SSPs run auctions where ad spaces are instantly purchased by the highest bidder. But this can’t happen unless an ad exchange facilitates the transaction.
  • Ad Exchanges: The ad exchange connects companies who want to advertise and publishers who want to sell ad space. Ad exchanges carry out the bidding transaction automatically in real time by connecting both Demand-Side Platforms and Supply-Side Platforms.
  • Impressions: Impressions refers to the number of times an ad is seen or scrolled past. In the real-time bidding process, advertisers don’t pay for one individual impression, but rather the cost per thousand impressions (CPM).

Now, let’s put it together. How exactly does real-time bidding work?

On the advertiser side, marketers use DSPs to set up their ad campaign and track its performance. Publishers, on the other hand, use Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs) to list their ad inventory and the price they charge. They then meet in the middle at the ad exchange, the marketplace where the real-time bidding actually takes place.

To determine what ad inventory to bid on, advertisers will set targeting parameters. For instance, a brand may only want to target users who are in a specific region or have visited their website recently.

So, advertisers, or specifically their Demand-Side Platforms, evaluate ad potential in real time and decide whether or not to place a bid and how much to bid.

Remember, advertisers set their bid through the Demand-Side Platform, while publishers’ Supply-Side Platform either accept or reject the bid. The prices are negotiated on a cost per thousand impressions, so the advertiser isn’t paying based on uptime or even dimensions. Instead, they’re paying for the amount of times, in thousands, that their ad is seen.

Let’s go through another example of how it works.

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Real-Time Bidding Example

Let’s say Silk is a UK-based beauty brand that just launched a new brow line and is running a campaign. They set up their campaign on a Demand-Side Platform (DSP) and are targeting users who regularly shop for makeup products, are located in the Manchester area, and are between 18 to 30 years of age. The brand also wants its ads to only show on sites related to beauty and lifestyle.

A user visits a publisher’s site. The publisher’s Supply-Side Platform (SSP) sends a bid request to the ad exchange, where Silk’s DSP will be evaluating the value of the impression. The DSP will then determine if the user meets the parameters outlined in the campaign. If so, the DSP will submit a bid.

If Silk has the winning bid, the user will see the ad once the page loads. This process happens thousands of times on different webpages during the length of Silk’s ad campaign.

Silk’s paid ads manager will also be monitoring their ad’s performance on the DSP to see if it’s reaching the desired audience, or if the parameters should be adjusted.

Real-Time Bidding Platforms

There are no RTB platforms because real-time bidding is a method of purchasing impressions, not a channel. However, you can use tools that can help you start the real-time bidding process. These tools help you either purchase ad inventory or place ad inventory for sale through RTB.

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Below, we break down some platforms you might use if you’re looking to sell or purchase ad inventory online.

Real-Time Bidding Platforms For Advertisers

As an advertiser, you’ll want to find a Demand-Side Platform that allows you to manage several ad campaigns and set specific targeting parameters — down to the user’s most visited websites and preferred brands. Here are a few options:

  • AdRoll: Self-serve Demand-Side Platform that’s a good fit for beginners in the programmatic advertising space.
  • mediasmart: Self-serve Demand-Side Platform that provides advanced targeting and segmentation capabilities. Good fit if you’ve set up ad campaigns with other tools, such as Google Ads.
  • theTradeDesk: Demand-Side Platform that allows you to place ads on multiple devices, including TV ad rolls, online videos, music streaming devices, mobile apps, and publishers across the web. Good fit if you’re planning to advertise across all of these channels.

Real-Time Bidding Platforms for Publishers

If you have ad inventory to sell, then signing up on a Supply-Side Platform is essential to take advantage of the real-time bidding process. You don’t have to speak with any advertisers, negotiate prices, or do any of the manual work that’s typically associated with account management.

Here are a few channels that will allow you to sell ad inventory through real-time bidding:

  • Magnite: Supply-Side Platform for large-scale ad inventory sellers who also want to sell ad space through Private Marketplace (PMP) and Programmatic Guaranteed (PG). Good fit if you’re an experienced ad seller that wants to upgrade to a more capable system.
  • Index Exchange: Supply-side marketplace that allows you to get started with ad inventory selling on multiple channels, including display, video, mobile, and native. Good fit if you’d like to start selling ad inventory or if you plan to take advantage of all of the available channels.

You can find more SSPs here.

Still not sure whether you should sell or buy ad space through real-time bidding? We go over the pros and cons below.

Real-Time Bidding Pros

Better Tracking

With RTB, advertisers can monitor their campaigns easily without relying on vendors. No need to reach out to multiple publishers and ask for reports, you can get them yourself on your DSP.

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This also gives marketers the agility to pivot quickly if their campaign isn’t performing as expected. For instance, you might find that switching out one keyword for another may boost your campaign’s performance and align better with the audience you want to reach.

Better Targeting

When purchasing ads through RTB, you buy one impression at a time. This means that every time a website visitor or mobile app user visits a publisher’s site, you’re able to assess that person’s particular profile and see if it matches your target audience.

It makes for more accurate targeting as you can ensure your ads are only reaching the right people at the right time.

More Cost-Effective

The precision of the real-time bidding algorithm allows marketers to spend their ad dollars on high-value impressions.

Too often, brands launch marketing campaigns that only reach a portion of their target market, leaving the rest of the budget wasted on users who don’t fit the profile.

In addition, RTB takes much of the manual labor out of the online advertising process, allowing marketers to focus on other efforts.

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Real-Time Bidding Cons

Compromised Brand Safety

Where your ad shows up is as important as who sees it. This is because consumers judge brands’ ads based on the surrounding content.

An Ad Colony survey reported that 60% of consumers have a negative perception of brands whose ads appear near inappropriate, hateful, or offensive content. This can be anything from a site that hosts pirated movies to sites promoting hate speech.

Due to the nature of RTB, there is a risk your ad may appear on a site with content you wouldn’t want your brand associated with. However, brands can limit this issue by putting certain keywords and sites on a “deny” list. This protects brands from showing up on webpages or mobile apps that don’t align with their identity.

Potential Ad Fraud

Ad fraud happens when scammers (or any parties with ill intent) try to trick digital ad networks by falsifying impressions and clicks using bots. Obviously, bots aren’t real people — so they aren’t potential buyers you can eventually convert into customers. Because you don’t get to hand-pick publishers through real-time bidding, there’s the very real chance your ad might be seen by bots instead of real people. The rising sophistication of bots can also cause brands to gather inaccurate data on their campaigns.

Some deceitful publishers fabricate impressions to steal from advertisers. One way to combat this is by using a DSP or ad network with fraud detection software.

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Real-Time Bidding is the Easiest Way to Increase Brand Awareness

Real-time bidding makes the online advertisement process fast and easy. Marketers can skip the back-and-forth previously associated with ad buying and focus on tracking the results, increasing the ROI from your campaigns and empowering your brand to grow better.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

While many brands talk about focusing on the customer, few do it. Less than a quarter (24%) of global brands are mapping customer behavior and sentiment, according to Braze’s 2024 Customer Engagement Review. What’s worse, only 6% apply customer insights to their product and brand approach.

“At the end of the day, a lot of companies operate based on their structure and not how the consumer interacts with them,” Mariam Asmar, VP of strategic consulting, told MarTech. “And while some companies have done a great job of reorienting that, with roles like the chief customer officer, there are many more that still don’t. Cross-channel doesn’t exist because there are still all these silos. But the customer doesn’t care about your silos. The customer doesn’t see silos. They see a brand.”

Half of all marketers report either depending on multiple, siloed point solutions to cobble together a multi-channel experience manually (33%); or primarily relying on single-channel solutions (17%).  Only 30% have access to a single customer engagement platform capable of creating personalized, seamless experiences across channels. This is a huge problem when it comes to cross-channel, personalization.

The persistence of silos

The persistence of data silos despite decades of explanation about the problems they cause, surprised Asmar the most.

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Screenshot 2024 02 27 140015
Source: Braze 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review

“Why are we still talking about this?” she said to MarTech. “One of the themes I see in the report is we’re still getting caught up on some of the same stumbling blocks as before.”

She said silos are indicative of teams working on different goals and “the only way that gets unsolved is if a leader comes in and aligns people towards some of those goals.”

These silos also hinder the use of AI, something 99% of respondents said they were already doing. The top uses of AI by marketers are:

  • Generating creative ideas (48%).
  • Automating repetitive tasks (47%).
  • Optimizing strategies in real-time (47%).
  • Enhancing data analysis (47%).
  • Powering predictive analytics (45%).
  • Personalizing campaigns (44%). 

Despite the high usage numbers, less than half of marketers have any interest in exploring AI’s potential to enhance customer engagement. Asmar believes there are two main reasons for this. First is that many people like the systems they know and understand. The other reason is a lack of training on the part of companies.

Dig deeper: 5 ways CRMs are leveraging AI to automate marketing today

“I think about when I was in advertising and everybody switched to social media,” she told MarTech. “Companies acted like ‘Well, all the marketers will just figure out social media.’ You can’t do that because whenever you’re teaching somebody how to do something new there’s always a level of training them up, even though they’re apps that we use every day, as people using them as a business and how they apply, how we get impact from them.”

The good news is that brands are setting the stage for the data agility they need.

  • 50% export performance feedback to business intelligence platforms to generate advanced analytics.
  • 48% sync performance with insights generated by other platforms in the business.

Also worth noting: Marketers say these are the four main obstacles to creativity and strategy:  

  • Emphasis on KPIs inherently inhibits a focus on creativity (42%).
  • Too much time spent on business-as-usual execution and tasks (42%).
  • Lack of technology to execute creative ideas, (41%).
  • Hard to demonstrate ROI impact of creativity (40%).
Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952

Methodology

The 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review (registration required) is based on insights from 1,900 VP+ marketing decision-makers across 14 countries in three global regions: The Americas (Brazil, Mexico, and the US), APAC (Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea), and EMEA (France, Germany, Spain, the UAE, and the UK).

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through ‘Wow’ Moments in Experience Marketing

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through 'Wow' Moments in Experience Marketing

Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

In an era where consumers are bombarded with endless choices and digital noise, standing out as a brand is more challenging than ever. Enter experience marketing – a strategy that transcends traditional advertising by focusing on creating immersive, memorable interactions. This innovative approach leverages the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity to forge strong emotional connections with customers, making the sale of your core product feel effortless. But how can businesses implement this strategy effectively? This guide delves into the art of crafting ‘wow’ moments that captivate audiences and transform customer engagement.

The Basics of Experience Marketing

Experience marketing is an evolved form of marketing that focuses on creating meaningful interactions with customers, aiming to elicit strong emotional responses that lead to brand loyalty and advocacy. Unlike conventional marketing, which often prioritizes product promotion, experience marketing centers on the customer’s holistic journey with the brand, creating a narrative that resonates on a personal level.

In today’s competitive market, experience marketing is not just beneficial; it’s essential. It differentiates your brand in a crowded marketplace, elevating your offerings beyond mere commodities to become integral parts of your customers’ lives. Through memorable experiences, you not only attract attention but also foster a community of loyal customers who are more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.

Principles of Experience Marketing

At the heart of experience marketing lie several key principles:

  • Emotional Connection: Crafting campaigns that touch on human emotions, from joy to surprise, creating memorable moments that customers are eager to share.
  • Customer-Centricity: Putting the customer’s needs and desires at the forefront of every marketing strategy, ensuring that each interaction adds value and enhances their experience with the brand.
  • Immersive Experiences: Utilizing technology and storytelling to create immersive experiences that captivate customers, making your brand a living part of their world.
  • Engagement Across Touchpoints: Ensuring consistent, engaging experiences across all customer touchpoints, from digital platforms to physical stores.

Understanding Your Audience

Before diving into the intricacies of crafting ‘wow’ moments, it’s crucial to understand who you’re creating these moments for. Identifying your audience’s pain points and desires is the first step in tailoring experiences that truly resonate.

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This involves deep market research, customer interviews, and leveraging data analytics to paint a comprehensive picture of your target demographic. By understanding the journey your customers are on, you can design touchpoints that not only meet but exceed their expectations.

  • Identifying Pain Points and Desires: Use surveys, social media listening, and customer feedback to gather insights. What frustrates your customers about your industry? What do they wish for more than anything else? These insights will guide your efforts to create experiences that truly resonate.
  • Mapping the Customer Journey: Visualize every step a customer takes from discovering your brand to making a purchase and beyond. This map will highlight critical touchpoints where you can introduce ‘wow’ moments that transform the customer experience.

Developing Your Experience Marketing Strategy

With a clear understanding of your audience, it’s time to build the framework of your experience marketing strategy. This involves setting clear objectives, identifying key customer touchpoints, and conceptualizing the experiences you want to create.

  • Setting Objectives: Define what you aim to achieve with your experience marketing efforts. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, boosting sales, or improving customer retention, having clear goals will shape your approach and help measure success.
  • Strategic Touchpoint Identification: List all the potential touchpoints where customers interact with your brand, from social media to in-store experiences. Consider every stage of the customer journey and look for opportunities to enhance these interactions.

Enhancing Customer Experiences with Surprise, Delight, and Reciprocity

This section is where the magic happens. By integrating the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity, you can elevate ordinary customer interactions into unforgettable experiences.

1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • Incorporating Surprise and Delight: Go beyond what’s expected. This could be as simple as a personalized thank-you note with each purchase or as elaborate as a surprise gift for loyal customers. The key is to create moments that feel special and unexpected.
  • Applying the Principle of Reciprocity: When customers receive something of value, they’re naturally inclined to give something back. This can be leveraged by offering helpful resources, exceptional service, or customer appreciation events. Such gestures encourage loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
  • Examples and Case Studies: Highlight real-world examples of brands that have successfully implemented these strategies. Analyze what they did, why it worked, and how it impacted their relationship with customers.

Best Practices for Experience Marketing

To ensure your experience marketing strategy is as effective as possible, it’s important to adhere to some best practices.

  • Personalization at Scale: Leverage data and technology to personalize experiences without losing efficiency. Tailored experiences make customers feel valued and understood.
  • Using Technology to Enhance Experiences: From augmented reality (AR) to mobile apps, technology offers myriad ways to create immersive experiences that surprise and engage customers.
  • Measuring Success: Utilize analytics tools to track the success of your experience marketing initiatives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) could include engagement rates, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

Section 5: Overcoming Common Challenges

Even the best-laid plans can encounter obstacles. This section addresses common challenges in experience marketing and how to overcome them.

1709033181 656 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 656 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • Budget Constraints: Learn how to create impactful experiences without breaking the bank. It’s about creativity, not just expenditure.
  • Maintaining Consistency: Ensuring a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints can be daunting. Develop a comprehensive brand guideline and train your team accordingly.
  • Staying Ahead of Trends: The digital landscape is ever-changing. Stay informed about the latest trends in experience marketing and be ready to adapt your strategy as necessary.

The Path to Effortless Sales

By creating memorable experiences that resonate on a personal level, you make the path to purchase not just easy but natural. When customers feel connected to your brand, appreciated, and valued, making a sale becomes a byproduct of your relationship with them. Experience marketing, when done right, transforms transactions into interactions, customers into advocates, and products into passions.

Now is the time to reassess your marketing strategy. Are you just selling a product, or are you providing an unforgettable experience? Dive into the world of experience marketing and start creating those ‘wow’ moments that will not only distinguish your brand but also make sales feel effortless.


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The Current State of Google’s Search Generative Experience [What It Means for SEO in 2024]

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The Current State of Google's Search Generative Experience [What It Means for SEO in 2024]

SEO enthusiasts, known for naming algorithm updates after animals and embracing melodrama, find themselves in a landscape where the “adapt or die” mantra prevails. So when Google announced the launch of its Search Generative Experience (SGE) in May of 2023 at Google/IO, you can imagine the reaction was immense.

Although SGE has the potential to be a truly transformative force in the landscape, we’re still waiting for SGE to move out of the Google Labs Sandbox and integrate into standard search results. 

Curious about our current take on SGE and its potential impact on SEO in the future? Read on for more.

Decoding Google’s Defensive Move

In response to potential threats from competitors like ChatGPT, Bing, TikTok, Reddit, and Amazon, Google introduced SGE as a defensive maneuver. However, its initial beta release raised questions about its readiness and global deployment.

ChatGPT provided an existential threat that had the potential to eat into Google’s market share. When Bing started incorporating it into its search results, it was one of the most significant wins for Bing in a decade. In combination with threats from TikTok, Reddit, and Amazon, we see a more fractured search landscape less dominated by Google. Upon its launch, the expectation was that Google would push its SGE solution globally, impact most queries, and massively shake up organic search results and strategies to improve organic visibility.

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Now, industry leaders are starting to question if Google is better off leaving SGE in the testing ground in Google labs. According to Google’s recent update, it appears that SGE will remain an opt-in experience in Google Labs (for at least the short term). If SGE was released, there could be a fundamental reset in understanding SEO. Everything from organic traffic to optimization tactics to tracking tools would need adjustments for the new experience. Therefore, the prospect of SGE staying in Google Labs is comforting if not entirely reliable. 

The ever-present option is that Google can change its mind at any point and push SGE out broadly as part of its standard search experience. For this reason, we see value in learning from our observations with SGE and continuing to stay on top of the experience.

SGE User Experience and Operational Challenges

If you’ve signed up for search labs and have been experimenting with SGE for a while, you know firsthand there are various issues that Google should address before rolling it out broadly to the public.

At a high level, these issues fall into two broad categories including user experience issues and operational issues.

Below are some significant issues we’ve come across, with Google making notable progress in addressing certain ones, while others still require improvement:

  • Load time – Too many AI-generated answers take longer to load than a user is willing to wait. Google recommends less than a 3-second load time to meet expectations. They’ll need to figure out how to consistently return results quickly if they want to see a higher adoption rate.
  • Layout – The SGE layout is massive. We believe any major rollout will be more streamlined to make it a less intrusive experience for users and allow more visibility for ads, and if we’re lucky, organic results. Unfortunately, there is still a decent chance that organic results will move below the fold, especially on mobile devices. Recently, Google has incorporated more results where users are prompted to generate the AI result if they’d like to see it. The hope is Google makes this the default in the event of a broad rollout where users can generate an AI result if they want one instead of assuming that’s what a user would like to see. 
  • Redundancy – The AI result duplicates features from the map pack and quick answer results. 
  • Attribution – Due to user feedback, Google includes sources on several of their AI-powered overviews where you can see relevant web pages if there is an arrow next to the result. Currently, the best way to appear as one of these relevant pages is to be one of the top-ranked results, which is convenient from an optimization standpoint. Changes to how attribution and sourcing are handled could heavily impact organic strategies. 

 

On the operational side, Google also faces significant hurdles to making SGE a viable product for its traditional search product. The biggest obstacle appears to be making the cost associated with the technology worth the business outcomes it provides. If this was a necessary investment to maintain market share, Google might be willing to eat the cost, but if their current position is relatively stable, Google doesn’t have much of an incentive to take on the additional cost burden of heavily leveraging generative AI while also presumably taking a hit to their ad revenue. Especially since slow user adoption doesn’t indicate this is something users are demanding at the moment.

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While the current experience of SGE is including ads above the generative results now, the earliest iterations didn’t heavily feature sponsored ads. While they are now included, the current SGE layout would still significantly disrupt the ad experience we’re used to. During the Google I/O announcement, they made a statement to reassure advertisers they would be mindful of maintaining a distinct ad experience in search.  

“In this new generative experience, Search ads will continue to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page. And we’ll continue to uphold our commitment to ads transparency and making sure ads are distinguishable from organic search results” – Elizabeth Reid, VP, Search at Google

Google is trying to thread a delicate needle here of staying on the cutting edge with their search features, while trying not to upset their advertisers and needlessly hinder their own revenue stream. Roger Montti details more of the operational issues in a recent article digging into the surprising reasons SGE is stuck in Google Labs.

He lists three big problems that need to be solved before SGE will be integrated into the foreground of search:

  1. Large Language Models being inadequate as an information retrieval system
  2. The inefficiency and cost of transformer architecture
  3. Hallucinating (providing inaccurate answers)

 

Until SGE provides more user value and checks more boxes on the business sense side, the traditional search experience is here to stay. Unfortunately, we don’t know when or if Google will ever feel confident they’ve addressed all of these concerns, so we’ll need to stay prepared for change.

Experts Chime in on Search Generative Experience

Our team has been actively engaging with SGE, here’s a closer look at their thoughts and opinions on the experience so far:

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“With SGE still in its early stages, I’ve noticed consistent changes in how the generative results are produced and weaved naturally into the SERPs. Because of this, I feel it is imperative to stay on top of these on-going changes to ensure we can continue to educate our clients on what to expect when SGE is officially incorporated into our everyday lives. Although an official launch date is currently unknown, I believe proactively testing various prompt types and recording our learnings is important to prepare our clients for this next evolution of Google search.” – Jon Pagano, SEO Sr. Specialist at Tinuiti

“It’s been exciting to watch SGE grow through different variations over the last year, but like other AI solutions its potential still outweighs its functionality and usefulness. What’s interesting to see is that SGE doesn’t just cite its sources of information, but also provides an enhanced preview of each webpage referenced. This presents a unique organic opportunity where previously untouchable top 10 rankings are far more accessible to the average website. Time will tell what the top ranking factors for SGE are, but verifiable content with strong E-E-A-T signals will be imperative. –Kate Fischer, SEO Specialist at Tinuiti

“Traditionally, AI tools were very good at analytical tasks. With the rise of ChatGPT, users can have long-form, multi-question conversations not yet available in search results. When, not if, released, Google’s Generative Experience will transform how we view AI and search. Because there are so many unknowns, some of the most impactful ways we prepare our clients are to discover and develop SEO strategies that AI tools can’t directly disrupt, like mid to low funnel content.” – Brandon Miller, SEO Specialist at Tinuiti

“SGE is going to make a huge impact on the ecommerce industry by changing the way users interact with the search results. Improved shopping experience will allow users to compare products, price match, and read reviews in order to make it quicker and easier for a user to find the best deals and purchase. Although this leads to more competitive results, it also improves organic visibility and expands our product reach. It is more important than ever to ensure all elements of a page are uniquely and specifically optimized for search. With the SGE updates expected to continue to impact search results, the best way to stay ahead is by focusing on strong user focused content and detailed product page optimizations.”  – Kellie Daley, SEO Sr. Specialist at Tinuiti

Navigating the Clash of Trends

One of the most interesting aspects of the generative AI trend in search is that it appears to be in direct opposition to other recent trends.

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One of the ways Google has historically evaluated the efficacy of its search ranking systems is through the manual review of quality raters. In their quality rater guidelines, raters were instructed to review for things like expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT) in results to determine if Google results are providing users the information they deserve. 

In 2022, Google updated their search guidelines to include another ‘e’ in the form of experience (EEAT). In their words, Google wanted to better assess if the content a user was consuming was created by someone with, “a degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person has experienced. There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has firsthand, life experience on the topic at hand.” 

Generative AI results, while cutting-edge technology and wildly impressive in some cases, stand in direct opposition to the principles of E-E-A-T. That’s not to say that there’s no room for both in search, but Google will have to determine what it thinks users value more between these competing trends. The slow adoption of SGE could be an indication that a preference for human experience, expertise, authority, and trust is winning round one in this fight. 

Along these lines, Google is also diversifying its search results to cater to the format in which users get their information. This takes the form of their Perspectives Filter. Also announced at Google I/O 2023, the perspectives filter incorporates more video, image, and discussion board posts from places like TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, and Quora. Once again, this trend shows the emphasis and value searchers place on experience and perspective. Users value individual experience over the impersonal conveyance of information. AI will never have these two things, even if it can provide a convincing imitation.

The current iteration of SGE seems to go too far in dismissing these trends in favor of generative AI. It’s an interesting challenge Google faces. If they don’t determine the prevailing trend correctly, veering too far in one direction can push more market share to ChatGPT or platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

Final Thoughts

The range of outcomes remains broad and fascinating for SGE. We can see this developing in different ways, and prognostication offers little value, but it’s invaluable to know the potential outcomes and prepare for as many of them as possible.

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It’s critical that you or your search agency be interacting and experimenting with SGE because:

  • The format and results will most likely continue to see significant changes
  • This space moves quickly and it’s easy to fall behind
  • Google may fix all of the issues with SGE and decide to push it live, changing the landscape of search overnight
  • SGE experiments could inform other AI elements incorporated into the search experience

 

Ultimately, optimizing for the specific SGE experience we see now is less important because we know it will inevitably continue changing. We see more value in recognizing the trends and problems Google is trying to solve with this technology. With how quickly this space moves, any specifics mentioned in this article could be outdated in a week. That’s why focusing on intention and process is important at this stage of the game.

By understanding the future needs and wants SGE is attempting to address, we can help you future-proof your search strategies as much as possible. To some extent we’re always at the whims of the algorithm, but by maintaining a user-centric approach, you can make your customers happy, regardless of how they find you.

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