Connect with us

MARKETING

How to Create Content Marketing Personas

Published

on

How to Create Content Marketing Personas

Updated October 12, 2022

Good marketers know how to sell a brand. But to be a great marketer, you must know the people you’re trying to sell it to.

Creating (and documenting) clear, robust marketing personas is an effective and time-tested approach to reaching that goal.

Ardath Albee defines a persona as a composite sketch of a target market based on validated commonalities – not assumptions – that informs content strategy to drive productive buyer engagement (i.e., revenue).

But remember: The digital landscape evolves. Ongoing changes affect your audience’s needs and priorities, as well as their content consumption habits and engagement preferences.

Advertisement

That makes it important for content marketers to base their content decisions on clear, accurate, and regularly updated personas.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Personas are filled with critical audience insights. They are developed through detailed customer research, direct conversations, and thoughtful analysis of relevant trends and opportunities. They reflect your customers’ genuine interests and intentions, which fuel resonant, relatable brand stories.
  • They help creative teams convey the voice of the customer. Without personas, you can only assume what content your audience wants. That can lead to content on topics your brand knows best (your products and company) but little focus on what the audience wants to know.
  • They help unify strategic approaches, priorities, and creative processes. By sharing with other teams that use content (like sales, PR, and product management), your personas function as a single source of audience truth. That makes it easier for each team leader to set topic priorities and align messaging across multiple customer touchpoints.
  • They are essential for audience segmentation and content personalization. By aggregating your persona insights with data gathered from your content analytics, you get a fuller picture of your audience. That enables you to precisely target them and customize your content for deeper resonance.

A persona helps unify a brand’s strategic approaches, priorities, and creative processes, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

With these benefits (and others) in mind, I’ve collected expert advice to help you prepare, build, and apply personas efficiently while making them as effective as possible.

Collect accurate customer data

Before creating a persona, you need to access and collect data on your audience’s needs, interests, and preferences. You also need to identify where they are in the buyer’s journey and their role in the buying decision.

You’ll find some of that information by analyzing your performance data. You can try other approaches, too. Some of these can surface deeper contextual and emotional information unavailable from any database.

Consult with your sales team

When gathering audience insights, Ardath says the first steps involve your salespeople and CRM data.

Advertisement

“These team members are on the front lines of customer interactions, so chances are they have plenty of information they can share,” she says. Consulting with sales also helps you align the personas with the people with whom they most want to connect.

Interview your support staff

As Kane Jamison points out, your customer support team also knows a great deal about why buyers (and prospects) contact your company.

A quick conversation with this team can give you a different view of the real-life struggles encountered by prospects and customers and spark new ideas for content to address them.

Ask questions of your customer support team to better understand your audience, says @KaneJamison via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Interview customers

Nothing beats the ability to get information directly from customers. Through one-on-one interviews, consumers can provide more detail on their content needs and preferences than anonymized data or standardized forms can’t provide.

One-on-one customer interviews provide detail on their #content needs and preferences that anonymized data never could, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Advertisement

Do external research

While it’s important to consult your internal resources and directly engage with customers, the data gathered through these methods can often be subjective, situational, or colored by interview bias.

To enhance and validate your initial findings, it helps to do external research into publicly available information sources. LinkedIn profiles, industry blogs, and social media profiles of industry influencers aren’t likely to be influenced by your business agenda.

Leverage progressive profiling

This technique uses automation tools, smart lead forms, and directed questioning to gather audience insights that grow more detailed over time.

That information can be used to confirm the accuracy of your initial characterization and deepen your understanding of your persona’s content needs.

Go deeper than demographics

Generating demographic and behavioral insights through these methods provides a baseline understanding of your target customer and how they make decisions. Yet, these data points fall short of revealing emotions that also factor into those decisions.

To dig deeper into those critical purchase drivers, Paul Longhenry suggests augmenting your acquired insights with psychological personality profiling.

Advertisement

Use psychological personality profiling to reveal the emotions involved in the buying process says @PaulLonghenry via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Paul describes a profiling method used in academia called the OCEAN model (originally developed by psychologists Robert McCrae and Paul Costa). By polling a focus group and scoring their responses, you can paint a more nuanced picture of where your audience fits within the five key personality traits outlined by the psychologists:

  • Openness– how open one is to new experiences versus a preference for familiarity
  • Conscientiousness – how controlled or measured someone is in contrast to their spontaneity
  • Extraversion – how much one enjoys the company of others as opposed to alone time
  • Agreeableness – how much one values cooperation and harmony versus independence
  • Neuroticism – how anxious or emotional one is as opposed to being stable

You can use the resulting scores to analyze, understand, and even predict how your personas will respond to the content you create to target them.

“The further a score is from the population median, the more distinguishing that factor is – and the more you should pay attention to it when creating (or personalizing) content for that target persona,” Paul says.

In Paul’s discussion, he shared a rose chart adapted from the work of McCrae and Costa that expresses the personality of a focus group. The size of each wedge (or “petal”) visualizes the relative importance of each of the five factors (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) to the group’s personality profile. This group in this chart is more open and extroverted than the average – an insight that can inform the content you create to target that persona.

1665642903 913 How to Create Content Marketing Personas

Gauge sentiment from relevant social conversations

Social listening tools are improving at assessing consumers’ emotional states to contextualize their social chatter. John Hall notes how modern text analysis software can give an overview of the language used in those social conversations and the likely sentiment behind those words.

Building your customer personas

Persona development is a customized process because it’s meant to help your team address its unique marketing challenges and opportunities. However, the following framework can help you get started on the right track:

Advertisement

Step 1: Envision your ideal customer

Pick the person your content efforts are likely to help most. Give a name to that persona and detail their characteristics most critical to your business. Answer these questions to create a strong foundation for the persona:

  • Who is this person? What demographic and psychographic characteristics describe them?
  • What’s their job title and function?
  • What kind of company/industry does she work in?
  • How long have they been serving in this capacity within the organization?
  • What experience/expertise do they bring to this role?
  • How does their job relate to the job of others in their department and other departments in her organization?

Step 2: Consider the objectives, responsibilities, and obstacles this person might regularly encounter in their role

For example:

  • What goals do they need to accomplish in their job?
  • What challenges frustrate them most about their job?
  • What gaps might they look to fill? What problems would they need to solve to alleviate some frustration?
  • What might keep them from addressing those gaps and problems?

Step 3: Characterize their role in relation to your business’ buying cycle

Not all your customer targets will be sole decision-makers – especially if you’re marketing a B2B brand or big-ticket family purchases like homes and cars.

Use these questions to reveal important clues about where your persona fits in the purchase process and whom else they may need to consult before buying:

  • How influential are they in the decision-making process? Where might pushback come from?
  • Who else might influence their decisions (internal and external)?
  • Do they need others to sign off on decisions?
  • How far along are they in the buyer’s journey?
  • What questions are they likely to ask to satisfy their criteria for making a purchase?
  • What obstacles might stand in their way as they look to satisfy those criteria?
  • What words are they likely to use to search for the answers they need to push forward?

Step 4: Detail their personal communication preferences

Your persona should include functional insights related to their job. It should contain details related to their engagement behaviors and content preferences, including topics, content platforms, formats, and social channels. For example:

  • How do they typically access content?
    • Do they gravitate toward certain formats?
    • Do they prefer accessing content online, via a mobile device, or on other channels/platforms?
    • Do they get most of their information during work hours or at home?
  • How much information might they want to receive, and how often?
    • How often are they exposed to relevant content/information as they go about a typical day?
    • How often do they log on to social networks? Which ones?
    • Have they shown a preference for weekly vs. daily newsletters or updates?
  • Who/what influences their content consumption?
    • Whose advice do they trust or seek most when engaging with content (e.g., industry analysts, vendors, thought leaders, friends, colleagues)?
    • Do internal or external events trigger variations in their content consumption pattern?

Answers to questions like these can help you identify potential content ideas most likely to catch the persona’s attention or move them closer to making a purchase.

Take a shortcut

While the process outlined above is thorough, it’s time-consuming and requires a lot of data. Aaron Agius offers a hack to build multiple personas more quickly. It boils the process down to three questions:

  • What is the first thing my customer thinks about in the morning?
  • What is the last thing my customer thinks about at night?
  • Why?

The answers keep you focused on identifying the pain points of a typical customer – a critical insight for content planning. However, Aaron points out that this approach works best when your target consumer considers addressing those pain points a top priority.

An audience-first alternative

Robert Rose shares a content-centric persona development process. It opens a broader set of opportunities for content marketing stories and can cover the entirety of the audience’s journey.

Based on the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) theory, Robert’s approach prioritizes one goal above all else: Building a scalable, addressable, trusted audience. It has five steps:

1. Define your target

Advertisement

Research, define, and quantify your total addressable audience – the number of people who may be interested in receiving your content, not just those who might ultimately make a purchase.

2. Discover the “so I can”

In your audience research and interviews, listen for statements illuminating your audience’s functional tasks and goals and the social and emotional contexts surrounding them.

Here’s an example: When I’m working, I don’t need more marketing software; I need tools so I can have peace of mind and spend more time on my business.

3. Decide on a niche focus

Pull the levers for the size of those “jobs” rather than the size of the audience to determine a relevant focus for your content.

Advertisement

Joe Pulizzi refers to this as the sweet spot – an area where your brand’s skills and expertise intersect with a passion point of your audience. For example, can you derive more marketing value from solving small, niche jobs for a huge audience or huge jobs for a smaller, niche audience?

4. Differentiate your content approach

Next, prioritize the jobs to be done by those you can approach in a uniquely valuable way. If you don’t have a new perspective or distinct expertise on solving a particular job, the content won’t stand out enough to attract your target audience.

5. Document your insights as a map of success

Create success statements. These summaries identify how your brand can provide value. Map the summary of each step the audience takes to solve that job.

Following Robert’s recommended process will give you all the information you need for a documented audience persona profile. It characterizes the job to be done, why the persona wants it to be done, and what success looks like when it’s accomplished.

Advertisement

For example, a persona for a small business law practice might have this success statement: “Minimize the time I spend working in Excel instead of reading up on new legal trends.”

Broken into informative elements, the structure for the success statement looks like this: Minimize (value action) the time I spend (metric) working in Excel (job action) instead of reading up on new legal trends (contextual/social clarification).

Value Action | Metric | Job Action | Contextual/Social Clarification

1665642903 525 How to Create Content Marketing Personas

Robert suggests rolling up the success statements into a broader success statement representing that persona’s overall success. Separate the profile attributes into three categories. Here’s how it reads for Ellen – the ambitious entrepe-lawyer:

  • When I … work all day in the practice and have to work at night to attend networking events to get new business …
  • I want to … find ways to hack or shortcut the tasks. Automate things. Discover ways to get around things like marketing, accounting, and sales.
  • So I can … create the most forward-leading firm, practice law instead of managing Excel, and enjoy my real job instead of marketing.

Then create the larger success statement: “This is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve got to get out of the business of chasing clients for money, marketing, and sales, so I can create the law firm of the future. I’ve got to start doing my real job more than 20% per day.”

1665642903 53 How to Create Content Marketing Personas

Activate your personas across the enterprise

You may take these additional steps to ensure your brand benefits from the same deep understanding of your personas.

Share them with other departments

While developing personas is primarily a marketing exercise, make sure to document and share this information with other teams that create or use content.

Advertisement

Remember, in the age of social media, anyone in your organization could be engaging with potential prospects and customers, so it’s useful for everyone in your organization to work from the same information.

It’s also helpful to share your personas with your sales team and any new hires in your company. This can help them acquaint themselves with your customers and prospects more deeply.

TIP: Create two versions of the same persona – a detailed version for content creators and marketers and a shorter version for the rest of the organization.

Update them regularly

Once you build the core personas, you’ll likely refer to them often for years to come. Problems arise, though, when you rely on the information long after it’s lost relevance.

Revisit your personas regularly to update them. Then, they will stay aligned with your current content marketing strategy and reflect on any new opportunities or emerging challenges.

Your content can’t help an audience you don’t understand

Content marketing works best when you understand – and write specifically for – your audience.

Advertisement

Meticulously crafted buyer personas can help you identify their interests and motivations, communicate with them on their terms, and keep them top of mind throughout every step of your content marketing process.

Do you have additional tips for developing and working with buyer personas? We would love for you to share them in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

MARKETING

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

Published

on

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.

Advertisement
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).

Advertisement

Get MarTech! Daily. Free. In your inbox.

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

MARKETING

Crafting Effortless Sales Through ‘Wow’ Moments in Experience Marketing

Published

on

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.

1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

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.


Disruptive Design Raising the Bar of Content Marketing with Graphic

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

MARKETING

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

Published

on

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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:

Advertisement

“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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

Trending

Follow by Email
RSS