Google’s Eroding Influence: Key Takeaways from the 6th Annual Marketing GPS Workshop

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.

As discussed in the May and June issues, digital marketing is rapidly evolving, and search-based marketing is no exception. Based on our research – including knowledge picked up at the South by Southwest conference in Austin – we decided to focus this year’s annual Marketing GPS Workshop on the larger implications of recent search-marketing developments. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the insights shared with Workshop attendees.

We held the Workshop, titled Google’s Eroding Audience: Shoring Up Marketing in a Post-Search World, on June 10th in Colorado Springs, with proceeds benefiting the Ronald McDonald House. NSI Partners’ COO, Tom McClintock, opened the event by discussing several emerging trends, including disaggregation and mature, branded-verticals.

Disaggregation and Mature, Branded Verticals

While Google still holds a virtual monopoly on search, Tom noted, its market share has been slipping (from 67.6% in April 2014 to 64.2% in April 2015) – a process he believes is caused by continuing disaggregation on the part of consumers. For digital marketers, “disaggregation” means that despite Google’s success in eliminating spammy search results, a growing number of consumers are breaking away from the pack – going directly to specific websites they trust, rather than turning to Google to find what they need.

Tom used the example of making a purchase online to illustrate his point. A disaggregated consumer might head directly to to buy a product, rather than search first on Google. The reasoning behind this behavior is two-fold:

  1. Consumers know Amazon carries a wide variety of products, and
  2. Amazon already has their credit-card and shipping information, thereby simplifying the sales process.

With this fragmentation of the online-commerce market, it’s not enough for businesses to invest in a Google AdWords campaign. With the growing influence of other mature, branded verticals, such as Angie’s List or FindLaw or Yelp, the return on investment in these properties is beginning to threaten Google’s dominance.

Tom presented several ideas to help small business owners combat Google’s eroding influence, summarized below:

  • Content marketing – providing quality content, over time, can transform you into a subject-matter expert, which can improve consumers’ confidence in your products or services
  • Social media – increasingly important for pre-selling, targeting specific customer audiences, and for providing customer service
  • Customer testimonials – video testimonials and reviews are especially important today
  • Hyper-targeting – locate sub-niches in which your business can become a category leader
  • Ongoing market research – can aid in continually finding new sub-niches to target
  • Marketing through apps – as mobile use now surpasses desktop use, finding advertising opportunities in apps is an increasingly effective tactic
  • Website and marketing-campaign analytics – tracking data and adjusting your campaigns based on analytics findings are necessary and vital steps to improve ROI and know when to scale-up campaign investments

Gina Schreck on Digital Darwinism and Social Media

Our Workshop guest speaker, Gina Schreck of SocialKNX, provided more insight into post-Google marketing trends and tactics. She discussed the process of “digital Darwinism” – how new technologies leave businesses in the dust if they can’t adapt. The online environment is changing faster than businesses can keep up, Schreck noted. Using sobering statistics – such as how one in three businesses will be out of business in five years, Gina illustrated how important reaching and nurturing the right customer audience is for the health of your business.

Social-media networks now represent one of the most important tools for reaching consumers, and Gina shared the following statistics to emphasize that importance:

  • 100 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every 60 seconds
  • 3 billion people use Facebook
  • 78% of Facebook users use mobile devices
  • 6 billion people worldwide (of the total 7-billion population) have mobile phones

With 70% of consumers more likely to make a purchase based on what people share on social media, Gina said, the best way for businesses to establish a social-media presence is by becoming experts on their chosen field and sharing information to become recognized as a knowledgeable source, or – as Tom said earlier – as a subject-matter expert. Building trust with your online audience in this way will reap dividends for your business.

As a practical example of what type of content to share, Gina had Workshop attendees “disaggregate” into groups and brainstorm 10 different examples of frequently asked questions for their particular market. Discovering the types of questions frequently asked of you, and providing relevant answers through short videos, emails, blog posts or website FAQs is an excellent way to become a subject-matter expert.

Gina emphasized that marketing today is more about connecting with great content and conversations, rather than pushing campaigns. Consumers are savvier today in noticing when marketers attempt to push a product or service on them. Providing helpful content, and engaging with consumers online, will do much toward establishing your brand as an important resource.

Gina also discussed practical methods of managing social media. With apps such as Hootsuite, Evernote, Flipboard, Clipcam, and WordSwag, businesses now have powerful tools available to manage the often-confusing and disorienting world of social media. Gina emphasized that, with a proper workflow and potent tools, managing your social-media presence doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task.

In addition to the main speakers, the Workshop shared more practical information through a lively Q&A period, during which attendees asked our team of experts questions about content creation and social-media management. We were pleased to see a variety of comments in emails and on social media following the event. Here’s one of our favorites:

I went to the [Marketing GPS Workshop] yesterday, and it was amazing! I had to wear a hat on the way home so my head wouldn’t explode from all the great information!

Mark is responsible for managing NSI Partners’ social media properties as well as providing support in client outreach and recruiting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Mark received his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

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About NSI Partners

A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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