The idea of search engine advertising, or SEO for short, originated with the first commercial search engines and remains one of the core disciplines in online marketing today. With the rapid development of online channels, the introduction of automation and AI, and the trends towards mobile, social media, and personalization, the question arises as to what role SEO will play in a modern marketing landscape.
What has SEO accomplished so far?
The principle of search engine advertising is to reach users at the moment of their search. Depending on the expressed product or information interest, he receives suitable text ads on the search engine results pages. Since the user actively sounds his claim, it is always possible to present him with ads related to his search intention. Therefore, these ads are relevant and generate high conversion traffic from the advertiser's point of view. Advertisers can determine precisely how much advertising is worth by setting budgets and campaign elements. Expenses are billed on a cost-per-click basis, making SEO the performance-oriented advertising channel par excellence. Every click on an ad can be analyzed, and every conversion can be attributed.
The ad played out is still the result of a complex auction process at the moment of the search query. First, many factors are used to check whether an ad is allowed to participate in the auction. In the auction itself, in addition to the bid, i.e., the maximum price the advertiser is willing to pay, the ad quality and the threshold value for the ad rank are also considered.
Ad design is automated and intelligent
It is impossible to imagine SEO without automation, both from the setup of advertising accounts and the ad creation. The algorithm that decides on the playout and design of the ad has a lot of data at its disposal, for example, the user's search history, device usage, or location, right through to demographic data. All this data and other factors should automatically lead to the optimal display of ads. In this way, the user is addressed in an increasingly individualized manner. Google can even recognize "ready-to-buy target groups" and play them the right ad at the right moment.
Granular control focused on the goals of the company
With the sensible combination of data and, in particular, the integration of first-party data, the company's objectives can be controlled much more granularly. In the past, campaign control was usually based on sales or clicks; today, campaigns can be targeted, for example, to acquire new customers or to increase the company's profit.
Google Shopping has also thrived. Here, product ads with a picture, price, and, if necessary, other features are displayed in certain result areas defined by Google. The basis for this is a stored product data feed. The click rates are usually excellent, as the user can see the price and product at a glance.
SEO in the modern marketing world
To understand what role SEA will play in the future, let's look at the modern marketing environment. Three trends stand out.
1. Relevance as a customer expectation
Attitudes toward advertising are changing. Customers want to be picked up, informed, and entertained. Distracting and annoying ads are less and less accepted, as evidenced by the widespread use of ad blockers. Online advertising even has the lowest acceptance among all forms of advertising.
The progressive use of AI must lead to advertising becoming increasingly relevant to customers and more aligned with their needs. Only if the customer recognizes the added value and receives ads that are precisely suited to their concerns can a higher level of acceptance be achieved.
SEO is well-positioned for this with the latest technical innovations. Thanks to the increased use of data and AI and automation, it is possible to reach people via search engines individually.
2. Expansion of digital formats
We see that the traditional formats of TV, radio, print, and out-of-home are changing due to digitization. New digital formats are established, such as streaming, podcasts, or digital-out-of-home (DOOH). Thanks to progress in programmatic advertising, the advertising industry is facing sustainable development in these areas.
In the future, the task will be to address target groups perfectly across all channels, devices, and formats. The focus will be on sensibly networked control of all available screens for the best possible overall result. Advertising messages will increasingly be played out programmatically so that customers receive a coherent overall picture at all touchpoints and in all channels.
In the past, we have already seen that SEO always benefits from branding measures. This correlation will become even stronger in the future when programmatic ads in OOH or TV target users and immediately trigger a search via smartphone. Linking channels such as DOOH, TV, and the classic Internet will lead to new possibilities in campaign planning and control.
SEO will have to be better coordinated in the future to benefit optimally from the new reach and advertising formats.
3. Data today and tomorrow
Due to stricter data protection rules, less and less third-party user data is available. As a result of the GDPR, companies such as Apple, Google and others have already reacted by stopping the ability to collect data without user consent. It can be assumed that the amount of collectible data will continue to decrease, making it more difficult to control online marketing campaigns. The major networks, in particular, benefit from this development, as they still have good user content.
In the future, it will be essential to broaden the database and exploit and link all available data pools. Advertisers usually have first-party data from the website and their own CRM data in addition to the existing third-party data. To collect, process, and store this often very different data, it is advisable to use technologies such as those of the major marketing cloud providers in the future. The advantage of such systems is the possibility of central management and control of data, campaigns, and channels. In the end, numerous interfaces make it possible to automate all processes and thus increase efficiency in every direction. Especially for monthly budgets beyond 100k, the use becomes inevitable in the medium term.
Mastering technologies and understanding complex interrelationships lead to a new way of controlling and analyzing online marketing measures. In 2018, Zalando, as a market platform with foresight, has already cut 250 marketing positions and hired developers instead.
SEO is also increasingly moving towards automation and AI control. It can be assumed that marketing platforms will increasingly become the standard, and SEO campaigns will ideally be mapped in them.
What place will SEO have in the future?
Online advertising is constantly changing - formats, algorithms, devices, and technologies sometimes develop rapidly. But the need for product search and information remains, which is why search engines will continue to be part of our lives. Indeed, voice or image search will play a more significant role in the future, but these are only variations of SEO.
The general conditions will also change in the future, and the commercialization of search-related ads is certainly not yet over. Still, the core of intention-based ad display will remain. Search engine marketing will remain one of the pillars of the modern marketing world.