Can you imagine a world without Google? A world where searchers ditch mass search engines for niche, vertical engines? This is already happening. Today, the biggest threat to Google isn’t Bing. It’s the thousands of vertical engines that searchers now leverage to satisfy specific discovery needs—Amazon, Travelocity, Citysearch, Kayak, MixTurtle (songs), TinEye (images), Gleaps (green businesses), SlideFinder (Powerpoint slides), etc. Did you know that—according to Forrester—33% of shoppers now start their product searches on Amazon versus 18% on a mass search engine? Specialization fosters relevancy, and searchers know that a “one-size fits all” engine isn’t always best. Google is well aware of this participant trend, and in response, has been working on a series of “apps” within the search engine results page (SERP) for vertical queries—including apps for shopping, hotels, flights, cars, maps and weather. These apps enjoy prominent SERP placement, and they are helping Google to become both a mass engine and a niche engine, depending on searcher need. Performics is calling this trend “Search App-ification,” and it has major ramifications for paid and organic search marketers. This Briefing illustrates the app-ification trend. It then offers strategies for advertisers to succeed in this new landscape. Search App-ification Examples Let’s take a look at how app-ification is changing the face of the SERP. The most prominent app is Google Shopping, otherwise known as Product Listing Ads (PLAs). In the below example—for the “headphones” query—you can see the prominent placement of the sponsored Google Shopping (PLA) app, that really draws the searcher’s eye: How about a search for “New York flights”? Notice that everything above the fold is either a paid listing or part of the Google Flights app. Traditional organic listings are pushed down by the Flights app. Even more dramatic is the Google Hotels app, which—like PLAs—requires that advertisers pay for inclusion. As illustrated by the below screenshot, advertisers who aren’t utilizing paid search or sponsored Google Hotel listings are pushed below the fold: And app-ification may soon be coming to your vertical. For instance, the sponsored Google Cars app is in beta in certain geographies:
App-ification Implications for Advertisers How can retailers, hotels, airlines, or car manufacturers grow their businesses on the new, app-ified SERP? Traditional organic results are rapidly losing real estate to the apps. Advertisers that ensure inclusion in both sponsored and organic apps are best positioned to succeed in this new landscape: Google Shopping (PLAs)/Google Hotels/Google Cars Google’s focus on the app-ification of certain verticals like retail and travel make feed optimization critical for advertisers. In retail, Google introduced the new sponsored Google Shopping (PLA) experience in October 2012. Google is now giving marketers more tools to activate better Shopping experiences for searchers, at the lowest allowable cost. Google’s recent acquisition of Channel Intelligence will bolster Google Shopping, which will only become more important to advertisers as Google seeks to build a Shopping catalog that can compete with Amazon. In this new search landscape, where feeds (products, hotels, cars) and search are one, advertisers must have an integrated shopping feed-search experience, especially in time for Back to School 2013. Google+/Google+ Local/Maps However, you don’t always have to pay to play. Google+ Profiles, Google+ Local and Google Maps are organic apps that often command prominent SERP real estate. Consider this query for “H&M”: To maximize Google+/Google+ Local/Maps visibility, ensure that all your physical locations are included in Google+ Local and contain all the correct info (address, phones, store hours). Verify your Google+ Profile page in order for the page to be eligible to display on the right side of the SERP, a feature that Google calls Search Plus Your World. Then, regularly publish to your verified Google+ page to gain SERP visibility for the content you’ve shared. YouTube Another organic way to increase SERP visibility in the age of app-ification is by distributing your content to YouTube. You may have noticed prominent visibility in Google Search for YouTube content. In particular, Performics has found that informational queries like “how to tie a tie,” “how to set up a printer,” and “how to make an omelet” are very likely to return search results that include embedded videos:
To capitalize on the search visibility of informational YouTube videos, think about creating informational video related to your brand. Some informational queries lend themselves well to video from brands—like a video by Gillette that ranks for “how to shave.” Other times, brands must be more creative—like a breath mint brand creating a video for “how to kiss” or a generator brand making a video for “how to survive a zombie attack.” Top-Sponsored Ads And don’t forget that you can always trump the apps with traditional top-sponsored paid search ads. While the apps significantly affect organic results, top-sponsored ads are still the kings of the Google SERP. App-ification certainly complicates search engine marketing. Advertisers can no longer focus only on paid search and organic search. Now, you must evaluate how app-ification is affecting your vertical. Then, integrate strategies like feed optimization, local business optimization, Google+ and YouTube to drive sales, leads and engagement on the new SERP. For help devising a holistic approach to maximize performance in the age of app-ification, contact Performics today.