Search intent optimization – A complete guide

Search intent optimization – A complete guide

Search intent optimization may be an unfamiliar word. Its relationship with search results and SERPs is complicated, yet effective. If you read and understand this, I promise you will understand the intricacies and relationship between all the parameters on a SEO checklist.

What is search intent?

Search intent is the intent behind a visitor’s search for specific terms and what he/she expects to find using them. Google looks at these terms and tries to understand where the searcher stands in the marketing conversion funnel before displaying results in line with the analysed search intent and Google’s data and interpretation are confounding. Because, user level or IP level data collection empowers its algorithms to interpret user behaviour and keyword intent.

Believe me, search intent or user intent is the only driver that drives Google’s search algorithm completely. All search parameters and SEO checklists evolve from here. For some, it may sound valuable but intangible, but Google has made it a science and built the entire search empire around ‘search intent.’ It is the most important factor of your SEO process.

google mission

This is akin to a conversation you may have with a friend, family member, peer, or anyone. When you converse with any of them, your brain is trying to figure “why the person said, what he said and why he said?” There is a saying or a conversation intent here, and you will reply to the intent accordingly and not so much for the words. And, Google has always tried to integrate the same concept in its search algorithms, but on a much larger scale.

Growth of search intent and challenges

Search intent or audience intent is dynamic, and this is an enormous challenge. Search intent is not a new concept. Google has always built its algorithms around this. Google’s mission is very simple and it has come a long way and grown complex over time owing to the following reasons.

  • Search engine algorithm updates in relation to better results and better intent understanding, that are frequent – Search has undergone a sea of changes in the last 15 years and even the interface has changed. The UX and GUI changes also impact user behaviour and thus we always recommend minimalist branding. For example, as little as 5 years ago, you had to access a browser to book flight tickets, today, Google facilitates it within its search results. Google has introduced HummingBird and RankBrain algorithms to understand search intent. No one knows how they work, but, these algorithms analyse search intent by considering what the user has searched for before (in that domain), how the search query is phrased, and the device that the user is using (in addition to many other factors). This facilitates better and specific results that match the search intent, because the user is collating and understanding the way to search, learning unconsciously. So, user behaviour is also changing.
  • Ever changing web technologies – Web technologies have evolved to become more interactive, with new platforms being introduced almost every day. Backend technology has changed drastically. Users want instant gratification and are ever-connected. Search behaviour has changed and users expect to see something new all the time. Because of these, search intent has also changed with users learning 24X7.
  • Changes in devices – New smart phones, voice devices, etc. – Introduction of Google’s mobile-first indexing on July 1, 2019 is a sign that your webpage should be mobile-friendly to enhance smartphone search experience. This includes quick loading of webpages, fast core value delivery, and user-friendliness. Users have different expectations from mobile search, so, irrespective of devices used, UX comes first. To facilitate this, Google introduced mobile-first Core Web Vitals on May 28, 2021.

What is search intent optimization and why is it critical?

Search engines use rich snippet results to understand a user query and display answer boxes or knowledge panels, enhanced by algorithmic updates like Google RankBrain and Google Hummingbird. These algorithms empower search engines to understand the intent behind a search and to display relevant results. Search intent optimization, thus takes the front seat in boosting your SERPs. Search intent also interpreted as user intent, keyword intent, audience intent or query intent by different marketers. 

Optimising your web page content and other parameters in line with keyword intent is called search intent optimization and is a critical key to attract and/or convert visitors. Here are a few FAQs.

The practice of search engine optimization may put you on top of Google for certain keywords or phrases purely for information and not for the marketing funnel. Search intent optimisation will put you on top of SERPs for an intent depending on how your webpage address a user query or intent. The difference is ‘relevance’ of your webpage. This means the visitor is a part of the marketing funnel and thus relevant and convertible. The longer the search intent (aka long tail), the better is the relevance.

  • If you focus on search intent optimization, would Google rank you better on search results? – Yes, it will rank it higher on relevant searches. This translates to more visitors.
  • If you understand the search intent of your visitors, would it help you create effective content that can turn visitors into leads? – Yes, getting visitors is not the end all, converting them to leads and moving them further into the market funnel is.
  • Will it help you fine-tune your marketing efforts to catch visitors at the right stage of conversion? – Yes, it will because the objective is to push the visitor further into the funnel and the search intent is relevant.
  • If yes, will you acquire more customers and a greater customer life-time value? – Yes, it will. Relevant visitors will convert at a higher rate and will come back for support, more information or to buy more, depending on your domain.
  • Will it help your SEO, if you refine your keywords to enhance conversion rates by tapping into its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines– Yes, the guidelines are for us to understand how the search engines interpret and analyse user intent.
  • And will it help you rank higher on SERPs? – Yes, you rank higher for relevant searches and that means you will get relevant traffic, enhancing chances of conversion.

Meeting the audience’s expectation or intent at every stage of the marketing funnel is important, and catering to them is critical. And, here comes search intent optimization to the rescue.

How search intent optimization effects search engine optimization?

If you cater to Google search’s intent, you will inarguably be on top, because “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” 

Remember, the competition in the ‘intent’ space is limited, and ranking is easier. SEO in 2022 is going to see this trend growing into the future.

Google will take care of making the information “universally accessible and useful” only when you use search intent optimization to make the information on the accessed page most “useful”. 

The more useful it is, the more accessible will be your webpage. This is Google’s old principle – ‘Create content for the visitor (a.k.a query intent) and we will take care of the rest.’ The algorithm is built that way historically, so put in your 2 cents.

Are you catering to Google by interpreting the search intent and fine-tuning your page content to cater to it?

This is very important to Google, as it strives to provide the most useful and relevant answers. Google’s success and the dinner on its plate depends on search intent. Because, if they do not answer satisfactorily a query, searchers will prefer using a different search engine. Google wouldn’t want that and it has primed itself to give out the best, no wonder it has over 85% of search market share.

Inference: If you cater to Google’s long-term objectives, and they are the right ones, you will rank well. Align your website to search intent along with your search engine optimization efforts, and you will be blessed with rankings. 

At this point, I would say “Search intent is king, Content is the kingdom.’

– Anil Kumar P. (efficaci)

Sorry Mr. Bill Gates, times they a changin’.’

How to measure user intent?

Measuring search intent for a single keyword is easy, however, it is a challenge when you need to measure for many keywords. Let us look at how we need to prune user intent from a SERP. Let us look for ‘writing assistant’ on Google search.

This is a short form search and you will get information on what the word means in the featured snippets and the products follow later.

measuring intent

Now, let us change the search term to ‘writing assistant software.’ You will see a fresh set of results. The featured snippets show a list of software and a click will lead to a fairly populated comparison page.

search intent optimization

When I change the search term to ‘buy writing assistant software,’ you see that the search results are entirely different. Along with deep comparison results, The SERP will show results that will help you make a buying decision.

search intent optimization

In all the above examples, we have been searching for a ‘writing assistant’ however, the intent of search was different. 

Now, go back to the search box and click at the end of the search term. You will see Google predictions on the left and ‘people also ask’ to the right. So, you have some options here wherein you can change your search term and clicking on any will change the intent again. You can also choose an option from ‘people also ask’ – this is Google at its best, trying to ask the searcher to understand the search intent better.

google predictions

You can see that all predictions are of the same length or longer. This is because long-tail search words provide more search intent than the short-tail ones, because they give out more information. This is a key factor to analyse before you begin with search intent optimization.

The monthly search volume for long-tail keywords is less and increases as the keywords or phrases get shorter. This again showcases user intent. Though the search volume is short, the search intent is relevant and chances of conversion increase. So, the search volume numbers may be indicative, but choosing intent over it important.

We have tried to measure user intent for a single keyword, however taking this process forward and measuring for 1000s of keywords is a challenge.

How to measure search intent for multiple keywords?

Measuring user intent for 1000s of keywords is a monumental challenge. However, there are some tools I found across the marketplace while looking for a solution.

The simplest way to do this is to use a REGEXMATCH formula within your keyword sheet. If you use this, you need to edit your domain parameters in the sheet, which explained beautifully on the link.

If you already use tools like SearchMetrics, SemRush or Ahrefs, there are ways to analyse your keywords and download the sheets for further filtering. Only, they do not do it for you and it is still quite hard work. I wish they used a little automation there and made it a little user friendly. I, for one, would go for the REGEXMATCH formula as above. 

How to map user intent to buyer journey?

A buyer journey is individualistic and complicated to assess from a seller’s point of view. No amount of AI or EQ can do justice to this component of digital marketing. It is a set of steps that a buyer takes from the need conception to buying. These could 10 steps or 100’s of them and most of them can be mapped to organic search.

At most, on a generic level, you can map the search queries to their user intent and you could probably come up with a search engine optimization strategy w.r.t content.

Since it is difficult to assess or calculate with a scientific basis, we can generalise the steps:

  • Need or problem recognition
  • Research on problem and solutions
  • Comparison of products/services
  • Decision making
  • Post-Sales

We can map these steps to the type of search intents that Google provides and group the search queries into each of the above steps. This method is proved to be quite successful. Keep the following in mind,

  • Serendipity: SEO, by itself, cannot create demand for a product or a service. However, by ranking for multiple keywords, SEO can help a buyer realise a problem, which means the searcher comes across your webpage while searching for something else.
  • Other searches: A user might not resort to Google while searching all the time. Did you know that the biggest competition to google in the search industry is Amazon? So, depending on the query intent, a searcher could choose his own site owing to his beliefs and trust. In these cases, mapping search intent becomes hypothetical.
  • Interpreting buyer journeys: It has been proved that the top 3 or 4 buyer journeys cater to 90% of a business. Identifying and analysing these can set the tone for search intent optimization. Get the data together and do a GAP analysis to understand where your webpage may lack in addressing the search intent.

Google’s search intent categories

Going by the marketing funnel, irrespective of overlaps, almost all searches fall into 4 search intent categories:

Informational intent

Basic level information search – Now that the searcher wants to buy a EV, someone trying to figure out “What is the best EV to buy?” – This is categorised as ‘Know’ or “Know Simple” on Google’s quality rater guidelines.

informational intent
Relevance of informational intent to your business

Most searches on Google have informational intent and they are important. One, to create visibility for your business all around to grow on search. Two, providing answers to visitor queries will build expertise and trust for your business. When the user intent changes, chances are that he/she will convert into a customer.

Optimising for informational intent

We should provide information in a good format and in a correct manner. For this, you need to put the search queries under a microscope and use them and variants within the information you provide.

How-TOs, FAQs and blogs are the tools to provide informational content to consumers. These target the high-funnel customers [TOF]. Your content on these query results should be spot on.

Well formatted content using search intent optimization will get into Google’s rich snippets (easier said than done). Take examples from your competition and build authority and trust.

Searcher wants to buy a car and is looking for information – “Should I buy a EV vehicle or a diesel powered one.” – This is categorised as ‘Website Queries’ on Google’s quality rater guidelines.

navigational intent
Relevance of navigational intent to your business

Navigational keywords should guide a searcher to a product or a service from the home or the landing page. More often than not, you will get branded queries in this category. However, more open searches will lead the unbranded ones too.

Optimizing for navigational intent?

First up, your website should be well-structured and labeled clearly with headers, descriptions, titles, and tags. It is wise to have a product page for each of the products you sell that has every bit of information the searcher may look for. A prime example is Amazon. No wonder they are at the top. 

Each of those pages has to be search intent optimised for the product name and the brand with descriptive URLs. It would be clever to have a section on what problems the product or service solves.

Commercial intent

The EV list is now ready, and the searcher is looking for more information to make a purchase decision – “GMC Hummer EV — 47 MPGe Vs. Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo — 76 MPGe?” – This is categorised as ‘Do Queries’ on Google’s quality rater guidelines.

commercial intent
Relevance of commercial intent to your business

Showing off your offers and discounts is a great way to tell your audience why they should buy from you. This information helps them make converting decision. The audience needs to find this information quickly because they are at the end of the funnel [EOF]. It is not only about using commercial keywords but also about keeping connected with the customer. Again, as an example, check an Amazon product page.

Optimizing for commercial intent?

What is the searcher with commercial intent looking for on your website? Your commercial keywords should answer this question. If the searcher is coming from other parts of your website (blog post, service pages etc.) to a product page, the keywords should address the intent of the searcher. They might want to compare products or services. No wonder then, Google also provides aggregator pages in its search results pertaining to commercial intent.

Now, search intent optimize the pages with good descriptive headers, titles, meta descriptions and URLs. Do not forget to help them with comparisons, more information and purchase pages.

Transactional intent 

The searcher has made a buying decision and looking for last details, could be “buy GMC Hummer EV — 47 MPGe” or “buy Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo — 76 MPGe?” Or “vehicle financing options”. – This is categorised as ‘Visit in Person’ on Google’s quality rater guidelines.

transactional intent
Relevance of transactional intent to your business

Transactional keywords are the rainmakers for your business. All this while you have been promoting and marketing, time to make a sale. These are the keywords that searchers will use to find you when they are ready to buy. So, it is time to figure out those keywords and optimise your product landing pages with an easy purchase process.

Optimizing for transactional intent?

First, search intent optimize your pages with transactional keywords. They should have good meta descriptions, headers, titles and URLs. Do not forget to help them with comparisons, more information and purchase pages. Ensure they have good and clear CTAs, clear design and conversion optimized text. Use structured data to ensure Google understands the contents of the page clearly.

Conclusion…

What if you had a dynamic keyword strategy to address these queries (search intent) as a dealer of GMC or Porsche? You want to be there, don’t you, making that sale in your backyard? That, dear marketer, is the power of search intent. 

What if Google sends you this information?

It does, as deep analytics, but by the time you have seen it, the searcher has already brought the car. Sadly, for you as a seller, it is important. But, as a buyer, it will swarm me, thanks to Google, I am not!

Because, as the searcher, I still live because of “not provided.”This means Google will not share the data with you. Oops, how sad! Don’t worry about marketing gurus, you can’t fix this!

If Google provided that information, it will be the end of the search for me… Google has to live and me too!

Sadly, no business I know, hires a real-time SEO guy to cater to real time search intent! Do you? And, do you have a real time analytics tool to find this? The search for convertible leads never ends!

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Psychology marketing – 8 principles to gain more leads

Psychology marketing – 8 principles to gain more leads

Great marketers are not the ones who follow time-tables and execution. Great marketers are those who understand customer psychology and kindle their emotions, directly or indirectly. They are great communicators and understand psychology marketing principles like the back of their hand.

As a great marketer, the skill to craft perspective-changing content for better conversion rates and results is highly critical. Yes, getting there is challenging, and many of us have miles to go. But, there is, of course, a way to do it easily. Using these 8 psychology marketing principles can help you create compelling copy and messaging to enhance visitor engagement and better convert rates.

The 8 psychology principles

Marketing is not a numbers game, it is a compulsive influencing, engaging, researching and converting game. The better you understand your customer’s emotions, their direction of thought and their emotion-driven actions, the better you can tell your story. Remember, emotional appeal and engagement are the greatest keywords for any marketer, whether it is B2C or B2B. And your customer is not a bot, but a bot-hater.

You do not have to be a psychologist to understand or execute your strategy based on these principles. These 8 psychology marketing principles can help you get deep into the game with a significant advantage. Each of these principles can stand on its own, however, use all of them cohesively in line with your domain and activity as a part of your comprehensive marketing strategy for best results.

The Framing principle

Visitors come to your website looking for information, product, service or to buy something, which means they come with a pre-conceived notion. Understanding these notions is crucial to conversions because that will define how you place or present your product or service.

framing principle

Positioning your product or service in line with those pre-conceived notions can make the visitor more receptive to the messages and the chances of conversion improve. Understood, you cannot cater to all notions, even artificial intelligence fails in this aspect. You can probably cater to X% of visitors who may have a similar notion or intent. But you do not need to lose out on the rest. The presentation of the product or service can have pre-defined options, used as a menu on the web page.

This is called ‘framing’ or ‘priming’ the visitor. There are 2 crucial parameters to consider. One is the online atmospherics or the design and presentation of your webpage that influences visitors positively. The second is the perspective-changing content. For example, would you say ‘2% of users do not recommend’ or ’98% of users recommend’? Compelling content is always positive. Look deeper into visitor-intent to craft your design and message on the pre-defined presentation options, if you are using them.

We always prime a visitor with specifics, which could be price, problem or quality. According to a study, when a visitor comes in with a specific, it is valuable to him/her, if you add to it. Catering to such a specific and expanding on it can help convert better.

The challenge here is, which frame to use with visitors? For those who are aware of the product, you can frame it why your product is the best. Frame it as a solution to the problem if a visitor comes with one. For those who come with a price point, frame it as what better quality or features you offer and why is the best value for money. Framing can have pre-defined options, as mentioned earlier. The more options you use as visitors choices, the better will be the conversion rate.

The Verbatim principle

The verbatim principle is best explained as well constructed messaging or a blog post. In a good blog post or article, the header should serve as the general summary, the section headers should be clear and explain the benefits. If you are reading this, check the presentation of this blog post.

verbatim principle

When messaging follows this psychology marketing verbatim principle, visitors will most likely remember the gist and not the exact words as written or said. This is human behaviour, and they already overloaded us with information.

Messaging with catchy phrasing may make you proud as a peacock, but will it help the reader remember more? And today, most readers skim the article before allocating time to reading it. In short, they are looking for informational value. Short and effective headings will serve the purpose of providing such value, catchy, or not.

The Reciprocity principle

Deep inside, all of us prefer to return favours. More so in some cultures, but the temptation to do so is quite common in all of us. Not returning a favour creates a discomfort for many as though they are in your debt.

Today, online communities, shopping options, and a plethora of services have reduced traditional interaction between people. So, the best way ahead is to humanize your brand. Use an attractive character or a mascot to gel with your current branding and start giving out ‘stuff’.

reciprocity principle

The ‘stuff’ need not be physical goods or services which incur costs to you. The best ‘stuff’ you can give away is the intangible value using your top-notch content. For example, this article is to be read by fellow marketers, and these psychology marketing principles can be very helpful in the B2B or the B2C space. Remember, B2B, B2C or B2X, the decision maker on the other end is a human being, not a bot.

However, the value we offer from this article is in the eyes of the beholder. So, the effectiveness of list building also depends on the value you offer through presenting your content. People who read this content should think it valuable before giving their email away. Increasing the value of your ‘stuff’ will improve the value of your psychology marketing and the chances of reciprocity.

Another point that needs mention here is the CTAs. Do not stuff your ‘stuff’ with CTAs. Keep them at the end of the blog or page. In fact, we feel people will contact you without a CTA, if your ‘stuff’ is of real value. And those who do that are your customers for life, nurtured properly.

The Clustering principle

Clustering is keeping all similar information in one place to remember it and improve recall. This is an effective means of information storage, and that is how a human brain stores it. A human brain searches ’like instances’ when it is trying to recall something.

Did you know that a human brain is capable of much more than that is used in daily life? Try stretching it and it will stretch further. Don’t worry, it will not snap into madness, though it could snap into a genius or find its own ‘halo’.

clustering principle

For example, you wouldn’t put all your wrenches or screws on separate shelves or containers. You store all of them together and then look for the specific size when needed. So, you are clustering similar products together. A human brain clusters similar information together.

A free recall study used semantic clustering to understand the recall working of a human brain. They gave a group of participants 15 random assorted words to study and remember, asked to recall them after a specific period. Later, they were given another set of 15 words, grouped into topics. Recall was better in the second set.

So, when we create categories on our blog or list product features, they should be in the same section (like information) for better recall by visitors. The reason bulleted-lists are the most preferred way to present information. And, believe us, they work!

The FOMO principle

Human beings want to be a part of rewarding experiences. Once we get to know of one, it plagues us with subconscious anxiety until we join in and reward ourselves. It could be a free lunch, a wonderful product endorsed by peers, or a good play that your friends have been to. This is also called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) effect.

FOMO principle

This works best in psychology marketing. As we already know, word of mouth is still the best marketing tool that works wonders. So, if someone buys a product or service and puts up a great review, the entire tribe will look at it with great interest and delve into what they would ‘gain’ by buying the product. The feeling is more like “why shouldn’t I buy this?” I am sure all of us have gone through this many a time.

Remember, we are all tribal and value other’s opinions, especially of those who are close to us, friends or family. We trust peer insights and truly believe that they would recommend nothing useless. Useful to self or not, we convince ourselves to buy it just because a peer recommended it.

A Nielsen study inferred that about 83% of consumers trust family and friend’s recommendations. 

Putting this psychology marketing principle to use, using reviews, social buttons and testimonials on your web pages, is a good idea. Many of us marketers use this principle without an explanation, because most websites use it. Great marketers are made of in-depth understanding. 

The Decoy principle

According to a study, the decoy principle affects everyday decisions by altering our choices according to the way they are presented. 

psychology marketing

In the study, a group of people were asked to choose between 2 options for lunch. The first option was a 5-star restaurant 25 minutes away, and the second was a 3-star restaurant, 5 minutes away. The choices were not clear but tended towards 3-star because of convenience and quality.

Then, a third option was introduced, a 4-star restaurant 35 minutes away. Now, most people chose the 5-star option. Why?

The 5-star option dominated asymmetrically the 4-star option. It was closer and had better quality food. So, a third option made the 5-star attractive. It was the better option. The 3-star restaurant never made it to the list.

So, people will choose a cheaper and convenient option unless they get better value from another option, real or perceived. Therefore, an additional purchase option that may not offer more value for the price will increase the perceived value of the other two options.

This decoy psychology marketing principle helps you to add an offer (decoy) to improve customer perception.

The Scarcity principle

How does the luxury market work?

By creating upmarket, heavily priced goods that only the rich and famous can afford. All of us want to own one of those because we feel powerful, owning something that many cannot. The innate desire to own something that is scarce or out of reach is very strong in all human beings.

So, when Violinist Joshua Bell played, the venues were full to the brim. One day, he played a free concert in a subway of Washington D.C. Did you know that he only had 7 people listening though thousands passed by? He played the same music he played on the stage, yet few listened. Why?

Because it was free and not scarce. When you do not get tickets for his shows, it becomes something unreachable or scarce. Because it was free and did not cost the listeners anything.

psychology marketing

Applying this psychology marketing principle, the difference between saying “only X in stock” vs. “only X in stock owing to popular demand” is clear. The latter pulls more customers than the former because the former is ambiguous. Specifics are critical to your messaging, especially those that cater to the scarcity principle of psychology marketing.

The Frequency Illusion principle

Human brain is an awesome pattern-recognition engine, built that way for eons. It is prejudiced to pattern because it is programmed to learn continuously. We also known this frequency illusion psychology marketing principle as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

frequency illusion principle

For example, you want to buy a yellow sedan and researching for the best buy. During these times, you observe too many yellow sedans passing you by, and you look constantly at them to assess vis-s-vis your research information. This may seem to be mysterious, but your awareness is the culprit.

So, when you are highly aware of something, you see the same product or object popping up all around you. We also known the reason as confirmation bias and selective attention.

Applying this psychology marketing principle, we see that the use of pixels creates the same phenomenon online. When a visitor comes to your website and notices your brand, he or she will see your ads (if you are advertising) across the web. The effect it creates is an illusion that you are a big and an influential brand, which you may not be. The frequency illusion principle also affects the visitor’s perception.

It is important to understand the minimalist branding principles here. Your branding should be consistent across your website and your ads for this principle to be more effective and fetch better results.

Using psychology marketing to your advantage

All human beings are wired the same way, apart from the fact how a man’s brain interprets information and how a woman’s brain does. However, leaving the gender alone, they work similarly to interpret sales messages. This gives you a specific advantage in creating a marketing strategy. The 8 psychology marketing principles listed above are for generic use in marketing ethically and not meant of unethical practices in any manner.

They will certainly add an edge to your marketing strategy, going ahead. When leveraged together with proper research and insights, it can help your brand stand apart from the competition.

Conclusion…

Seasoned marketers who believe messaging is the key to conversions widely used the psychology marketing principles. No wonder then, they do not delve too much into figures and percentages. They focus on messaging and other related marketing ‘stuff’ and make these principles an inherent part of their marketing. 

Brands like Nike or Benetton result from using psychology marketing strategies, they are not market leaders by chance, but by hard work and purpose.

In short, great marketers always stand in the visitor’s shoes. The more they do that, the better they will get and better will be the results.

More Digital Marketing trends for 2022.

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What, Why, How of Core Web Vitals – fix CWV mistakes

What, Why, How of Core Web Vitals – fix CWV mistakes

Search Engine Optimization got a little complicated since mid 2021. Google’s introduction of Core Web Vitals (CWV) as an important but not a critical SEO metric [Relevance is still ‘king’] has since baffled many a digital marketers. To understand and implement these web performance metrics, they would need a fair amount of technical help. We have touched upon this in SEO for Beginners post.

What are Core Web Vitals?

CWV or Core Web Vitals is a set of web performance metrics that enable Google’s search to analyse and choose the results to display after a user query. The metrics are:

  • LCP [Largest Contentful Paint] – The speed at which a webpage’s main content loads. It is a measure of page load speed.
  • FID [First Input Delay] – The speed at which your webpage can paint pixels to the screen. It is a measure of page interactivity.
  • CLS [Cumulative Layout Shift] – The stability of your webpage while interacting with a visitor without shifting. It is a measure of visual stability.

Page load speed has been a ranking factor for long, however, Google is focussing on all of the three metrics as a part of its ranking algorithms.

What Google says about these web performance metrics?

Google says, integrating these web performance metrics into search algorithms will:

  • Help website publishers to offer enhanced page performance to visitors.
  • Better page speed matters since faster pages generate more leads, helps conversions and enhance advertising revenue.
  • Page performance reduces time for visitors to get where they want, quickly.
  • Making your site rank in accordance to Core Web Vitals will help rankings indirectly, adding to the direct ranking boost by Google’s algorithm.

According to Google, the Core Web Vitals ranking signal is weaker compared to other ranking signals directly related to satisfying a query. Relevance and content still rule the algorithms.

CWV thresholds are assessed at the webpage level. So, webmasters need to meet these requirements, page on page.

Starting May 2021, Core Web vitals will be included in page experience signals together with existing search signals including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

Google

The effect of Core Web Vitals on Search Engine Optimization

As we already know the process of analysing websites is automated by the use of bots, web crawlers or spiders. These bots analyse content on a webpage and decide when the page can be displayed against a search query. One of the factors that bots check is the web performance metrics.

Since Google’s ranking algorithms are mostly secretive, it is difficult to ascertain how, CLS, LCP or FID actually effect your SEO. Since the inception of CWV into ranking factors in June 2021, many experts have analyzed and created case studies that demonstrate ranking fluctuations due to changed CWV performance metrics. It is understood the CWV as a ranking factor impacts Search Éngine Optimization to a great degree. Here is one such case study by By Barry Pollard .

How does it effect Google Search? A simple search study

I have searched for ‘digital marketing’ at google.com/ncr and I get results as in the figure below.

The first two results have similar content of similar length optimized to rank well. However, Hubspot ranks over Marketo because of the Core Web Vitals metrics shown underneath the search result title and above the description.

Core Web Vitals

The metrics are quite similar, in fact Marketo’s CWV are better than Hubspot’s. However, Hubspot ranks owing to its better treatment of the user search query. Look at the titles and you will understand how they cater to the search query.

Third comes Investopedia which has better CWV metric and still ranks third. This is because it has a different kind of content and is not optimized well for the user query ‘digital marketing’. The title itself says it is more of a definition.

This is just for understanding and only the tip of the iceberg. Search engines are much more complex and evolved than we can imagine, as marketers.

How to see CrUX data in search results?

Now, you must be wondering how I got the CWV CrUX data on my search results. Thanks to my good LinkedIn friend Christian Stenger, he gave me a few insights and guided me to use a Chrome extension. Click on this one and follow instructions. Please note that it will work only for the synchronized Chrome account where it is is integrated.

Why Core Web Vitals?

When a searcher looks for answers, they expect instant gratification. If a webpage is slow to load, searcher may move on to other websites for the same information. And, if a webpage loads like lightning, chances are that the searcher will return to the page, with a related query, later.

Other search engines like Bing or DuckDuckGo may be taking these web performance metrics into account for similar reasons. However, we have far lesser information of their search algorithms like Google. Even with Goole, we can only assume and not infer, however, since it has the king’s size of the search market, and we follow it all the time.

Deeper understanding of Core Web Vitals

As you read above the 3 web performance metrics that CWV comprises of are LCP [Largest Contentful Paint], FID [First Input Delay], and CLS [Cumulative Layout Shift]. Let us understand each of these in greater detail. In this section we shall be analysing this very website’s home page at https://efficaci.us.

Understanding LCP [Largest Contentful Paint] – troubleshoot and improve

Largest Contentful Paint or LCP is the measure of time it takes to load the largest piece of webpage into a browser. It could be a very large chunk of text or an image or even fonts, JS or CSS elements.

Remember, it is not the time taken to load the entire webpage. It loads the largest chunk and benchmarks the entire webpage accordingly. Again, it is user perception. If you are searching for an image, possibly it will load slower than a piece of text.

web performance metrics

According to experts, a LCP score should be less that 2.5 seconds, however, the lower it is, the faster and better.

For the webpage that we have taken as an example, the LCP is 880ms, which is way below 2.5 second threshold.

Core Web Vitals

Improving LCP – For measuring your webpage LCPs, you can use Lighthouse Chrome Extension. There are a few factors that can slow down your webpage LCPs. The following table will help you improve LCP tremendously.

web performance metrics
Understanding FID [First Input Delay] – troubleshoot and improve

First Input Delay or FID is the measure of time from the searcher’s first step and the webpage’s response to it. If a searcher is searching for something, he clicks on your webpage that comes up as a result and the webpage opens. So, the time taken from the searcher’s click to your webpage’s response is the First Input Delay.

FID is a click-to-start-load time, either from an external link or an internal one within the website.

The challenge in measuring FID is that for webpages that show:

“Discover what your real users are experiencing – No Data”.

There is no real wold data to assess it. However, the TBT or Total Blocking Time is a fair estimate going by Semrush.

Ideally, experts say that a FID or approximated TBT should be less than 100 milliseconds.

web performance metrics

Improving FID – The main culprit behind a poor FID are heavy JavaScript executables. You can directly reduce the JS load by optimizing JS complies, parses and executes.

Coming back to our example, you can see that the TBT is 0 milliseconds which is considered excellent.

Core web Vitals

First Input Delay can be comprehensively reduced by following coding best practices.

  • Mininimize unused poly fills and defer unused JS. This reduces execution time.
  • JS can be run on a background thread. Find the right web worker to do this.
  • Long -running tasks can be recoded into smaller, asynchronous tasks.
  • Optimize the webpage for interaction readiness (reduce CSS data fetch, minimise post-process date, keep only on-demand 3rd party code, have a lean 1st party script loading mechanism.

The following figure depicts how Best Practices score on our example webpage.

Core Web Vitals
Understanding CLS [Cumulative Layout Shift] – troubleshoot and improve

Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS is the measure of “page jumps”, a measure of the largest “bursts” of shifts on a webpage’s layout. A layout shift happens in milliseconds, it could be shifting side to side or top to bottom and vice-versa. You may have seen layout shifts in many webpages wherein you clicked something else than what you intended, because the layout has shifted without a warning. The shift normally happens when content shifts from one rendered frame to another. So, CLS is also a measure of how ‘stable’ elements load on to the screen from a website.

CLS is calculated as impact fraction * distance fraction.

The impact fraction is based on frames. It is the ratio between the total area of the frame (viewport) and the sum of all visible areas of all ‘unstable’ elements from the previous frame and the present frame.

The distance fraction is the ratio between the largest distance an ‘unstable’ element has moved in the frame, in any direction and the viewport’s lengthiest dimension, be it height or width.

Ideally, as per experts, a good CLS score should be below 0.1.

web performance metrics

In the example that we have been using, you see that CLS is way below the recommended threshold at 0.02

Core Web Vitals

Improving CLS – Reasons for a poor CLS could be:

  • Fonts causing FOUT (Flash Of Unstyled Text) or FOIT (Flash Of Invisible Text).
  • Dynamic or 3rd party content.
  • Embeds, iframes, Images or Ads without dimensions.
  • Executions expecting network response from DOM  (W3C’s Document Object Model) updation.

CLS can be improved by avoiding layout shifts. We recommend:

  • Define size attributes to all media elements. You can use aspect ratio boxes.
  • Animate transitions logically by providing continuity using context.
  • Refrain from inserting new content over the existing one, when you are not interacting with a user.

Other critical web performance metrics

Core Web Vitals are not limited to the above three metrics we have discussed. There are many more metrics to understand like TTFB (Time To First Byte), TTI (Time To Interactive), DOM (Document Object Model) and DCL (DOM Content Loaded) etc.

These are not as critical as the LCP, FID or CLS for Search Engine Optimization. However, it is important to understand these in order to spruce up the Core Web Vitals performance on your webpages.

Common mistakes to fix before you implement Core Web Vitals

There are many common mistakes like the deliberated assets put up on a webpage, either for assumed user experience or for the need of a particular domain. However, there are some facts that can damage your Core Web Vitals scores. These common mistakes can be avoided by fixing theses:

  • Optimizing Content above the fold – Having interesting content above the fold can be interesting to most visitors, however, to keep your web performance metrics in tact, you will need to prioritise their loading, otherwise they can negatively impact the FID and CLS. If your webpage has sliders, or embeds from social media feeds, SoundCloud or YouTube streams, Maps or photo galleries above the fold, you can well kiss your CWV scores goodbye. All these elements need to be taken below the fold.
  • Custom Fonts – Many designers use custom fonts like TypeKit or Google Fonts. They can add a lot of load and cause flicking on you webpages. Implementing them the right way is critical to avoid low CLS scores. Do not use more than two custom fonts.
  • Optimizing Images – The larger the image , the more time it takes to load and render on a browser. Optimizing images and giving them dimensions is critical to better your Core Web Vitals scores. Use WebP images to compress your images by not compromising on quality.
  • Analytics – Analytic tools like Google Analytics, AdRoll scripts and Tag manager can take their toll on your load times. Choose wisely and use one in a proper manner to keep your Core Web Vitals scores intact.
  • Platform Optimization – If most of the tips and trick we discussed here work towards scoring the CWV metrics, it is time you changed the server, the platform, the CMS or whatever it takes. Experiment and choose, CWV is going to be a major factor that will define search results, going ahead.

Conclusion…

We understand that scoring high on Core Web Vitals metrics is no easy task. We have given a fair warning, right at the beginning that you will need technical help, not to add some more mature marketing expertise.

You are welcome to speak to us about your CWV metrics.

As you have already seen the scores of this website’s home page, you can understand the pain and grind we have gone through to gain that score and derived experience.

Leverage our experience, talk to us today, and we can get you through the CWV threshold.

More Digital Marketing trends for 2022.

Send us a message.

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Minimalist branding – A comprehensive guide

Minimalist branding – A comprehensive guide

The current ongoing trend in marketing, minimalist branding has been trending for years. According to the grapevine, this trend will speed up and overtake the detailed and gratuitous marketing. Subtle, sleek and crafted with care, minimalism is more complicated than the detailed. 

This minimalist trend stresses upon the use of intellectual and psychological abilities of marketers instead of design skills. It is also called ‘more from less’, minimalist branding used very little variety of colors and images to get the message across. 

Minimalism is already clear in the simple landing pages, ads and Instagram. For many businesses, it is a combination of digital and physical. Therefore, for business that stick to a single channel, minimalism is as important.

Though simple and ‘more from less’, minimalism takes a lot more understanding of the brand, its objectives, mission and vision to put in place. 

In this thought-provoking article, let us look at some critical information on how minimalist branding can weave across digital and traditional assets to bring best results. Do keep these in mind while branding in 2022.

Minimalism explained

Minimalism has its roots in Japanese design. The Japanese Zen Monks practiced creating sand gardens with the ‘yohaku-no-bi’ technique, meaning “the beauty of blank space”, to improve focus and concentration.

The minimalism movement has its roots in WWII and started just after in the art and music domains. It was born out of reaction to the chaos of urbanity and excess of abstract expressionism, minimalism has since expanded beyond the founding ideologies. At core, minimalism is design at its most basic form. Removing excessive use of textures, shapes, colors and other design elements to address an intention or creation is the primary focus. It is known that architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe pioneered minimalism, and he was also the pioneer of modernistic architecture who believed in ‘less from more’.

minimalist architecture

The above architecture is a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe design from over 70 years ago. It is under construction after 50 years of the architect’s death at Indiana University in the USA,

Minimalism emphasizes on exacting focus using a cohesive and unified framework like the building above. The aim is to turn the focus on the product or service, subtly, by calming the mind and enhancing concentration. Do not mistake minimalism to be an art of bringing focus to an image or product with a dark background. No, it is the art of bringing focus and intent by removing all redundant elements.

A minimalist brand expounds the business personality clearly. And, creating a new brand or rebranding with a minimalist approach requires brainstorming with all stakeholders in the business. Consider customer analytics and current marketing practices as critical elements while working towards a decision.

Minimalism is holistic

Just having a minimalistic design on your brand is not enough. The minimalism should come through in all imagery, content, design and all other digital and traditional elements used to create collaterals, ads or websites. Clean imagery, to-the-point text and lots of negative space are mandatory to create the required minimalist brand. Remember, minimalism doesn’t work half way.

For digital businesses, holistic minimalism is critical. The website design, the content, the blog, social media platforms, and all branded ads that go through the gate should have consistent branding. For traditional business too, all collaterals need to send the same message to the world.

Minimalism is all aspects of business is demanding and creating and continuing the process is hard work. However, over time, when your brand grows, it would be a very satisfying experience to see it occupy a special place.

Minimalist branding is highly elegant and pleasing to the eye. Any inconsistency in such branding, during any exercise, can disconcert to the eye.

Elements of minimalism

Minimalism is about decluttering. Just like the human mind that gets distressed when decluttered, your brand will come across as truthful, simple, trustworthy and focusses on products and services. Minimalism, believe me, is classic and timeless. Ask any fashion designer worth his or her salt and they will agree, even if they do not embrace it.

Minimalism is also about consistent simplicity that not only captures the viewer’s attention, but keeps it too.

All of us keep a lot of unnecessary stuff at home because of our own internal needs. Maybe it is not such a bad thing, however, clutter is clutter, irrespective of the thousand reasons to keep them. Did you ever think to throw all that unnecessary stuff away and getting some clean breathing space?

Anyway, minimalism stands on four pillars:

  • Less is more
  • Negative space
  • Colors, textures, contrast
  • Visual consonance

a. Less is more

I was talking about home a few seconds ago, decluttering your brand does not make it bland. Can you imagine the happiness, when your friend comes home, sees all the decluttered space and exclaims “man, it looks so clean…”. What is your feeling? So, when you keep what is necessary and discard the rest, that’s minimalism for you. 

Back to business. Minimalist branding would mean letting your products and services shine through by cutting across unnecessary elements in your logo, website, product design and everywhere else. This is not emptying the space. We require this to ensure that the focus is on relevant elements.

Such an exercise makes your brand look elegant, like your shiny home, and impresses eyeballs. Remember, you cannot just go minimalist by changing collaterals, someone should ingrain the concept into every element and aspect of your business.

b. Negative space

It is normal for a human eye to be drawn to an object that has space around it. For example, you can see a lot of photographs around homes that are frames with negative space around them.

minimalist branding

So there is nothing negative about negative space. The absence of elements in a space is the negative space (designers jargon). Negative space makes minimalism powerful.

The above website template is a good example of website design. You are seeing different shades of gray on a wall and a human sitting on the stairs. Think, if the white background had a different color or assorted elements, you would have missed this entirely, especially the person sitting. This is creative use of negative space to help the viewer focus on what is important.

No wonder many businesses are adapting to minimalist branding to set and attract consumer focus to grow.

c. Colors, textures, contrast

Minimalist branding does not mean black and white, with shades of gray. You can use colors, but choose them wisely. High contrast and loud colors do not go with minimalist branding. Matching colors and tonal gradients will make your brand much more appealing. Using same colors across collaterals but altering the textures can bring in better minimalist design with a variety.

Use low saturation colors, complementary colors and stick to 2 or 3 colors, no more. These are enough to achieve the desired minimalism by experimenting with placements.

d. Visual hierarchy and harmony

Visual hierarchy is the secret to bring viewers focus to elements that you want them to focus on. It is the relationship between visual elements. Designer use grids to place elements and create a hierarchy. This helps them to use sizes and shapes to create the effect that they want.

Visual harmony is to create the correct relationship amongst all elements of a design to get the desired effect. This includes colors, pictures, typography and all other elements that are used in the design. 

Visual hierarchy and harmony together create the symmetry and breathe life into minimalist branding.

Examples of minimalist branding

Most luxury brands are minimalist, however, minimalist branding can have other takers. Luxury brands use minimalist branding with a sense of finesse and not as a science. Now, let us look at some great examples of minimalist branding that most of us use, one digital and another traditional.

Google

Google’s search page has forever been like this with minimal changes. Other search engines, like AltaVista and Yahoo, had too many attractive elements on their search pages. The reason why Google has not only survived but thrived…

For google UX has always been a priority. All of Google’s products like Maps, Gmail, AdSense and AdWords come with intuitive controls and simple minimalistic branding.

Apple

THE man that founded Apple, Steve Jobs was a minimalist himself. He followed Zen Buddhism, and it comes as no surprise that Apple’s first ever brochure said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Apple has always followed minimalist branding in its product design and marketing strategy.

minimalist branding

Therefore, all of Apple’s products have minimum moving parts and revolve around the same philosophy of minimalist design integrating circles and straight lines as the basic elements. Apple has always advertised its simplicity even in iOS and other apps that it built.

Minimalist branding – The pros and cons

As we found minimalism has focus and concentration, it has the highest ‘signal to noise’ ratio. However, ‘minimalist may not set the tone for all domains or businesses. 

Pros

a. Classic design with timeless shelf-life

Minimalism is not new. Every wardrobe has the little black dress or the dinner jacket or an Oxford shirt tucked away for the occasion. It has existed for centuries and these classics never age or even if they do; they do so gracefully.

b. Better branding

Similarly, minimalist branding ensures brand recall owing to the minimum elements it uses, because of the absence of distractions. The elements present create focus, and it will be difficult to forget a minimalist brand.

c. User experience

Minimalism is about printing the minimum number of elements to the users to absorb information quickly. This weeds out clutter and is definitely a better UX than most quirky designs that we see elsewhere.

Cons

a. Not suited to everyone

A media website that needs to display news, videos, images and text cannot be minimalist and it would defeat the purpose. All domains cannot integrate minimalist branding and it is wise to ponder and think through before you opt for rebranding. 

b. Audience approval

If you already have a long running successful business, you will want to consider audience acceptance. Your target audience may not relate to minimalist branding and the entire exercise could fail. So, please analyze with market reports and data before you take the plunge into minimalism.

c. Negative space risk

Too much white space can be hard to handle. Yes, your design could go either way – elegant and classy, or tacky and bare-bones. And white space projects everything. A minor mistake can be risky. Optimum use of white space is very essential to minimalist branding.

Conclusion…

Minimalism is not a passing trend and is a deeply ingrained philosophy because it is classic and timeless. Consistent simplicity is what you need to achieve from minimalist branding. Think Apple or Google. 

There is no compulsion to adopt minimalism. It is your choice and a business decision. As a CMO, if you are looking to opt for it, let us know how we can be of help.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

More Digital Marketing trends for 2022.

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22 Digital marketing trends for 2022

22 Digital marketing trends for 2022

Trends, trends and trends. Trends are just predictions of what might be! How are trends born? Digital marketing trends are born of foresight by subject-matter-experts like you and me, technology upgrades, and disruptions. Talking about digital marketing, it has come a long way in the last two decades, primarily because of the evolution of technology and the ideas to leverage it.

 Given the challenges that we as marketers face, biweekly or monthly online marketing trends are more useful considering that disruptions rule the roost every other day. For any business, being competitive is the mother of being innovative. The faster we adopt innovative technologies, or ideate and put technology disruptions to best use, the quicker we grow. 

Being in this unusually innovative, every-changing, crowded landscape called online marketing or web marketing space for 18 years and practicing with passion, I am putting forward my best 22 trends and disruptions which will give you an idea where digital marketing is headed from this Christmas to the next. For us, the rising trend of psychology marketing is quite interesting and disrupting, however, we will not speak about it in this piece.

We will look at detailed digital marketing trends in each of the primary marketing functions across January 2022.

Brand creation is a marketing exercise that helps consumers identify your business, recognize it, and experience it. It is the psycho-visual effect that your business creates using omni-design concepts across all aspects and departments of the business, an aesthetic, consistent and continuous omni-channel presence. Trends for branding in 2002 will be huge.

Trend #1 – Minimalist branding

Less is more and that, my friends, is minimalism. Using simple text, basic shapes, lots of white space and limited color palettes to create perfect and uncluttered aesthetics is the new digital marketing trend in graphic and website design.

The minimalist design concept is going to trend because there is way too much clutter across the web sphere. To create a minimalist brand, one needs to get back to basics and convey a simple personality and let their products and services speak for them.

Simplicity is the in-thing and the concept of minimalistic branding design is making its way into a lot of branding elements, like the logo, font, white space, and typography for many brands and startups.

Actionable: Check your brand analytics juice in relation to your past strategy and the future one. If you see that your market share has dropped or not growing, it is time to rebrand, and minimalist is the way to go since it is a long term online marketing trend.

Read our guide to minimalist branding.

Trend #2 – Brand Activism

Brand activism is where your brand takes a stand to help resolve immediate social problems by driving a positive change across all channels and following it up with results. We base this activism on the brand’s purpose, beliefs, and values.

Nike is a prominent brand that engages in brand activism, a marketing approach wherein it brands itself as socially progressive by adopting public stances on controversial social issues. Because Nike lives at the intersection of lifestyle and sports, both of which are gender-biased domains, Nike uses it to construct and integrate gender into its commercials. This makes brand ‘Nike’ showcase the authenticity of its brand activism and progressive politics.

Brand Activism and Gender: Nike – A Case Study

There are many activist brands that are driving societal change across the globe. While wearing the heart on the sleeve works for many brands, what needs to be seen is how a consumer relates to such activism, and the viability and scope of business resulting from it. This is a critical digital marketing trend going into the future.

When the values, purpose and beliefs of an activist brand align with the customer’s belief [make that most customers’ beliefs], the brand is on its way to unprecedented growth. Sales and repeat sales will distinctly drive it besides the word-of-mouth and sustainability. Nike brand rightly illustrates the phenomenon. 

Actionable: If you feel your brand addresses a social issue or fills a gap in the society, it is time you used activism in your branding campaigns. If it does not, it is time to brainstorm ideas that can help align your brand’s products and services to an urgent social need because brand activism drives fierce customer loyalty and is a futuristic online marketing trend.

Trend #3 – Be quirky

Chaos rules. Brand designs that include overlapping elements, asymmetry, handmade illustrations, collages, funny typographies, bright colors, and bizarre imagery result in chaotic or quirky design. Many brands, even major ones, are using quirky designs in their branding to bring a sense of individuality of being unique or simply fun.

Many marketers believe that a quirky branding exercise helps showcase the personal side of a brand, though I differ, being the more orthodox marketer. For me, my brand’s personal side is not quirky at all. I mean, how can I be asymmetric, colorful, unappealing and a brand, at the same time? Probably this would work in certain domains where the brand sells toys or fun products to the young.

Me aside, I can see that this is going to be an upward trend in 2022, given that 35% of the world population are gamers and 42% are under 25. This is the population that prefers such quirkiness and catering to them is catering to half the world and more. So, you could actually inject some punk into your brand as you deem fit as quirky branding depends on the target audience.

Actionable: If I were you, I would ride both the boats, the traditional and the quirky one. You can actually segregate products and services you offer into segments and brand some of them quirky (those that cater to the population I mentioned). Or, better still, create sub-brands that are quirky and ride them on short digital marketing campaigns. This is more dependent on products and services you offer, and therefore, your call.

More on branding in 2022.

Search engine optimization or SEO is getting your webpages ranked at the top of search engines. This is real hard work, involves a lot of knowledge, discipline, and a long-term marketing commitment. We as marketers face challenges executing SEO strategies as search engines evolve month after month. For example, 2021’s search landscape, depicted by Oncrawl beautifully. SEO in 2022 will become leaner and more challenging.

Though Google’s voice search algorithm launched on May 20, 2012, it did not see many takers in the initial years. Exactly 4 years after the rollout, only 20% of all searches on mobile devices were coming from voice.

Today, rechristened Google Assistant, it caters to 75+ languages and dialects with over 123 million searches worldwide, which is 58% of consumers. With 7 languages added in 2020 alone. Today Google Assistant voice search caters to almost all devices [over 30,000] it supports through all 75+ languages.

Google Assistant’s 1 million actionable commands and Alexa’s 100,000 skills together form a huge chunk of the search market. With voice searches nearing 1 billion a day, it is critical that your search engine optimization process should optimize for voice search and integrate it in your marketing strategy.

This is a fast-growing digital marketing trend and your competition must hit up the market with audio content, which means voice search is trending for you. The marketing grapevine has it that Alexa will answer your question while mentioning a “word from her sponsor”. So be there, be a sponsor.

Actionable: Voice search is certainly not for the sales process. It is a form of interactive marketing and will lead to turning into a connected brand experience because voice search saves time. Of course, appearing on voice search is as important for SEO. I am seriously considering including audio content hereon on various channels where audio becomes an omni-channel experience.

Trend #5 – The latest in digital marketing trends – Ground “0” SERP

The rise of the featured snippet is a story that we need to understand getting to ground “0”. The last two years have seen a dramatic rise in featured snippet’s appearance in Google search results, especially for DIY and ‘how to’ search queries. Since it is at top of the search results page and more often than not occupies the top fold, we also called it the result “0” in SERP.

A featured snippet offers a small description of the page like a morning shows the day. This is very helpful and shortens the time of clicking in, checking and coming back, if the result is not suitable besides aiding voice search on mobile devices.

Google says – “We display featured snippets when our systems determine this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description about the page and when they click on the link to read the page itself. They’re especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice.”

Coming to the SEO perspective of results, ground “0” is where you should be. You will get most clicks (?) and it occupies the entire “first fold” of search results. This is an enormous challenge. The downside is that if you get there, you may lose out on traffic as the featured snippet resolves the query with no click

By the way, there is no way to SEO a webpage to be showcased as a featured snippet. And Google says – “Google’s automated systems determine whether a page would make a good featured snippet to highlight for a specific search request. Your feedback helps us improve our search algorithms and the quality of your search results.”

Actionable: Before making the effort, I would check if the keyword has a featured snippet, apart from the other considerations. And, if I get there, I will ensure that I don’t put the entire information there for all to read. I need the click, don’t I? Remember, you cannot optimize for 0 SERP.

For many of us, when someone says “search engine”, we type in Google into a browser. For all the 2 trillion searches in a year Google gets, we don’t know how many search terms were “Google”. Reminds you of ‘direct traffic’, eh!

And, that fact is not without a reason, Google gets over 92% of all search traffic across the globe, and the percentile has fallen by 1% over the last 2 years. All other search engines have grown. This digital marketing trend is going to stay on.

Today’s alternative search engine in focus, apart from Bing and Baidu, is DuckDuckGo, and there is a good reason for it. With security concerns overwhelming the internet, DuckDuckGo offers privacy-focussed search. Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo’s tagline says “the search engine that doesn’t track you” because “search engines don’t need to track users to make money.”

No one knows how much money DuckDuckGo makes, being a privately held company, however they are doing well with them hitting 92 billion searches in 2021, a growth of over 29 billion in the same year [46%].

Jack Dorsey, ex-CEO of Twitter, also uses DuckDuckGo according to information published elsewhere.

Actionable: I am a big fan of Jack Dorsey, however, he is not a digital marketer, so I would stick to Google. Since most of your audience comes from Google, probably you should stick to it too. But, alternate search engines are here to stay in the digital marketing trends for long, so no harm in considering their optimization algorithms and catering to them.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing has taken off in a major way and it has a reason. Social media helps brands get one on one with customers and vendors. It is a medium of support and branding for businesses and leveraging it, makes great sense to marketers and brands alike. Read on to understand which way is SMM headed in 2022,

Trend #7 – Social messages

Many of us look at social messaging as a pastime and having fun. Apart from talking to friends and family, social messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp and FB Messenger comprise of about 5 billion users, which is more than YouTube or Facebook.

Social messaging is on the rise, and, believe it or not, about 60% of users use these apps to message brands for more information during their buying or service journey. Social messaging apps are a part of the conversational messaging strategy. And, having conversations with customers is always a positive. Your customers expect you on these apps, since it is easy for them to interact with you.

In fact, Android messaging has introduced branded SMS and today, inbound messaging comes with a lot of detailed brand information. No wonder, it is an ongoing online marketing trend.

Actionable: I would consider being on social messaging apps to cultivate customer contacts, regain potential leads, involve customers, provide support, deliver important information in real time and boost sales. This is a big digital marketing trend going into 2022, give it a fair thought.

Image search is the new kid on the block, as far as marketing evolution goes. Although Google Lens launched on 4th October 2017, it did not take off initially. Image or visual search involves searching for an item using an image or the camera. 

In the last two years, customers have found it more useful as Google expanded its object recognition database. Today Google Lens can recognize over a billion items.

Mostly used to recognize unknown items, the use of visual or image search is limited, unless the user is lazy enough to speak or type.

The next platform on visual search is Pinterest Lens, which can recognize over 2.5 billion items. Launched in 2017, it has seen about 600 million searches on its app. And, it is growing by about 140%, year after year.

Actionable: Visual search like voice search saves time. If you are an e-Commerce entrepreneur or sell products in the B2C category, you should be on Google Lens and Pinterest Lens. Since I have been marketing e-Commerce websites for a long time, I consider this a fast-growing digital marketing trend, going to be big in the future, and will pay off in the long run.

Trend #9 – Stories on social media are trending

Social media stories are actually social media posts that disappear after 24 hours. These stories enable businesses to connect with customers one on one, and share short-lived content or suspenseful/teaser content. 

The pioneer of social media stories is Snapchat, after which Facebook and Instagram joined the bandwagon followed by Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Actionable: Stories on social media are a great tool to engage audiences for proactive marketers. Using stories to create polls, location tags, live videos and effective CTAs can help grow your brand. If you are hip and happening always, leverage this online marketing trend. We make social media stories just for you. Important trend, give it a thought.

Trend #10 – Social Commerce

E-Commerce promoted by a social media platform is social commerce. This is not about you and me hustling to sell using social media marketing. Social commerce is about the platform itself selling B2C.

The pioneer of social commerce is Instagram, which started the live shopping concept way back in 2017. Today, Instagram has over 1 billion users and they say that 90% of them follow brands. That, by god, is a huge number. Since then Instagram introduced various features that help in advertising for brands, as well as facilitating sales through secure channels.

Facebook marketplace has been at social commerce since the end of October 2016. However, for some reasons it did not take off as expected.

TikTok, with its 1+ billion users, launched TikTok Shopping on 30th September, 2021. Yes, that is quite like yesterday. They have gone ahead and smartly integrated with Shopify, one of the larger e-Commerce platforms on the planet, to pull from their product catalogs. 

TikTok users can buy from within the app, without leaving it.

Actionable: Social commerce is on the rise. If you are in the retail space and looking to take your business worldwide, consider being on these social commerce platforms. With so many users, this digital marketing trend will grow leaps and bounds. Adding one more sales funnel to your business will help.

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing PPC, Google Adwords etc. are quite known facets of online advertising and in all probability your business has already spent money advertising or doing so currently. While search engine advertising and social media advertising goes on, the secret sauce and a big digital marketing trend for businesses selling products is Amazon ads. SEM in 2022 is going to unwind and get complicated.

Trend #11 – Adverts on Amazon

Until now, most of us marketers think about AdWords, PPC, Social media ads. What is going to trend and grow is Amazon Ads.

If we put Twitter, Snap, Pinterest and Roku together, Amazon’s revenue from advertising is 2.4X and is growing 1.7X faster.

If you are an e-Commerce brand and ignore Amazon ads, you are not doing justice to your spend on other platforms. The best part is Amazon owns the data of over 200 million Prime customers and creates its own targeting options without third-party dependencies. Good news is that you can use the same data for your own advertising.

Amazon’s targeting uses purchase intent. If you are looking to buy cutlery, say ‘bone-china dinner set’, searching it on Google will give you varied results that are generic and broad. This is because they base those results on keywords, reviews, comparisons, specifications and other data and not primarily on purchase intent.

If you search for the same on Amazon, you will get intent based product results, making your buying journey easier.

No wonder then, Amazon is the second largest search engine after Google for e-Commerce or product based searches. And, Google is moving towards purchase-intent based search.

Amazon also provides a lot of advertising options that are easy to choose and get your adverts going.

Actionable: If you are looking at the e-Commerce market, there is no need to explain the importance of Amazon ads. Getting on the bandwagon is the best step ahead.

Trend #12 – Notifications

Privacy laws introduced in 2018 [GDPR et al.] have taken the sheen off email marketing in many European countries. Add to this, the newer generation is looking for lesser touch-points to deal with brands going ahead, the trend will be exponential growth in push notifications.

In recent past, push notifications have increasingly gotten personalized and AI driven. These factors make them highly clickable and convertible. Statistics say that push notifications get about 7% open rates (54% conversion at the end of the funnel) compared to 3% (15% conversion) for the generic ones.

Push notifications help customers who were interested but forgot to take action. Similar to re-marketing, but a little more sophisticated. A prime example of push notifications in action is ‘abandoned shopping cart’ notifications. Integrating CTAs and images can help improve effectiveness.

Actionable: Push notifications are short and sweet. Paid advertising is ROI based, and to get the best bang for your advertising buck, push notification can do wonders. It is not only about CTRs but also about better conversions. Wisdom is in deploying them for good use.

Trend #13 – Native Advertising

With more and more people opting for ad blockers on browsers, marketers have faced an avenue of closure to advertise and push ads. Looking at new acquisition channels became critical, which gave birth to native advertising.

Native advertising is advertising that blends seamlessly with the content of the webpage or mobile display you are looking at. It is difficult for a normal reader to distinguish the ad from the content.

Recent data shows native ads get a CTR of 1% compared to standard display ads that get about 0.1%, so they are about 10X more effective. Native advertising spend is growing at an alarming rate and is an important digital marketing trend. It will be 5X of what it is today by 2025.

Actionable: Growth of native advertising is inevitable and leveraging it as a part of your search marketing strategy makes sense. Unless some other form of more effective advertising comes up, this is the best way to go ahead, for now.

Content Marketing

“Content is King” – We have heard this many times and leveraged it. However, most content on the internet is sadly of little use for a consumer. In time, people are losing interest in reading simple content. The latest online marketing trend is to offer interactive content which will be consumed better. Content marketing in 2022 is going to be about customer consumption.

Trend #14 – Interactive Content

Interactive content warrants input from the consumer, so that he or she can actively consume the content for better understanding and action.

This is currently the biggest digital marketing trend in content marketing and is going to bring on some revolutionary changes in publishing, purposing, and marketing in the years to come.

Integrate immersive experiences into content and they can become very rewarding in terms of data collection, analysis, repurposing, and creating new content on the schedule.

Some examples of interactive content doing the rounds are polls and quizzes on social media, embedded calculators in insurance and banking domains, augmented reality advertising, 360 degree videos, etc.

Until now, video marketing has been at the top. However, out of every 100 consumers that watch your video, only 20% listen to the content. In comparison, 29% of consumers watch 360 degree videos because they are very involved and listen to the audio, which results in 100% more conversions. That is the power of interactive content.

Brand connect increases exponentially with the use of interactive content and thus over 90% of users actually look for interaction.

Actionable: Interactive content works wonders. In terms of content marketing, doing more with less is effectively possible with interactive content. Going by the data that I am talking about here, interactive content is going to make or break your brand in the near future. Jump on it.

Trend #15 – Enter podcasts – the latest of digital marketing trends

We can classify podcasts as in-trend marketing tools because people naturally like listening when there is no video to go with it. According to data, those who listen to a podcast will listen to at least 80% of it. The reason is we are all born with the listening gene, thanks to the radio.

Today, search engines like Google are integrating podcasts into SERPs directly, since May 2019, which is another reason for them to stay trending in the coming years. Optimizing podcasts is critical to getting there.

Podcasts are making a comeback. We can relate the podcast to a voice SEO tool, and consumers interact with voice-enabled devices more often than not.

Actionable: Podcasts have been slow to come up in popularity but they are going to trend in 2022, not only because Google shows them in the SERP but also because voice-enabled interaction has grown with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Keep focus on the market and optimize your podcasts wisely.

Email marketing

We as marketers, have always believed that email marketing works best. Of course, many marketers also said the email marketing is dead. With due respect to everyone, email marketing can never be dead. It brings consistent results, so keep at it. The latest digital marketing trend for emails is personalization and I firmly believe that this will change the email marketing equation forever.

Trend # 16 – Email personalization

Personalization is a very in-thing for email marketing in 2022. All aspects of marketing are seeing increasing levels of personalization, and emails more so. This requires carefully scoring marketing leads. This is because 73% of consumers take action on personalized messages which are crafted according to their interests and tastes.

According to a Salesforce survey – personalisation helps improve customer experience by 64% and improves conversion rates by 63% and engagement by 55%.

Prime examples of personalization are Amazon’s product recommendations and Netflix’s movie recommendations. Many data driven personalizations have been successful too, like 

  • Cadbury’s video campaign (AI matching of Dairy Milk flavor with users based on data like age, interest and location from their Facebook profiles). This campaign saw a 65% CTR and a 34% conversion.
  • Starbucks’s gamified mobile app based on consumer location and purchase history used personalized data to offer customized drinks in tandem with a rewards system. This campaign helped them skyrocket revenue to $2.56 billion.

Actionable: Creating personalized campaigns is critical to success. Personalization depends on data and getting the right analytics out of it, is the job of artificial intelligence. Integrate AI, personalize, personalize and personalize.

Video marketing

Video marketing has been trending for the last 3 years and will continue to do so for the next 3, to say the least. The latest digital marketing trend in the video domain are going to bump up the demand for videos like never before. Videos are going to see a sea of change.

Trend # 17 – Video Marketing

The present trend is video marketing, and it is going to remain so for the next 3 to 4 years. Today 60% businesses use video as a marketing tool, 53% say video marketing helps build trust, 62% of marketers see video marketing as a critical part of marketing strategy and 75% feel that video garners better ROI than images.

As perceived by most marketers, video marketing is not expensive or difficult. Also, it comes with a much better ROI. One idea could be to repurpose one of your old blog posts into a video or vice versa. Reuse the audio to turn it into a podcast or even generate more impressions by using parts of it with PPC.

Actionable: Video is the most sought after medium for consumers today. The video marketing bandwagon has certainly grown to make consumers consume more content. Leveraging this digital marketing trend to grow your business is an amazing idea. Get on the bandwagon, today.

Trend #18 – Stream live

Did you know people prefer watching a video compared to reading a blog? No wonder then, best-selling books turn into movies, increasing their reach and becoming box office hits.

More interesting statistics – Over 65% of millennials watch live streams regularly and people watch live videos 3X time more than pre-recorded videos.

Live stream videos are interactive content and people love interacting with the creator or narrator, making them feel they are a part of the action. 

Instagram’s Live Rooms and YouTube Live are two of the biggest live streaming platforms today.

Actionable: Businesses continuously innovate marketing, and live video streaming is a preferred choice for them. If you think that your business promotes actionable products and services, then certainly live streaming videos are for you. Make them a part of your marketing strategy.

Trend # 19 –Twitch is the latest digital marketing trend

Amazon’s Twitch is an old kid on the block for video streaming. Twitch today, is growing by leaps and bounds. Founded in 2011, Twitch caters only to the gaming community. Today, Twitch is expanding its horizons to cooking, painting and music.

The pandemic has confined many of us to homes and Twitch has grown considerably in this period to expand its user base and influencers.

Twitch differs from its peers in the aspect that it does not support ads or sponsored links and it does not offer any content to its users, apart from sharing what they upload across the community. As a result, the community connections are powerful and work well for live streaming services.

Twitch users have promoted interviews, webinars, events and workshops on the platform, making it convenient for businesses to live stream a plethora of content.

Actionable: If your business is gaming, Twitch is cutout for you. For businesses looking to stream live content, Twitch can put together a more cohesive and well-knit audience. If your business is to live stream, Twitch should be an integral part of your entire digital marketing strategy.

Website design

Website design and development has existed since the advent of internet and it was seen as more of a technical domain unrelated to marketing. However, with digital marketing trends like UX, CX, color psychology etc. getting on to the scene, website design has more or less turned into the marketing domain.

Trend #20 – PWAs (Progressive Web Apps)

Progressive Web Apps are nothing more than websites that are like mobile apps in functionality and use. However, PWAs offer faster load times, offline usage, and allow push notifications. The best part is that PWAs are platform independent and are deployable on any device through a browser.

In short, a PWA can open up on a mobile phone with blazing speed, though it exists on the web. With mobile phone numbers slated to reach 7.5+ billion by 2025 and mobile page views growing almost 60% a year, PWAs are here to stay for some time to come.

Actionable: Progressive web apps mimic the mobile-centric culture. If you already deploy a mobile app, PWA may not be as useful, but if your business domain is not really mobile specific, PWA can grow your business faster. Your call, consider all pros and cons before you take the leap.

Trend #21 – Web security

As the positives grow, so do negatives, and with online businesses growing, the negatives are also growing, which makes website security more important than ever in the vast and expanding virtual space.

If your website does not offer https, the dwell time on your web page will be much lower. The consumer needs to feel secure to browse your page. And, remember dwell time increases the bounce rate, both of which are SERP ranking factors.

Google’s Core Web Vitals also make it mandatory for websites to be secure. Enabling https protocol has just become mandatory if you want to rank on search engines. I recommend, you display the seal of trust on your website always.

Actionable: Seals of trust instil trust. It is mandatory to get a https protocol as quickly as possible. Not only does it secure your website and give visitors a sense of security, it will also give your website the much needed protection by keeping the bad bots away. This is not a what you ‘can’ do, this is ‘mandatory’.

Trend #22 – First-Party Cookies

The enactment of California’s CCPA and EU’s GDPR have limited the use of customer data. As a result, big businesses have seen ‘fines’ in millions of Euros because of violations of privacy in these countries.

The implications are huge and non-use of third-party cookies is the biggest digital marketing drawback in history. The enormous gap of not using 3rd party cookies impedes marketing. Since these cookies can help with data-rich insights to create ads and marketing campaigns, marketing strategies go for a toss. Today, marketers can only use data they own and cannot use technology to further their needs.

This brings to the fore first-party cookies collected with consent. Of course, we collected them with user permission, however, this can bring monumental changes to the marketing function.

Deploy first party cookie boxes enticingly, and using the data to drive an omnichannel marketing campaign is the only road ahead.

Actionable: No one wants to be on the wrong side of the law. We may as well comply and get things going before we miss the bus.

Conclusion…

I have mentioned the broad digital marketing trends expected in 2022. Since the online marketing function is about omnichannel marketing and has a lot of integrated workflows like Branding, SEO, SEM, SMM, Content marketing, Email marketing, Video marketing and Website design, I will post detailed trends on each of these trends in the coming weeks. I hope you like this read and you will flow with the trend with some wonderful ideas posted in comments.

Meanwhile, if you feel that you need to understand a trend better, we are only a form away.

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