Important Changes You Need to Know About Search Marketing in 2021

July 19, 2021

The average person conducts between three and four online searches every day, and it’s estimated that Google processes about 5.6 BILLION searchers per day (HubSpot, 2021). With Google controlling 95% of U.S. search engine market share, any updates Google makes can kick off major changes in search engine marketing.

Along with being prepared for a future without cookies, here are several other key changes that will impact your Search marketing for the rest of the year and onward.

Search Engine Marketing Changes in 2021

  1. First Party Data is Now Your #1 Goal
  2. Google Ads Changes
  3. Privacy, Consent, and Preference Management
  4. Google Page Experience Update
  5. Going Local with Search Engine Marketing

#1. First Party Data is Now Your #1 Goal

First-party data is data that your website collects directly from your website visitors. This includes data from:

  • Newsletter sign ups and other subscriptions
  • Contact form completions
  • Website or app behaviors from your website
  • Survey data
  • Customer feedback

Collecting first party data right now, before third-party cookies are removed, will be a critical step in driving more thoughtful remarketing. Marketers need to take steps to ensure that you can continue to reach customers who want to hear from your brand.

According to a study by Deloitte, 79% of consumers are willing to share their data if there's a clear benefit for them. Therefore, first party data can be helpful for seasonal marketing, email marketing, creating lookalike audiences (Facebook), and consent-based remarketing in ads.

First Party Collection - Blogs and Resources Sample
Sample Content & Form to Incentivize Newsletter Sign Ups

However, it starts with showing your prospects that your website/company is beneficial to them. At Blue Sky Marketing, we notice significant increases in lead capture even with minor website and email list updates:

  • Website-based calls to action (example: “Like this article? Sign up for more”)
  • Create modules like a “Save Your Favorites” module to help your visitors revisit their favorite products
  • Add non-intrusive pop-ups in key pages that invite your visitors to sign up for the newsletter
  • Interest-based subscriptions that allow them to control the frequency or content of your emails

A robust CRM will be key in managing your leads’ preferences and contact information at scale and in real time. A good CRM will allow you to seamlessly gather leads, and a better CRM should be able to integrate with ads platforms to feed qualified customer lists in real time.

Third Party Cookie Changes | What To Do

Related Reading: Cookie-Geddon! The Death of the Third-Party Cookie

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#2. Google Ads Changes

In May this year, Google announced several changes to ads and organic search during their Google Marketing Livestream 2021. A few feature highlights include:

  1. Image Extensions: Google Ads now supports image extensions to make Search ads more visually engaging. Our Google Ads team has already found these extensions to be valuable additions to our client’s Google Search ads. We’ve found that square images (likely due to them displaying exclusively on mobile search) are delivering great impressions, CTR, and conversions.
  2. Customer Match Updates: Customer match should now be available for all Google Ads advertisers. Although the requirements to qualify for customer match include at least 90 days history in Google Ads and more than $50,000 USD in total lifetime spend, we’re happy to see that more advertisers can create more robust remarketing and “Similar To” campaigns with customer match.
  3. Attribution Reporting in Paid Search: Google announced the launch of more robust reporting. Data-driven attribution will now include touchpoints from not just Search and Shopping but from Display and YouTube ads, giving marketers a multi-focal view of the customer journey.
  4. Local Ad Formats: Local campaigns allow for physical business locations to use new ad formats to highlight what makes them special with callouts like “Pickup today” or navigational ads that add your location to Google maps.

#3. Privacy, Consent, and Preference Management

Right now, there are two major consent and privacy regulations many companies (including Blue Sky Marketing) have already pivoted to comply with:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): The EU’s data protection law, enacted in 2018. GDPR requires that organizations anywhere in the world be compliant if they target or collect data related to people in the EU. A key part of GDPR compliance includes requiring organizations to notify web visitors of tracking activity, plus ask all leads to actively opt-in to be part of your newsletter and remarketing lists.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): California residents are protected by the CCPA, an act that requires websites to use a cookie banner to notify visitors about tracking cookies, as well as the right to delete personal information and opt-out. Businesses who have a gross annual revenue of $25 million, collects personal information of 50,000 or more consumers, or earns more than half of annual revenue from selling customer information must be CCPA compliant.

Experts anticipate more opt-out and opt-in consent regulations are coming. A scalable way to manage the technical framework of consent is to partner with a Consent Management Platform (CMP) or Customer Data Platform (CDP). Consent solutions can manage all technical aspects from showing a cookie banner to your visitors to handling their information whether they opt-in or opt out.

We believe that partnering with a CMP or CDP will provide more value in the long run than managing consent and tracking internally unless you have a robust IT team. CMPs are relatively cost-effective ways to stay compliant if you handle digital marketing in the EU or California.

#4. Google Page Experience Update

User Experience is now part of the Google ranking algorithm. According to Search Engine Land, “That means if Google thinks your website users will have a poor experience on your pages — measured by a new set of metrics called Core Web Vitals — Google may not rank those pages as highly as they are now.”

This means that what your users experience when they visit your website will play an active part in your search engine optimization. Google’s metrics for page experience measures: 

  • Does the page load quickly?
  • Is the page mobile-friendly?
  • Is the page secure and running on HTTPS?
  • Are there intrusive ads?
  • How does the content flow?
  • Do all links and images work?

These aspects of human-to-human marketing take into consideration the journey that your customers take on your website. Are you making it easy for them to find valuable information? Does the design reduce frustration and friction? Is your content aligned with your audience? Not only are these important marketing questions, but they’re also important action items that your website needs to improve its overall Google ranking.

#5. Going Local with Search Engine Marketing

Google Ads has more tools than ever to deliver a personalized search experience to users. Messages that aren’t relevant are considered annoying, so ad copy absolutely cannot be treated like a blanket to cover different audience bases.

Google My Business profiles show valuable information about your business at position 0 in Search, and during the pandemic, Google launched updates to GMB to highlight information like health and safety attributes and whether in-store pickup is available.

Sample SERP results with Advanced GMB AttributesSample SERP results with Advanced GMB Attributes

These additional attributes provide useful information that help people make decisions at the SERP level, so businesses can’t afford to lose that visibility. These attributes also show on Google maps where 82% smartphone users searching for businesses near with 90% clicking on the first set of results they see (Search Engine Land).

Search Marketing in 2022?

Search marketing is about connecting visitors with information they are looking for, and it will continue to evolve as regulations and customer expectations change.

Interested in being more strategic with your Search Engine Marketing strategy? Blue Sky Marketing has 10+ years of staying ahead of the curve and implementing proactive strategies in SEO and Google Ads. Let’s talk.

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