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2020 Prediction Month: Identifying Macro-Marketing Trends in SEO – Collin Colburn // Forrester

Episode Overview: It’s no surprise that macro-economic trends significantly impact the SEO industry. What is surprising is the sources of these significant trends – 2020 presidential candidates. Join host Ben and Forrester Analyst Collin Colburn as they continue their 2020 Prediction Month series discussing how 2020 presidential candidates’ campaign ads negatively affect brands’ visibility and how traditional marketing efforts still retain high value in a digital marketplace.

Summary

  • 2020 election candidates buying campaign ads on Facebook will likely diminish the effectiveness of brands’ reach and visibility efforts until campaigns conclude.
  • Influencer marketing channels are becoming a more lucrative marketing option because of the relatively low costs and abundance of creative options they affords.
  • Podcast advertising is increasing in popularity with brands that host podcasts as it’s an excellent channel to deeply explore brand products or services, build brand stories and reach highly-engaged listeners.
  • Traditional spend still remains as the majority of growth in digital advertising, but Colburn advises there’s still value in traditional advertising with billboards and TV.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome back to 2020 Predictions Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re looking into the crystal ball to tell you SEOs and content marketers what you can expect in 2020.

Ben:                 Joining us again today is Collin Colburn, who is an analyst at Forrester, which is one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world. Collins’ research focuses on current and future trends in performance marketing, including strategies and best practices for SEO, paid search advertising, Amazon advertising, voice search, mobile advertising, local marketing, and emerging marketing trends.

Ben:                 And today Collin is going to share some of his projections for the greater marketing landscape that could affect SEOs. Okay. Here’s the second part of my conversation with Collin Colburn analyst at Forrester.

Ben:                 Collin, welcome back to the voices of search podcast.

Collin:              Yeah. Thanks for having me again.

Ben:                 Excited to have you back on the show. Yesterday we talked about what’s going to happen specifically for SEOs and the headline was SEOs should get more priority. At least that’s your prediction for 2020. More visibility from some of the largest companies in the world. Hopefully, more money, more opportunity for SEOs as well. We talked a little bit about Google, not necessarily prioritizing driving traffic to websites, but trying to keep more of the search experience owned on Google, which changes the channel to be more of a brand channel than a performance marketing channel. Today I want to take a step back and take a little bit of a broader view on what’s happening at marketing that SEOs need to know about at a macro scale. When you think about 2020, what are some of the trends that you expect to see broadly in marketing and how do they relate to some of your predictions for SEO?

Collin:              Yeah. So, I think that looking at 2020 there’s a couple of really big topics, I guess trends that are happening overall even from a macro-economic perspective that are going to impact marketing and eventually impact SEO. I think first and foremost, 2020 is an election year. For most brands, these election years, presidential election years in the US are really, really difficult because you’re competing against politicians that are spending millions and millions and millions of dollars. There’s a great article in The Wall Street Journal.

Ben:                 Politicians, competing against foreign governments, all sorts of people are buying Facebook ads this year.

Collin:              Yeah, that’s right. But you look at, I mean Michael Bloomberg has spent, I can’t remember what the number is, but it’s some obscene, obscene number in advertising already. So this is just a prelude to the rest of the year. It’s going to be a cluttered, chaotic experience to get your brand and your voice out there, but at least through advertising. So what that means to me from an SEO perspective, it’s a great time to laud the importance of earned media. I would say SEO is a form of earned media, like PR is the most typical cited form of earned media, but you also think about word of mouth and other things within social. These earned media channels, if they are going to get a thing of priority because regardless if you’re talking about TV or paid search or paid social or programmatic, it’s just going to be such a cluttered experience for the user that I don’t think there’s going to be much opportunity for brands to really get their message out there through advertising, so I think earned media is really going to be kind of the crutch for a lot of brands.

Ben:                 So because of the influx in capital from the political because of the election, your expectation is that there’s going to be more competition across all of the paid channels, which means higher costs to drive performance, which means that SEO is going to have essentially a better bang for their buck in terms of investment for brands. Talk to me about some of the other channels, you mentioned PR, influencer marketing is also something that’s on the rise. What are some of the other channels that you see increasing in importance?

Collin:              Yeah, we made a prediction in our team, our B2C marketing team here at Forrester made a prediction that in 2019 that marketers are going to shift 10% of their budget to influencer marketing. I think that’s a great example of an area where there’s increasing popularity and it’s relatively low cost and if you do it correctly, the creative can be pretty authentic in terms of partnering with the right influencers. And so I think that that’s one channel that’s a great example.

Collin:              I think another one that is going to really be showcased in 2020 and I’m already seeing it even though we’re only three weeks in, is podcast advertising. Maybe there’s something you’ve got to think about Ben.

Ben:                 Something near and dear to my heart, trust me.

Collin:              Potentially putting some ads on here.

Ben:                 We’re already working on it, Collin.

Collin:              I think that this is going to be an area of increasing interest by advertisers and as marketing tools, so I want to really get into that really quickly here.

Collin:              Advertising is obvious. If you’re a brand where there is a podcast series that’s going on that aligns nicely with the story, the message, the product, the service that you’re trying to sell or get in front of consumers, it’s a great way to be able to engage highly engaged users. People that are attentively listening. And the podcast ad is actually typically given by the host so it feels very natural. And then the second thing that’s even more interesting is we have data that shows that the majority of podcast listeners are typically high income earners over $250,000 in annual household income. So there’s a lot of really attractive reasons to advertise on podcasts.

Collin:              The second thing though is more from a brand own marketing perspective. We have more and more brands that are coming to us asking about, “How do I create my own podcast? How would we put together a series?” Or, “What would that look like? Would it be on our site? Would it be in an app? Would it be something that we’d have to partner with Apple for example with or do we partner with another brand or another co-partner to be able to put together our own podcast?” So I think that is an area that is really going to accelerate because of the popularity of being able to listen to things on the go through digital devices, whether it’s a voice assistant, a smart speaker, or your mobile device.

Ben:                 Two things to say related to that Collin, sing it louder, podcast advertising is going to be, and anybody that’s interested in, I don’t know, reaching the SEO and content marketing community, I’ve heard of a couple of great podcasts, this one, which “Hey, we’re just starting to do some advertising on this show, but not to make this a sales pitch for the people that are leading, but call me.”

Ben:                 The other thing to think about is from an SEOs perspective, when you’re working with this type of new media, when you’re working with audio content, there actually is an SEO tie back into this. One of the things that I’ve focused on with my podcast network is not only taking podcast content and taking advantage of the audience that is there, but it allows you the ability to translate your content, to summarize it, to turn it into blog content, to create short form content, turn it into Twitter, into tweets and all the other types of media and marketing that you’re going to do.

Ben:                 You can repurpose a lot of the audio content you’re creating for a podcast and really get creative with how you’re applying it from an SEO perspective. I think that’s one of the big lessons is as your marketing team is focused on influencer marketing, hey great, we have this relationship with somebody that has a huge following. That’s a signal to Google that this person and company is talking about our brand. It’s not going to hurt you from an SEO perspective. If we’re creating audio content, how do we repurpose that? So one of the key takeaways here for the SEOs that are like, “What the hell do podcasts have to do with me other than I’m listening to one right now?” You have to get creative about leveraging the things that your marketing team is doing outside of the SEOs sphere and make it relevant to you.

Collin:              It’s a great point. It’s actually something that we just talked about internally here. We have our own Forrester podcast that lives in front of our pay wall and we had a client advisory board a couple of weeks ago and I know that one of the clients said “It’d be great if you guys could do a transcription of the podcast.” And I said, “That’s a great opportunity for our prospecting website because it’s in front of the paywall. You’ve optimized that content nicely enough and it’ll have a great SEO impact.”

Ben:                 Absolutely. Unpaid promotion, rev.com, but they actually just raised their prices, but it’s a $1.25 cents per minute to get a word-for-word translation and they have a quick translation product, which is good enough to give to your team to have them write a summary or a recap, which I believe is now 25 cents a minute. It used to be 10, but rev.com is a great resource if you’re going and wanting to do transcriptions quickly. If you’re doing them at scale it’s a wonderful service that we’ve used here for the Voices of Search podcast and all my other shows as well.

Ben:                 Collin, as we think about some of the other trends in marketing, influencer marketing is important. Podcast advertising is on the ride. The PPC and performance marketing is getting more expensive. That all leads to other tools for the SEOs to play with and SEO becoming more of a priority.

Ben:                 What about some of the offline channels and how do you see some of the more traditional marketing channels and vehicles being leveraged? Is everything still staying digital or are marketers doubling back to billboards and television and the old gray hair type of marketing?

Collin:              Yeah, I mean, look, the majority of growth in digital advertising is still coming from traditional spend. So marketers shifting budget from offline media channels to online digital media channels. With that said though, there is still a lot of value, and I see this with brands, looking at things like TV advertising, radio advertising, digital billboards, or even traditional billboards as a means to increase reach and awareness. You look at sort of what you can do from a digital marketing strategy today. It’s difficult to drive awareness and brand perception because of a lot of what I was talking about with the election, but it’s still true even with even non-election years. It’s just a crowded space.

Collin:              I mean, you think about 50% of our time or more is spent on our mobile device. It’s a small screen. There’s only so much that can get on there. So I think that you’re still seeing brands invest a lot in things like TV and billboards, because it’s still a good way outside of our digital lives, to still reach consumers when they’re not hooked on their phone, hooked on their computer.

Ben:                 It’s funny, I think of it a little differently. There’s the notion of location-based data and some of the analytics that you can get for offline channels which are becoming more advanced and so I think of it less about, “Well there’s only so much you can do with digital and it’s becoming more competitive.” Yeah, that’s 100% true. It’s also that the offline channels are now more quantifiable, so everything is essentially a digital channel. You can run a billboard and understand with a high degree of certainty how many people were exposed to the ads and then track those essentially mobile phones and understand whether they converted in real life or came to a website. There’s more that’s possible with analytics making these other channels relevant, which ties back into SEO because you can run all these other campaigns and then start looking at your direct and organic traffic and to attribute value and understand what’s driving the increase to your visibility.

Collin:              I would totally agree, and I think that there’s a lot of work that’s being done too with integrating online and offline media better to drive people to the next action, whether that is through a search and then going onto the website organically from a TV ad or from a billboard ad.

Ben:                 At the end of the day in terms of the pecking order, when you think about where SEO lives in the greater landscape of digital marketing and marketing as a whole, I think the arrow is green and pointing up, but where do you see in 2020 SEO ranking in terms of priority channels? Is it now top over paid advertising? Are we still bottom of the barrel? Where do you think it lives?

Collin:              Paid advertising is still, I mean you just look at the sheer spend, it’s still going to be a top priority because it’s the biggest amount of spend. It’s where marketers are looking to get their greatest return out of because of that hefty amount of spend and it’s most quantifiable. I mean you look at some of these channels like SEO you could put in, but also social, whether you’re talking about organic social or paid social or word of mouth, whatever. It’s hard to quantify so advertisers are inherently going to say, “Well, it’s just slightly less of a priority because we don’t know what the actual down to a click or conversion impact that it has is.” But I would say that, from an SEO perspective, I think that the priority is increasing. I mean, I certainly feel it on my end in work that I’m doing with a lot of brands of sort of this avalanche effect I think of more and more brands are coming on to, “Hey, we haven’t really done a whole lot in SEO. We haven’t invested a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of resources, a lot of money into it. Maybe this is a channel that really can drive a lot of what we’re trying to do in paid media that we just can’t anymore.”

Ben:                 No longer just the geeks in the corner, but we’re not quite to the mountaintop folks.

Collin:              That’s right.

Ben:                 And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Collin Colburn, analyst at Forrester. In the last part of our conversation, which we’re going to publish tomorrow, Collin and I are going to discuss some of the changes in the ecommerce landscape and how they affect SEOs.

Ben:                 If you can’t wait until our next episode and you’d like to contact Collin, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is Collin Colburn, C-O-L-L-I-N-C-O-L-B-U-R-N. Or you could visit his company’s website, which is forrester.com F-O-R-R-E-S-T-E-R.com. Just one link in our show notes I’d like to tell you, about if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening.

Ben:                 Head over to voicesofsearch.com. We have summaries of all of our episodes, the contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topics, suggestions or your SEO questions or you can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voicesofsearch, V-O-I-C-E-S-O-F-S-E-A-R-C-H on Twitter. And you can also reach out to me directly. My handle is benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to part two of our conversation with Collin Colburn, analyst at Forrester, we’re going to publish an episode four to five times a week. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and check back on your feed soon. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.