Since I began my career in digital advertising in 2005, I’ve been used to having persuasive and educational conversations: digital is good, SEO is great, and you need to learn to love PPC.
Amazingly, pushback today is a fraction of what it was then. Business owners and marketers generally understand the importance of digital – the need to be “on” Google, to rank for keywords associated with their business, the value in social media and being accessible.
What most don’t understand is that today, as we enter the second half of 2017, marketing has again evolved. It’s not about being found; it's not about clicks, impressions, or visibility; it’s not about having a website. It’s about the experience – the moments that occur when someone is searching for something. Today, it’s those moments that matter most.
A micro-moment is exactly what it sounds like: the small moments that occur during a search that shape perceptions and drive transactions. We experience micro-moments all the time, such as when you are searching for a recipe online and the website you find not only provides step-by-step instructions and an ingredients list, but also substitutions and tips and tricks. That sense of satisfaction you got when you realized that the version of lasagna you were looking up can indeed be made without meat? That’s a micro-moment.
Digital Advertising in 2017 and Beyond Will Be Defined by the Micro-Moment
Let’s walk through a pretty common scenario.
Cameron, a handsome (albeit balding) 30-something year old male, is looking for information about hair transplant surgery and whether or not it is a fit for him. Like the rest of the world, Cameron takes to Google as he embarks upon his quest to learn about whether or not his follicular foibles can be fixed. He performs a search: “best type of hair transplant”, and the quest begins.
What kind of journey does Cameron’s search take him on? Well, it may look something like this:
- He sees a listing of results from a variety of websites - Some large national-brand websites, a web forum, and two results from local hair surgeons.
- He clicks the first hair surgeon’s result - The website slowly loads, and when it does, it’s a mess. The page is a giant wall of text with no formatting, no white-space, and nothing to draw his attention. Like 99 percent of modern Googlers, Cameron has no interest (nor the attention span) to comb through the giant wall of text. He clicks back.
- He clicks on the forum’s result - Inside he’s presented with a large chunk of information, but it’s posted by random users – not doctors – and he doesn’t know if he can trust the information he finds. He scans through, takes away a few talking points, and then clicks back.
- He clicks on the second surgeon’s result - He is immediately presented with a well-designed website that is clean and easy to read. The information contained is broken down into digestible chunks, properly subdivided and formatted, and laid out in such a way that empowers Cameron to quickly scan the page to find the information he’s looking for. He consumes the content he’s interested in consuming and then clicks back.
- Finally, Cameron clicks on to one of the national-brand websites - This website does an OK job presenting content, but it’s not as rich or as in-depth as the last website he was on. He frowns and clicks back.
- Cameron goes back to the second surgeon’s website and decides to fill out a quote form - While he was there the first time he noticed that they offer complimentary consultations. What’s the harm in that? He fills in his information, clicks send, and then closes his browser.
Cameron’s journey was full of micro-moments – some good, and some not-so-good:
- He had a negative experience on the first surgeon’s website. It was hard to read, slow to load, and difficult to understand.
- He had a neutral experience on the forum. It had some great information, but he didn’t know if he could trust it.
- He had a great experience on the second surgeon’s website. Not only was the website attractive and easy to use, but it educated him and provided him a ton of value.
- He had a neutral experience on the national website. It had some good information, but it didn’t go into the depth that Cameron was looking for.
In the end, is it a surprise Cameron chose to get a consultation from the second surgeon? Think on how you use the internet, and on how you search specifically. You would have contacted the second surgeon too, wouldn’t you?
Building Positive Online Experiences is Key
Effective advertising online is no longer about being found; it’s about the experiences you create and the relationships you cultivate.
Think back to Cameron: he chose the second surgeon over everyone else because that website educated him, loaded quickly, and provided value. That website gave him a positive experience and helped him build trust with a surgeon that he hadn’t even met yet. Truly, perception is reality.
The web is changing, and much of that change is being driven by Google. Let’s look at search:
- Local search and organic search are one and the same, right? Nope. Ranking in the local results is more about physical location and proximity than it is anything else.
- Website and content quality is more important than ever - The days of links + some content = ranking are over. Google is making incredible strides in assessing the quality and value of a website.
- Searchers have more options than ever - Maps, images, videos, local, organic, PPC, news, trending… and more change is sure to come.
- Mobile and desktop search are now separate indexes - While many of the ranking factors cross between the two, mobile search takes several other factors into consideration (or greater consideration). Soon enough it will be a separate discipline.
- Google continues to improve its ability to vet the value of backlinks - Once the end all be all of SEO, link building now must consider strategy, quality, and intent.
- Finally, Google better understands a searcher's intent than ever before - All that data mining has resulted in an algorithm that understands that someone searching for “hair transplant” and “best hair transplant” is likely searching for two different things.
Adapting to this change is simple. Note: simple doesn’t mean easy. Delivering value in 2017 and beyond is different than in years prior. Education – meaning the information and the experience you present your website’s visitors – is more important than ever. It’s no longer enough to “be on Google.” You now have to consider the larger package, including where else you can reach and engage potential customers. For example: Plumbers creating DIY content, such as “how to replace a defective cartridge in your faucet”; surgeons creating a YouTube channel where they upload a new video twice per month answering FAQ’s and explaining techniques; a paintball field creating a Facebook group where people can organize meet-ups and large-scale games.
You must also be genuine. We’ve all read pages that were clearly written for SEO. Thankfully, those dark days are soon to be behind us. Made for SEO content continues to perform worse and worse with each algorithmic update. While I firmly believe the website remains the foundation of any online marketing program, it must integrate itself into your other endeavors: social media, community engagement, video, and so on.
Looking Towards the Future
Now that we understand the value of micro-moments, here are a few ways that you can start building positive ones for your future customers:
- Focus on value, not on the sale - Too many businesses are “old school” in their thinking of what a website is for. Let’s break that habit (and fast). Nobody likes to be sold, but everyone likes to shop. The interesting thing about shopping is that people tend to do business with people and businesses they like. Deliver value, and you become very likeable.
- Consider the whole package - Look at your industry and see where the gaps are. Look at what your competition is doing, and where they’ve fallen short. Fill those gaps.
- Create experiences that you want to enjoy - We’ve all had a bad experience on a website. Learn from those experiences and provide one that is more refined, customer-centric, and valuable.
In the offline world, we benefit from face-to-face interaction to help build relationships. Digitally, we have to rely on the experiences we create. Your investment in a great experience is key to online success in 2017 and beyond.