The 2015 State of Search Conference was held in Dallas, Texas recently, featuring speakers from Google, Bing, Moz, Basecamp and more. Not just a status report, this conference also looked ahead to what we can expect in paid search (SEM) and organic search (SEO) in 2016.

I think this topic was covered in every session! From holiday spend, to trying to cut your costs and increase your reach, remarketing was everyone’s answer. Basically if you aren’t doing remarketing, you’re doing it wrong. Everyone is doing remarketing because it’s a cheap easy way to remind your customers that you exist. But remember, it’s not the click-through rate (CTR) that’s important here. Look at view-based metrics because people still think remarketing ads are spam or will lead to a virus. And don’t forget about social media remarketing as well.

“No Conversions”
Remember just because it didn’t convert in the paid search funnel didn’t mean that SEM didn’t help you convert in another area. In Aaron Levy’s session, he reminded us that we need to stop thinking so narrowly. We focus so much on conversions, ROI and the bottom line, sometimes we forget that there are other factors to look at. There are leads, sales, emails, phone numbers, and page views. We need to look at assisted conversions, direct, email marketing, and display ads remarketing to see how our paid search campaigns impacted these. Sometimes paid search campaigns are more profitable than they seem, it just takes some digging to find the data.

Increasing Your Reach
You should advertise on all search engines. People don’t usually hop between search engines. Each search engine has a different demographic you can target to. Even though Google holds the majority, you still need to reach out to the other 25% of consumers using different search engines. Also, Bing users spend more than Google users and use more Apple products whereas Google users tend to use Androids.

Future of SEM

Mobile & CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)
Everyone knows mobile is on the rise for digital search marketing. But the question is, how do we prepare for what is to come? As mobile usage and revenue increase each year, we need to make sure our ads, campaigns, and landing pages are mobile ready. We often see that mobile ads don’t convert as well as desktop. In many of the sessions this was mentioned as a common problem for many marketers. And the solution they all said, was be the consumer yourself. Try to buy your product via your smart phone and test it out on all devices. See if you can find something in the process that is difficult or time consuming that may be the reason your conversion rate is lower. Also, mobile users are looking for location-based information most of the time, so keep that in mind when you are targeting potential consumers.

Voice Search
Voice search is increasing year over year.  This year, voice search accounts for 1 in 4 searches compared to text, so that’s 25% of people using voice-to-text search on their mobile devices. The difference between voice search and text search is length of search queries. When we type, we tend to type shorter queries (1 to 3 words) when searching, but when we speak we tend to ask longer queries in a question format. There has been growth in question phrases year over year, so remember to include who, what, when, and where phrases as keywords.

Demographic and Location Targeting
More than ever now, we are looking at how customers buy. Instead of setting our campaign bids to traditional settings, we need to start looking at consumer behavior. And now we can change our bids related to audience demographic and location targeting. We need to predict more of what and how consumers are searching. John Gagnon gave an example; if you are selling Nike shoes, instead of trying to reach everyone, target and remarket to people who have previously signed up for marathons and running clubs. By looking at demographic information, you can tell who is searching and converting and you can optimize based on new vs. returning customers. Bid by your audience instead of bidding blindly.

For a recap of highlights on the SEO scene at State of Search 2015, read Vu Thai’s great blog post, Small Businesses Need to Know Now!