What we learnt at the IAB’s This Is Search conference 2015

July 27, 2015

Last week, Navigate attended the IAB’s This Is Search conference held at Google’s London HQ. An onus was placed on Mobile across the day’s presentations, as this 21st century swiss army knife unlocks new possibilities for both consumers and advertisers alike. Read on to discover our favourite snippets from the conference, and how new search developments should be tapped into, to push the limits of search, especially on mobile.

Mobile search is all about context, answers and actions

Matt Bush, Director of Performance at Google, chose to kick the day off in a mobile frame-of-mind. Mobile adds layers of context to what has always been at the heart of search: intent. Paid search is effective because it harvests that intent; the more relevant, the greater the yield.  On search we are open and honest – we express our needs, concerns, and desires through our queries. However, mobile changes the types of questions we ask, the way we ask them, where we ask them, and the information we’d like to get in return. Not only have “Near me” queries grown 34-fold since 2011 – 80% of these made on mobile – but also 50% of users who conduct a local search on their smartphones visit a store within a day. The challenge now for the industry is to come up with creative ways to resonate with search users, as behaviour morphs thanks to mobile.


It’s well worth checking out the recent Google I/O Keynote. As Aparna Chennapragada revealed Google Now on Tap, it makes one realise how much magic there is yet to uncover in search; not just for techies, but users and advertisers alike. In an upcoming release, a mention of a restaurant in a text message will, for example, trigger Google to present options to call or navigate to the location, read reviews on Yelp, or make a reservation via the OpenTable app. Mobile is the device fundamentally changing the face of search, all with a focus on creating seamless personalisation and contextual relevance for every user. Context opens doors for advertisers to do more with search – to use consumer signals, like intent, device, time, interest and location, to provide better, more real time, and ultimately more engaging messages to consumers.


We have the technology within mobile search to display local inventory levels for a specific product, to adapt creative in real time based on local weather, or to modify bids to match TV ad schedules to capture browsing viewers’ interest. Google scripts allow us to be reactive and relevant, for example using the outdoor temperature to determine the right ads. According to Matt Bush, these relatively simple yet powerful formats are still largely unexplored and undervalued. Realising the full potential of mobile requires a recognition of mobile as a cross-funnel device – one that supports our upper-funnel research and discovery searches throughout the day, as well as one that drives us to stores or to purchase online. Recognising the role of mobile in cross-device and online-to-offline journeys remains a challenge – adjusting measurement to a mobile-first world requires both progressive thinking and a bit of risk taking, but the opportunity on mobile today, right now, is far too big (and lucrative) to pass up.


Why we should bid on Brand PPC

We have run some revealing tests at Navigate on overall Brand demand captured when running Brand PPC ads alongside organic listings, justifying Brand PPC investment with cold, hard numbers. Once Webmaster Tools data is linked to Adwords, one can see paid and organic stats alongside one another, by query. The harvest of clicks per brand query, when having a presence on both paid and organic, has proven to be greater than relying solely on an organic listing to capture that Brand demand. Applying rough conversion rates and average order values to these incremental clicks gives a ballpark figure on the potential revenue missed out on by not bidding on Brand. Below are some extra reasons why Brand PPC investment is justified:

Message – PPC ads can leverage relevant offers, or new products, where SEO cannot. Users can still click on an organic listing should they so wish!

Low cost – in the grand scheme of marketing, Brand CPCs are still REALLY cheap. You can’t get a Brand TV slot for 5-20 pennies per engaged viewer!

Combines with SEO – once linked, advertisers can gain crucial extra insight on users’ behaviour when hit with a paid ad, an organic ad, or both. Search is never just search; these extra layers of data to be tapped into means Search should sit higher up the agenda of any brand/advertiser.

Competitors – not bidding on Brand can mean cheaper CPCs for competition wanting to move in on PPC Brand inactivity. Why allow competition to easily eat into your own existing market share?

Failure to convert warm leads – users who may have been exposed to your site via a PPC generic term, and are now searching on Brand, may not be compelled by just an organic listing, with no mention of that sale you have on. Losing warm leads is criminal, and they might just be lost to pesky competition. Why use marketing budget to kickstart a purchase decision (PPC generics), but then pull the plug on keywords, your terms, that seal the deal (PPC Brand)?

Navigate would like to thank Steve Chester, the rest of the IAB team & all the speakers for another thoroughly insightful event. For a comprehensive round-up, keep your eyes peeled to the IAB’s website over the next few weeks.

David Walby, Search Director

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