It's been an interesting string of weeks, with a couple of groundbreaking announcements from Google. While both are aimed at improving relevance, one is more algorithmic and mathematical in terms of assessing the quality of content -- while the other is consumer feedback to essentially cross-reference the same quality content metric. I won't waste any time here discussing the details, since this has already been covered in depth.
What is more interesting to me is how these changes will improve the quality of search results for consumers, and the impact they will have on advertisers. While Firefox has provided an extension for years that has enabled the consumer to filter both paid and organic results, this functionality existed in a vacuum and was only known to the elite tech-savvy lot. What Google is trying to do now is harness that collective feedback into a formulaic loop to improve results for everyone. For once I feel that this fits well with the engine's mantra of "don't do evil," and I fully endorse these enhancements. This should only benefit quality brands, publishers, and advertisers.
The challenge comes when you try to quantify the impact of these changes in order to optimize your existing search marketing. The challenge is even more complex if you are managing your company's global search efforts , because the answer will vary wildly by country.
I recently moderated a panel on international search at OMMA Global in San Francisco, with two esteemed panelists, from Yandex and MediaCom respectively. What really got me thinking were some comments from Arkady Borkovsky, CTO at Yandex Labs. He felt that competition from Yandex and other engines makes Google better. As you look into Google's degrees of success by market, I think Borskovsky may be onto something, which may in fact be adding to the complexity of trying to quantify change. If an advertiser can understand this dynamic maybe it will become less complicated to quantify and take advantage of new search innovations.
Google's success in major markets like the U.S. is fueled by the need to best Binghoo and other engines. Bing has made the most noise, but many of the other engines have made gradual improvements to search results and the search experience overall, which has kept Google innovating, even without fanfare. However, these innovations have not enabled the search giant to dominate every market. Google still lags in markets like Russia, China, Korea, and Japan. Some of this is, as the panelists noted, due to cultural reasons; Google's success is simply in markets that have come to prefer simplicity of search results versus portal-style multitasking, etc. Google's degrees of dominance as you go around the globe may also be an impact of a varied market-by-market approach to rolling out innovations like the aforementioned.
Combined, these factors complicate the challenge for advertisers trying to quantify the impact of any major innovation or service change, because they will vary by market and are often perceived quite differently. So what is an advertiser to do?
What advertisers must do is have a thorough understanding of their markets, target audience, and product offering -- combined with robust analytics that will enable them to benchmark and optimize against pre-identified KPIs. This will enable advertisers to quantify the impact of an improved consumer search experience, as one example, that will vary by country and engine. Compensating for varying degrees of impact across multiple markets is critical -- because when comparing the results, there must be local and cultural context.
If the quality of search results and the search experience will vary so dramatically, advertisers must have a tiered and flexible analytics infrastructure that can drive scoring, reporting, and optimizations that will ensure optimal impact. Doing so will also lay an excellent foundation for cross-channel optimization.
Additionally, many advertisers now must view themselves as content producers and focus on producing quality content. This doesn't mean they have to create tons of content by themselves, but just that quality content will always win. Some advertisers can partner with premium publishers and benefit from that association. Done right, this approach should benefit paid and organic search initiatives.
In short, analytics and content are an advertiser's universal levers. Both will enable advertisers to efficiently work around global variances in quality and culture while take advantage of new and unquantified innovations.