Earlier this week, Google marked the 20th anniversary of the now omnipresent and in many ways even omniscient Search. Search has exploded over the last two decades. It quickly grew from helping people explore the internet to becoming a powerful tool to identify intent and serve ads to potential consumers.
The Search advertising market in India is currently worth Rs 2,128 crore and is the second biggest digital ad format that advertisers spend on after social media. According to Dentsu Aegis Network e4m Digital Report, the Search market is expected to be worth Rs 2,660 by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 25 per cent.
Even though Search may be growing at a slower rate than some other ad formats on digital like display and video, âSearch remains a relevant tool for advertisers as most consumer journeys begin with Search,â explains Sanjay Mehta, Jt-CEO, Mirum India.
Companies in the e-commerce, BFSI, and retail categories are the three largest spenders on this format setting aside nearly 42, 37, and 23 per cent of their total digital spends on Search respectively.
âBeing a pull driven tool, Search is my personal favourite digital advertising tool,â says Shrenik Gandhi, co-founder and CEO of White Rivers Media, as he explains why Paid Search is an evergreen tool for advertisers.
SEO before you leap
Brands are currently highly focussed on strengthening SEO and SEM hygiene practices. âThe perfect combination of SEO, SEM, and the integration of new tools like click-to-call makes Search Engines a great destination to be discovered for brands,â says Vishal Chinchankar – Chief Digital Officer – Madison World. âBrands need a mix of all these elements to have an omnipresence across Search on various platforms,â he adds.
While large evolved brands are already focussed on SEO, some smaller brands have not recognised the importance of SEO yet. Venugopal Ganganna, CEO, Langoor, advices small and medium-sized businesses to recognise the importance of SEO and invest in building websites and webpages that are optimised for search.
New Search destinations
Google pioneered a whole new format of paid advertising on the internet. Now, 20 years later, as consumer behaviour evolves, Paid Search has transcended Google and entered the newer realms. Brands are shifting Paid Search spends to e-commerce platforms like Amazon or Facebook which are also destinations for Search.
Mehta says that consumers are now Searching on a multitude of platforms, from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and even within Whatsapp groups. Anil K Nair, Managing Partner, Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi, says that the monopoly that Google had on Search is decreasing slowly. âMany players are approaching the Search market from their own perspectives,â he says. According to him, video search and search aggregators are also attracting Paid Search monies.
Nair adds that âsearch on the go through mobile is increasing and emerging as a whole new sub-category with its own dynamics.â
There is another significant shift in consumer behaviour: voice search. According to a research by comScore, 50 per cent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. The technology to recognise human voice is constantly improving and according to Amazonâs 2017 Annual Report, Alexaâs spoken language understanding improved by more than 25% in 2017. And the company has âdramatically reduced the amount of time required to teach Alexa new languages by using machine translation and transfer learning techniques, which allows them to serve customers in more countries (like India).â
Nair and Mehta say that as consumers use more of voice Search, brands will have to start making themselves available to the section of consumers who are using voice. In the case of voice search, a brand will have to ensure that the its suggesting appears within the top 3-5 organic results or risk losing out to competitors, says Mehta. He says that not appearing within the top results on Voice is more harmful to a brand than appearing on the fourth page of the search results.
Some Indian brands such as Magicbricks, Zomato, and Nearbuy are known to be investing in voice search capabilities and the number of brands that tap into voice to increase consumer engagement in expected to rapidly grow over the next year. And then may be instead of Googling, users will simply be speaking to their voice assistants to help them out. It sounds like a science-fiction, but itâs not as much in the future as it seems.