How Experimentation Keeps Brands Competitive – Even Against Players Like Google

The launch of Google’s job search functionality, which followed its foray into travel, might leave businesses in other verticals worried their industries are next – and how they could ever compete with the search giant.

But no matter where Google goes next, it’s not doom and gloom – at least not for forward-thinking players willing to evolve.

In fact, according to Marcus Miller, head of SEO and PPC at digital marketing firm Bowler Hat, it’s important to remember that, while powerful, even Google is not invincible.

You only have to look at Google Plus to know that everything Google touches does not turn to gold,” he said.

Indeed, pointing to Google’s biggest flops of all time – which also include Google Video, Dodgeball and Google Answers – Tom LaVecchia, president of digital marketing firm X Factor Media, agreed that even though Google “has many, many wins, [it] constantly [experiments] and [fails] all the time”.

And it’s that willingness to experiment that is key to survival for any business.

In a similar vein, Miller conceded many smaller niche businesses have lost traffic to more advanced search engine functionality from Google.

Consider the site whatismyip.com – I wonder how much traffic [it] lost when Google started showing a user’s IP on the search engine result pages? Likewise, online calculators and the like. If your business is based on simple answers that the search engine can deliver, then you are on shaky ground,” Miller said. “But recruitment? Travel? I am not sure Google can provide all the answers here. Certainly, the recruitment industry is built on relationships and trust. A search engine or AI system can’t replace everything that human does in these industries (yet at least). We live in disruptive times. Things are changing. Rapidly. The businesses of tomorrow are the ones that will adapt to and benefit from the changes of today.”

Per David Erickson, vice president of online marketing at Karwoski & Courage Public Relations, the most obvious way brands can capitalize on Google’s job search functionality specifically is to mark up job listing pages using its structured data requirements.

That gives brands the chance to have their job postings listed directly in search results rather than going through a third-party employment listings provider with the added benefit of collecting user behavior data directly from the brand website,” Erickson said.

But, on a broader level, brands should think about Google’s role in their industries and what Google knows overall, which, in the case of travel, is quite a lot.

Think about how consumers behave…: They research the places they plan to visit. They probably email links to websites they’ve found as a result of that research. They find accommodations and plane tickets via search. Whether those clicks occurred via a Google Ad or the organic listing, Google knows about it,” Erickson said. “When they book their hotel and airfare, they get a receipt emailed to them, probably to a Gmail account and the purchase was likely tracked by Google Analytics. They likely get automatic notifications of changes to their flight plans from the Google app and/or they may use Google voice via a mobile app or Google Home to check on their flight status.”

As a result, Google explicitly understands the customer journey and any bottlenecks within for a huge percentage of travelers, which it can now exploit.

And, Erickson observed, the same fundamental dynamic holds true for consumers looking for jobs.

They search for opportunities and email themselves the research. Even if they are not using Google to search for jobs, they are likely getting job alerts emailed to them via LinkedIn or other job listing sites,” he said. “If it’s in Gmail, Google will know how they interact with those listings. And then, if a conversation with a recruiter or HR manager follows, Google will know if a job offer was made and accepted or declined. These types of transactions occur within Gmail on a massive scale every day, so Google has the dataset to recognize patterns not just among job seekers, but among job seekers within specific industries.”

As a result, Erickson said the real question each business should ask is, “What does Google know about my industry?”

That in turn can help businesses better understand the customer journey and associated bottlenecks – and identify opportunities themselves.

Or, as Brock Murray, COO of digital marketing agency seoplus+, put it, this is another sign that web presence optimization is the imperative for businesses, not simply website optimization.

Google has a mission to help searchers complete the desired action within their platform, whether that is looking up store hours, booking an appointment or even searching for jobs,” he added.

Lisa Lacy is a senior reporter for The Drum, where she covers the digital and search marketing industries. She’s a graduate of Columbia’s Journalism School and has also written for CMO.com, ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal.

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