Apr 27 2023
Clare McKinley

The Future of Search Engine Marketing: Our Experts Weigh In 


Marketers, are you tired of hearing the phrase “quickly evolving” yet? From digital advertising regulation to the world of social media, it seems as if every corner of the marketing world is in the midst of a paradigm shift. And, for better or for worse, search is no different.  

We’ve got generative artificial intelligence taking center stage, with Bing claiming to have reinvented search with its new chatbot-powered search engine, and Google racing to catch up. We’ve got Gen Z increasingly turning to social platforms to search instead of Google, with the company’s own studies finding that almost 40% of young people are using TikTok or Instagram to find a place for lunch instead of Google Maps or Search. And, of course, there’s the looming loss of third-party cookies in Chrome, which will change how search marketers are able to optimize and measure their campaigns. 

It’s a lot for any marketer to digest and understand! To help untangle it all, we asked three of Basis Technologies’ top search marketing experts—Lindsay Martin (Group VP, Search Media Investment), Robert Kurtz (Group VP, Search Media Solutions), and Amy Rumpler (SVP, Search and Social Media Services)—for their thoughts on what paid search advertisers should know about the present, and how to prepare for the future. 

How do you think AI will impact paid search, and how can advertisers prepare for this looming search evolution? 

Lindsay Martin: We’ve talked about the potential evolution into voice search and/or conversational search for years. For whatever reason, we haven’t seen a takeoff in those areas, even though we are surrounded by devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home displays. In many ways, ChatGPT is the next stage of this evolution, as the search engines were already focused on creating more personalized experiences for users. 

In the paid space, from a marketer perspective, ChatGPT may bring efficiencies with things such as writing ad copy or optimized content creation to drive quality scores. It’s already proven that we can combine human touch with AI for performance marketing with format changes such as Responsive Search Ads and Performance Max. We’re keeping our eye on a couple of key things: 

  • ChatGPT’s ability to act as a personal assistant of sorts, providing the most relevant results for an online shopping experience based on very customized prompts from users. The search result itself (and/or algorithm of how results are displayed) is unlikely to change significantly, but ChatGPT may actually provide a more relevant experience to consumers, assuming a brand’s data feed is set up in an equally detailed manner. 
  • Bing’s market share. It’s no secret that Bing beat Google to the punch with its ChatGPT integration. Google’s own AI, Bard, is currently in testing. We’ll continue to re-evaluate where we place paid search buyers as user behavior potentially shifts for the ease of use within Bing. 

Robert Kurtz: It’s important to note that AI-powered tools are already being used in SEM to automate tasks, improve accuracy, and generate insights that were previously impossible to obtain. Businesses that want to prepare for the future of SEM should:  

  1. Invest in AI-powered tools that can help them automate tasks, improve accuracy, and generate insights. 
  1. Develop a data-driven culture that values the use of data to make decisions. This means collecting and analyzing data from a variety of sources, including social media, website analytics, and customer surveys. 
  1. Hire employees who have the skills and knowledge needed to use AI effectively, including data scientists and marketing professionals who understand how to use AI to improve SEM campaigns. 

Aside from AI, what do you believe are the biggest factors impacting the future of paid search? How should marketers prepare for these changes? 

Amy Rumpler: I expect paid search to continue to focus on bringing more personalization to results; capturing more intent through alternative, engaging content formats such as visual search and video; and driving better performance through the continued development of advertising automation. Helping customers find the information they need fast, while maximizing opportunities for brands to show up well and convert, is the end goal.  

Brands should absolutely be testing and adopting newer ad formats (like Performance Max) and investing in video on platforms like YouTube in addition to traditional text search campaigns, as these are both easy opportunities to take advantage of newer trends in paid search. Incorporating your own first-party data is another great way to ensure ads can be personalized to audiences beyond what’s based on their search queries. And, when combined with other features like Smart Bidding or Value-Based Tracking, first-party data can be a powerful way to optimize performance.   

More and more Gen Zers are abandoning traditional search engines in favor of places like TikTok and YouTube. How will this change the paid search landscape, and how can marketers adapt? 

Lindsay Martin: Video ad formats with more creative messaging opportunities are certainly driving higher engagement. YouTube ads, in particular, are driving higher search volume. YouTube offers a “search lift” measurement, which provides measurable impact of direct lift on increases of both paid and organic search volume as a result of exposure to video campaigns. However, if brands are not present in paid search results after creating interest via TikTok and YouTube, that's a missed opportunity for a final touchpoint to drive conversion. 

Amy Rumpler: Where consumers go to search for options, content, and recommendations has definitely diversified, with a number of platforms and retail networks eating up attention. As a result, many marketers are taking a fresh look at their media mix to ensure it’s diversified enough to capture consumers’ interest wherever they’re spending their time. That said, even when a customer’s journey doesn’t start on Google, paid search often benefits from this extra exposure, as it’s often still the final touchpoint for customers before they finalize a purchase or decision. As a result, search spend is widely predicted to continue growing over the next few years. 

Marketers can prepare by thinking more holistically about the entire customer journey, and by adapting their paid search content and measurement strategies to ensure they're able to capitalize on intent signals that originate from other platforms. One great example of how to do this: Closely tracking growth in related keywords and incorporating trending topics in your paid search campaigns.