Passion Digital Presents: The Future of Search… Are You Ready?

Passion Digital Passion Digital 10/02/2023 7 minutes

We are at a pivotal point in search history. As brands have started to get their heads around the ever-changing social platforms, new innovations are coming onto the scene, such as Chat-GPT. So, how can brands take advantage of new search platforms and start imagining better results by creating content, placing it on the right social platforms in a format that works for their audience and ensure that it gets the visibility it deserves?  

On 7th February, we discussed exactly that with brand exec leaders and our expert panel at our Future of Search event. Our panellists included: 

  • Nina Benning, Brand Partnerships, Retail & E-Commerce at TikTok
  • Frank Harrison, Director at Croft Analytics and ex-Publicis Media and ZenithOptimedia
  • Rosie Hopes, Managing Partner & Head of Insight & Strategy at Passion Digital 
  • Alex Hoffmann, Managing Partner & Head of Organic Marketing at Passion Digital  

With platforms like TikTok, Amazon and Pinterest becoming the search engines of the future, the rise in AI search capability and visual search increasing in popularity, the room was alive with lots of insights, ideas and opportunities. So much so that we can’t possibly cover everything in this article. Therefore, we have created a whitepaper sharing the must-knows and latest innovations and developments in search including new user habits, behaviours and what you should be doing now and in the future. Please get in touch if you would like us to share this with you, or we can schedule a call to take you through the findings with your brand in mind. 

We had a super lively Q&A at the Future of Search event, here’s a taster of the questions asked and the answers from our panellists. 

How Do You Justify the Monetary Investment Into These New Platforms Like TikTok?

“From a marketing point of view, a big part of justifying the investment in TikTok is the reach the platform gives you. TikTok reaches 1.5 billion people globally, so you are simply increasing your brand reach, reaching the right and greater percentage of your audience as possible. 

From a performance perspective, it’s about the search funnel – what is your purpose, where on the funnel do you want to be? TikTok and other social platforms are desperately trying to get the transaction part of it completely nailed, so that when you search for something, you find something you’re interested in, you can buy this immediately inside the platform, you don’t need to go outside at all. It is likely they’ll need some help from Amazon and at this stage you’re looking at metrics related to reach and audience engagement, not conversions. But those on their own are justification for doing a lot of social media because they deal with a particular part of the funnel, a particular part of the marketing need and reach, but you can target them very effectively and engage with them very effectively and build up knowledge into your audience.”

Frank Harrison 

“It’s easy to harvest demand when you know it’s there. Obviously it’s much harder to generate that demand in the first place and generate brand recognition. When I visualise this with clients who don’t want to invest in the full funnel, it’s really important to understand that all the activity you do at the top, filters down and creates a halo effect over the rest of the funnel. If you never grow the number of people who know about your product, the opportunity will remain a set size. If you’re investing in more and more activity, then you’re growing the size of the demand to be much, much bigger. It’s an extremely complicated picture and explaining that in a way to people who are incredibly money-focused is very difficult. But that’s a part of my job as a strategist to say, look, this is your budget and this is how I think that it really needs to be used across the funnel to have a sustainable marketing strategy going forward. It’s not sustainable to only ever invest in bottom line activity, it’s finding the balance across the funnel which is the real challenge.” 

Rosie Hopes

“In the long term it will be easier and more cost effective if you make a start now with the current platforms, as in the future there could be say 17 social media platforms and you won’t have the budget for the same keyword search and services to implement at the same time.” 

Alex Hoffmann

What Advice Do You Have for Brands Struggling to Rank on Google?  

“In the last five years, for some brands and sectors it has become very hard to hit the top spots. For some it’s impossible. The market is completely bloated, or the budget you need to get position one is just astronomical and the ROI is bad. So, to more and more brands we say let’s look at other strategies, such as social media. Organic search has changed, so much so, we have now called our department Organic Marketing, because it’s so much more than Google nowadays.” 

Alex Hoffmann

Will Voice Search Ever Take Off in the Paid Space? 

“Possibly. If voice search becomes a great deal better than it is now, if it becomes a lot more popular and if it becomes a lot more actively used for buying. There’s a big element to this which is e-commerce and the ability to connect directly to Amazon and other e-commerce platforms. If you don’t have to go to Amazon to buy something, but just use Alexa and it is instantly simple and trustworthy, then potentially. 

In terms of PPC, there could be all sorts of possibilities, but now there needs to be innovation and it’s not there at the moment. But it will potentially come and therefore we need to keep an eye on it.” 

Frank Harrison

Will TikTok Release a Tool to Do Keyword Research? 

“We speak about that a lot internally. There’s no official announcement yet. We do have a beta running, which is mainly on the advertiser’s side, where advertisers can increase the reach of certain campaigns when someone is looking for a certain product. That’s something they are testing and analysing internally. Everything is constantly changing on TikTok though, so watch this space.” 

Nina Benning

“I know us Marketers love data and we’ve been spoiled by the richness of data over the past 10 years. We’ve seen it in analytics, cookies and now we’re getting less and less data that we’re able to look at from a website perspective. I think we have to get used to the fact that we’re not always going to have data at our fingertips to work from. Probably, more and more users don’t want their digital footprint made public to people who want to monetise that information. So, I think there’s a point at which we must concede to not having the data we wished we could.” 

Rosie Hopes 

“Even if you have data, like when we do SEO keyword research, you look at the volume of searches based on past data. Therefore, you’re basing your whole organic search strategy on past data, which isn’t the right thing to do. You need to also take a gamble for certain strategies and learn about your audience because it will change. Having too much data can also be a bad thing because you want to analyse it but you don’t have time, or you actually have data which is out of date.” 

Alex Hoffmann

Is an Older Audience Growing On TikTok?

“Yes, definitely. Our target audience is constantly changing every two months as we update the data. We already have over 40% of users older than 30 or 35. We’ve just published some statistics on people over 70 who are starting to use TikTok for purposes such as looking for gardening tips.” 

Nina Benning

How Do You Utilise TikTok for Non-visual, Non-product or Less Creative Sectors?  

“We have a team and audiences for these types of sectors such as financial services. They work with younger creators to put a different message out there for these brands. It’s about building a strategy where you understand your audience and the message you want to put out there.

You could, for example, start with a bigger storyline e.g. the kind of service you’re offering and begin to see how that can be visualised on the platform. For example, how-to videos, or how to invest videos, or three tips videos.”

Nina Benning

“What I’d also say is that it’s not necessary to have a super visual product in order to present it in a visual way. What you’re selling is expertise and what customers or potential clients want to see is a person who can speak with confidence about the things that they’re interested in and that’s super relevant to the questions they have. To do this means truly understanding your audience and making sure you have a creative strategy that resonates with them wherever that sits. YouTube is a really accessible format and off the back of that is sensory search. Voice and visual search is helpful for neurodivergent people – who can’t always put their thoughts down into words – and for disabled people – who would potentially prefer to speak to a speaker rather than having to use physical limbs. I think sensory search is really opening up the search landscape in a way that we probably hadn’t considered before.”

Rosie Hopes 

If you would like to hear more about this topic and have a deeper look at the research, just get in touch and keep an eye out on our whitepaper library for the incoming Future of Search report.