Strategic Marketing Advertisting and Interactive

Planning for a Post-Search World

Caid Christiansen

Big news came last week in a report from eMarketer.

The report, which examines US digital ad spending, claims that in 2016, display ad spending will surpass search ad spending in the US for the first time. By their definition, display ads include banners and other (promoted Tweets, Facebook News Feed ads, etc.), video, rich media, and sponsorships.

By eMarketer‘s estimates, search ad spending will total $29.24 billion in 2016, while display will total $32.17 billion.

Despite a fairly liberal definition of display ads (are display ads really anything that isn’t search?), this report is just the latest in a long line of signals that advertising is undergoing significant change. Of course, the way customers consume information is changing, too, so this makes sense to some degree. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a long road ahead for companies in their ad efforts in the coming months and years.

Like it or not, it may be time to start planning for a post-(paid)-search world.

That sounds dramatic. “How,” you might ask, “can we adapt our ad efforts so they aren’t so heavily dependent on search?” You’re probably also wondering if this means search will go away completely. In reality, the answer is much less complex.

It’s simple: diversify. You’ve heard that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. Now’s the time to ensure that all your eggs aren’t with search. Because AdWords and other paid search have been so effective for so long, allowing you to get a good bang for your buck, many companies have come to rely on them for all new leads. But as more people get their information from other sources and as ad targeting has grown better, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to move away from a strategy that’s heavily reliant upon any single tactic.

By diversifying your efforts and enlisting the help of multiple tactics, you’ll be in a much better situation should search start to decline (which at this point still seems unlikely). You shouldn’t change tactics just for the sake of changing tactics–you should keep doing what you’re doing as long as it’s working–but you do need to be thinking about what your next move is.

Are we really headed towards a post-search world? Hardly. But that doesn’t make it any less important to know what your future looks like should one of your favorite tactics disappear.

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