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What Digital Marketers Should Bet On: Part 1

A picture of Lindsay LaShell at the Seer Interactive conference

A few weeks ago, I participated as a panelist in an event at the new Seer Interactive San Diego office. Though the invitation was a thrill—Seer is what I hope Diamond + Branch will be in 15 years or so—the topic itself was intimidating: Placing Our Digital Marketing Bets for the Rest of 2018.

The conversation was lively and interesting, and I learned a ton from my fellow panelists, while (hopefully) contributing a unique perspective.

In the weeks since the event, I’ve continued to think about our conversation quite a lot, because I worry that the “placing our bets” language is too right: We shouldn’t lose track of the fact that we are actually gambling. How can we know what will be a good idea nine months from now, when a powerhouse like Facebook has demonstrated their willingness to hurt both advertisers and users? With daily changes to Google’s search features and AI-driven ranking algorithms, how well does past performance predict future returns?

So, we are essentially gambling our credibility and our client’s resources. We are gambling a whole bunch of time and effort looking for a jackpot.

But there’s this one thing that, once you realize it, makes placing your bets really easy: The things they change might not be predictable, but the motivation behind the changes is.

Google

For Google, the motivation is to improve the searcher’s satisfaction and task accomplishment. Period. Because if Google successfully helps you solve a problem once, you are more likely to turn to them again and again. So, if you get a video in response to your query, it’s because they think that’s the best answer. If you see a local pack with business listings and reviews, that’s a designated result for a specific type of search. Every blue link, paid ad, image result, or local pack is provided because the data suggests that these will be the most likely solution to the problem you’re trying to solve.

Good experiences for searchers means more of them doing more searches, which results in more advertising inventory and revenue, which means that Google’s parent company can invest in things like a pill that detects cancer and solar balloons with broadband access for rural areas.

Facebook

Facebook is a bit more insidious, if I can editorialize a bit, but not really more complicated. Facebook wants your time. Anything they can do to increase the amount of time you spend scrolling through your newsfeed, they’ll do it. It’s insidious because they have proven that they are willing to implement changes that hurt users if it contributes to their goal. (Yes, that’s a very strong opinion presented as a fact. If you’re not comfortable with this, buy me two beers and get an earful of why I believe it.) The result of more users spending more time is, that’s right, more advertising inventory and revenue for Facebook. And if you saw that coming, maybe you should run for Senate.

So that’s it. Google wants to help you solve your problems. Facebook wants to keep you on their site. That’s all you need to know to be able to start placing your bets on how they’ll change in the coming months and years.

But I won’t leave you there. In Part Two, I’ll actually tell you what bets I’m placing as a result of these things. Stay tuned!