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Duane Forrester Keynote: The Future of Digital Marketing – SLC|SEM Digital Marketing Conference 2015

Sep 3, 2015 / by Andy Eliason

We returned to the main hall for the first of the final two keynotes. Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager for Bing, started by asking what is at stake over the next 10 to 15 years. The next slide that came up pointed out that 7 trillion dollars was at stake.


And then it took a little while to understand that he was talking about wealth and money in general that marketers will somehow be connected to and businesses will be generating.

I will say right off that this was a fascinating keynote, but it did seem a little disjointed, so this summary may feel the same.

His first advice to us was to know the buyer.

He second bit of advice was to align or fail – which is to say that you need to know what your buyer wants and then provide it or you will quickly be left behind.

Millennials, he said, are the first generation that has everything they wanted laid out for them on the internet. They haven’t known a time when you couldn’t get instant access to content or products on a whim, and that means that expectations for online businesses are going through the roof. They know what’s possible, and they expect more than what’s possible.

So if that is your target audience, you need to address and align with those expectations.

That means mobile first. Mobile is what we use for everything, and more queries are performed on devices than they are on desktops.

Mobile is critical, and yet, he said, many companies – many big companies – are failing to do everything possible to reach an audience that relies on their mobile devices.

Speaking as a search engine, he said, they are completely agnostic on the issue of whether or not a company is bleeding away their mobile potential. If someone else wants to move in and take the place of the big guys who haven’t figured it out, they’re more than fine with it.

On that note, he did warn that any company who is just now saying: “I think mobile is going to be important,” is already too far behind the curve.

Duane claimed that it’s the companies who are planning for wearables that will be ready for the next big market shift. (You don’t have to agree with or like the idea of wearables, but he says you can count on things going that way.)

So how does the world of connected devices and mobile future have anything to do with digital marketing?

Obviously, you’ve got a captive audience and a surface on which to show an important message, and advertisers can hit an exact moment when something is extremely important to customers.

Next, he started talking about other technologies, and how those technologies are going to change the landscape. He talked about telematics in cars. This is a simple system in which you press a button in your car and talk to a real person about, for example, a good place to eat near your current location.

It all works very smoothly, but all that person on the other side of the connection is doing is Googling the restaurants in your area. This means that organic rankings will, in fact, have an impact on local businesses and getting real foot traffic from people who were simply driving around.

This led to a discussion on the sheer amounts of data we’re producing every day, and that machine learning is – while a little scary – going to change how we do business and have a bigger impact than mobile did. Even now, search systems have the raw data to start making sense of the world in which they live, which has made Bing Predicts an interesting experiment.

The Importance of Schema for Search

Duane mentioned, on several occasions throughout the keynote, the importance of Schema for websites – especially as search engines try to parse so much data. If you’re doing schema, he said, you’re riding that wave into the future. The rest of you are just standing on the beach and thinking: that’s cool.

“It’s shark-free water,” he said, “so everyone needs to get involved with it.”

Schema is how you get in the search engines and provide the fast answers that people want.

His final words on the subject was: “Play, get rich. Don’t play, get left behind.”

The Future of Search

Exectations have gone up exponentially. Search is advancing, and he said their goal is to bridge the gap between a user’s intent and the experiences the world has to offer. (User intent again? Looks like everything is going back to that today.)


Search is allowing users to express themselves in natural, intuitive ways and moving past keyword queries. People are looking for more integration with more data sources and results that are actually actionable (and now we’re back to task completions).

He also spoke about how Personal Digital Assistants – Cortana, Google, Siri – are changing search, and how an ecosystem of connected devices are used to serve relevant information. The more this changes how we accomplish tasks, the more it’s going to change how we

Become an ecosystem of connected devices that serve relevant information.

They will be able to make purchase decisions on your behalf.

When this changes how we accomplish tasks, it is going to change how we do marketing.

How to Market in the Future

Duane warned that if anyone is focusing on only one thing marketing-wise, the effort will fail.

If you want to be a successful SEO, this is what you have to know:

  • If you think mobile is coming, you’re already lost.
  • Know what motivates the upcoming generation.
  • Stop thinking about driving traffic.
  • Start thinking about “visitor task completion.”
  • If you are not focused on helping the user complete the task they want to take then you will fail.

It’s all about the future and where data and devices are taking us and marketers that are ready for it will have the better results.

Topics: SEO Blog Content Marketing Conversion Optimization

Andy Eliason

Written by Andy Eliason

Andy Eliason has been writing in the SEO industry longer than is technically healthy. He once considered counting all the words he has written over the years, but decided that such an endeavor could only end in tears.

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