On today’s Reach, Dan Parscale speaks with Garrett Jackson, Manager of Digital Services at Audigy. Garrett and Dan look into the future (the near future) to bring you predictions for how digital marketing will change in the coming year.
DAN PARSCALE: Welcome to Reach, a podcast for audiologists and other hearing care professionals who want to reach more patients and maximize their marketing potential. My name is Dan, and each week I’ll bring you interviews from industry experts who are specialized in marketing to the hearing care industry. Reach is a production of the Attainable Podcast Network. Visit attainable.fm for more information or to access a transcript of each show.
Today on Reach, we’re bringing back Garrett Jackson, our manager of digital services here at Audigy. We’re going to be reviewing his 2016 predictions for digital marketing and then making some new predictions as we look ahead to 2017.
Welcome back to Reach, Garrett.
GARRETT JACKSON: Thanks, Dan. It’s nice to be here again.
DAN PARSCALE: Yeah, it’s good to have you. We are going to do the second edition of year-end predictions or predictions for the coming year. Last year, you also helped me with this conversation and some of our ideas hit, some of them missed. I guess that’s why it’s a prediction.
GARRETT JACKSON: Yeah, I thought I did OK, but thanks for pointing out that I missed some.
DAN PARSCALE: Well, a B isn’t failing.
GARRETT JACKSON: It’s failing to me, Dan.
DAN PARSCALE: Oh. Well, tune in next year to see how Garrett feels about himself with that, too. But last year’s focus, you predicted a real focus on local optimization for websites and the importance of mobile for marketing. And I think that we’ve definitely seen both of those things come to play, not just now but even the continuing into next year. Right?
GARRETT JACKSON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Google in all of its updates and changes that it did this year, it was all very focused on local and being able to stand out in the results. The only thing that’s really on the Google search results page now, it’s four spots of ads at the top of the page.
So if I type in any search querying hearing aids in Vancouver, Washington, top spots are going to be taken up by ads. And then directly below that, instead of having the organic listings where it’s giving you lists of websites and links to those pages, it’s now just giving you the local pack which is that section with a map and gives you all of the practice names. So definitely made much more of a prominent position on the page but also just in the way that Google is giving us clues and hints on which direction we should focus our time and our energy.
Content has been very focused and rewarded for being more local and for engaging, things that are happening in the community, ways that you’re engaging with just the area that you’re involved in.
DAN PARSCALE: And the same thing is true for mobile and how important it’s become, too. Google has been saying for months, maybe a couple of years now, that everyone is moving towards mobile. We reflect that data in our reports to our members as well. And more importantly, for SEOs, Google is rewarding people whose websites are really heavily optimized for mobile.
GARRETT JACKSON: I think last time we had talked about a mobile first approach, and you see that coming out in a lot more statements around Google. It’s been interesting this last year, too, they also rolled out a way for you to be able to test your usability of your website on mobile devices and have a specific page for that dedicated. So you can tell that they’re trying to make sure that user experience is as strong as it would be on desktop.
So yes, they are rewarding sites that are strong on mobile for ease of use, for having strong content, for being as usable as if it were on a desktop. So we definitely got that one right. It’s been interesting too, to see just within our own membership and with their practices, how the patients have changed in the devices that they’re using.
For example, last year when I was making predictions, we were hovering around 30% or so on average for our devices, and now we’re kind of getting closer to that 40%. So I think on average we were seeing around low 30s before and now kind of moving up towards closer to 40%. And it’s interesting to see the devices.
I think it’s interesting how many devices my parents use on a regular basis, and they’re moving into the demographic that we’re targeting. Really, they have their iPad, they have their cell phones, they have laptops, they have a desktop computer, and they’re engaging with content on all of these devices at any given time of day. So for us to think that our patients aren’t really using these devices, or no, they’re not really into that. People go where the content is now.
And to see my parents unplug their direct TV after years and years of using a satellite service and now switch over to Netflix, that was an indicator to me that we sometimes are quick to judge what we think our target demographic is doing or what these demographics based on their age are willing to do. And it’s evident that putting our focus on digital is where we’re supposed to be.
DAN PARSCALE: Yeah, also we’re entering a point in audiology where the demographic is about to change, because it’s going to be a whole new generation of people entering that demographic if you’re talking about age as one of the predominant factors. And so with that shift, you’re getting people who are already that much more accustomed to these technological advances and more comfortable making those switches.
GARRETT JACKSON: And I think you see that with the technology, too. I mean everything from like the Bragi device, which was kind of a hot topic this last year. It’s something that’s hearable that’s built for all demographics really that are able to use the device to connect with their phone, for it to be able to give you statistics on your running. It’s basically an audio Fitbit that you’re using. And we’re seeing that kind of adoption rate start younger. I don’t go throughout the day without headphones on. I don’t see most people go throughout the day without an ear bud in their ear.
DAN PARSCALE: You’re even wearing headphones right now for this podcast.
GARRETT JACKSON: I know. That’s shocking, right? But the funny thing about it is that as every group, every generation gets more and more comfortable with these devices we’ve been talking about trying to get rid of that stigma around having a hearing aid, well I mean we’re so used to having devices plugged in. Who’s going to know if it’s a hearable or headphones or a hearing aid soon?
And I think you see that also with hearing aids. People are interested in technology, especially our age group and younger demographics. And if their parents are looking into getting a device, I think you see people a lot more apt to say, hey I’ll take a look at that, too, with you because I’d be curious what kind of specs it has. Is it going to connect to your iPhone, does it do Bluetooth, can we make it sync with your TV?
So there’s assumptions that are being made that these devices are going to do those things. And you see younger people researching this on behalf of their parents. And I think that’s one of the statistics that we’ve recently recognized through all of our sites is that we see a lot of young people visiting our members’ websites, and in a lot of ways we assume it’s because they are looking on behalf of their parents or a family member.
DAN PARSCALE: Yeah, this year we started to look at things from kind of an aggregate viewpoint where we wanted to look not just at how our members websites were performing specifically or individually but also how they performed en mass. And like you’re saying, one of the things that we started to see was this trend of people who weren’t necessarily in the 65 plus age demographic not only connecting with our site or getting to it, I should say, but also converting. Not necessarily to say that any one of those particular age demographics was dominant but a substantial portion of who we’re actually reaching.
And I think that you’re exactly right. My guess is that there’s not suddenly that many more people who are in the let’s say 25 to 34-year-old range who suddenly have hearing loss, although that might be the case, but they’re probably more encouraged to help elderly people in their lives who need assistance or they’re working maybe more as a family unit and it’s just something that they’re getting assistance from.
I think that’s going to be a trend that we’re going to continue to see not just in 2017 but probably forever, that there’s going to be more stratification in these age demographics and our strategies are going to have to adapt to target them as well.
GARRETT JACKSON: Because it is a major investment, you have more people in the family that are involved in that decision and making sure that it’s the right choice. And you have people that are smart in the way of technology to be able to look through those specs and make some decisions. And they’re not going to understand anything like our audiologists understand about the level of dB that it’s able to take in, and right now I’m sure I’m saying everything wrong with how that’s concerning hearing, but they’re not going to know those aspects of it.
But things like the iPhone connectivity, it would be important to me. And so I’m probably going to advocate for my parents to have that same thing. Or I’m going to be frustrated if they get on the iPhone with me and they can’t hear me. I can’t hear them. So those things in connecting with your family members becomes more important. And so it does become part of a family decision to make sure that makes sense.
Now kind of going back to the mobile thing we were talking about earlier, I feel pretty good about the prediction I made last year, and I just kind of want to extend it to this year. Mobile is continually becoming the focus. And although right now we’re not seeing 80% of people visiting the site on mobile devices or tablet devices, and I don’t know if it’s going to necessarily trend completely that direction, but we are seeing shifts there.
But the thing I’m mostly interested in is how much effort Google is putting towards this as well. And one of the things that Google’s rolled out this year is their AMP pages, which is funny because it’s named similarly to our Digital AMP Program. Don’t get those two things confused, but Google rolled out an AMP platform that essentially lets you write really small simplified pages and be able to upload them into Google. And that is a way that they’re able to serve up content faster and quicker to users, particularly mobile users so they can access it really quickly.
And I think that is going to be a shift in the way that we create content on the internet. Whereas before you could fill pages and pages of content on a website and you wanted tons of that there, now it’s going to be much more focused on how can I deliver the right amount of content in the right amount of time for the user that’s on this page. I don’t need someone reading 20 minutes on this page of the site. Can I just deliver them what they’re searching for, answer their question, or meet their intent and be able to deliver that information to them the best way possible.
DAN PARSCALE: All right, so that’s our first real look into 2017. What else do you see in your crystal ball?
GARRETT JACKSON: Yeah, my crystal ball. Let me stare deeply into it. The other thoughts that I have are really around voice, and I think this has kind of hit the mainstream now. There’s a lot of Google Home and Amazon’s Echo or the Alexa, different devices that are showing up a lot on TV right now and definitely making into hopefully people’s Christmas presents– hint, hint– or stockings.
But I think you’re going to see a big shift here. Already the way that people use cell phones, especially within our demographic, is becoming more voice oriented with the advent of Siri and Cortana, depending on which device you have or just the Google Assistant. The way that you use your phone, you’re going to use your voice, and the way that you search for things with your voice is different from the way that you search for it if you’re using a keyboard.
DAN PARSCALE: So how do you mean?
GARRETT JACKSON: So for example, the other day I was driving home. And instead of putting in my address, which I’m not going to say, which I almost did, so almost caught me. Instead of typing in my address to go home, I said, hey Siri give me directions to get home. Siri pulls it up and then delivers me directly there. So already there is a distinction there, but I’m thinking let’s look at our industry specifically.
So for example, if I needed some replacement batteries for my hearing aids, if I’m on my computer I’m probably going to type in batteries, hearing aid batteries into the Google search. Now if I’m on Siri I might ask, hey Siri, where is the closest place that I can get hearing aid batteries? That’s a much longer query, and the way that they’re going to treat that is going to be different.
And so you’re going to see more specific what we call these long-tail keywords that people are using. And it’s the different types of semantics. So the way that we type it in, the way that we request things is going to look different. It’ll be much more conversational in the way that we do these things as well.
The way that I think this is going to affect search is in a lot of ways. First, if everyone has an Alexa or a Google Home in their house, you get used to asking questions of machines in specific ways. So the more I say, hey Amazon, order me more diapers for my kids or order me more bleach for our wash and I start getting comfortable with asking those questions, it’s going to change the way that I use different devices. I’m going to start assuming that my phone knows how to answer those questions as well. Or if I’m on Google, I might type those things in specifically.
I’m also curious, too, as I watch different people within our demographic that we’re targeting on the way that they use phones. I mean questions that they ask Siri sometimes are things that I would never ask Siri, like hey, Siri what’s the distance from this place to this place and how tall is it? They’re much more specific, and I think that there’s kind of an assumption that if technology can do all these amazing things, they can probably answer any question that I have.
I think that younger users are a little bit more comfortable with what computers can do and what can’t they do. However, the technology is absolutely catching up to the place where all users are using it right now. I know that my son frequently will ask the voice on Siri specific questions and get answers from it. So he’s already learning how to adapt to voice and using that. He can’t read, but he can ask the machine how to get an answer for him.
DAN PARSCALE: That’s interesting. You know, you’re talking about not only the technology adjusting and Google adjusting based off of the way that we’re using these new technologies, but the technology is teaching us to think about new ways to use the old technology, too, which is why we might start typing things differently too. That’s interesting.
GARRETT JACKSON: So when you think about our industry specifically, I like to think about the kinds of questions that people might start asking devices that’s different than what they used to ask. So instead of doing this very simplified versions of hearing aids store or something like that. They might be asking a question like why do my ears feel wet in the morning, which is actually something that we see people searching for when they come to member sites. So by having answers to those questions, we’re able to connect users with that immediately.
And one of the things that’s kind of interesting about this is last year we had talked about some of these features that are coming out and that Google was going to be implementing a lot more of, but at the time, everything from Siri to Google was serving up answers that were a little bit more robotic in the way that they respond. Such as, ask Siri a question, it would pop up and say, here’s some web results that might have an answer for you. Now it’s starting to shift, and I think that’s definitely where you’ve seen a big shift this year.
And I would expect to see even more where through machine learning, these devices are learning how to connect you with very specific answers to those questions. And in so doing, they give you that information before you have to go and search for it any more yourself. They’re serving up those answers for you and actually just conversing with you. If you ask what the results of the recent game was, it’s going to serve up here’s the scores of the two teams. It will know that and will be able to give that to you directly.
DAN PARSCALE: So this could be a double-edged sword for advertisers or anybody who’s got a website, really, because one, you have an opportunity to reformulate your content strategy to be able to be the answer that whichever search engine provides. But also, Google, for instance, is going to try and keep you on Google. It’s not going to say, here’s the link anymore, go ahead and check it out. It’s going to say here’s the link and what it says, and you can read all of that right here, too. So you’re going to have to really be able to entice enough with just that answer to be able to encourage a conversion or a connection.
GARRETT JACKSON: Yeah, and I think that’s a really good point is that delicate dance that we do with Google, which is where you’re really using up their space, but they’re also using our information. So there comes a point where we have to really just make sure that Google is going to be using us as a reference and that we’re gaining clout, credibility, and expertise by supplying them with that answer.
So if someone’s searching for something about a high-frequency hearing loss, we would love for Google to put us at the top of the page to show us as the credible source for that. And that’s really where we’re at right now. And I think you make a good point, which is what is it going to look like in the future? Is Google going to just have an answer that automatically just pulls up for people and just skip us altogether? But it’s funny that you said that, because that’s what steps into one of my other predictions for 2017, which is monetization of Google and advertising.
So Google is a business, shocking.
DAN PARSCALE: You don’t say.
GARRETT JACKSON: I know, right? And we talked about this last time a little bit, but I really just want to emphasize how much it’s changed in this last year, of how much emphasis Google’s putting on the ads that are on the search results page.
So before, we used to have ads along the right-hand side of the page. That’s all been removed now. And now we just have four ads at the top and moved all the rest of the results down lower on the page. And you’re faced with ads, first thing you see when you come to Google, depending on the searches that you make, of course. But there’s already talk about Google adding ads into the local section, and I’m sure that’s just–
DAN PARSCALE: I’ve seen a couple of those, too.
GARRETT JACKSON: Yeah, I’ve seen a couple pop up, so I think what you’re going to continue to see is Google is going to continue to make this shift towards they will supply people with the answers as much as they possibly can. And if they’re going to turn to you to supply them with answers, you have to pay to play, which I think is a fair thing for Google to do because they are a business and they do have the authority that’s out there.
But we also have to consider that in the way that we market. I mean, is it safe for us to just say, well, I have a website. People will find me. I don’t think it’s a safe assumption anymore to think that just having a website is going to be enough. You have to consider how much real estate you are getting from Google, whether that’s through paying for that space on their search engine result page or by being able to supply them with the right answers.
But like we just talked about, Google is going to try and answer as many of these questions as they can on their own. So I think you’re going to see already they’re making a big push to get people to do Ad Words. It’s becoming more and more of a focus of their business to get people engaged in that and to also to use their advertising networks through their Google Display Network where you can show ads on other websites and other places online.
So you know organic will continue to be important and relevant as long as we can make it relevant and important, but I don’t think it’s wise for people to just put all of their eggs in one basket, especially at this point. You’re missing opportunities if you aren’t investing in pay-per-click, if you aren’t taking the time to advertise on these sites. Because at the end of the day, that’s where you’re going to be able to make sure that you have a position and a place on their websites.
DAN PARSCALE: Something that I would point out for this, too. I’ve been following maybe even conspiracy theories about how far that could go, like some people say it’s the end of SEO, because in the next couple of years everything is going to be paid and there’s not going to be such a thing as organic. And I think that’s a little bit far-fetched, but as recently as within the past few weeks, Google has started to remove search keyword volume data from Search Console.
For everyone who’s listening, that’s basically a tool that we use to help determine how often people are searching for things so that we can kind of get an idea for if it’s valuable to our searchers. And to me that signals a shift away from information that we can know readily for free and again toward something that we can bet on better because we’re paying for it.
I think it also points to something that you were saying earlier, which is that search intent needs to be served more than keywords. So I think that you’re right, but my heart tells me that there’s still going to be organic listings there, but it’s going to mean something different. I don’t know. I don’t know.
GARRETT JACKSON: Yeah, trust your heart Dan. I think it’s the right place. I hope that organic continues to be as relevant as it has been in the past, but the other thing I think is important to remember is that Google, although it still seems fairly young as a company, it’s matured and the internet’s changed dramatically from when Google started to where it is now. And it only makes sense for them to be able to pivot and to change.
It’s funny when we have conversations with members, sometimes with other people that I meet, and the concern is well, when can we just be done with digital marketing. When can we just say we’ve done it, like we’ve covered all of our bases. Or how do we know that we’ve arrived or we’ve made it. And part of the fun for digital marketing to me is that we aren’t done. It’s always going to be changing. It’s always going to be evolving. And we have to stay on top of that constantly to make sure that we’re delivering the right tools and we’re delivering the right message in the right places.
However, for a business owner I completely understand how that’s exhausting. You think that you are paying someone to just take care of SEO and it’ll just be done. Well, it’s never done. You’re paying someone to take care of your PPC and that’s never perfect either. You’re always trying to improve things, always trying to make things better and adapting to the way that Google and the search engines are changing the way that they treat users and the way that they guide users to the content they’re looking for.
DAN PARSCALE: Yeah, optimization in search engine optimization is almost a bit of a misleading term, because there is no optimal performance. It’s just your best strategy based off of what you know. And maybe we could even say that in the next couple of years, the search engine part is a misnomer, as well, because we’re turning less into an engine that searches for all of your results and now it’s just an answer machine. It’s closer to artificial intelligence in the way that we imagine it from Star Trek, for instance, than it is to Google or Bing or Dogpile or DuckDuckGo or anything like that.
OK, we’ve been talking about search engines for 2017. Let’s maybe take a sidestep and look at social media a little bit. How is that going to be affected by the coming year?
GARRETT JACKSON: Let’s talk specifically about Facebook. Facebook wants to be the hub of everything that you do. Now we saw this last year when they introduced their Search Knowledge Graph, which is at the top of Facebook. There’s a little search bar. You can type in anything from friends that like Taco Bell to–
DAN PARSCALE: All of them.
GARRETT JACKSON: Yeah. Yeah that’s exactly right. Friends that live nearby or live in Vancouver or something like that, and it will show you results. They did that to kind of try and connect you more with your friends. But they also did that to start introducing a concept with users which is hey, Facebook actually gives me most of the information I’m looking for.
You also saw this by them adding in the Trending section onto Facebook Desktop and then also onto mobile. If you go to the search bar you can see that, too, where they show you where there’s trending topics. So they tried to kind of cut into Twitter a little bit and say, hey, we can also show you the trending topics that are out there.
But what’s really interesting to me is that once you start using Facebook as your main source of news, or if you start using it as your main source of research, what you do is you don’t realize after you click on a link and you go to maybe an article on the New Yorker or something you’re reading through it, click on another link, you’re still inside of Facebook. And you’re browsing these sites now using basically Facebook as a portal to access all of that.
And I started noticing this more and more as I was using my phone, because you start seeing in the top left corner that it tells you which app you should go back to after you’re done doing this. I realized that so much of what I was doing was staying inside of Facebook. And that’s really their end goal. The more time that they can get you engaged with that, the more time they have to be able to show you advertisers that are relevant to what you’re interested in.
So what I think is going to be kind of a shift this next year, people are already concerned about Facebook and the way that we use it right now where you can essentially create a filter bubble around yourself or an echo chamber where all you hear are opinions that are similar to your own. All you hear are topics that you’re interested in. I know that Facebook is already talking about making changes to be able to allow more customization within the news feed, and I’ll be curious to see how much they do of trying to introduce new ideas into your news feed versus how much they’re going to start giving you more control.
Because it could go one of two ways. They could say, well if you’re upset about how we serve up this content, here you go. Now you can go in and start picking more content you want to see. And you saw that this year. They started allowing you to add people to show up first when you would get on your news feed or make certain topics more important to you.
The thing that’s curious to me and how it affects our members in general is how is this going to affect the advertising aspect on Facebook? Facebook advertising is incredibly detailed in the way that you’re able to really focus on people and get very targeted on exactly the consumer that you’re looking for. The bigger question is how much is this going to impact the organic side of your Facebook page?
If you have a Facebook page that’s not particularly interesting, that’s not engaging, that has no purpose that’s served out there besides just having one, there’s no incentive for Facebook to make sure that that’s in the news feed and there’s no incentive for a user to make sure that it’s inside of their news feed. They might like your page because they’re friends with you or they went to your practice one time, but if they aren’t engaging with that content, there is no hope of it ever making it onto the news feed again.
And I think with the changes that are going to be coming with Facebook this next year, you’re going to see even less hope of your content making it online unless it’s truly getting people to like, share, and comment and engage with the people that like your page.
DAN PARSCALE: Well, so that brings us back to what we were talking about with Google, about the need to pay to really play at an optimal level. Do you think that there’s going to be a shift where we’re going to say, if I have to pay for this, then there’s no benefit outside of that, that all I’m putting out is ads and it kind of removes the fun of social media? Do you think that there’s a chance that it could become less important for maybe small businesses who don’t want their useful content to feel just like advertisements?
GARRETT JACKSON: At a certain point, you have to just recognize that you are advertising. I know in our field specifically, in our industry, we’re working with patients. Obviously we care about making sure that their needs are met and helping them with issues that they’re going through. At the same time, we need to make sure that we’re connecting them with the services and the people that will get them the help that they need.
And I know that over the course that I’ve been with Audigy Group, I’ve talked to members that have had objections to specific ways of advertising or not knowing how to do it in a way that felt like they were still caring for patients but still trying to get them to come and get treated, to get something done. When it comes to Facebook, yeah, you are going to have to pay to play. I think you’re going to be lucky to be able to see more of your content to show up on people’s pages. I think it’s inevitable at this point.
But I also think that the important thing to remember is that you’re not paying to play necessarily, you’re paying to help people and you’re paying to get your message out there. And one thing I’m very confident about is our members here is that we have the best audiologists that are with us here, and they’re doing the best work with patients that we could possibly hope for.
So my goal in doing digital marketing is to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to get those people connected with the patients and the prospective patients that are out there that need the help. So whether you’re paying for that message or you’re just hoping that your organic message will reach them, I think it’s equally important and it’s not any less important if you’re paying for it. If anything, it shows how much you value your patients and your community if you’re willing to put the money towards getting that message out there.
DAN PARSCALE: All right, Garrett. We’ve spent a couple of minutes now looking at the future, what we expect to see in 2017. Why don’t you round that up to us into some nice clean bullet points.
GARRETT JACKSON: So first, we expect to see the demographic shift even more this next year as hearables and newer technology starts hitting the market. So our advice and our prediction is don’t be afraid to embrace newer content, newer devices, and putting that information on your websites because people are searching for it. Even if they’re a younger demographic than you are used to targeting, be prepared for that.
Our second prediction is just as local content has become more important this last year and the organic has been pushed down, ads have been given more of a prominent position, is that you need to be able to pay in order to be on Google. So by using paid search, by paying for Google services, you’re able to make sure your content is located at the top of the page, it’s where people are going to see it most, and it’s prominently available for them to be able to find answers rather than push down to the bottom of the page.
Our third prediction, although you can continue to engage with your patients and people that like your page online with relevant and meaningful content, you also need to start considering social media as another place that you need to be able to pay online to be able to get your content seen and interacted with.
DAN PARSCALE: We’ve rolled the dice. I can’t wait to see how they come up at the end of 2017 when we get to try this again and see how right or wrong we were.
GARRETT JACKSON: Yeah, this is pretty nerve wracking.
DAN PARSCALE: Well thank you again, Garrett. It’s always a pleasure to have you on the show, and I can’t wait to have you again.
GARRETT JACKSON: Thanks so much Dan. It’s been a pleasure.