Key Search trends of 2017 and 2018 (and how to win awards)

Alex Jones

January 31, 2018

There’s something ever so reaffirming about going to any industry event and hearing the same marketing principles come up time and time again. Know your customer. Give them what they want, not what you want to sell them. Think idea-first, not channel-first. Focus on the story you’re telling… But in an industry where the only constant is change, as they say, how do such principles remain central to the work we do, when the way we do it changes all the time?


With The Drum’s Search Awards deadline looming this week, we thought it would be worth sharing some of the things we learnt when we were invited to talk at Bing’s offices for The Drum’s Search Awards Review, looking back at the key search trends and award winning campaigns from 2017. Hannah Harris, our PR Director, and I were more than happy to share some of the secrets behind our most-awarded campaign of 2017 – in return we got to raise our own bar by hearing some super smart techniques and tactics from some other winning entries.


So what key industry themes and trends have stood out for some of the leading minds? How have they been impacting how we do our thing? And how do we ensure those key success principles remain central as we navigate them?

Key trends from last year

  • Machine learning. Using it to find key knowledge and insights to give us and our clients smarter solutions; a competitive edge, hyper-targeting or better customer communications (chatbots, etc.)
  • AI. Goes without saying, but don’t forget to combine it with EI (emotional intelligence) to remain human in our communications. Where robot interaction increases, as does the value of the human touch
  • GDPR. Being cautious about potential restrictions has lead to some clever routes to customers via combinations of paid ads, social and content
  • Integration. According to the judges, some of the most impressive Search award entries this year integrated Paid & Organic to design smart targeting solutions to get messages to prospects and customers at the right time.
  • Video. To engage more, tell a story better, promote without selling, show empathy more strongly, capture attention on bigger scales… Video video video.
  • Automation. The smartest companies are harnessing technology in new ways, e.g. DoubleClick was recommended as the smartest exchange for buying, serving and measuring ad spend (lucky we migrated our clients to it earlier in the year!)


And the key trends for 2018?


  1. GDPR. Even though no one quite knows the implications yet, anyone not keeping a close eye here could get into deep, deep water. The message was get educated, remain vigilant, don’t take risks
  2. UX. The further into an experience economy we move, the more a user-first focus is needed. Regardless of channel.
  3. Local Search. This will dominate behaviour and strategies
  4. Amazon. Already monopolising retail & eCommerce, entertainment and cloud computing, paving the way in AI and with strong future plans in groceries, logistics and logistics, there are genuine fears for how much of our lives this beast will infiltrate. Not overlooking the impact on our own world of advertising.


The Drum’s panel affirmed that incorporating these into your campaign approach will stand you in good stead for award-worthy work in 2018 and beyond.

But what else will? With the event being an exploration of some of The Drum’s Search Award winners of 2017, naturally the question was asked of the panel ‘so what makes an entry stand catch your eye as you sift through hundreds?’. The answers?

  • Be concise. Convoluted waffle only frustrates
  • Be human. Avoid jargon – the judges get our world just fine
  • Be clear. Answer a question with a relevant answer
  • Be efficient. You don’t need to spend big, but you do need to spend smart
  • Show the impact. Go beyond the stats (e.g. ‘300% ROI’, which is meaningless without context) to show what the tangible meaning of this result was for the business, for example ‘this lead to an increased market share for the business in its biggest growth market’
  • Make the judges smile. They will enjoy reading the entry and so more likely remember it

Good luck out there!

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