Digital Marketing Tactics

Jon Kagan: Beyond the Keyword

Are audiences the new keyword? Last week’s guest on Optily Radio, Jon Kagan, thinks so.

YouTube is the second biggest search engine and suggests similarly-themed videos to watch next. Yelp groups listings based on location or category. And Amazon serves up products based on your purchasing habits. What do all of these have in common? They don’t really rely on keywords to serve up content.

Sure, the platforms are scraping the listings and site to categorize the content, locations, and products, but the ads aren’t necessarily relying on the marketers to input specific key terms.

Jon has long been saying that keywords are dwindling in importance, but it’s finally caught on with the mainstream.

This week’s Optily Radio chat between Jon Kagan of 9rooftops and our own Kevin Stagg, discusses this and more, including:

  • Babysitting automation so it doesn’t spiral out of hand
  • Balancing audience and keyword targeting
  • Search marketing myths

Check out the preview video or the full audio episode here:



Who are Jon and Kevin?

Jon Kagan, on Twitter under the handle @JonKagan, has been working in the digital marketing field since 2005 and is currently the VP of Search and Biddable Media at 9rooftops. Prior to this, he ran search marketing teams at Mediacom, Forbes, and Digitas. In 2013, Jon received the Google Search Excellence Award and more recently he’s been named among PPC Hero’s Top 25 Most Influential PPC Experts. Jon is a regular contributor to Search Engine Journal and PPC Chats on Twitter.

Kevin Stagg is our Marketing and Customer Director here at Optily. He’s got nearly 20 years of experience working with both B2C and B2B brands, big and small, including international companies like Microsoft and Ding.

Don’t let the automation run wild

Automation works. While Jon (and many others) may have started off as skeptics while automation was going through its growing pains, it does what it’s supposed to do. While it does do its job, it may lead to unintended consequences that marketers or stakeholders don’t necessarily anticipate.

This is why Jon is a strong proponent of striking the balance between how much we let the AI and Machine Learning control and how much we still need a human to manage.

More seasoned marketers know what to look out for when using automation, however, novices can sometimes run into trouble. When training a new hire, Jon always makes sure they can run a campaign completely manually before they can use any automation.

Changes to the keyword

Keywords are loosening up. That much is becoming very clear from the changes that Google has introduced recently. Match type exact isn’t even exact anymore–it’s just close enough. And Broad Match Modifier is being sunset in less than a month–August 2nd, 2021 is slated as the end date.

Jon goes on to explain that Smart Campaigns, Shopping Campaigns, and Audience Networks already don’t need keywords in order to run optimally. “While keywords still exist, the value and necessity of them for someone to operate a true search marketing operation is smaller and smaller. Will they ever completely go away? Maybe and maybe not,” commented Jon.

Audiences are poised to take over much of the landscape, with the search engines being able to scrape websites instantly and serve up ads to relevant audiences regardless of whether or not they’re actively searching.


Want more tips?

There’s a ton more in this episode that we didn’t get into here, so have a listen to the full episode yourself. Make sure to subscribe to the show and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts if you like what you hear!

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