I had breakfast yesterday with John Nicoletti, head of agency operations, and Dave Tan, head of SEM development for Google. They manage Google's relationships with search marketing agencies — updating them on what Google is working on and supporting the paid search business they manage with on behalf of marketers.

We chatted a bit about the findings from my recent Search Marketing Agency Wave, and John and Dave shared with me trends and differentiators they observe from their work with agencies.  Here are our collective observations:

  • Technology doesn't differentiate agencies; how agencies use technology does. My wave does include automation as a point of differentiation in a lot of critiera. But to be clear, I don't think automation for the sake of automation is what makes an agency good. Nor does the technology enabling the automation need to be a proprietary tool developed by the agency. I'm agnostic when it comes to what tools an agency uses.  What I care about is if the agency uses technology to improve processes, scalability, efficiency, and effectiveness of marketer search programs.

    John and Dave pointed out — and I agree — that the features and functionality of search management technologies are universally very similar. The value to the marketer comes in how these tools are used to improve their overall performance and visibility.

  • Mobile has a huge potential upside, but no one is using it well today. Today, marketers and agencies both seem to be thinking about mobile and another outlet for buying ads, and not necessarily as a transformative set of technologies that are irrevocably changing consumer behavior. John said he actually thinks search agencies have the chops needed to lead the mobile charge. But I'm not sure. I didn't find anyone in the Wave who really knocked my socks off with their understanding of or innovation with mobile. Dave mentioned that he thinks many search agencies already think they "do" mobile and don't necessarily know that they need to push their capabilities further.
  • The future of search marketing is about getting found. We've said this before in research, and I was glad my conversation with Google affirmed the changes I see happening here. Today, search marketing is about buying ads on search engines and about optimizing site content to show well in natural search results. But tomorrow, search marketing will be about positioning your brand or products as answers to user searches no matter what medium the user engages with to try to find answers or inform a purchase decision. This means that future search marketers will also care about how users use social networks, content sites, applications, mobile platforms, interactive televisions, and gaming consoles to seek information.