Search History: Google meets Jocelyn Le Conte from Merkle

In our new series, Search History, we speak to the leading lights of search marketing to celebrate 20 years of Search. Delving into key decision makers’ personal and professional relationships with search, we explore how things have changed over the past two decades, and what the future has in store.

Jocelyn Le Conte

Jocelyn Le Conte is the Head of Paid Search at Merkle, where she develops the company’s search offering and digital media campaigns, including those of Sky, Tesco, B&Q, JP Morgan and Superdrug. She joined the company in 2012 and was shortlisted for Women in Search 2016.

Can you remember your first experiences of Search?

My first experiences of the internet and search were back in 1996 when my family purchased our first PC: a chunky Compaq Presario which was mostly used by me to play Tomb Raider and browse Encarta ’95. Back then I would head over to Lycos or Yahoo to find my answers or take a chance on Ask Jeeves.

What kind of thing would you look for back then?

Answers to homework assignments and cheats for video games.

What are the biggest changes in Search since the early days?

Now there’s a cleaner user interface, increased speed, and a greater number and quality of results. Back then, you’d need a good grasp of Boolean logic to get the best results out of a Search. Keywords were all the search engine had to go on. Now signals such as location and previous internet usage provide tailored results. It’s not just a directory any more, it’s a food critic, personal shopper and pop-culture expert!

"With Search, we can become experts on the most obscure topics in a matter of minutes... and settle arguments even quicker!"

How has the way you use Search – both professionally and personally – changed?

It’s now just such an unconscious action… very quickly it has become part of our lives and something most of us probably use dozens – or even hundreds – of times a day, without a second thought. We can become an expert on the most obscure topics in a matter of minutes and settle arguments even quicker! Even in the past couple of years, clients have become far more aware of the importance of having a solid search strategy and the technical know-how to stay one step ahead of the competition and deliver exceptional ROI with cutting-edge campaigns. Paid search teams now need to have really deep levels of expertise (both on a practical and technical scale) that provide innovative solutions beyond simply keyword choices. Now we also have to nail audiences, attribution, feeds and customisation at scale. It’s where art meets science!

What’s the biggest single development we’ll see in Search in the next three years?

Voice search will continue to dominate the conversation. Also, as high-street retailers continue to be challenged, advanced paid search, the data it can provide, and the smarter targeting that can be achieved is going to become crucial in the battle for survival. Late adopters – or those who have failed to be agile – will suffer as customers increasingly expect a faultless online experience.

"In the past couple of years, clients have become far more aware of the importance of having a solid search strategy"

What do search agencies offer now that they didn’t before?

I think the biggest evolution is in the deep levels of expertise agencies like ours now have. Having the right technology platform and a data-driven, detail-orientated approach is crucial in helping our clients stay ahead of the curve. Paid Search isn’t now seen as a ‘bolt-on’ to a campaign by clients and our offering has to remain sophisticated and impactful.

What do you think is your most-searched subject?

Half computing and tech research, half how to long to soft boil an egg.

Have you ever used Google to cheat at a pub quiz?

I’ll just say that the sports round is not my area of expertise…

OK, time to be honest. What are the last five things you searched for?

Research into how much I should sell my car second hand for. Daily checks on the local weather and if I need an umbrella. Recipes for what to make with an ungodly amount of peaches. Tracking a flight my partner was taking across Europe. Checking the solutions to puzzles in the latest Tomb Raider game.

What would your life – personally and professionally - be like without Search?

Personally I’d get lost in London more often and spend less money on clothes, but I would need a new job!

20 years in, Search has become a powerful personal assistant