Digital Marketing in 2016: A Brief Recap

We promise we won’t keep you long. No doubt you’ve got gifts to wrap, stockings to stuff, and goodies to gouge on over the next few days. Really, the last thing you need when the holidays are just about here is a ten pager that drones on and on about what happened in the world of Google and web since that first frosty day of January.

So we’ll be brief.

Let’s start with a deep breath: you made it!

Whatever changes and challenges Google & friends threw at us over the past 365 days, you met them and made it through. Whether the end result was to your full satisfaction or not, you’re now at a point where you can sit back, breathe, and start to focus on whatever 2017 will bring.

But we’re not quite there yet, there’s still some time to think back on how the digital marketing landscape looks different from its fresh-faced appearance at the start of the year.

So: what happened?

Mobile Made Waves

And big ones, too.

We’re well past the point where mobile users have surpassed desktop users. It should no longer come as a shock that if you aren’t mobile-optimized by now, you’re officially behind: simply put, desktop-only just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Here’s a look at two of the major changes in the mobile market this year.

If you performed any searches on your phone this year, you may have noticed that some of the top results appeared with the text “AMP” and a small lightning bolt.

These were originally intended for publishers to deliver news lightning-fast (pun totally intended.) However, the project’s website states that it is “open to all players in the ecosystem – publishers, consumer platforms, and creators.”

(Oh, and if you hadn’t guessed, Google favours these types of pages).

  • The second: Google announced that they will be splitting their mobile and desktop indexes into two separate ones.

Okay, so it didn’t actually happen in 2016, but according to the announcement that Google made in October, it’s coming down the pipe “within months.” So it’s just a matter of time.

This is big news. Big, big news. Because now it won’t matter if your desktop site is all that and a bag of silicon chips. If it isn’t mobile-friendly, then the (majority of users who are searching on their phones won’t find you.

So get on that!

Penguin Waddled into the World of Real-Time

Yep: the adorably-named Penguin algorithm, the aspect of Google’s approach to search that ranks websites based on their link profile, is now real-time.

What does this mean? Well, back in the old days (also known as “a few months ago”), any site impacted by the Penguin algorithm might have had to wait months for a refresh before a regain of rankings could even be considered.

Now, however, to quote Google:

With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and re-index a page. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.

That’s a significantly huge shift in the rankings sphere after four years of the odd refresh here and there. And as to that last part of the quote – well, it’s a give-and-take industry.

AdWords Traded The Right Hand Side For Roomier Ads

Sort of.

There were two major shifts in PPC this year.

First, Google announced that their desktop search results would no longer include ads on the right-hand side of the page, with the exception of product listing ads and ads in the knowledge panel.

So that freed up some real estate, and made room for up to four ads above organic search results.

Second, Google introduced expanded text ads, which gives AdWords advertisers more room to work with, specifically:

  • Two headline fields
  • A single description field with room for up to 80 characters
  • A display URL that uses your final URL’s domain
  • Two “Path” fields that advertisers can choose to use for the display URL

It was a big change, and marketers had to adapt after years of the traditional limitations put forth by AdWords.

Combined, the doing away with of right-hand side ads, the extra room for ads above organic search results, and the introduction of expanded text ads certainly shook things up on the PPC front.

And Now For 2017

Well, not yet – we’ll save the “looking forward” post for the first week of 2017.

We’d like to note that this is by no means an extensive list of every single change that took place this year – we did say we’d be brief – but it is a look at what we think are the most significant shifts to impact our industry from January to today.

If you’d like to dive a little deeper, these and more stories are covered over in Search Engine Land’s recently published Top 10 News Stories Of 2016, which is definitely worth reading.

And that’s it for 2016! While we do have a solid idea of how things will play out next year, there’s no point in overwhelming you before some much-deserved R&R. Like we said, we’ll be saving that for the first week of January. (Seriously, check back – the other half of this post will be published then!)

For now, however, all of us here at Reach Digital would like to wish you a happy holiday season, with all the best for 2017.

We’ll see you then!

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