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The digital marketing industry is constantly evolving and since the beginning of 2017, we’ve seen some of the biggest industry changes yet. From major updates to Google algorithms and an increase in browser security, to location focused advertising on social media platforms and changes to paid search, the industry has certainly not showed any signs of slowing down across the year.
As there were so many changes throughout 2017, we thought rounding them up would be one of the best ways to compare and analyse what is to come in 2018.
Although there have been several small updates to search engine algorithms, there have been a variety of other major SEO changes throughout the year that have kept digital marketers and online businesses challenged. The main changes to SEO include:
A focus on websites switching to HTTPS
One of Google’s main focuses during 2017 was to improve the overall security of their Chrome browser for its users. In order to achieve this, the search engine has been encouraging website owners to install an SSL certificate and switch to HTTPS.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure follows the same data transfer method as HTTP in which information is transferred from the webpage to the browser, however, the text transferred from the webpage to the browser is encrypted. This provides further security for browser users inputting information into a webpage. As an incentive for website owners to install an SSL certificate, Google is rewarding websites with SSL certificates in place by ranking them higher within search results pages.
Fred algorithm update
Another major SEO change within the digital marketing industry was the release of Fred by Google. Fred was unconfirmed Google algorithm update that was released in March 2017. It focuses on targeting websites that overpopulate themselves with advertisements to increase revenue, known as aggressive monetisation, instead of focusing on user experience. Google is aiming to encourage websites to increase their focus on UX and is therefore penalising websites that have a large number of advertisements. When Fred was first released, ad-heavy websites experienced a severe drop in their Google search rankings whilst websites with few or no ads were ranked higher. Many websites are still struggling to gain back the rankings they lost when this update was originally released.
Although first launched in the US in January 2016 for use by presidential candidates, it wasn’t until June 2017 that Google Posts were rolled out for use by Google My Business users across the globe. The posts allow business owners to promote their products or services directly on search engine results pages. Each post can contain one image as well as a link to a website and they are shown for a minimum of 7 days. Posts can now also be scheduled in advance.
Initially, Google Posts didn’t appear to have an impact on search engine rankings. However, recent studies have shown that having regular Google Posts now incurs a minor increase in search engine rankings making them beneficial for any business targeting customers online.
Towards the end of November 2017, many search engine marketers noticed an upsurge in the use of longer meta descriptions. After doing some digging, it was confirmed that Google had increased the number of characters in a meta description from 160 to an average of 230. This update was intended to enable website owners to provide search engine users with more information about why their website was relevant to the search query.
Another key change within the digital marketing industry was an emphasis on mobile search. Many of the Google algorithm updates during 2017 were primarily focused on improving mobile search for users. This is perhaps due to the fact that the number of mobile searches has increased considerably over the last decade with a record 240 billion searches carried out on mobiles during 2017 alone.
Websites that are device friendly were ranked much higher within results pages than those that were not. Several of these smaller, unconfirmed updates appear to be aimed at improving user experience for individuals using mobile devices when searching for products and service online.
2017 wasn’t just filled with SEO updates, it also had a lot in store for social media advertising. Four of the major changes implemented during the year were:
Snapchat’s SnapMap was released in the early months of 2017 and enables individuals using Snapchat to see the location of other Snapchat users. This also gave advertisers the opportunity to target customers located near their stores by notifying them of their presence. A small avatar or pop up window appears on the map that encourages users to visit specific stores in their vicinity. Simply put, it provided advertisers with an opportunity to target potential customers directly.
Facebook recently updated their algorithm to prevent users being exposed to large amounts of irrelevant advertisements. This is because many users felt that they were being shown too many spam advertisements on their newsfeed and not enough of their friend’s content. The algorithm changes aimed to reduce the amount of unwanted and unnecessary ads users are shown to improve overall user experience. Facebook is also reducing the number of posts using click-bait as a way of driving traffic to an article or website.
Even though Facebook intended to reduce the number of unnecessary advertisements bombarding their users through their newsfeed, they opened up a new method for advertisers to market their services directly to users through the Facebook Messenger app. Business owners now have the option to purchase a space between chat threads within the Messenger app in which they can advertise their company. With over 1.2 billion users worldwide, this gave organisations the chance to target prospective customers.
One of the final changes within the digital marketing industry during 2017 occurred in September. Twitter announced that they would be allowing some users to begin testing 280 character tweets, double the original length of 140 characters, in a bid to allow users to be more expressive. After a few weeks of testing, Twitter confirmed that the increase in the number of characters would be rolled out to all Twitter users.
Although this change was a positive one for all users, it was especially welcomed by business owners that utilised the platform to advertise their products and services. The extra characters enabled company owners to include further detail in their tweets, giving them more of an opportunity to gain the attention of other users.
Along with updates and changes within search engine marketing and social media marketing, we’ve also experienced several changes to Pay-Per-Click advertising. The top two are:
As of March 2017, extended text ads began being supported by Google. This change allowed businesses to use extra characters within their advert description, giving them the chance to generate more detailed adverts and grab the attention of potential customers/sales.
The second PPC change in the digital marketing industry was the implementation of AMP landing pages – another example of how mobile focused the industry was in 2017. Advertisers had the option to point their search ads to AMP landing pages which have a faster loading speed than whole websites. This not only deems AMP pages as more mobile friendly, but it also improves user experience for anyone clicking on PPC advertisements.
What does 2018 have in store for the digital marketing industry?
As you can see, 2017 was filled to the brim with industry changes that paved the way for new and improved marketing strategies and techniques – and we are forecasting that 2018 has a variety of changes in store as well.
As marketing experts with several years of experience within the industry, we are predicting that 2018 could be the year of voice search. 40% of adults now use voice search at least once per day to search for a variety of products and services – a percentage that’s set to increase. This is because, with tools such as Google Assistant, it’s easier than ever for people to conduct voice searches whilst at home and on the go.
In turn, this means that individuals are searching for products and services in a more conversational tone which often differs from how they would word their typed query in a search bar. Voice search could have a negative impact on SEO for website owners during 2018 unless businesses begin concentrating on producing copy using a conversational tone.
As 48% of marketers are planning to add video content into their marketing strategy this year, through platforms such as YouTube, we also expect that we’ll see a further rise in the use of video content being used to generate engagement.
Additionally, we predict the rise of influencer marketing being used by small and large businesses. Influencer marketing is a technique in which influential people, such as celebrities, advertise a specific product or service to their followers by discussing it in interviews and across their social media profiles. Several brands haven’t yet tapped into the world of influencer marketing, however, this is set to change during 2018. Companies that have previously utilised the technique have seen an increase in sales of between 20 – 50% which is why several brands are now putting it to the test.
So, are you prepared for everything 2018 has to offer?
Get in touch with a member of our team to improve your marketing strategy in 2018
Not only is keeping up with the latest digital marketing industry changes challenging for any business, it can also negatively impact on online marketing results if these changes aren’t adhered to. So, instead of trying to manage your marketing alone, why not give yourself a break and leave it to a team of dedicated professionals?
As a well experienced digital agency, we are constantly on the lookout for any changes within our industry. We use our knowledge and experience to generate effective and professional digital marketing strategies for businesses in any sector and utilise the latest strategies to help companies improve their online presence and make more money online. Our selection of services can be tailored to the requirements of any organisation and we treat every business as if it was our own.
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