A year in review: What happened to digital in 2013?
As always, it’s difficult to sum up an entire year in just one short post. For this reason I’ve chosen to highlight the key events that had an impact on the digital industry (most notably updates to Google’s search ranking algorithm) and that have, and will continue to have an impact on how companies execute their digital marketing in 2014.
1. The content marketing explosion
We blogged about this quite a bit in 2013. This wasn’t just because ‘content marketing’ as a pursued digital service has increased threefold, but also because Google itself has actually encouraged ‘content marketing’ as a means of driving traffic to your website and as the new, organic form of SEO. The types of content marketing that Google’s various algorithm updates encourage include posting useful content that people can connect with (whether visual, video, or written). It’s not just about being a ‘content farm’ and how your visitors interact with you page will prove to Google whether or not you’re doing things the honest way. Stay tuned to find out what this year’s predictions for the content marketing industry will be.
Hint: we predict the rise of podcasts; that content marketing will become even more joined up with Google’s social platform – Google+; that companies will be actively taking on ‘content marketing’ as a digital strategy; the rise of content marketing in the B2B industry; clients focusing on fewer social platforms but in more depth; an increase in general, branded graphics and content; the proliferation of video marketing (including free, educational-type videos) and a few others we will share soon!
2. Concerns about the subject of guest blogging
In 2013, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, warned marketers and webmasters to be careful about overdoing guest blogging, and more specifically to be careful about using guest blogging as a core linkbuilding strategy. These were Matt’s suggestions for avoiding a penalty:
- • Don’t make guest blogging your ONLY linkbuilding strategy
- • Don’t take one article and spin it many times
- • Don’t send out mass emails offering to guest post to random sites
- • Don’t use the same guest article on different sites
- • Make sure to ‘nofollow’ your links
- • Guest blog in moderation
- • Don’t do large-scale guest posting, advertorials and ‘optimised anchor text’ in press releases
That may sound like a lot of ‘DO NOTS’ but it doesn’t mean you can’t do any guest blog posting. When there is editorial value and when you’re genuinely sharing information on relevant sites, Google is very unlikely to think you’re abusing their linking policies.
Our suggestions: reach out to high-quality writers (that are relevant to your industry and whom you can build a relationship with) and ask them to write for your blog. You want to make sure that they are indeed relevant to your industry of course as the traffic they send your way when they advertise the post they’ve written, will need to be relevant traffic.
3. Google Analytics update
In 2013 Google updated its Analytics platform quite significantly. This included introducing demographic reports (allowing you to segment by age, gender and interests); improved educational content (all features have video walkthroughs so you can learn as you go); Auto-Event Tracking; and of course, Universal Analytics with new features and additional configuration options. Plus, Google makes it easy to switch over to Universal Analytics. To learn more about switching over, start here.
If Google Analytics has become confusing because of all the recent user interface changes, we suggest setting aside the time to complete the ‘Digital Analytics Fundamentals’ course on Google’s Analytics Academy.
4. iOS7 and Windows 8 continue the flat UI trend
Smashing Magazine puts it perfectly – ‘Flat and Thin are in’. Chances are you’ve noticed this trend without anyone even needing to point it out. After all, look at the latest update to Apple’s iOS, at the user interface (UI) on the Microsoft Windows phone and of course, at the Windows 8 desktop – all flat. The point of Flat UI is to emphasis usability. It’s a clean, minimalist look that includes the use of bright colours and flat, two-dimensional illustrations or icons. Some other great things about Flat UIs are that they reduce page weight and page load time and with Google’s ranking updates paying close attention to how long your page takes to load, something you may want to consider.
5. Social media monetisation gets big
If you haven’t yet tried social advertising, 2014 may be a good year to do so. Last year, all of the major social media platforms took big steps to ramp up their advertising offerings. Pinterest rolled out ‘promoted pins’ in September, Instagram rolled out its first ad in November, LinkedIn began rolling out Sponsored Updates, Twitter launched a global retargeted ad network and Facebook began experimenting with autoplay video ads in users’ News Feeds (not something we’re particularly happy about, but perhaps an opportunity for businesses willing to spend the money).
6. The 2013 Search Round Up
Facebook Graph Search
In January 2013, Facebook rolled out ‘Graph Search’ – a feature that would allow users to search their connections. There were some privacy issues and worries but nothing that a run through of your own Facebook privacy settings couldn’t fix.
Google launches streamlined image search
In January, Google also launched ‘streamlined image search’, supposedly in response to webmasters complaining about ‘phantom visits’ to their sites, generated because a user clicked on an image from Google Image search. While the user may have been interested in seeing a larger view of the image, they were in many cases, not interested in the site the image was from, resulting in ‘phantom visits’ and a high bounce rate. Streamlined image search is supposed to have cleared it up.
The EU Cookie Law and the ICO
In February, the organization in charge of enforcing the EU Cookie Law – the ICO – decided to change their policy to ‘implied consent’ – much to the relief of almost all UK businesses. See the ‘neat infographic’ on the history of the EU Cookie Law here.
We’ve written about this subject previously as well, so if you’re interested in learning more about how others have approached the issue, see this post.
Google search updates
In May Google announced some big updates relating to search, namely updates to query-less search (specifically in relation to Google Now) and the introduction of ‘conversational search’. Google also launched Penguin 2, a search update set to target spam.
Google goes on a ‘mobile rampage’
In June, Google went on the ‘mobile attack’, warning site owners that if they hadn’t optimised their website for mobile devices, they probably wouldn’t rank as well in mobile search.
US FTC cracks down on ‘ad disclosure’
Another major event that took place in June was the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cracking down on ‘ad disclosure’. Letters were sent to all of the major search engines, requiring them to give better visual cues, labels, etc when showing ads so that users could distinguish between real content and paid content.
In August Google made a push toward encouraging users to create long-form, evergreen content, otherwise known as the ‘in-depth article’. Since then, in-depth articles have begun to appear in search results.
In September, Google Hummingbird was released. Hummingbird focuses on understanding the general gist of a search query rather than on trying to match the user’s query word for word with content found on various web pages. This was also the same month that Google announced the move to 100% ‘not provided’ keywords.
Have we missed anything? If you think we’ve left out any major event from last year, let us know and we’ll add it to the list!