What a year it’s been! As 2016 wraps up and we enter 2017, there’s a lot of internet marketing news to cover. Our December round-up will keep your informed on the latest SEO/IM news while also keeping an eye out for emerging trends for 2017.
Let’s get started:
Social Media Drives Product Launches
Whether you sell products directly, or through affiliate sites, product launches are going to affect your bottom line. According to recent research, social media now plays a more important role in product launches than ever before.
Market research firm Five by Five asked over 700 internet marketers to rate various mediums used to launch new products by importance. The results? Seventy-four percent said social media was their most valuable tool when launching a new product.
Social media beat out sales promotions and emails (which ranked second and third, respectively). Expect this trend to grow even more into 2017. This can be a useful metric to pay attention to.
If you’re launching a product, or run affiliate sites which depend on product launches, you’ll want to pay attention to social media buzz around launches. If a new product seems to have a minuscule presence on social media, future sales might be low as a result.
Exact Match Domains Surge in Popularity
An Exact Match Domain is a domain based on keywords instead of brands. A brand domain would be something like McDonalds or Coca-Cola. An exact match domain is something like watchmoviesfreeonline.com, freecloudstorage.com and other longer names which reflect what people might be searching for directly.
Exact Match Domains can be an effective way to reach the top of the search results. Finding the right combination of words for your domain can actually be more effective than backlinks, keyword optimization and site architecture.
The problem is that EMDs run the risk of a Google penalty. Major search engines consider them to be an unfair advantage.
Recently, a new type of EMD has emerged: Brand name as exact match domain. Google and other search engines are hesitant to penalize a legitimate brand name.
Exact Match Domains seem to be on the verge of a big return. If you’re interested in the benefits, but wary of the potential penalties, this “new way” of exact match domain name creation is a trend to watch.
Real-Time Data Added to Google’s Search and Maps
Local search continues to play an important role in search ranking. More than just providing an address and directions, local search data is increasingly able to provide other info customers might find useful, too.
Google recently added real-time data to their Popular Times section, which is found in both their Search and Maps. Now users can view how busy a bar, restaurant or store is at any given moment.
Additional features include:
- The ability to see average stay times for any location
- Improved “operating hours” features for businesses, service providers and restaurants
This new info provides a lot of data points for marketers. Plus, this new data is useful strictly from a customer standpoint, too. You can beat the crowds during the busy holiday shopping season!
Google Redesigns the Desktop Search Results Page
Google also introduced a new user interface for their desktop search results page. This new look more closely resembles the mobile user interface. The overall design is “boxier.”
The look of the search tools and settings in the top bar has been changed. Google removed the gear icon, replacing it with “settings.” They also right-aligned it next to the Tools options.
Google Expands Rich Cards
Google is poised to enter the New Year with a variety of new features. Aside from their real-time data and search results page redesign, they’ve also expanded their “rich cards” to now include online courses and local restaurants.
Rich cards are the visual “cards” which appear in mobile search results. Users can easily swipe from one card to the next. While rich cards already covered a lot of search results, the inclusion of online courses and local restaurants increases the reach of rich cards fairly significantly.
If your sites involve any industry covered by rich cards, you’ll want to take advantage of this visual display – because your competitors certainly will! Rich cards use schema structured markup. If you’re not already using schema, you’ll definitely want to make it a priority for the New Year.
Google has developer guidelines to help you here. They explain the right type of structured data to include which will trigger rich cards for business. Check out developer documents for local restaurants and online courses.
Additional changes to rich cards include improved functionality to their Data Testing Tools, Search Console and AMP Testing Tool.
Our prediction: Rich cards are going to be big in 2017!
Bing Expands Black Friday Flyers
Google isn’t the only one making adjustments to their carousel-style features. Bing’s Black Friday Flyers Carousel – their equivalent to Google’s Rich Cards – has undergone a series of improvements.
Bing’s annual Black Friday carousel has received an updated look. Also, this year the ads are served directly from brand advertisers. Previously this was done via Flipp, but that partnership is now dissolved.
Bing allows retailers to display Black Friday related ads both within and above the carousel. The flyers are well-designed but a bit short on actual info.
Obviously, Black Friday has already passed for 2016. How did Bing’s Black Friday Flyers perform? Hard data hasn’t been released yet, but we’re interested in the click-thru rate of the flyers compared to the CTR of the normal text ads.
If the visual appeal of the Black Friday Flyers shows a significant improvement over traditional text ads, then marketers should adjust their strategies for 2017’s Black Friday and holiday sales.
Bing Releases Bing Ads Editor version 11.7
In other Bing news, the search engine giant released version 11.7 of their Ads Editor. This latest version includes additional support for remarketing audience associations. Shopping campaigns also now support product filters.
Powered by Universal Event Tracking, Bing remarketing lets advertisers bid on and target past site visitors. This lets you associate audience lists with multiple ad groups.
Bing Ads aren’t as popular as Google ads, but this new version adds a lot of improved functionality for advertisers. If you’re not using Bing Ads as part of your marketing efforts, 2017 might be a good time to start.
Fake News Makes News
Fake News has been in the news lately — and major internet sites are initiating steps to crack down on this widespread problem of blatantly false news stories which are spreading online.
Google was the first to announce major changes. Their new policy denies AdSense ad revenue to any fake news sources. Their official documentation states:
“Users don’t want to be misled by the content they engage with online. For this reason, Google ads may not a placed on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about you, your content or the primary purpose of your web property.”
Aside from “deceptively presenting fake news articles as real” Google’s policy also prohibits:
- “Get Rich Quick” schemes
- False claims about endorsements
- Promoting fake Google products
Facebook followed suit with changes to their own advertising policy. A Facebook spokesman detailed these policy changes in an interview with the Wall Street Journal:
“We vigorously enforce our policies and take swift action against sites and apps that are found to be in violation. Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance.”
The revised policy promises to ban publishers for showing content which is illegal, misleading or deceptive. However, some critics say Facebook isn’t going far enough.
If part of your marketing efforts involves any type of content which tries to emulate a news article, you’ll need to be aware of these changes – even if your content has nothing to do with politics.
Google Removes Their “In the News” Box
In news that might be related, or might not be, Google dropped their “In the News” box and replaced it with a “Top Stories” box. This might simply be a design change. After all, “Top Stories” is used in their mobile version.
Then again, the change might be a semantic response to their new fake news policies. When asked for comment, Google said the change had been in the works for months. Some internet marketing experts express doubts. There’s been no comment from Google on any possible algorithmic changes about which stories will appear in the new box.
Google Decorates for the Holidays
Regular Google users are already familiar with Google’s annual holiday-themed imagery. Searches during the end of the year include seasonal images and artwork.
This year the holidays represented include Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and even Festivus. This is the holiday tradition featured in a classic episode of Seinfeld.
Images displayed depend on search terms entered. Aside from exact matches for the name of the holiday, other terms commonly associated with the holiday are also used to determine which images are shown.
LinkedIn Adds Self-Serve InMail
Do you use InMail? This is LinkedIn’s marketing tool. Brands can send promotional messages to the InMail inboxes of LinkedIn users.
Previously, marketers had to go through a LinkedIn Account Representative in order to set up a Sponsored InMail campaign. But InMail campaigns just got a whole lot easier because LinkedIn now lets users create their own campaign automatically with the new LinkedIn Campaign Manager.
Now you can filter messages by location, company, education, title, skills and industry. You can also create a call-to-action which will be displayed automatically in the message. You can even conduct A/B testing!
The messages look great, too. LinkedIn automatically formats Sponsored InMail messages for both desktop and mobile.
LinkedIn Sponsored InMail is an easy and effective way to reach business professionals. With the new automated system, you can create new campaigns quickly. The New Year is a great time to step up your LinkedIn marketing efforts.
Black Friday Ad Spending
While we don’t know the results of Bing’s Black Friday Flyers, we do have other Black Friday data available to analyze thanks to a recent report from marketing firm AdGooroo. They looked at 2,500 retail product keywords.
So, what did they find? Shopping ad growth is king on desktop. Compared to just one year ago, retail spending shifted from paid search text ads to paid search shopping ads.
Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday:
- Advertisers spent $8.9 million on desktop text ads (compared to $15.4 million in 2015)
- Advertisers spent $9.6 million on desktop product listing ads (compared to $2.9 million in 2015)
There’s an important design difference between this year and last. Google’s text ads moved to the right rail of desktop results. Product listing ads are now above the organic results or in the right rail.
Amazon and Walmart were the two leaders as measured by click share from text ads. Amazon had 6.3% of clicks during the weekend while Walmart had 8.1%. Note that Amazon doesn’t participate in Google Shopping, which is why their numbers might not be what you’d expect.
Yahoo Releases Lists of Popular Search Terms
Politics and celebrities dominated Yahoo’s annual top 10 lists of popular search terms. The most searched-for term overall was “2016 Election.” Related to that topic was “Donald Trump” in second place. In a surprising third place was the video game Roblox.
Top Yahoo Searches in 2016
- 2016 Election
- Donald Trump
- Gwen Stefani
- 2016 Olympics
- Khloe Kardashian
- Megyn Kelly
- Jodie Sweetin
- Kim Kardashian-West
- Hillary Clinton
Another major list is Yahoo’s Top 10 News Stories in 2016. Head’s up – this list isn’t exactly filled with holiday cheer:
Yahoo’s Top News Stories in 2016
- Election Day
- Prince Dies
- Pulse Nightclub Massacre
- Deadly Attack in Istanbul
- Hurricane Matthew
- Baton Rouge Police Shooting
- EgyptAir Flight 804 Located
- Trump Protests
- Clinton Emails
- Professional Debates
Google Experiments with Movie and TV Show Ratings
Recently, Google introduced the ability to rate movies and TV shows directly in the search results interface. The ratings are currently an experiment on their part. Google is not commenting on any future plans.
When a TV show or movie is displayed in knowledge panel, users can click on either a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down icon.
So far, this is a pretty simple feature. While there’s no expressed plan about how this feature might be used in the future, our gut feeling tells us this is something to keep an eye on in the New Year.
New Version of AdWords Editor Adds Features
Are Google AdWords a part of your marketing efforts? The recent release of a new version adds a host of new features.
Responsive ads are part of the Google Display Network. They include ad space on mobile. These responsive ads automatically fit into the available ad space.
Now you can export text ads to a spreadsheet, include links and images, and then convert them to responsive ads. This is the biggest feature of the new version. Other new features includes:
- Ability to add a six-second bumper ad to ad groups in YouTube campaigns
- Ability to create and edit multi-product Gmail ads
- Ability to manage location extensions
- Video campaign options including “per ad group,” “per ad” and “per campaign”
Santa Trackers Begin
As they do around this time every year, Google has launched their official Santa Tracker. This platform allows children of all ages to watch the Christmas countdown.
This year Google also has a Santa Village, a site designed for students, parents and teachers. Santa Village includes a Santa Tracker app for Android and a Santa Tracker Chrome extension.
On Christmas Eve, Santa’s progress around the world can be tracked in real-time. Santa’s Dashboard, powered by Google Maps, lets you follow Santa’s progress as well as learn a bit about his major stops along the way.
Santa’s Village looks like an advent calendar. There’s a new activity for each day in December including a Present Bounce game and a Santa’s Back YouTube video.
Bing also offers a Santa tracker. Each year, Microsoft partners with NORAD for their own Santa tracking platform.
Google and Bing Increase File Size Limit of Sitemaps
So, this probably has nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas, but it’s still fun to see nonetheless. Google and Bing made a joint announcement this month. They’ve increased the file size limit of Sitemap files.
The uncompressed version can now be 50MB instead of the previous limit of 10MB. Bing’s principal program manager, Fabrice Canel, said:
“While most sitemaps are under this 10 MB file limit, these days, our systems occasionally encounter sitemaps exceeding this limit. Most often this is caused when sitemap files list very long URLs or if they have attributes listing long extra URLs (as alternate language URLs, Image URLs, etc.), which inflates the size of the sitemap file.”
Note that the URL limit per Sitemaps hasn’t changed. Both Google and Bing still have a limit of 50,000 URLs in a single Sitemap file. The increase is just to the file size (although that increase is significant).
Apple Enhances Maps (with Drones!)
We’re calling it right now: 2017 will be the year of the drone. A recent report from Bloomberg says Apple is preparing to use drones in order to collect data and improve the accuracy of Apple Maps.
This is not an official statement from Apple. Instead, this is speculation from Bloomberg which is based on these three things:
- Recently, the FAA granted Apple permission to fly drones in order to “conduct data collection, photography and videography.”
- Apple also has introduced minivans with rooftop cameras and sensors, which are very similar to how Google Street View collects data
- One year ago, Apple posted job listings for “Apple Maps Vehicles.”
The article goes on to say that Apple’s new drone operation will be based in Seattle. The drones will reportedly be used to capture construction, street signs and road changes. This will help deliver fast updates on road changes to Apple Maps users.
While Google Maps is still the most popular (and arguably most accurate) mapping tool out there, they might be facing some competition in 2017. If your online marketing efforts involve mapping, you’ll want to keep an eye on Apple Maps. Considering how important mapping is to local search optimization, the new and improves Apple Maps could impact a lot of marketers.
Google’s Twitter Now Speaks Emoji
Starting this month, Google’s Twitter is now able to respond to emojis. Simply tweet an emoji to @Google and you’ll get a reply which includes:
- A funny quip
- An animated GIF
- Local search results
The local results are directly related to the emoji you tweet. For instance, if you tweet a pizza emoji, you’ll get directions to local pizza places. Tweet a gas station emoji, and you’ll get local search results for gas stations.
Over 200 different emojis are available including some fun Easter eggs. We think this is just the first step. Expect many other brands to embrace emoji-based interactivity, especially on social media.
Check out #KnowNearby hashtag for plenty of emoji examples you can tweet to Google.
WordPress Launches New Version
Individuals and small businesses have turned WordPress into one of the most popular ways to build a site and get online. With the recent release of WordPress 4.7, the platform makes an even bigger push for those new and small businesses looking to get online for the first time.
Version 4.7 includes a variety of new features designed for those users who aren’t very familiar with the web. This includes a yearly new default theme called Twenty Seventeen.
This new release of WordPress is also known as “Vaughn.” The name is a tribute to jazz singer Sarah Vaughan.
While you probably already know how to develop websites, understanding the new features of version 4.7 will help you connect with new businesses throughout 2017.
YouTube Releases List of Top 10 Trending Videos
Finally, a bit of fun to end out 2016. YouTube released their annual list of top 10 trending videos for 2016. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of music to be heard here.
In the number one spot is Carpool Karaoke featuring James Corden and Adele. Other musical videos on the list include 12-year-old ukulele player Grace VanderWaal from America’s Got Talent (#4 on the list) and Channing Tatum’s Lip Sync Battler (#6).
Beyond music, other top trending videos include a Water Bottle Flip, a clip from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight and a Nike ad featuring Ronaldo.
The total top ten videos accounted for over 25 million hours of watch time and over 550 million views.
That wraps up this year’s internet marketing news. Happy New Year and check back soon for all the SEO and IM info you’ll need to make next 2017 your most productive (and profitable) year yet!