It’s December and time to take stock of the events of 2013 in the online marketing space. As I look back on what the industry was just 12 months ago and what it is now, it’s easy to see that this has been the most change-filled year in the history of Search Mojo. The very foundations of online marketing have changed in seemingly an instant and the ability to adapt on-the-fly has been needed more than ever.
I see the 7 biggest changes this year to be the following:
The advent of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns was not popular with most search engine marketers when it was officially rolled out in July. The main sticking point with them was that you can no longer segregate your mobile advertising clicks from your desktop clicks. We aren’t wild about the idea either. But, we also realized that Google’s Enhanced Campaigns are really just the version 1.0 of their existence.
PPC Advertisers are able to “stack” multiple contexts in combination with their keyword bids. We can now apply bid multipliers (both negative and positive) to locations, devices and the history of the searchers visiting your website. Google is also working on allowing advertisers to utilize Age and Gender demographics with search advertising and it seems likely that if Google can determine the searcher’s history in the last 30 days as a context to advertise on the Display Network, then the feature will soon come to search advertising.
A year ago the PPC world was flat. You bid on keywords based on their performance. Now you bid on the keyword, the user location, the searcher’s device and their previous history on your site. Those 4 factors are making a big difference and getting age, gender and search history will completely change the game.
At the end of July, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines “Link Schemes” page was updated to essentially say that really any link building is against its Webmaster Guidelines:
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
The newest part of this Guideline is that it supposedly includes optimized links in press releases and guest blog posts.
These changes have gotten a lot of attention and SEOs have absolutely been warned as to what the rules are, but to date there hasn’t really been a lot of public outcry about Google aggressively punishing websites that have used these tactics (at least more than usual).
What this change is really about is going after any and all tactics that allow site owners to build links to their site on a large scale. Links are still part of the ranking algorithm, but taking the large scale link acquisition tactics out of the equation makes the process of achieving ranking results much slower.
While Google has occasionally been clobbered after its quarterly earnings reports for overall costs-per-click being down year over year, that isn’t holding true for the enterprise-level products in the B2B segment. In fact, we are frequently seeing CPCs that are costing more than $20 in enterprise software segments.
We like to use the term “Ham Fisted Bidding” to describe the reckless bidding that goes on in some industry segments that is frequently done without regard to any return on investment. You know you’re in trouble when Google’s own keyword planner recommends a bid of over $70 per click on a keyword, and we are seeing this more frequently in the enterprise software industry. By the way, we aren’t playing that game, there are better methods for achieving return on investment.
Years ago when remarketing ads first came out, I resisted using them because I thought they were creepy. Now, we consider them to be foundational in any online marketing strategy. We are constantly building new remarketing audiences and coming up with new ways to get the most from them. Remarketing worked great for our clients this year in driving leads and sales, and just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, it did.
Google rolled out two new features to work with remarketing in 2013:
Bottom line with remarketing: we delivered big conversion numbers for a relatively small advertising spend for our customers in 2013.
It used to be that display ads would be the last thing I would ever recommend to a client. That advice would still hold true, with the exception of the Google Display Network. The difference between the past and 2013 is that Google now offers targeting options for search history in the last 30 days (across over 1,600 interests), site topic targeting across 1,600 topics, and your remarketing lists. You can utilize those features by themselves or in combination with each other, or use good ol’ fashioned contextual keywords.
These targeting options make display advertising on Google effective. Combine that with the affordable cost-per-click that display is delivering right now, and you have a very cost effective marketing channel.
Our most effective lead generation channel for B2B marketers is LinkedIn Advertising. We have delivered massive quantities of qualified leads utilizing LinkedIn Self-Serve ads to get white paper downloads or webinar registrations.
LinkedIn users essentially give all of their career data to LinkedIn, and LinkedIn allows advertisers to use all of that data to build a perfectly targeted ad campaign.
In late September, Google announced that it would encrypt all keyword search data in response to the NSA’s unauthorized use of that search data to spy on suspected terrorists. From that point forward site owners would not be able to see what keywords were driving search visits to their websites.
SEOs have essentially been justifying their existence based on the keyword traffic that analytics showed websites were getting from search engines. That’s all gone now. There are different ways to justify an SEOs existence with analytics, but the days of having that one-to-one correlation of natural search keyword data are over.
All of the above, to an even greater degree…but what do you expect to see in the year to come? Comment below or tweet me @jstatad.