Digital Marketing in 2016: A Retrospective

With another journey around the sun complete, we’re taking stock of where the digital marketing industry has been in 2016 and perhaps more importantly, where are we going in 2017.

You might want to grab a cuppa – this is a year’s worth of reflection!


Let’s begin at the beginning. One of the biggest questions when creating and maintaining a company website has always been “what will google think?”, and this year has been no different.

The first big shake up affected AdWords back in February. This update saw the ads on the right column disappear in favour of a block of 4 paid adverts at the top of the search result page.

Speculation pointed to this being a move towards Google favouring ‘mobile first’ design; as mobile devices can’t support the right column presentation it would make sense that this was the rationale behind the change.

In May, a second mobile friendly update appeared. This time the focus was on increasing the effect of the mobile-friendly ranking signal: Google were keen to point out that if your site was already optimised for mobile devices your site would not be negatively impacted by this.

By September, Google had more surprises in store for your website. The ‘Possum’ update appeared and sent many unprepared digital marketers into a spin as the search results for companies outside of physical city limits saw a huge spike in ranking. These companies historically had a hard time ranking well in local search results.

The big question in 2016 was what had happened to the rankings of the businesses that had always ranked well on location service searches?

However, without a doubt, the most exciting update was the Penguin 4.0 announcement that the search algorithm is now working in real time. This means that instead of having to wait until the next big update, any changes to a website now become active the next time the site is crawled by Google’s spider. This was closely followed by 2 phased updates, the first introduced a gentler approach to bad links on a website, now Google say these links will be devalued rather than the site being penalised.

In October, phase 2 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties – happy days indeed for many. However, although so much has happened over the last year concerning Google, it is important not to allow this to overshadow creativity and become the only focus for all SEO: there are many more exciting and dynamic things to incorporate into your digital marketing strategy.

Mobile-friendly sites and apps

Following the mobile-friendly theme, statistics showed that by the end of 2015, 40% of e-commerce sales were made via a smart phone or tablet, and this figure was predicted to rise to 70% by 2017.

Being able to access a mobile friendly interface has been high on the agenda as part of a digital marketing strategy in 2016. The first interaction a potential client has with your company is statistically most likely to be via their smart phone or mobile device, if usability on a mobile platform has been overlooked, your business will be too. This strategy should not be exclusive to your website, 53% of emails are accessed via smart phones and mobile devices so if your email marketing isn’t perfect, now is the time to get it right.

2016 also saw the growth of apps to support the user experience interacting with your company or product. Stats released by Flurry in 2015 showed that users spent 90% of their time in apps compared to mobile web, meanwhile Statista research showed that in the first quarter of 2016 there were 42.32 million app users in the UK which rose to 43.21 million by the end of the second quarter.

Semantic search

With the ever-increasing range of devices and methods for searching the internet, the way we search has also evolved. With the explosion of voice command apps such as Siri, Cortana, Google, Sherpa, and Alexa, the terms we now use when we search are also changing. Web content must reflect the way users interact with it. Content now needs to acknowledge the searcher’s intent through contextual meaning.

Two trends have emerged through 2016 in this evolution: an increase in long tail queries, and search users demanding more precision. Search engines have had to adapt and provide more relevant results – more on that later – and content writers have had to be vigilant to ensure they are providing clear and contextual meaning in their writing.

The implications for SEO are interesting. The factors combine to reward people who add real value to their site, who provide targeted content that accurately answers searchers’ questions, and who structure content in a way which allows bots to parse content.

Edge45 are already covering these bases and 2017 will see us roll out more strategies to support our clients with this search revolution.

Social media presence

Throughout 2016 social media has remained in the spotlight for marketing your brand. Instant interactions mean that any content is immediately in the public domain, and 65% of adults reportedly have at least one social media account. Combined with soaring messaging app use (WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc), this means that more clients are communicating outside of social network pages.

Major changes are predicted here in 2017 with new options for paid media on messaging apps, although it is thought this will be limited as in the past these app owners have committed to keeping messaging ad free. Worth keeping an eye on in 2017!

Interactive and video content

Infographics and video were growth areas in 2016, however, to take varied and engaging content to the next level in 2017 interactive content and gamification are the natural next steps to consider.

Not all content is right to make interactive so careful thought needs to go into risk assessment of enhancing the user experience and not disengaging the user by having all bells and whistles that distract or switch the user off any further engagement with the website.

The use of video content is predicted to be big in 2017: mobile technology supports bandwidths that enable viewing on the move and devices are well equipped to create, view and share video content at the press of a button (well, the swipe of the screen). In these days of web content saturation new content really needs to stand out to be noticed. Video content increases the creativity possible to move your brand to the next stage.

Interactive and video content puts the user in control, strengthen website engagement and builds brand loyalty. It is no coincidence that Edge45® strengthened the staff team this year with the appointment of Michael Hayes, our expert for all things video, photographic and PR related.

Optimising for Bing, moving forward in 2017

As we have seen, mobile device and smart phone use has increased throughout 2016 and there are no signs that this trend will slow down anytime yet.

Digital marketing strategies for 2017 should introduce or continue to optimise approaches to ensure this medium is not left behind. The way forward would be to continue to optimise to fit the criteria Google desires, but now is also the time to start thinking outside the box. Most initial website interactions happen on smart phones, and increasingly using voice search apps such as Siri, Cortana, Sherpa, and Alexa, which all utilise Bing as their search engine. Therefore, if you optimise your site for Bing in 2017 there is a strong indication you will harness more web search visibility leading to a higher conversion rate.

In the world of digital marketing, businesses need to be agile and ready to make the biggest impact online that they can muster. There are several approaches to online strategies, you could just leave it all to luck, or like us here at Edge45®, you could take a reactive role in ensuring you have all your bases covered with a wraparound digital marketing strategy.