2012’s most attention grabbing digital marketing headlines were once again reserved for social media news and trends. But there were also huge changes in the world of search marketing and SEO, driven by Google’s Penguin and Panda updates.
The impact of Penguin and Panda is still being felt, with a number of websites almost disappearing from the rankings, and several of the less ethical SEO companies struggling to recover from the collapse in effectiveness of their link networks and content spinning efforts. Overall, though, the changes at Google are really positive. They will clean up results pages and let websites that invest in useful content reap the benefits.
Although search in 2013 will no doubt experience more changes (will we see Polar Bears at some stage?), what are the key trends that we anticipate heading into next year?
Algorithm changes and challenges
Google algorithm changes will continue to have an impact on SEO during 2013. But core considerations for businesses will remain the same. The rise of authorship is important and businesses will implement relevant changes to impact search results. Ultimately, there will be more emphasis on the individual as a source of authority, contributing to the idea of a website as a whole passing authority. We’ll also see increasing investment in content, thanks to the rise and rise of social signals. Finally, Google has recently introduced the ability to disavow links in Webmaster Tools. This will create hot and bothered debate about how offending links can be identified and whether or not they should be discredited. You have been warned!
Tag management, analytics and CRO will become prized assets in 2013’s stop/start economy
Due to economic pressures, smart marketers invest more in multichannel tagging, web analytics and conversion rate optimisation (CRO). With marketing teams coming under ever increasing pressure to identify what’s driving online sales, gaining a deeper understanding of the customer journey has become more important than ever.
With multiple channels contributing to sales, it’s crucial to be able to identify which channel is having the most significant impact; which is where multichannel tagging comes in. Web analytics platforms such as Google Analytics (GA) have become increasingly sophisticated over the last year, enabling an intelligent understanding of the complete purchase funnel, drilling down into detailed click attribution analysis and insight. Such a thorough understanding means the wheat can be separated from the chaff so that budgets can be allocated more efficiently. But when crucial tools such as GA are perceived as free, marketers have a history of undervaluing their use and under-investing in proper implementation. This is very short sighted. Insightful analytics are the best way to prove the positive ROI impact of search, as much as any other online marketing activity. Such solid ‘proof’ is probably the only way to secure increased search budgets from purse string holders during next year’s challenging economic climate.
Behavioural retargeting will grow beyond display to encompass search
Consumers are now used to being haunted by previous searches in the form of display-centred behavioural retargeting. But 2013 will mark the point where retargeting becomes even more effective by catching people at a later – and therefore more conversion-friendly – point in the buying cycle. This is big news for brands as it’s a move that is likely to impact e-commerce in a big way.
Google Shopping... no such thing as a free shop
Amongst the many developments that we are likely to see from Google, one that is likely to have a significant impact on digital marketing budgets in 2013 is the fact that the search giant’s internet marketplace – Google Shopping – is moving from an entirely free model to a paid-for basis. Currently rolling out in the US, it’s inevitable that businesses in the UK will be charged for Google Shopping services at some point next year.
Big media agencies will lose their hold on search marketing
September 2012 saw UK digital media professionals frothing at the mouth over Shicklegate – a bitter resignation email from an MEC employee that exploded over both digital and traditional media channels. The incident gave client-side marketers an insight into the working culture at some big media agencies, where the fact that digital marketing teams are frequently completely overstretched is often hidden under the cover of big media buying prowess. Shicklegate could mark a turning point in the client-agency relationship, where clients will want more reassurance that their SEO and PPC accounts are being cared for by a dedicated team of specialists able to invest the time that effective search marketing really requires to make it effective.
Nigel Muir is managing director at search and social media agency DBD Media