Harry, our CEO, recently came into our conference room as we all ate our lunches. Out of nowhere, he says “I can’t believe we’re in December 2018.” And just like that, it hits us all that this year is, in fact, coming to an end in a few short weeks.
2018 was a big one for Atilus, we said goodbye to some valued (and missed) team members, but we also welcomed some new faces. We’ve been able to continue working some of our oldest clients while also creating amazing partnerships with new clients. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good year for Atilus and I’m surely looking forward to 2019.
I’ve also spent some time reflecting on what’s changed in the digital landscape over the last 12 months. There was the giant Facebook scandal with Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony earlier this year, plus we saw some major shifts from Google in the way of organic traffic. I thought it’d be valuable to our clients and partners to round up some of the biggest digital marketing trends in 2018 and include little hints about what is coming in 2019.
VOICE SEARCH STARTED TO TAKE OVER
Devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and even iPhones have brought on an onslaught of “voice searches.” Voice search is when a user speaks into a device with a request or a question. Its dramatic increase in popularity can be attributed to the convenience voice search provides. According to research done by Activate, Inc., there will be an estimated 21.4 million smart speakers in the US by 2020. Studies show that 71% of people ages 18-29 are using mobile personal assistants for voice search, so if your audience skews younger, it’s an important consideration.
As digital marketers, we are being faced with a giant new marketing platform and I think many of the big players are still figuring out how to monetize this. Currently, there are no sponsored results for voice searched items, but I would certainly expect this to be in the works in the next 6 – 12 months.
INSTAGRAM HIT 1 BILLION USERS
Instagram made some big waves this summer as it hit 1 billion active users when they were at around 800 million in September 2017. It’s been considered the fastest-growing social network as both Facebook and SnapChat’s users remain somewhat stagnant.
They also unveiled their new IGTV, a feature that is meant to compete head-to-head with YouTube.
GOOGLE ADDS MOBILE SPEED AS A RANKING FACTOR
This is the change we all knew was coming, but it was just a matter of when. We’ve seen the shift from desktop to mobile traffic over the last 5+ years and now, most of our clients’ website traffic comes from mobile phones and tablets (an astonishing 75%+ in some cases).
Google knows the importance of accessibility on mobile devices, thus, they introduced the change around July to put the pressure on companies to ensure their sites load at rapid speeds on mobile. If your site doesn’t load quickly on mobile, you’re going to be demoted in organic rankings. In my opinion, it’s a win-win for all and a way for us to finally explain to our clients that having a responsive website is of the utmost importance (because Google says so).
GOOGLE UNVEILED THE GOOGLE MARKETING PLATFORM AND MAJOR INTERFACE CHANGES TO GOOGLE ADWORDS (RIP)
“I’m sorry, the old Google AdWords can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because it’s dead!” (As you can tell, I’m a pretty big Taylor Swift fan.)
All kidding aside, this change was one I struggled with the most. We use Google AdWords for most of our clients’ digital advertising; and around August of this year, Google unveiled the new Google Marketing Platform, which was a total rebranding. In addition to the rebranding, they also introduced an entirely new interface for Google Ads, which is meant to be a little more user-friendly for companies and agencies to run campaigns.
The new features include more of a setup wizard, which allows advertisers to be guided through a campaign setup based on their goals. I personally prefer more of a hands-on, manual approach. I expect we’ll see more changes to Google Ads in the coming months, especially as it relates to YouTube advertising and Amazon trying to compete in the ad space.
FACEBOOK REMOVED PARTNER CATEGORIES FOR ADVERTISERS
This, by far, was the biggest change in the digital marketing landscape. As you may have heard, Facebook faced some serious backlash earlier this year with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mark Zuckerberg was forced to take part in an 11-hour testimony before Congress. There was an uproar with the social network as users learned that (gasp!) their information was being shared with third parties.
Part of Facebook’s reaction to this was to promote more of a close friends/family-centric newsfeed for its users. Advertisers still have the option to pay to advertise on Facebook, however, hundreds of targeting options removed on October 1.
Partner Categories were set up by Facebook and third parties to obtain data that isn’t typically provided on Facebook. Third parties included companies like Axicom, Epsilon, and Experian. Before, we could target users based on their income, if they were in the market to buy a car, if they rented or owned their home, etc. The list went on and on, but as of October 1, all those third-party Partner Categories went away. As a result, agencies and businesses had to do some serious strategy adjustments for Facebook Advertising and how best to utilize the targeting options that were left.
There are hundreds of changes in the digital world on any given month and I’m sure I missed a few larger ones in this post. What are some big trends you noticed in 2018? Leave your responses in the comments!