Well, 2013 is drawing to a close and it was definitely an interesting year in the online world. There were a lot of changes to Google search – some people noticed; some they didn’t – as well as the “attempted” resurgence of MySpace, the NSA craziness and a whole slew of other news bits. There has been a lot of twitter this year, but if you paid attention, there were a lot of great things to learn from.
- There are a LOT of businesses not online. This kind of blew my mind. I started working at an agency this year after years of working in-house at an online retailer. When I started looking for new clients, and making contacts, it was a bit shocking how many businesses didn’t have – and had no desire to have – their own website. The world is moving fast, people – and it’s moving online. It’s time to catch up.
- It’s getting easier to integrate UI and SEO. There has always been a bit of a struggle between the designers/programmers and the online markers. In the past, good SEO did not always play well with user experience. I am not always a fan of the things Google does, but their moves over the past few years to make a better experience for their users have greatly improved this relationship.
- Facebook marketing actually works…sometimes. I have never been one to jump on the Facebook marketing bandwagon, and have always erred on the side of “people aren’t on Facebook for businesses”. I still maintain that stance for the most part, but I have seen instances of Facebook marketing actually working – when it is done right, done for the right things, and you are looking at the right metrics. If you are looking to sell a ton of products through Facebook, you are going to end up irritated. However, if you are looking to engage your audience and find sales down the funnel, there is a lot of potential there.
- Ad space is becoming more of a premium. When I started with online advertising six years ago cost-per-clicks were cheap and the competition on the ad text side was slim. Paid marketing has come a long way since then, however, and along with marketers getting smarter, there are a lot more nifty tools at their disposal. This is making competition (and cost-per-clicks) greater than they have ever been.
- Organic listings are at a premium. Remember earlier when I said I am not always a fan of Google? This is one of those areas. Over the past couple of years – but heavily in 2013 – Google has limited the amount of organic results you are seeing in the SERPs. With expanded sitelinks, branded banner ads, Product Listing Ads, and everything else, paid search is dominating the results page. I mean, I get it, Google is a business – this has always been my response when people say, “Google is evil”. But c’mon, organic search is getting a LOT better; let’s see a little more of it.
- Bacon won the Internet. If 2013 was anything; it was the year of bacon. It can be argued that bacon has been popular for years, but online there has been the Bacon Renaissance, so to speak. There are bacon websites, bacon games, bacon memes, and bacon songs on YouTube. In 2013 bacon is king – and I say “Long Live Bacon.” Hell, I named my new wiener-dog Bacon this year.
- Instagram is good for business – and “selfies” apparently. I loathe the whole “selfie” movement. I hate the name. I hate the idea. But dammit if Instagram wasn’t instrumental in helping “selfie” become the new word of the year. Beyond people taking “not-so” random, random self pictures, Instagram has also been a great marketing tool for businesses. Take ShoppersChoice.com, for instance. Chef Tony has gained a great following on the BBQGuys account and posts mouth-watering images, and has mastered the art of interacting with followers.
- We are all going to use Google + (eventually). Google has decreed this. They have made it so anyone with a Google account has a Google + account automatically. They have made rel=publisher, and rel=author a thing we need. You are going to use Google +. There is nothing else to say on the matter. Submit yourself.
- You don’t have to rank #1 to get great returns. With many of the changes Google has made this year with organic listings – such as authorship, and sitelinks – have helped websites stand out even if they are not getting that #1 spot. Set yourself up for success by utilizing Google + and semantic markup, such as schema and Facebook open graph to help yourself stand out from the crowd.
- Bing isn’t sure what to do with itself. A lot has been said about Bing’s growth and potential – and all of these things are true. Another thing about Bing that I don’t hear people talking about is the fact that they cannot seem to innovate fast enough, and this is causing them to use dirty marketing to try and make Google look more evil (psst…Bing, Google doesn’t need your help with this!). From “Bing It On” to “Scroogled”, Bing is trying to make an art form of mudslinging…and hoping we don’t notice that they end up using the same tactics they ranted about earlier (does anyone remember Bing’s Scroogled Campaign against PLAs?!).
- Real marketing matters. Gone are the days of black hat SEO – or even SEO for the sake of SEO – online. As people online evolve, so must website owners and marketers. Online marketers need to not only show up, but stand out from the competition. We can’t simply be “online marketers” – we have to actually be “marketers”. We need to understand our customer base, and learn what hits them right in the feels. ←This is extremely awesome.
- Social Media is no longer the “next big thing”. In fact, it never really was. Social media is nothing more than a thing – a tool we must utilize to get people to our websites. Nobody is going to buy something from your Pinterest page, so stop acting like that’s a possibility. Use social media to engage people and get them interested in your brand. Then get them to your website where you own that shit.
- There is always something you can do. The beauty of the Internet is that it will never be stagnant. If you feel like you have become stagnant, that’s your own fault. There is always another avenue to pursue, or another way to present something. Look, listen and try new things when you find them. Diversify yourself away from Google so that the next time there is an algorithm change you won’t be scrambling to fix things, because they were never really broke in the first place.
Jeff Loquist is the Director of Inbound Marketing for Gatorworks. You can follow him on Twitter or find him on his Google Plus page.