Hear that mournful whistle? That’s the winds of change, my friend. 2011 is almost at an end, and it’s been an enormously exciting and dynamic year for online marketing. Here is our round-up of the most important online developments and changes we’ve seen in the last twelve months.
Google Panda Update
In February Google initiated its so-called Panda Update, tweaking the algorhithm the search engine uses to determine rankings in search results. The goal was seemingly to ensure the primacy of original content by demoting ‘content farms’ and other sites which use copied or recycled content. This had a noticeable effect on the article marketing we do, which involves essentially farming out content to other sites in return for links pointing back to our client’s website. It still works, and forms a part of most of the SEO campaigns we run for clients, but it is now no longer the quick win it once was!
Emergence of Mobile Browsing
It’s been on the up for a while now, and 2011 saw the continued rise in popularity of people using smartphones to access their emails and other online content. As of October, it was estimated that just under half of the UK population owned a smartphone, and we can safely assume that proportion is likely to go up a bit further on Christmas morning this year!
This key development is something every business with an online presence needs to be aware of, and in the next year or two we are sure to see a trend towards websites being optimised for mobile browsing. This means taking into account some of the important differences and limitations of mobile, so while an slick all-singing, all-dancing Flash based website might seem like a good idea, when you consider that the most popular smartphone, the iPhone, is unable to render it, it may make more sense for going for something plainer and more universal to avoid losing out on mobile traffic.
After a few problems getting off the ground in the summer, Google + is motoring on fairly well now, up to 40 million followers worldwide (for comparison, Twitter has 200 million, and Facebook has over half a billion). Time will tell if it can pick up enough momentum to challenge the big two of social media, but since Google + has now introduced brand pages, we think it certainly wouldn’t hurt any businesses setting up their own page and starting to build up their own mini network. Here’s what I wrote about potential SEO and customer engagement benefits of Google+ businesses may see in future.
Changes to Facebook
I wrote a piece on the Facebook changes back in October, and it’s interesting to see how some of the changes have since become an integral part of the Facebook experience, and others have been almost ignored entirely (Facebook video chat, anyone?)
The biggest thing that changed from a marketing perspective was the shift from a purely chronological wall feed to one in which posts are given prominence according to how important to you Facebook deems each one to be. This means that businesses on facebook can no longer just rely on getting as many likes as possible – if an individual ‘likes’ a business but does not ever engage with them, then Facebook will consider posts from that business to be of low relevance, and will bump them right to the bottom of the user’s feed, where they are unlikely to be seen.
2011 was above all else surely the year of Twitter. Its role in the revolutions that swept the Arab world showed the incredible power and potential of social media as a tool for uniting people in creative and unprecedented ways. Take the example of the protesters in Egypt, who used the hashtag #cairo to tweet updates on their activities, meaning that even those in the city who didn’t personally know any protesters could easily find out where and when they were gathering, and join the demonstrations themselves.
As well as helping to topple governments in North Africa, Twitter users also caused a major headache for the UK legal system by flouting the super injunction imposed on Ryan Giggs’ off-field antics. A great leveller, Twitter was able to subvert the long-standing monopoly over news and information held by traditional media in this country, probably for good.
So in such a tumultuous twelve months, what was the biggest trending topic of all – the Arab Spring? the death of Steve Jobs? The London riots? The Japanese tsunami? No, in fact more widely talked about on Twitter than all these things was floppy haired teenage singer boy Justin Bieber (click here to see the full list of top Twitter trends in 2011).
As a barometer of stuff people on Twitter care about, the top trends list makes pretty desperate reading, but don’t give up on Twitter just yet. It may have its inane and trivial side, but this year also we’ve seen what a tremendously useful marketing and customer service tool Twitter can be, especially for those businesses who are willing to put the time in and use it the right way.
Just here in Dorchester, we’ve seen local traders take to Twitter with enthusiasm and energy in recent months, creating a vibrant little Twitter community based around the town’s shops, arts organisations and interest groups.
So what lessons have we learnt from the year? Despite changes to the Google algorhithm, content is still king – well-written, relevant content on your website, blog and social media platforms is still the core of any online marketing campaign. Huge new opportunities are opening up in social and mobile web, so it’s vital to stay on top of those and not be left behind. These points are well worth mulling over when you are considering your marketing priorties for 2012, and remember if there’s anything you’d like to discuss with us, you can give us a call Monday to Friday on 01305 542000.