Every year there is always a new challenge to face in digital marketing, whether it’s Google updates, changes to development and websites, or marketing strategies. 2017 was no different and as a team Bronco faced a number of changes in the sector working with our clients and also as a company.
This year we are trying something different for our end of year review posts and 2018 prediction posts. We’ll share just one blog post and each team member has had a single question to answer. The questions look back at challenges we have faced, something we learnt or what we want to see in 2018 as individuals and as a team.
So here is the Bronco review of 2017 and what we’d like to see from 2018.
That’s a really tricky question to narrow it down to just one thing, as it’s been another year of evolution in the company as the industry adapts and changes. I would have to say though that overall I am really proud of the team. There have been so many times this year that the team has had to support each other and for everyone to step up. It’s been a tough year for many on a personal level and the importance of having a strong team around you can’t be underestimated to get you through.
I’m so proud of how the team has embraced the challenges this year on a fitness level too, especially the day back in March when I suggested we enter the Tough Mudder. From there it’s snowballed and going to the gym and getting fit has brought the team much closer together, but also has huge health benefits too. I for one am the fittest I have ever been and feeling great for it.
The team is the backbone of the company, it’s where our resilience comes from. Every year that goes by we rack up more time served with over half the team surpassing or getting close to their decade of service. Quite staggering really, and it makes me very proud to be part of this journey and part of the team.
This year has been yet another one where Google has threatened things like Mobile First, where if your site wasn’t super quick and didn’t have the right viewports you would disappear from the SERPS. Also HTTPS warnings in Chrome where if you didn’t have a SSL Certificate that Google liked then, they would try to stop users from seeing your site in Chrome. And now their recent announcement that they are stopping the support for the AJAX crawling scheme. Don’t worry though, they have given us 6 months before they end the life of so many websites.
In reality the only thing Google has done in 2017 is disrupt the industry with false rumours and untruths that never seem to manifest into anything other than falsehoods.
So have a merry Christmas and build websites how you want to for your customers.
Personally, I think in 2017 we’ve got away with quite a limited number of major updates, many of which (touch wood) have been introduced with no adverse effect on any of our clients. Notable updates have included the mobile penalty back in January, where mobile website pop-ups would result in a bit of a hit, and Fred, an update that is believed to have impacted affiliate and low content websites. For me, these both made the Google SERP landscape significantly better.
Other un-named updates have occurred through the year, particularly the one in September, and one recently in November. There’s been no confirmation of what the updates intentions were, however we saw strong, positive growth following them rolling out. Can’t really complain!
Although not necessarily challenging, ensuring each client’s campaign and website keeps pace with the industry continues to be demanding, but that’s just the line of work we’re used to! Ensuring websites are migrated onto HTTPS swiftly and correctly has been a big focus over the last few months, and before that, priorities centred around the mobile first index. All in all it’s been a fair year in the SEO industry, especially now updates are real time. The best way to overcome potential challenges? Plan and prepare for every eventuality!
In 2018 it would be great to see more useful information coming from Google via different social media outlets, not just Twitter, on various related topics such as updates and algorithm swings. Google blog and authority posts, not just speculation or Chinese whispers.
2017 has seen more information than previous years, but since Matt Cutts left there’s been a noticeable gap in information even though we do get some updates from John Mueller. Hopefully, Danny Sullivan will be able to bridge the gap and become the public face of Google.
In terms of updates 2017 has been relatively stable. During 2018 we will most likely see: –
In terms of what I’d like to see: –
My job in general is very challenging. Websites out there are very wide ranging, not just in terms of size but coding standards and implementation as well. Coming up with solutions to try and cater for every eventuality is challenging. For example, we have audited sites where there have been multiple canonicals set up on the same page with two different implementations pointing at two different URLs. So, from a quick glance at the source code it’s all okay, but dig deeper and you find it’s not canonicalised to the location you thought it was. This is why we have to go the extra mile.
I unfortunately don’t think there will be a point where I will fully overcome this, there will always be varied sites out there with incorrect implementations.
When developing a WordPress Site, always opt for a bespoke theme and avoid ‘off the shelf’ themes even if the main constraint is cost. Whilst so many ‘off the shelf’ themes look great, they can be very inflexible meaning that you won’t always get exactly what you want from them and once you take a look under the bonnet you soon realise they can be over complicated, too reliant on third party plugins and over coded with features that cover all bases rather than just the functionality your site needs. This bloat of features and plugins will almost inevitably mean a slow load time and with Google putting so much emphasis on site speed, a lean and fast bespoke theme is a far better solution.
Bad API documentation and awkward implementation.
PayPal are a big offender in this regard yet newer systems such as Stripe and Twilio manage to get it spot on with step-by-step guides and a straightforward workflow. One of PayPal’s newer acquisitions, Braintree, is in the same league so hopefully a thing or two will filter through to PayPal itself.
There are of course legacy issues many of the established players have to overcome which is why we’re seeing newer companies deal with the issue more effectively (starting from scratch is often easier, plus you can learn from others’ mistakes), but I think it would be better for everyone concerned for these companies to revisit at least their documentation, as that is the crux for their code being deployed.
With the influence Google has over the web through its Search and Chrome products, it’s no surprise that how we build websites is heavily influenced by the tech giant.
Most recently Google has focused on pushing site speed, primarily through its HTML alternative, AMP. But more critically Google has, this year, practically forced all websites containing form elements to move to HTTPS.
While the implementation of an SSL certificate doesn’t necessarily affect how we build websites it will help many developers in the future. Through working on websites already on HTTPS it will provide developers access to an ever increasing number of technologies such as new HTML APIs (e.g. geolocation, notifications) and HTTP/2 which browsers require HTTPS in order to use.
While access to such technologies themselves should be enough to convince site owners to make the move to HTTPS the warnings Google Chrome will now display are a less complex issue and so can aide clients understanding on the benefits of making such a change.
2018 will see a blurring in the lines separating 2D and 3D illustration and visualisation. Traditional Adobe 2D design and motion graphics tools such as Photoshop and After Effects now feature ever improving 3d integration, workspaces and advanced 3D render engines such as Cinema 4D.
Adobe Dimension (formally Project Felix) aims to take this merger a step further and provide the easiest, most user-friendly way for graphic designers to use 3D in their work. Perfect for product design and graphic mock-ups, dimension comes with many free assets, plus tight integration with Adobe stock means that 3d models, material textures and even HDRI light sources can be purchased and used immediately.
Surface materials can be swapped by simply dragging and dropping a new one from the materials palette and can also be fully customised with easy to use sliders. It even automatically matches the perspective and lighting of a background image in order to create a realistic environment. And when your composition is complete, Dimension files can be rendered as layered PSD files to allow your work to continue in Photoshop for advanced image editing and effects.
For businesses social media will continue to play a vital role in bringing in new customers as well as encouraging existing customers to return. Many businesses and brands will continue to increase the use of social media adverts to direct traffic to their websites and drive sales.
I think we will see a rise in ‘live’ content being published with content marketing strategies developed around this, using Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Snapchat. This coupled with UGC and interaction from customers to develop brand identity and customer loyalty.
Influencer marketing will still be popular however I hope to see brands looking to use influencers that their customers can relate to more i.e. themselves, rather than celebrities. Also looking at the next generation hitting the market, Generation Z and how they adapt and use social media.
For me the campaign that stood out this year was the Cars of the Future infographic we produced for a client.
There has been a buzz in the news over the past couple of years about driverless cars and we wanted to see what other technologies could theoretically feature in vehicles in the decades to come. The research side of this campaign was really interesting as it showed us what the potential of these emerging technologies could be and how it could benefit us in the future.
Technologies such as interactive heads up displays, health monitoring for drivers and passengers as well as autonomous driving are set to become reality in the not too distant future, so this campaign was a great insight into what will and could be possible for travel moving forward.
This campaign was also a success from a digital marketing standpoint too, gaining coverage on over 40 automotive and technology based websites, creating great brand awareness and high quality links for the client.
The highs of digital marketing in 2017 have been many, but here are my top ones:
While Instagram Stories launched in August 2016, it wasn’t until early 2017 that it really came into its own. This is now a big feature in many influencers’ and brands’ marketing strategies, allowing them to reach their followers in a new way.
Live streaming has also been key in 2017. Every platform has taken this on board and you’ll now receive notifications whenever someone goes live meaning brands can now reach consumers instantly.
In terms of our personal Bronco digital marketing highs, getting our clients featured in places ranging from the Sunday Times to the Yorkshire Evening Post has been brilliant, as has launching large scale campaigns for clients in various sectors including healthcare, interiors, fitness and more.
The lows of 2017 in digital marketing on the other hand have been few, aside from the inevitable social media and marketing campaign failures. Here are just a few of these:
Prue Leith accidentally tweeting the winner of the Bake Off before the final:
— Dan Wootton (@danwootton) October 31, 2017
Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad:
— Pepsi™ (@pepsi) April 5, 2017
And Donald Trump’s “covfefe” tweet:
that was the moment Trump became prsiduvhirw pic.twitter.com/fKVPPNVFH0
— Anthony Smith (@AnthonyBLSmith) May 31, 2017
I’d like to progress forward with building relationships with journalists, bringing any new ideas through to the team and developing my research, and staying on top with the latest news and developments. I’ve felt my writing skills have been established further this year from continuous work on writing various styles and topics, whether that’s travel related subjects or gardening topics. Being a news type press release or writing blog posts, the list differs. This has helped me to be flexible in this area. I’m looking forward to next year’s new styles and subjects to grasp and write about.
My main focus for 2018 will be achieving successful ongoing interactions with journalists. There are a few targeted principles I’ll look out for: the first step would be noting down and keeping an eye on something suitable to their work load. If any relevant campaign occurs I can take a look in my notes to see who’s related to the source. I can also research any new, current articles and journalists that are ongoing in the particular time of researching. I’ll attempt to pique their interest with my material and form a successful work flow with them.
In 2017 the Google AdWords interface has seen a complete visual overhaul, boasting a much better user experience and time saving features for account managers. Some of these include an ‘Overview’ page displaying at a glance reports. An ‘Opportunities’ page flagging up Googles suggestions for any potential tweaks to bids, budgets, keywords or targeting.
Amongst the new changes there a handful of new features only available in the new UI. One of which is a new ad extension ‘promotion extension’. There is currently a small downside, due to a few features that haven’t yet made it into the new UI, but these are slowly coming through.
We’ve also seen a gear change in 2017 towards the use of audiences and data driven data collection, helping improve the various different automated bidding tools and help account managers improving conversion rates.
The new user interface is still currently an optional feature and still in its beta phase. As we all know, Google are constantly adding, testing and removing new features to AdWords interface regardless of the facelift, which will continue well into 2018 and beyond.
So that was our review of 2017 and our look at what 2018 may hold, as you can see our team faced some challenges, learn’t a lot and really went all out. Let us know what you think in the comments below, what challenges you faced and what you want to see from 2018.
Here is to a great 2017 for Team Bronco and to a even better 2018!