A roundup of 2015 in Digital Marketing and SEO, and predictions for 2016

Chris Lake Kelvin NewmanDavid Moth Dawn Anderson

We asked some industry experts to give us their opinions on 2015 and forecasts for 2016. The panel consisted of specialists across different fields of the digital industry including:

Chris Lake: CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy (@lakey)

Kelvin Newman: Founder and MD at Rough Agenda, the company behind BrightonSEO (@kelvinnewman)

David Moth: Social Media Manager & Interim Blog Editor at Econsultancy (@davidmoth)

Dawn Anderson: Digital Marketing Consultant & Director at Move It Marketing Solutions (@dawnieando)

 

1. Which brand has made the biggest impact this year?

Chris Lake

Uber and Slack: Uber is killing it in the consumer space, but for me 2015 has been all about Slack. It’s yet more proof that insane attention to detail and a UX-first strategy pays big dividends. Slack isn’t even that innovative, it’s just really well done, and I love its business model, pricing structure, and company values.

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Slack

Kelvin Newman

Amazon: They’re not new, they’re not sexy but Amazon just seem to be incrementally improving each and every year. Leaving aside their tax arrangements they’ve become absolutely indispensable. The more they sell and the better the customer experience, the more I find myself avoiding using other online retailers.

 

David Moth

AO.com: We’re big fans of AO.com, as they manage to make a dreadfully dull product area (white goods) quite interesting. They have a great website and terrific customer service, which can’t be said for a lot of companies in that industry. And, at the risk of sounding massively condescending, it’s good to see a company from Bolton leading the way in terms of ecommerce innovation.

 

Dawn Anderson

AO.com: They’re not the biggest brand, but I really have been impressed with AO’s digital offering across all channels and their user experience is second to none. Furthermore, they continue the digitalisation right through the customer buying cycle with SMS alerts and email updates throughout the purchase.

 

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Content Marketing Quote - Kelvin Newman

 

2. What’s been the big SEO thing for you this year?

Chris

PPC: The paid listings tide is higher than ever, right? Some searches show no organic action whatsoever. Disappointing, really, and you’ve got to wonder where Google will go from here. Despite the mad keyword inflation we’ve seen over the past decade or so, at some point I think keyword prices will surely skyrocket even further. As an example, I just searched for ‘best hotel london’ as I suspected that this kind of query would prove a point. And, sure as shit…

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - PPC

Kelvin

Measuring content performance: For years everyone’s been shouting content is king and other useless clichés. This year I’ve really begun to see people start to ask “I’m invested in all this content, why aren’t I seeing a return?” Not because content marketing doesn’t work, but because rubbish content marketing delivers rubbish results.

 

David

PPC and Stolen Content: I’m always genuinely surprised at how evil Google has become in the pursuit of ever bigger profits. The average results page is basically all ads above the fold and its worse on mobile. Also, the realization that it’s very easy for people to steal our articles and outrank us in Google came as quite a nasty surprise…

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Google Evil

Dawn

Google’s mobile update: The mobile update in April has to be one of the biggest happenings of 2015. Firstly, of course, it was a pre-announced algorithmic update. Unheard of. I think that this both went for, and against the update. Pre-warning gave webmasters and brands an opportunity to get ‘mobile friendly’ (officially, if not in a user friendly sense). Of course, ‘Mobilegeddon’ (a ridiculous buzz term invented), as it was coined, turned out to be less of the tsunami than had been anticipated.

 

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Twitter Moments - Chris Lake

 

3. Which social network rules?

Chris

Twitter: It’s still Twitter for me, but I really worry about its strategic vision. Preventing distributors from showing simple share counts is mental, given that they help feed it. I also think [Twitter] Moments will prove to be spectacularly ill-judged. And some of the UI changes are puzzling to say the least.

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Twitter Moments

 

Kelvin

Facebook and Pinterest: Facebook continues to be the social network most like email: literally everyone has it, not everybody loves it, but they would struggle to completely leave it behind. I’ve found myself using Pinterest more and more of late – again nothing new. I think the days of new social networks bursting onto the scene and becoming the “next big thing” are behind us.

 

David

Twitter: Personally I rely on Twitter more than anything else. Facebook is becoming a haven for lowest common denominator shite, but I still go on there 10 times a day. I actually went on a break from all social networks while on holiday for 10 days earlier this year. It was fantastic, I can’t recommend it enough.

 

Dawn

Facebook: Facebook has done a sterling job with making inroads into video integration and streams are looking much more ‘newsy’ to me these days. They also seem to be doing a better job of being more ‘humanistic’ e.g. The safety ‘Check In’ feature they introduced following some of the tragic events of the year makes them stand out for me.

 

4. What’s alive and kicking?

Chris

HiPPOs: Despite the fact that data > opinion. They’re supposed to be an endangered species, but I’m not so sure. Lots of people still complain about this stuff. In data we (should) trust!

 

Kelvin

Machine Learning: We all know it’s potentially been part of Google Algorithms for years but only recently have I seen search marketers really start to get their head around what Machine Learning means. If it’s technically impossible to reverse engineer how an algo works, how do you decide what to do and what to prioritise as natural search marketers.

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Machine Learning

David

Instagram, Snapchat and Email: Instagram and Snapchat seem to be causing the most buzz, but both have some way to go before they can trump Facebook. And email. You still can’t beat a bit of email marketing, regardless of what people say.

 

Dawn

UX: Well-structured sites that provide a great UX with an element of gamification, engaging features and ’tribal communities’ (developed through social). These provide the whole shebang for me. Great content of course will add meat to sites with a strong skeleton.

 

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Adblocking Quote - Chris Lake

 

5. What’s dead and buried?

Chris

Display ads: Advertisers and publishers have gone way too far, and the result is that one in five people use ad blocking browser extensions. It’s brutal, and it’s going to get worse. Make no mistake: adblocking isn’t a backlash against advertising per se, it’s a backlash against lousy UX. The blame lies with the advertisers, who use intrusive ad formats, and the myopic publishers who allow these lame-ass formats to be hosted on their sites. I’m afraid they fully deserve what’s coming to them.

 

Kelvin

Yahoo: With Marissa Mayer I thought they actually stood a chance of coming back from the brink. Maybe it’s just how the press is reporting it, but I can’t remember the last time I went on a Yahoo owner property and I spend literally every waking moment online.

 

David Moth

Google+: Not that it ever had much life in it.

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Google Plus Dead and Buried

Dawn

Cheap tricks: Hopefully.

 

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Unicorns Buzzword Quote - Dawn Anderson

6. What’s the buzzword of the year (loathed or loved)?

Chris

Growth hacking: A buzzphrase, I guess. It’s real, it’s meaningful, and more non-startup brands are going to wake up to the possibilities in 2016. I’m a huge believer in a culture of continuous optimisation, in micro testing and in using data to back up opinions. Many growth hacking techniques are rooted in this kind of thinking. Get it right and your customers and audience will do your marketing for you. What’s not to like?

Kelvin

Omni-channel: Everyone using the phrase seems to think that silo-ed marketing was something people actively set out to do and that they need evangelical persuasion to change the error of their ways. From my experience everybody wants integrated campaigns but inertia, politics and the reality of working as a team means it’s a frighteningly rare achievement.

David

Reach out: It’s still the most awful and idiotic phrase I hear on a daily basis. I also really, really can’t stand it when people use the phrase ‘piece of content’. What does it even mean? All these ‘pieces of content’ have actual names already, so why not just use them? It reveals the cynicism that drives a lot of content marketing.

 

Dawn

Unicorns: I think I also saw mention of a ‘purple squirrel’ just today and do hope that that isn’t the next ‘unicorn’ buzzword replacement. I hope I’m mistaken. Please, just no.

 

7. In your eyes, what was the biggest mistake(s) of 2015?

Chris

Lack of Xmas prep: I haven’t done my Christmas shopping yet. Could prove to be a schoolboy error of epic proportions.

 

David

Paddy Power advert: Ummm, not sure. Maybe this ad from Paddy Power that makes loads of jokes about w*nking, though I suppose it does pander to its target audience. It’s funny that towards the end they decide to go all out and actually have someone w*nking in a barber’s chair, just in case the other jokes had been too subtle.

 

Dawn

Pushing out content blindly: Underappreciating technical SEO and crawlability for much of 2015, by many brands simply flooding the web with content, with little consideration for structure, architecture and real optimisation. Cannibalisation of content everywhere. If a brand can take control over where crawlers go it makes sense to do so.

 

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Spurs vs Leicester Quote - David Moth

 

8. What’s going to be big in 2016 or what are you most looking forward to?

Chris

Empirical Proof: Well, I’ve recently swan dived into startupland and can’t wait to launch Empirical Proof, a kickass workflow tool aimed at ecommerce, marketing and UX teams. It’s going to help cure some big headaches. So many processes are still so broken, it’s a wonder anything gets done. You know: spreadsheet hell, too many meetings, a lack of visibility, missing or buried data, poor prioritisation, etc etc. Many teams still really struggle with this stuff but it’s going to get much easier, I promise.

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Empirical Proof - Chris Lake

Kelvin

Nuance: I think 2016 is going to be a big year for nuance. Every slight shift in digital marketing and ad tech is treated as some kind of epoch shifting cataclysm, when in reality things are much more stable. I think in the work we do we’re having to get ever more sophisticated in how we deal with complexity and make things actually happen.

 

David

Virtual reality & Spurs vs Leicester: Having tried out a virtual reality headset at an event recently I’m intrigued to see what people do with that. It’s properly amazing technology and could be used for some very cool experiential marketing.

Plus I’ve got tickets to see Star Wars in IMAX on January 3rd, then Spurs vs Leicester the following week, so that’s what I’m looking forward to the most…

Oh and self-promotion by people invited on to guest blogs. I look forward to reading a lot of that next year.

Digital Marketing and SEO 2015 - Virtual Reality Headsets

 

Dawn

Semantic search, AI, Accelerated Mobile Page & http2: The ‘web of data’ is growing and I think that semantic is going to really boom next year, along with programmatic and other areas of machine fed digital. Some really exciting happenings in AI and machine learning and of course, we have ‘RankBrain’ and Google’s recent submitted quantum research papers. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) makes for an exciting New Year, and http2 integration is something that I’m really looking forward to. It will be interesting to see what happens when Penguin updates.