Naturally as we begin to ponder what is install for us in 2016 we take a look back at 2015. To say it was momentous would just be touching the surface. For small to medium sized businesses everywhere 2015 was the year of digital. If you’re not online, then you’re missing out. It’s not just younger generations who are comfortable spending online anymore, and as more people throughout the population become attached to their smartphones, 2015 was undoubtedly the year of mobile. Here I have collated the top ten most momentous happenings to have occurred in the world of business – how does your business stack up?
1) Micro-Moments from Google
It was the buzz-word of 2015 and paints the scene of the new battleground for businesses everywhere; Micro-Moments. There are several steps you can take to strategise your plan of attack. The best trick you can utilise is through developing a ‘Micro-Moments’ map. Your next step is to take your Micro-Moments map to an online marketing specialist, who can then devise an integrated marketing strategy to help you and your business leverage these moments.
2) Google My Business
The significant changes Google have implemented for the Google My Business platform has transformed how we manage Google+ pages and locations. With greater flexibility for adjusting business hours and a new-look dashboard and navigation panel, Google are going to great lengths to make managing Google My Business work in-tune with our busy schedules. For business owners it means greater visibility to important business details when potential customers are interested in your business.
3) Google Analytics Report Interface
The new Google report interface allows us easily put together graphic reports, pie charts and other visual reporting methods for many different aspects of the campaigns that we manage for small to medium business owners. The reports provide a great visual tool for clients to see at a glance what’s working and what’s not. For our clients, who are all very busy business owners, it means they can easily interpret the data to inform other business decisions.
4) Search Remarketing (RLSA)
Google announced in a blog this year that marketers can now leverage over 200 analytical dimensions to build unique audiences for your remarketing needs. There really is no excuse to not lure customers who have not (or have) converted back to your website. For those businesses suffering from ‘shopping cart abandonment’ issues, remarketing is the online tool they need to bring those customers back to convert. It is also a great tool to bring back loyal customers with suggestions of products they may want to purchase.
5) Video Content Across All Online Platforms
Sure, we all enjoy the videos of cute cats, but to be serious for a moment; video content is so much more than that. The increase in video content consumption, coupled with the increase in video content creation and with mobile device usage growing, you either have a video content strategy or risk falling behind! Why is it important? For businesses who are hungry to greater exposure, video content will put them front and centre in front of the people who matter – your customers.
6) Facebook Gets Visual
From a milestone point of view, Facebook’s push on their video platform and getting around eight billion views daily, along with the one billion daily users’ benchmark has been phenomenal. From an advertising point of view, the implementation of Instagram ads and the video push are equally as big. Both are big news and really show how the future of media is on hand-held devices. It all comes back to the importance of having a secure mobile marketing strategy in place to meet customers where they are spending their time.
7) Material Design as Graphic Design Increases in Importance
Even though Google released Material Design last year, it really only became widely used this year. Codenamed Quantum Paper, it’s a design language which, “synthesizes classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science”. While the impact for business owners is not instantly recognisable, with the growing importance of visual content, using a Graphic Designer who knows their industry inside out is crucial to producing and using visual content you’re happy to put your brand name on.
8) Google AdWords for SMEs
Google advertising for small businesses has become a lot more accessible and it doesn’t require an enormous marketing budget either. Small businesses can market their brand alongside big name brands on Google because their AdWords Pay-Per-Click (PPC) system has levelled the playing field. As a Certified Google Partner we get access to the latest Google releases and tools which mean the small businesses we manage get first access.
9) Mobile Optimisation
If you work in the world of online marketing, it’s likely that you circled the 21st of April on your calendar this year… numerous times. Yes, we were all waiting with bated breath for the Google mobile-friendly ‘mobilegeddon’ algorithm update in April this year. We now know just how important mobile is to business performance, and mobilegeddon was only the beginning. 2015 has been the year of mobile, so for businesses who are yet to optimise for handheld devices will want to hop to it.
10) Mobile Devices – The Remote Control for our Lives
Handheld devices are now the device of choice for people who search the Internet. As the ‘remote control for our lives’ increasingly becomes a tool we all feel dependent on, ensuring that people’s experiences on their mobile devices is increasingly important for web developers. If people can intuitively interact with a website on a tablet or smartphone, then people will bounce off the site, and our clients clearly don’t want that to happen. It’s so common now that any website we create is mobile friendly by default, but this has only happened this year. So for business owners who have had a website for a while need to update.
The Christmas season is well and truly here, and with 2015 being touted as the year of mobile marketing, the question remains if your online marketing strategy mirrors this claim. Mobile devices are always there with you, so your opportunities to market to your targeted audience are endless. To make sure you’re headed in the right direction, I have compiled my top five mobile holiday must-haves for small to medium businesses across Australia and New Zealand.
SponsoredLinX – The Google Partner All-Stars for 2015!
Google has never intended to become a conventional company, as Alphabet CEO Larry Page is known for famously saying. With no other company around the world quite like Google, I’d say they’re doing very well in sticking to their guns. The basis of what they do hasn’t changed – to find you whatever it is you may be searching for. As we demand more information now than ever before, our quickly emerging demand economy means that online marketing agencies such as SponsoredLinX need to work smarter than ever to deliver the services, tools and products to help small to medium sized business owners adapt and prosper.
Think about the conversation you might one day have with future generations about the world before the Internet. What was life like before smartphones? How did people look up information? You might even struggle to throw yourself back in time to remember what it was like. It’ll be remembering a time when people wrote more letters rather than text messages, but does this mean that people didn’t search? Our ideas of search are, in our current time, consumed by online search. But a world of encyclopaedias, verbal storytelling and petroglyphs all existed before the Internet, just as the everlasting task of search outweighs them all. The evolution of search is fascinating, and where it could be headed in the future even more so.
To anticipate the future we need to understand the past. While online search is now the current method we use to search for information and answers, it has obviously not always been the case. To talk about the evolution of ‘search’, we need to start at the beginning, in order to try understanding where this ancient task may take us. Search began through the telling of stories. It started with the beginnings of the written language, to the creation of books, then computers, the Internet, and now, connected ‘smart’ devices which we carry around with us, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The truth is that the act of searching comes in many forms, but today, online search dominates.
While the invention and use of the computer allowed users to store data and information in a way never before experienced, the Internet brought all of this data together so that it could be shared. After all, the Internet was created so that computers could communicate, thus creating a depository of information so that we could easily search for the answers we want and need. Search engines take this notion even further. In its simplest form, search engines are programs which search the Internet for files which match your keyword/s. The earliest search engine was ‘Archie’ (archive without the ‘v’) in 1990, then ‘Excite’ which was started by a group of undergraduates at Stanford University in 1993, to 1994 when ‘Yahoo!’ was originally known as ‘Yahoo! Directory’, and then of course came along Google in 1998.
Search has evolved in so many ways, and it’s not just ‘search’ itself, it’s search behaviour, search needs, and our expectations of search. We do not search to simply find information. We search for information because we ‘use’ it. We use the information to inform decisions and to help us make choices. Finding the information we want is the intermediate step in the process we take between finding out what we want and/or need, and then acting on it. Our expectations of what we feel search should be able to accomplish for us in turn shapes our behaviour and our search ‘needs’. With our constant connectivity, voice search, wearable technology and integrated products making up what is now known as the Internet of Things; the current search model has come to a fork in the road.
Universal access to all knowledge is now within our reach thanks to the Internet. Moving into the Internet the world’s largest online search engine, Google, currently holds the world’s biggest collection of data. But this fork in the road means that search engines now need to understand the information it stores rather than just indexing it. People are beginning to search for answers, not information. People are asking questions and expect to find answers to them. People want to use contextual search engines.
Contextual search takes into account several factors of the query, such as the location, the time, previous search queries and then the keyword/s. It’ll also look at the device being used. Contextual search has the ability to go so much further than this. Think about if it could also factor in your calendar of events and meetings, what apps you like to use, your interests and preferences. It could mean instead of searching for answers, we are using search platforms which predict what we want. It’s the idea of a post-search online world, where search engine platforms meet you where you are, not the other way around.
Could the act of searching soon become a mere thought, to then be delivered with answers we are looking for? Sergey Brin talked about his vision for search at a Ted Talk in 2013 and stated that, “My vision when we started Google 15 years ago was that eventually you wouldn’t have to use a search query at all. You’d just have information come to you as you need it”. Remember, what state of the art is today looks very old tomorrow.
Search, while still paramount for any business in our global economy, has moved beyond just being an advertising and marketing tool. The act of being able to search online acts as the link between isolation and connectedness. Connectivity matters so much to us now that we place similar value on it in the same level of vital necessities. At those moments in time when people and places are suffering from catastrophic natural disasters, connectivity to the Internet, to the wider community, aka the online world is up there in the demands with shelter, food, water, sanitation and emergency services. Why? Because it is the connection to the online world which allows us to search for information and answers. In high-risk, high-stress situations such as those that people face after a natural disaster, people want to have access to information in order to determine if they are safe.
We are a hyper-connected generation. With constant connectivity means greater moments and opportunities to be as useful and relevant as possible. During relief efforts after a natural disaster, it can mean greater access to information and communication methods. It can mean getting in touch with loved ones to find out if they are okay. The key part is that we now expect to be able to carry out these actions. Our expectations have changed, and so search technology must meet the demand.
The future of search is undoubtedly exciting. It’ll still be search, but not as we know it. Rather than inputting data into machines, the communication process will become much more of a two-way stream, which is why contextual understanding is so imperative if search is to move in this direction. As small to medium sized business owners watch and learn this process unfold, the key to online success will be how quickly they are to embrace new technologies. Search will turn from a reactive platform into a proactive one, and that fork in the road will soon become a distant memory; don’t allow your business to be left behind either.
Some have termed the the new Google update as ‘mobilegeddon’ and others see the value that the new mobile optimised search results bring to their websites. The potential for business is great! Either way, this month Google unveiled the update to support better results to mobile device users, Ben was interviewed in the Sky News Business segment by Carolyn Herbert about what to expect and some tips to help business survive and benefit from the change. Listen in on the new digital marketing development set by the search engine giant Google.