The Biggest Stories In Digital Marketing in 2016

I was involved in a survey of SEO professionals exactly a year ago, where I was asked for my 3 predictions for 2016. My first prediction was that page speed will grow with importance, as an increasingly effective ranking factor. I also predicted voice search would become a key focus for us all, while I also pointed out deep linking for apps would be another key factor. So were these the biggest talking points of the past year? Let’s take a look back at some of the things that made us stand up.

Penguin Finally Arrives

To say this was long awaited is an understatement. Coming almost exactly two years since the last Penguin algorithmic update, Google had kept a lot of businesses waiting. It had been rumoured the delays were partly due to Penguin becoming part of the core algorithm and making updates happen in real time. This meant that it would be the last Penguin update ever to be announced, while if you were punished and fixed the issues, you could remove the penalty by the time Google had crawled your site.

Perhaps what caught most people by surprise was the move to devalue links rather than demoting them. This was highlighted as one of the best moves by Google, virtually wiping out the act of Negative SEO. The odd period that followed meant that a lot of businesses were unsure whether to keep or delete their disavow list, on the off chance they were cancelling out any value being passed on by a listed site. This also meant that we can be a little bit more risky (just a little I should highlight), as the fear of a toxic link wasn’t as strong for many.

This update also looked at links on a more granular level, being able to punish a particular page on the website for having spammy links, rather than the overall domain. This is seen as a much more fair practice and gained the respect of webmasters all over.


Voice Search

So many big things happened throughout the year and voice search has definitely grown in importance, largely thanks to the decreasing level of errors. Just two years ago the error rate was over 20%, while now Microsoft believe they have lowered the figure to approximately 6%. In fact, Google announced in May that 20% of all searches have voice intent, a huge growth rate. While attending BrightonSEO, Purna Virji made the prediction that 50% of all searches would have voice intent. If this is to be true, then voice search should be shaping our plans for 2017, however the constant question is how to optimise for voice search.


Google Expanded Text Ads

All of the big news is normally around SEO, with PPC taking a back seat normally when it comes to juicy news. This one did however cause up a stir, as Google increased its ad text limit by twice the length. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, as Google would obviously rather you click on the ad than a natural search result, but this was still the biggest news in PPC of the past few years, relating to text ads. If you want to find out more about the new ad length, I’d recommend a read of WordStream’s article on the 10 things you need to know.


AMP Went Into Full Swing

While AMP pages were first introduced back in December 2015, it didn’t become a HUGE news story until 2016. This is an amazing way to offer a visitors a much speedier version of your site, especially if you struggle with page speed. There were a number of issues brought up throughout the year, as any new option will have teething problems, but it has largely developed over the past year. With Mobile being over 50% of searches for most businesses nowadays, this was a step forwards for many, albeit a step back in other’s eyes.


SEO Is Not Dead

It brought a sigh or frustration whenever we heard ‘SEO is dead’ and had to explain exactly why that was a load of rubbish. In 2014, it seemed to be one of the biggest topics of the year, however the SEO industry is believed to have grown significantly over the past 12 months, with the global industry set to be worth £45 billion. The perception of SEO has significantly changed from a few years ago however. Back when I started out, if you asked someone about SEO, they would say “links, links and links”. Now if you asked them, you might hear “links, rich snippets, AMP, HTTPS”. It’s a changing image of a tainted industry, where we had all been brushed with the same image of a shady link builder based out in Singapore, starting all our emails with “Dear Webmaster”.


So what did you think of our list? Any massive changes you feel we missed out? Let us know in the comments below. Stay tuned for our next post on our predictions for the marketing industry in 2017.


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