Digital Marketing Round Up: The Most Pressing Marketing Topics of 2016 (so far)

Kimberly Burghart May 17, 2016

What should your business be concentrating on in 2016?

It’s already Q2, and the marketing trends for 2016 are underway. Many of these trends are developments that may have a lasting impact on the digital marketing industry, so understanding them from the get-go will be instrumental to making them work for your business.

Google RankBrain

Google is investing heavily in artificial intelligence for better translation, video, text-to-speech capabilities, and most recently, search. Google has said their search AI feature, RankBrain, is the third most important aspect of its search algorithm, after links and content.

What RankBrain does can be hard to articulate. Content already figures into the Google algorithm on its own (the length, relevance, and uniqueness), so is RankBrain something that indexes or crawls the content? Basically, no. RankBrain, as an AI system, is best used when visitors search a topic or long tail keyword that isn’t familiar to Google. Approximately 15% of all searches each day are for things Google has little or no knowledge of, and RankBrain uses its intelligence to infer what can best help the visitor find the answer they need. Unlike other aspects of search engines that may “learn” by repetition, RankBrain displays more legitimate intelligence when learning from searches and the results Google visitors get. In fact, experiments at Google have shown that using RankBrain delivers results better than actual engineers who are asked to guess which results will be the best based on typical queries. RankBrain takes long tail keyword and complex phrases and delivers helpful results by inferring what the user needs, not simply crawling indexed content for keywords.

Ideas for Digital Marketers: So how do you take advantage of RankBrain? Using best practices for content marketing are ideal for ranking highly with RankBrain’s features. Create written content that answers specific questions. Become an expert in your niche and write articles no one else is writing. Use a long tail keyword strategy to capture the small but highly focused queries that best match your subject matter expertise.

Google’s right-side ad removal

The removal of right-side ads by Google AdWords on traditional SERPs was met by a mixture of jubilation (some users) and horror (all digital marketers) when the update was rolled out in February. Rather than the traditional 11 ads on the search page, users would now see only 7, with 3 of those moved to the bottom of the page. Google believed the page experience would more closely match that on mobile search, better tying their mobile and traditional traffic and creating a cleaner look for users. Much like organic SEO, it seemed that paid search advertising would become even more competitive. What would happen to costs-per-click? Would keyword bidding go through the roof as marketers tried to capture more traffic?

Only a few months into Google’s new layout, and results are becoming clear. Everything is fine. CPCs have remained fairly static, which means there hasn’t been an increase in competition the way marketing doomsday predictors feared. CTRs are also consistently good. The only metric that has been negatively affected is impressions – which is obvious, as with only 7 ad results per page, rather than 11, there is simply less ad space to go around now.

Ideas for Digital Marketers: The correct paid advertising strategy can be a key component of a digital marketing campaign. Thankfully, Google hasn’t completely changed the game, so traditional methods, including targeted ad groups, are still the best strategy. Diversifying your paid advertising with Bing and Facebook is never a bad idea, either, assuming you have a substantial enough budget to justify several channels.


Seen as the Facebook of Millennials (and whatever that generation is that’s right behind Millennials), Snapchat has been dismissed by many as a platform that is too similar to other social media platforms and therefore, not relevant. You can share photos and video like on Facebook. You can send messages just like you can with iMessage, Facebook Messenger, or text. You can post short updates a la Twitter. Many marketers who were already inundated with keeping up with social media accounts didn’t see the value in developing Snapchat expertise. Then, the game changed.

Recently, Snapchat introduced an update they call “chat 2.0” to bring in more people – your coworkers, neighbors, and yes, even you. This update improved the UX and UI of the platform and introduced features like video chat, stickers, and audio components.

Ideas for Digital Marketers: Much like the often-maligned Instagram, Snapchat only works with content produced within the app, making it impossible to manage with platform scheduling tools. Is this the fractured future of digital platform marketing? Most likely! Of course, each social platform should be treated individually, and you should play to the platform’s strengths. One reason many marketers haven’t embraced SnapChat is because it doesn’t work like other content channels, but consider: you can’t get great results if you’re constantly posting 140 character updates to Facebook with the exact same wording you use on Twitter. Snapchat is an ideal medium for showcasing personal stories, and since content disappears after a day, posts tend to be more personal and targeted than on some other channels. Be sure to post your content to your Story so it can be viewed by all followers. Don’t get too caught up in the analytics: it’s nearly impossible to see how many people are actually following you. P.S. – Millennials ARE your market. They are in their 20s and early 30s and have disposable income and use apps like Snapchat. Gen X and older generations are soon to follow as well.

Disclosing promoted content

The FTC has been cracking down on companies who commission promoted content without actually disclosing such. Notably, Lord and Taylor received a slap on the wrist because of promoted instagram accounts, and Machinima recently settled with the government because of YouTube videos featuring an Xbox promotion. In the latter case, Machinima paid between $15,000 and $30,000 to two gamers to play and promote specific Xbox games through their YouTube channels. The payments or nature of the videos were not disclosed to viewers, which the FTC claims was deceptive marketing. Lord and Taylor paid 50 fashion bloggers to feature posts with a specific dress from a collection they were promoting, which the FTC said implied that the bloggers chose that item under their own free will.

The success of both campaigns may ultimately be what brought them to the FTC’s attention. While the government settlement numbers have not been disclosed, it is assumed the amount of money each company made from their deceptive promotions was likely not worth it in the end.

Ideas for Digital Marketers: The way to engage in native advertising is not through deceptive tactics. When working with influencers, be sure all promotional content is disclosed clearly. Encouraging organic promotion through the sharing of pictures or status updates (“Tweet us your best pet photo!”) is also a great way to go. The FTC offers a guide that should help outline what is and is not allowed, legally speaking. The FTC and other government agencies are also the best resource for current legal practices relating to digital marketing.

It sometimes seems that keeping up with industry changes takes just as much time and effort as mastering the changes and delivering results. Of course, there will be a new crop of “hot topics” later this year, but this list is so relevant to the industry today that we’re confident concentrating on these topics can build a foundation to bring you success in the future.  

Find out more about how Miles Technologies can help your marketing efforts here


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