A new year means new resolutions, and for some of us in the digital marketing arena, it signals a new way of doing business. Below are the top four digital marketing changes that both industry professionals and their clients need to know about in 2011.
Google Mandates Reporting and Transparency
Most of us want to know what our marketing dollars are accomplishing. If you spend advertising dollars online, and pay an agency or some other third-party provider to manage an AdWords marketing campaign, it is reasonable to expect a report detailing what you are receiving in return for that spend. Google agrees. Starting in February, all advertisers should be able to find out how much of their advertising budget (cost) was spent on AdWords, how many times their ads appeared (impressions), and how many times users viewed their ads (clicks).
Creative Web Promotion and other reputable digital marketing agencies already provide this level of transparency. For the agencies that do not, this is a game-changer. By forcing third parties to disclose “the exact amount charged by AdWords,” Google is forcing agencies to delineate between the money spent on the AdWords campaign and that which is earmarked for the management of the campaign. Google’s goal is to improve advertisers’ ROI and experience with AdWords. So if you are an advertiser that has engaged an agency to manage a paid search campaign, and you do not already receive—or start to receive—regular reports detailing campaign performance specifics, start asking questions.
Google Changes Certification Program
In April 2010, Google announced big changes to its certification programs. Most notably, the Google Advertising Professionals Program is now known as the Google AdWords Certification Program. That means more training materials; more challenging certification exams; and other exams that will test search, display, and reporting/analysis. Program graduates will receive a redesigned Certified Partner badge.
In addition, certified companies are entered into the Google Partner Search database, which users can search when trying to locate someone to manage their pay-per-click campaigns. What does that mean for the average Joe? Start looking—and asking—for your digital marketing agency’s new certifications. If it doesn’t have them, start looking for someone else.
Bing and Yahoo, The Happy Couple
In mid-2009, when Yahoo and Bing announced their “merger,” SEO professionals who were focused on Google search-optimized campaigns began to worry. The rest of us just had questions. In October 2010, their coupling became more defined as systems integration testing ended, and the two companies began sharing their algorithms for both organic and paid searches (local search results are not being shared). This sharing of algorithms means that now there are only two big players in the search engine world: Google (66 percent of market share) and Yahoo/Bing (33 percent of market share). Can you believe that only 10 years ago, there were eight viable search engine options? From a search marketing standpoint, the experts are divided as to whether this is good or bad for advertisers and businesses. Sure, it makes things less. While it constrains organic search optimization, it does present a significant opportunity for the paid search marketers.
The Facebook “Like” Button
In the spring of 2010, Facebook replaced its “Fan” feature with a “Like” button. It was more than just a word change; it was a direct challenge to search engines and other social networks. Here’s how it works: With just a few lines of code, an organization can add a Facebook “Like” button to its Web site. When visitors click on that button, the site content is shared with the visitor’s Facebook account.
The button creates a bridge from a Web site to a Facebook page, allowing the visitor to share the link with Facebook friends. However, instead of HTML code—the most common way to link entities—Facebook created a closed, proprietary system that only only Facebook can control. This closed system will not allow Google to index the links, information, and connections created. After just one week of operation, more than 50,000 Web sites had added the button.
More than a popularity contest, however, Facebook’s move was designed to try to block Google’s ability to track what is popular and relevant on the Web. While “Like” has not fundamentally changed the nature of paid and organic search optimization, the button has given digital marketers food for thought. If the social media space opts for proprietary code, rendering Google and other search engines unable to track relevancy of content on the Web, will social media optimization become the next digital marketing service offering?
In an industry that is constantly evolving, it helps to take a look at the biggest changes and how they will affect SEO professionals, their clients, and the everyday online experience. As search engines and social media spaces advance, hold your digital marketing agency accountable by asking for certifications, detailed reports, and industry best practices.