Before we start the traditional look forward at the next year, let’s look back at what we predicted this time last year. A review of the preview, as it were…
"Google eats up more space & more business"
Were we right? Well, yes and no. In fact, since a little pressure was applied, Google gracefully backed out of affiliate advertising, and you won’t find them competing for car insurance, home insurance, flights & hotels… so this one didn’t quite happen.
However, Google is eating up more space. We’ve seen the introduction of ads in local packs, we’ve seen Adwords extended to four ads above the fold, and three underneath the search results, with no ads on the right-hand side. We’ve seen more answers and knowledge panel results, and some of our clients have even been featured there.
So we were right there.
Hell, yeah. The ability to buy apps directly from the search results (so long as you’re buying from Google Play) is a major change. It even looks good, wiping the floor with the ten blue links.
What’s more, you see a clear delineation between desktop and mobile, proving that the mobile algorithm is indeed a separate beast.
"New ways to optimise"
Well, yes. But that was an easy one, as there are new ways to optimise every year. We’ve gone from predicting voice search is “a thing” to having Google devices sitting in our home, operating the telly and joining in conversations.
Google and Amazon devices even talk to each other. Of course.
"Content delivery is going to change"
Yes and no. Yes, that we’ve had content stripped down for the sake of speed, but no, we haven’t really seen more paywalls, although I think we will soon.
Also, the rise of ad blockers has been A. Thing this year, resulting in some online newspapers requesting that people switch them off if they want to view their content.
The most stupid thing I’ve seen is “please answer this question to read our content”, resulting in a thousand random clicks to get rid of the survey/advert. Really dumb.
"Twitter’s problems come to a head"
Yes, completely. To the point that they didn’t even get invited to that meeting with Donald Trump and they’ve made loads of people redundant. There are even suggestions that they could get bought out by Salesforce. Yes, Salesforce.
A bad year, and it can only get worse for Twitter.
Our Predictions for 2017
So, on with 2017… what have we got in store?
The race to be fast will heat up
It’s always good to read Google’s developer blog to understand what’s going on in the minds of Googlers.
The word ‘Janky’ keeps appearing in relation to PWA – Progressive Web Apps. No more ‘Janky Scrolling’ or slow-to-respond interfaces is what they’re promising, and PWA is the way forward.
Progressive Web Apps are “user experiences that have the reach of the web”. They load instantly, they never show the “downasaur” (yes I’d never heard of that word before either), and they feel like a natural app on your device.
If PWA is a thing, then also consider Google’s announcement that they’re thinking about going mobile-first.
That’s mobile-first, not desktop-first. So they’ll crawl your mobile version first, and your desktop version second.
Throw in AMP (notwithstanding the reaction against it), and you’ve got a web that is hurtling forward at speed, unable to cope with the vast amounts of data we’re shoving down it, and our increasing impatience at sites that won’t load immediately.
Today we removed AMP support from MacStories. Our site is already fast, but, more importantly, no one messes with my permalinks. Feels good.
— Federico Viticci (@viticci) December 12, 2016
Basically, we’ll have to prove we’re getting faster, or we’ll get left behind.
Snapchat comes of age
The thing about all those Snapchat users? They won’t be young forever. In fact, next year they’ll all be a year older.
And while we’re all laughing at the funny faces, Snapchat have just done something that might change everything.
Snapchat Spectacles is utterly brilliant. As a concept – it’s everything that Google should have done if they had any idea about marketing. But Google don’t have a clue about marketing, which is Google Glass was rubbish, and they deftly hid it in the corner, hoping we’d never notice.
Snapchat, however, took a different approach. They’re selling $130 glasses from big yellow vending machines. Only the very coolest of people can get them right now, and that vending machine moves around the country, creating even more anticipation.
The product itself is incredibly simple, and doubtless it will attract a more mature market to the platform and get them involved.
And if you know your social network growth map, that means ADVERTISING! MONETISATION!
AI gets marketers more into customer service & retention
There’s a ton of chatter about Artificial Intelligence, data mining, voice recognition and interpreting context. And it’s all very interesting, but we are currently reliant upon Google & Amazon getting better at recognising our accents and our dialects.
And just where do you fit in, really? If you ask Google Home for a plumber, it will just do the Google Search for you and send it to your mobile phone.
These are early days, but we’re already seeing marketers getting more involved in customer service and retention. We’ve even seen Facebook chatbots automatically looking after customers, sometimes with the help of IBM Watson.
If AI is going to have an immediate impact on our marketing lives, it’s going to be with our existing customers. How we develop around the different devices is going to be one of the key ways we interact with our customers over the next couple of years, and 2017 will be the year we start to work it out.
Virtual Reality is not going to help you, unless you’re a VR company
So, yes, every year I get older and a little more cynical, so the theory goes. And when I was at the Integrated.Live conference, I saw lots of people with Virtual Reality headsets on, because this is, obvs, the Next. Big. Thing.
No. It. Is. Not.
We’ve got one of the Google Cardboard boxes at home, and it is already gathering dust. The idea that you have to slip your phone inside and fuss around trying to find a way of working the app is the one thing that puts everyone off.
There are some amazing ways of using Virtual Reality, however. Water Aid’s “Aftershock” campaign is one of the most innovative and brilliant campaigns I’ve ever seen. But only someone the size of WaterAid can afford the video technology to create 360-degree feature films of earthquake aftershocks and the devastation they can cause.
Virtual Reality is not serious business, and has no place in the workplace, unless you make Virtual Reality games. That’s not going to change. It is, however, serious gaming, and that’s where the industry will head.
Twitter gets embarrassingly bought out
Time for my annual dig at Twitter. Because this year they’ll get bought out. No, really, they will.
The big question is whether they can turn some money. Right now, their advertising proposition is a proper barrel of cr*p, and that’s putting it politely. They offer next to nothing in terms of value, which is why most businesses put their social advertising into Facebook or LinkedIn, where demographic targeting is more refined, and the returns are much higher.
The only way to keep Twitter alive – and let’s be honest – we all want that to happen, is to make Google buy it.
Because Google need that data. Twitter is real-time. It is a constant flow of data, which could significantly improve some of Google’s search results.
Come on, Google, do it.
Activism gets serious
Actually this is already happening, but the methods are encroaching upon marketers more and more.
Think of the media agencies who are buying online space in national newspapers, only for their clients to receive thousands of tweets from people who want them to stop?
Of all the social marketing campaigns of 2016, perhaps the best – and most effective – has been StopFundingHate. They successfully forced Lego to pull their advertising from the Daily Mail, and that has emboldened them to go after every advertiser in the Mail, the Sun and the Express, with all of their followers echoing the message.
If you’re buying ad space in 2017, be careful where you buy it. You could be tarnished by association.
Merry xmas everyone, and a very happy New Year.