If there is anything that has remained true about online marketing over the past decade, it is that online marketing is always changing. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that Google makes around 9 changes to their search engine algorithm every day.

To stay ahead of the curve, businesses can’t just understand where online marketing and SEO is today. They have to be able to look forward to predict the next wave of updates they can expect in the coming months and years.

With that in mind, I wanted to spend some time today talking about some of the biggest trends you can expect to see in 2020 and beyond:

1) Snippets Become The New “Number 1 on Google”

For years, Google has been using Featured Snippets to highlight quick information that may answer your query without ever having to click on a search result. You can see these when you search for recipes, look for lyrics to your favorite songs, or ask questions with relatively simple answers like “How big is the sun?”

Brands have long avoided targeting these snippets which typically appear above all other search results, believing that they reduce the chance of a person clicking onto their website or otherwise converting. However, growing evidence suggests snippets actually drive higher click-through rates and engagement by quickly establishing a single site as the authority.

Over the next year, the competition for these snippets is likely to continue rising, making them the next big fight for search engine results dominance.

2) Mobile Really Comes First

We’ve been talking about this moment for years. We officially use our smartphones and tablets to access the internet more desktop devices.

As such, Google has announced that its ‘Mobile-First Index” would become its primary search index. That means Google is now looking at the mobile version of your site before it ever considers the desktop version when ranking search results.

With this in mind, having a stripped-down mobile version of your site or not having a mobile site is no longer a viable option if you want to succeed online.

Site speed will also continue to be a major ranking factor because of its importance when accessing sites on the go from mobile devices.

3) Visual Search Gets Serious

Visual search has existed as a novelty in online marketing for some time now, slowly improving with each iteration. Now, we are reaching the point where visual search is becoming a major player in search.

While we don’t have statistics from Google Lens or Bing’s Visual Search, Pinterest’s Lens has been a revealing foray into the viability of visual search.

Within a single year of launch, Pinterest Lens was receiving more than 600 million visual search queries every month. This September, the company announced the tool was able to identify over 2.5 billion unique objects within the fashion and home industries.

With this in mind, it is easy to imagine a day in the near future when people regularly find it easier to snap a quick picture than come up with a precise text query when trying to find a specific item online.

4) Voice Search

Speaking of convenience, people are quickly turning to their Alexas, Echos, Siris, and Dots for their casual search needs – whether it is checking the weather or quickly ordering a product.

Out of all the coming changes, this may have the largest effect on how brands optimize their websites and content. This is because voice queries tend to be almost completely different than the types of queries we make when typing into a browser form.

With some estimates suggesting voice search could account for nearly half of all searches by the end of 2020, brands will have to begin optimizing for more conversational “long-tail” search queries and the unique capabilities of voice assistants.

5) Video Rules The Content Landscape

This is another online marketing trend that has been growing for years, but shows absolutely no signs of slowing down in the coming years.

The simple truth is that videos are more engaging than almost any other form of media, providing both audio and visual information in a quickly consumable package. Thanks to faster internet speeds and improved search indexing, they have also been an increasingly effective tool for sharing your content and driving actual engagement.

To give you an idea, some statistics suggest that videos can increase engagement by more than 80% compared to sharing the same information in simple text or audio clips.

Despite this, many brands have still avoided investing in video marketing because they believe it is inherently expensive or ineffective in local markets. Ironically, most users say they often enjoy videos shot using “authentic” methods like shooting selfie-style using a smartphone as much or more than slickly produced commercial videos.

 

Waiting for the “next big thing” to blow up before you jump in is a surefire way to always be a step behind your competition online. You don’t have to invest in every whim or indulgence of the digital marketing landscape, but focusing on these five surefire trends is sure to have you starting 2020 at the head of the pack.

Snapchat is launching a new format for video ads called Extended Play Commercials which allows advertisers to run ads up to three minutes long.

The video ads are skippable after six seconds and will be shown as mid-roll ads – similar to how Snapchat handles shorter ads.

The goal behind Extended Play Commercials is to let advertisers tell longer, more engaging stories to users who are already actively engaged with the platform. As the company tells AdWeek, Snapchat believes these ads will help capture a greater share of the video ad market:

“The company believes the flexibility that extended play commercials provides to video advertisers will help it gain more share of the overall online video advertising market.“

While the new ad format is currently only available in closed beta, advertisers can request access by making a request through Ads Manager or contacting a Snapchat advertising representative.

David Router, Snapchat’s VP of Global Agency Partnerships, says the ads are a great way for advertisers to connect with shoppers this holiday season:

“We’re committed to building high-impact, long-form video ad formats, and extended play commercials are a great option for online video and TV buyers. Heading into the holidays, this format is a powerful new way to reach our Generation Z and millennial audience in Snapchat’s premium, brand safe Discover content.”

Facebook is using machine learning to launch a number of new personalization features for advertisers, as the company recently announced.

The goal is to make it easier for brands and advertisers to customize ads for their potential customers without having to create several distinct ads.

Dynamic Ad Formats and Ad Creative

When using Facebook’s Dynamic Ads, brands will be able to us the company’s machine learning model to predict a user’s ad format preference and deliver the best ad for their taste. This helps guarantee the best chance of catching users’ attention and driving clicks or conversions.

“The dynamic formats and ad creative solution aims to meet people where they are in the customer journey by delivering a personalized version of the ad to everyone who sees it,” Facebook said.

Multiple Optimized Text Options  In Single-Media Ads

The company has been testing a method for delivering responsive ads with multiple options for ad text, headlines, and descriptions for months, and is now officially launching the feature.

With this feature, advertisers can set a number of unique ad descriptions, headlines, or primary texts which are then selected by Facebook’s machine learning model based on users’ preferences.

Auto-Translated Ads

Lastly, the company announced that advertisers can select languages for their ad to be automatically translated into when using Ads Manager. By automatically,

As the company announced:

By using the “add languages” feature, advertisers can reach their international customers with messages in the local language quickly and efficiently. This helps advertisers save on resources to produce their own translations for key languages, while giving them controls to review and provide their own translations

Why It Matters

These features all work to speed up the process of creating ads for a wide range of users and audiences. Using signals directly from users, the company is able to deliver the best version of your ad for each user and create the best chance for your ads to convert every time they are shown.

Google announced this week it is bringing ad extensions – similar to those that appear in search ads – to YouTube ads.

The new extensions expand the capabilities of traditional ads by offering unique call-to-actions or additional information for users.

Specifically, the new YouTube ad extensions allow advertisers to include directions to brick-and-mortar store locations, show lead generation forms, or use a number of CTAs that better fit your niche.

Currently, the extensions are only available for TrueView in-stream or non-skippable video ads, though the company says it will be expanding the feature to 6-second bumper ads later this year.

Google is already exploring ways to bring more ad extensions for YouTube’s TrueView ads, and will continue to do so in the future.

For example, the company is already beta testing sitelink ad extensions which would add a series of relevant links underneath a video ad.

In the announcement, Google says the new features are aimed at driving more clicks and conversions. In a beta test with 30 advertisers, extensions like sitelinks increased conversions by more than 20% and doubled the number of clicks.

Google says it will be rolling out a new ad extension aimed specifically at driving leads for your business in the coming weeks.

The ads look similar to typical search ads with a unique call-to-action. If a user clicks on that CTA, they are taken to a form which can be quickly pre-filled with contact information from their Google account or manually entered.

In the announcement, Google says lead form ad extensions can:

“Capture interest when potential customers are searching for your company, products, or services on Google. A fast, mobile-optimized experience makes form submission easy and eliminates the extra step of navigating to your mobile site lead form.”

Based on their own testing, Google says one advertiser improved their closing rate for sales leads by 20% by using lead form extensions.

While the feature is currently limited to beta testers, it will become available to all Google Ads advertisers in the next few weeks. However, the ad extensions will not be available for advertisers in a few select areas.

Lead form extensions will not be eligible for ads relating to:

  • Adult-oriented content
  • Alcohol-related content
  • Gambling-related content
  • Healthcare and medicines
  • Political content

For more information about lead ad extensions, check out Google’s new help center document here.

After nearly a year of testing, Facebook is finally launching search ad placements for all advertisers. That means anyone can now run ads within News Feed and Marketplace search results for any search with commercial intent – such as queries related to e-commerce or retail.

Currently, search ads only appear in results on mobile devices.

In the announcement, Facebook describes how the ads appear and function within search results, saying:

“The ads are designed to fit the experience on the given search results surface (Marketplace search or general search). They look similar to News Feed ads and have the same transparency and controls, including a “Sponsored” label so it’s clearly marked as paid placement.”

To have your ads appear in search results, advertisers can simply select “Automatic Placement” or the “Facebook Search Results” placement when creating or running News Feed ad campaigns.

Notably, advertisers will have little control over how the ads are targeted, aside from broad people-based targeting options. Instead, Facebook will target the ad based on a number of details including keywords, ad features, ad text, product category, and more.

Currently, the ads support three specific campaign objectives, including Product Sales, Conversions, and Traffic Objectives.

 

The holiday season may still feel like it is far in the distance, but most studies show consumers start their holiday shopping in November – if not earlier. That means now is the time to start preparing your holiday marketing efforts.

To help, Facebook is releasing a wave of new tools aimed at assisting businesses with their holiday marketing. 

Customizable Story Templates

Facebook is releasing a number of customizable templates for ads in Facebook Stories, Instagram, and Messenger. 

The templates are simple, visually pleasing ways to showcase products and brands throughout the shopping season, with customizable backgrounds, music, and CTAs. 

These templates will be available this week.

Improvements to Instagram Direct and Messenger

Closer to the Holiday season, Facebook says it will be bringing a number of new features to Instagram Direct to improve communication between businesses and customers.

As the company says in the announcement:

“From fulfilling orders to keeping up with customer requests, we know staying on top of customer communications is important, so we also created new messaging tools like labels, search and folders to help businesses stay organized.”

Within the coming weeks, Facebook will also be launching an ‘instant replies’ which lets businesses create custom automatic responses for when they are not immediately available. 

These “away” messages can be useful for days when your business is closed or when no one will be available to respond to messages for a prolonged period of time. 

Along with these improvements, Facebook is also introducing a new ‘saved replies’ feature which will allow you to respond to common questions with pre-written responses.

Instagram is testing a new way to notify customers about the release of new products when launch day arrives with stylish stickers and push notifications. 

While the test is currently limited to a small number of brands selected as part of Instagram’s closed checkout beta, it would deliver a promising way to boost the profile of your product launches and improve early sales. 

As the company says in their announcement:

“We wanted to make it easier for people to discover and follow upcoming product launches from brands and creators they love.”

The feature works by letting users opt-in to receive reminders about upcoming products when they see early promotional materials. 

Come launch day, they can then be notified of the product release and even make the purchase without leaving the Instagram app. 

To accompany the new feature, Instagram also launched a new sticker which can be used in Stories to promote your latest products. 

Since the new feature is just in testing, it is hard to predict when or even if it will eventually reach all brands and advertisers. Still, it provides an insight into how Instagram is aiming to help brands keep their products in the front of customers’ minds.

Pinterest is changing things up in a major way for brands, with an all-new design for business profiles and an entirely new ad format.

New Business Profile Design

Pinterest’s new design for business profiles puts the focus directly on dynamic content and a central view of product pins. 

Specifically, brand profiles will now include:

A dedicated Shop tab for showing users your products directly within your profile

The ability to customize profile covers with either videos or images

A streamlines navigation system making it easier to access messaging features

‘Shop the Look’ Ads

Since the launch of ‘Shop the Look’ pins, retailers have been flocking to the organic posts to showcase a wide array of their products in a single image. 

Now, Pinterest is allowing these brands to turn these organic pins into shoppable ads which can promote up to 25 products at a time. 

When these ads first appear, users will see a showcase previewing up to four items, which can be expanded to show the rest. 

‘Shop the Look’ ads are expected to roll out to US advertisers in the next few months.

Microsoft is expanding its responsive search ads beta to all advertisers.

Responsive search ads are an increasingly popular way to automatically tailor your ads for the specific needs of individual customers. 

Essentially, the advertiser can create a number of combinations for both headlines and descriptions within a single campaign, which the ad platform then selects based on a specific search query. 

In the case of Microsoft’s responsive search ads, advertisers can provide up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. When shown, the ads can display up to 3 titles and 2 descriptions. 

After the campaign has run for long enough to gather data, Microsoft will also select the top-performing ad combinations in a report for advertisers, while underperforming combinations will be shown less often or not at all. 

The company says responsive search ads can benefit brands in a number of ways, including:

  • Reducing bulky operations and saving time
  • Serving the right message to the right user at the right time
  • Improving overall ad performance

To ensure the best performance using responsive search ads, Microsoft recommends following these tips:

  • Create responsive search ads in the same campaigns with your current expanded text ads.
  • Provide at least 8-10 unique headlines and at least 2 distinct descriptions with a clear call-to-action message.
  • Review performance regularly.
  • Pinning a headline or description will ensure it’s displayed in the desired position.

All you have to do to join the beta is fill out a short form available here.