11. AdWords Local Targeting– Google unveiled several changes to its location-targeting tool in AdWords in October, aimed at making location targeting on paid search ads easier and more accurate. The new tools provide marketers with more information about locations as well as relevant location suggestions. AdWords Local Targeting promises to help advertisers better target their ads to both location and customer demographics.
10. Google Multi-Channel Funnels- In late August Google introduced five new reports to its Google Analytics platform, called Multi-Channel Funnels. These new reports allow for more in-depth attribution calculations. Rather than attributing a conversion solely to the last ad or link clicked, the reports seek to provide insight into the full conversion path over a 30-day period. The reports represent a significant upgrade to Google’s Analytics offering, one which could significantly help online marketers better measure the value of traffic channels and marketing campaigns beyond the last click.
9. Larry Pages takes over as Google CEO- Google announced at the beginning of 2011 that co-founder Larry Page would replace Eric Schmidt as its CEO in April 2011. Page’s first nine months on the job have been marked by some pretty big changes, e.g., Google’s acquisition of Motorola, its release of Google Plus and a complete makeover of YouTube. Page has doubled down on these services and well as on its search core, while chipping away at several smaller Google projects, e.g., Google Labs and API.
8. Google Analytics Premium- At the end of September Google launched a paid version of its Google Analytics platform that boasts more data, advanced tools, dedicated support and guarantees. The premium service offers more processing power with increased data collection, advanced analysis with attribution modeling tools that enable marketers to test different models for assigning credit to conversions, 24/7 service and support, and service level guarantees for data collection, processing and reporting. (The service is rumored to cost $150,000 annually.)
7. Facebook Timeline- At Facebook’s annual f8 conference in September, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled several new features, including the new Facebook Timeline. Facebook’s Timeline enables user to curate the mass of social activity they have accumulated over the past seven years on Facebook to tell a better, more dynamic story about themselves. Timeline, which will go live internationally on December 26th, promises to improve how users and brand engage on Facebook.
6. Google+– When Google+ was released in June, it was quickly heralded as Google’s most significant innovation since its launch of Google Instant. After years of botched attempts at social networking, including Google Wave and Google Buzz, Google+ got off to a promising start, acquiring over 10 million users within the first days of its launch. Often compared with Facebook, Google+ has been praised for its innovative, integrated suite of user-focused services and its intuitive interface. What’s more, the service has been pinned as Google’s chance to loosen Facebook’s stranglehold on social networking data. By creating its own active user base, Google+ could enable Google to generate social data, which could in turn be integrated into Google’s search algorithm to improve to the quality and relevance of its results.
5. Landing Page Quality Factors into AdWords Quality Score– In October Google announced that the relevance and quality of a landing page would carry more weight in calculating AdWords Quality Score. The aim of the change is to improve customer experience with paid search ads, by incentivizing marketers to develop more targeted landing pages with the promise of a higher Quality Score. Thanks to these changes, higher quality landing pages will be ranked higher for lower cost-per-click bids.
- Tip for 2012: Marketers should create targeted landing pages that are relevant to the keywords you’re bidding on, and which provide a positive customer experience.
4. Google SSL– 2011 has witnessed several polemic debates about the state and future of the Internet. Buzzwords like “identity,” “privacy,” and “security,” among others, have acquired new meanings, as the government and tech industry work to determine the rules and boundaries that will govern the Web going forward. Amidst these conversations, Google implemented a significant change to its secure search service. Google now offers search user security with SSL coverage for users logged into their Google accounts or for anyone who goes directly to Google’s encrypted search engine. SSL secures user information during its travels between points on the web, by encrypting user data, rendering it indecipherable to anyone who may intercept it on the web. The changes sparked a lively debate among SEOs about the impact of Google’s security changes on their SEO strategies.
3. Google Freshness Update– At the beginning of November Google introduced new changes to its search algorithm, aimed at making search results “fresher.” The changes were built off of Google’s Caffeine structure and will enable Google to serve fresher results at a faster rate. The changes reportedly impacted 35% of all searches, making it one of the biggest changes to Google’s search algorithm to date.
- Tip for 2012: Before you start feverishly churning out “fresh” content in 2012, it’s important to review what exactly “fresh” content means to your site. Make sure to check out Grant Simmons’ post Does Your Web Content Have an “Expired by” Date? for best practices and strategies for creating relevant, quality content, and David Waterman’s post Categorizing Your Content Creation for Optimal Freshness and Quality, which offers strategies for segmenting content creation into three categories: 1) Evergreen Content, 2) Brand/Industry Specific Content 3) Fun Content.
2. Panda Updates- Google’s Panda Updates forced an important conversation in 2011 about the definition and importance of quality, relevant content online. First introduced in late February, the goal of the Panda Update was to further improve the relevance of Google’s search results, by identifying and affecting the rankings of low-quality sites, e.g., Content Farms. Since then the Panda Updates have fundamentally shifted our definition of “quality content” online and, by extension, SEO itself.
- Tip for 2012: Post-Panda SEO should focus on providing their visitors a quality site experience. Online content is no longer defined solely by well-edited text, but also by its ability to disseminate a brand’s presence and messaging across all earned media channels, e.g., social media, video sites, document sharing sites, etc.
1. Google Acquires Motorola- In August Google announced its plans to acquire Motorola Mobility Holdings for $40 a share, a 63 percent increase on Motorola’s closing share price on Friday prior to the announcement. Motorola manufactures many smartphones that run on Google’s Android platform. At $12.5 billion, the deal represents Google’s largest acquisition. Google’s acquisition of Motorola reflects its investment in the future of Android and mobile marketing.
- Looking forward: Google TV Ads– Google’s acquisition of Motorola may also speak to its growing interest in TV advertising. “The hidden story in Google TV Ads this year in my mind has been the Motorola acquisition. Motorola has about a 13 percent share of set top boxes in the United States,” explained Steve Levitt in a recent interview. “With Motorola they’ll have access to even more usage data from set top boxes, which could be used to help consumers view better advertisements…The Motorola acquisition is a small step towards them assembling the pieces of the infrastructure necessary to establish themselves as a large player in TV advertising.”
What did you see as the biggest news story in online marketing this year?