“Digital marketing moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and click around once in awhile, it could pass you by.” - Ferris Bueller, 2016

OK, so the quote mentioned above is doctored a little bit from the original. And while we’re not holding our breath for a Ferris Bueller remake or reboot, we are sitting down with a mug of hot cocoa to quietly contemplate what the year had in store for digital marketing services.

Throughout the year, we saw major improvements in Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, as well as Shopping Feeds, Search Engine Optimization and social media platforms. We reached out to some of our staff in the marketing services department at Volusion to get their take on not only some of the major breakthroughs of 2016, but also what we might look forward to in 2017. Read on, and Happy New Year!

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

“2016 brought with it many progressive changes in the PPC world. It was a year of renovation with Google’s removal of right rail ads on SERPs and the reveal of a fourth ad in organic search. Google removed text ads and introduced their successor, expanded text ads, which allot double the characters for merchants to entice prospects. Additional changes included responsive display ads and designated bids for different devices. Google also released the updated Penguin 4.0. Penguin, a filter that crawled sites for spam and held them from Google search results, is now in real-time. The sites are no longer held for months or years after the inorganic links are fixed; they are now quickly re-crawled by Penguin and released once fixed. 4.0 also only devalues the ranking of the certain source of spam, not the entire site. Bing also made some changes. At the start of the year, they announced that they took over AOL search and introduced an ad editor suitable for Mac.” - Allie Schlosser

New ad extensions within Google Search are on the way! In late 2016, Google introduced “Click-to-message” ads, which connect potential buyers directly with sellers in the search browser. The medium is a direct messaging application that provides a pre-written message created around the product or service they’re interested in. Established brands are already raving about their increased conversion rates from this new ad extension. Expect established and growing businesses to catch on to this valuable tool in 2017. Also, promotion extensions are expected to roll out in sometime in 2017. These extensions will present promotional codes and link directly to the promo landing page. They could become an under-the-radar extension that is perfect for holiday shoppers. - Brendon Hoeferkamp

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Even though the official “mobilegeddon” was in 2015, we’re still seeing the aftereffects of this massive change all over search engines throughout 2016. With a mobile-first mentality, it’s more important than ever to consider your own site’s mobile experience. Google’s experimentation with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – a revolutionary new initiative by Google to improve mobile web performance as it pertains to ads according to the official Google blog – and declaration of an eventual mobile index are going to continue to change the way we experience websites into 2017 and beyond. - Adrianne Beutnagel

In line with the mobile-first mentality, the relevancy of content is going to be more important than ever in 2017. Voice search and semantic indexing will be big factors in SEO, which means a site’s content will need to answer those burning user queries and do it in a unique way that’s applicable to a range of searches. - Jacob King

Shopping Feeds

Shopping feeds had some reconstruction this year with their addition to the image search page. Google also launched the 2016 Google Shopping Products Feed Specification Update. This included Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) requirements for all products, an increased minimum image size for non-apparel products, an increased maximum feed size, unit pricing being made available for every product to ensure consistency and a few more restrictions to further benefit product performance. - Allie Schlosser

Shopping Feeds will grow in use by e-commerce companies in 2017. Expect a higher frequency of Shopping Ads to occupy the SERP’s (search engine result page) in addition to Expanded Text ads. If you did not utilize Google Shopping Feeds in 2016, now is the time to take advantage of this powerful marketing tool. - Brendon Hoeferkamp

Social Media

Visual content is more important than ever with the rise of social video and multimedia content. Videos, especially on Facebook, convert better than text or photos. Custom GIFs, slide shows and short, snappy videos are the next big thing for social media marketing! It’s the best way to show off your product in an interactive/exciting way. - Samantha Rupert

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2017 for small to medium-sized business owners. As the digital marketing universe expands, so do the opportunities for success! Consumers will be able to engage in conversation with sellers much more closely, while businesses will be called on to curate their brand’s identity in more engaging and unique ways. We look forward to a new year of possibilities and a new year of conversations.

As Ferris Bueller v2.0 would say: "You’re still here? It’s over....the 2016 recap is over...click Home...go…"