As we prepare to close out 2015 with a bang, it’s a great time to look back on the past year to review and learn from the top trends and developments to better help your business prepare for the new year. We asked our Marketing services team their thoughts on the most impactful marketing developments of the year and here’s what they had to say:

Google’s Mobile Update AKA "Mobilegeddon"

“In 2014 Google took away keyword data... we complained a lot and talked about how the world was ending, but it honestly made us better. We had to stop obsessing over keywords and focus on more meaningful things like organic traffic and revenue growth. You could say the same thing happened in 2015 with Google's "mobilegeddon" algorithm update in April. Google clearly told the world: if you want to appear in mobile search results, you need to provide a mobile search experience. Again, we complained a lot and thought the world was ending, but it didn’t. It just forced website owners to strongly consider responsive design or mobile versions of their website. The result? The search world is a better place. Mobile searches are better and mobile traffic converts at a higher level, and that trend is not going away. We should expect mobile conversion rates to continue to grow in 2016 and beyond as mobile device shopping becomes a comfortable norm for consumers.”

- Alison Garrison, Search Marketing Director

Search Queries Get Conversational

“As more mobile shoppers get comfortable using voice search and interacting with digital assistants like Siri and Google Now, it's time to rethink the way we structure web content for search-friendliness. Consumers (especially younger users), who do most of their shopping and browsing on mobile devices, are moving away from the standard practice of typing keywords into Google to find the products and content they want. Spoken-language search queries tend to be much more conversational. Hungry customers are asking Siri "who has the best brunch in Austin?," rather than typing "brunch restaurants Austin" into their browsers. SEO and content marketing best practices have been trending toward more natural-sounding content for years, and the rise of voice search is one more reason to make your website as human-friendly as possible. Make sure your site can answer those queries with conversational content and user-friendly navigation!”

- Kavi Kardos, SEO Specialist

RankBrain: The Machines Take Over Search

“Google announced in October that they've been using Machine Learning in their algorithm for months, and it has now become their third largest ranking factor. This form of artificial intelligence allows Google to provide results that better match queries, even if those pages don't use the specific query in their text. This change requires marketers to move away from relying solely on keywords to drive organic visibility, and instead focus on meeting searchers’ needs with all forms of content, especially as RankBrain grows in strength.”

- Julianne Coyne, SEO Team Lead

Cross Device User Experience is improved by Mobilegeddon

“Responsive design has become more important than ever due to this mobile update. This enhances the user experience and allows for easier conversion optimization since experts can analyze one site instead of two: a desktop and mobile version. This improves branding recognition, usability, helps instill trust in visitors, and enhances mobile calls-to-actions (CTAs). It also encourages stores owners to be up to-date with the latest and greatest design and coding”

- Natalie Stambro, Marketing Consultant Team Lead

Social Media Ad Spend Expands Across Networks

“The release of Promoted Pins and Instagram Ads to all businesses was HUGE for SMBs. Merchants were able to get their message, or popular products, in front of customers across several networks; enticing them to visit their site.”

- Mikkayla Casey, SEO Specialist

Social Media & Ecommerce Find New Ways to Increase Conversions

“Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have realized that the future of social advertising relies on a marketer's ability to report ROI and help increase conversions. With the release of "Buy Now" buttons on ads and sponsored posts, these networks are changing the way ecommerce merchants report sales and engagement. The addition of Instagram ads and Promoted Pins only furthered this agenda. It allowed ecommerce merchants to expand their reach to new audiences and level the playing field. As we continue into 2016, we can expect to see more integration between ecommerce and social media.”

- Samantha Rupert, SEO Specialist

Local search is affected by Mobilegeddon

“With the switch to mobile friendliness over several months, it looks like Google is taking its own advice when it comes to local search results. Desktop-dominant seven-packs have all switched to mobile friendly three-packs. This makes it more important than ever to have a strong local presence for your brick and mortar, since people who are on-the-go will have a better chance of finding your store!”

- Adrianne Beutnagel, SEO Specialist

Shopping Feeds - A Year of Hellos and Goodbyes

“Keeping with the trends of the past few years, product listing ad searches continued to grow in both mobile and desktop, but 2015 was also a big year for the shopping feed landscape. This summer welcomed back Bing as a major player with the introduction of Bing shopping campaigns as a paid model. Basing their feed off of Google's program, Bing allows their ads to serve both on Bing search as well as Yahoo Shopping, and offers a great opportunity for merchants looking to gain exposure in a market with lower competition. Some shopping engines took a final bow though, including Pricegrabber, which faced a curtain call as they combined with Connexity (formally Shopzilla) to merge into one of the largest CSEs online. Simiarly, Amazon retired their product ad service, opting to devote energy towards text ads instead. Other changes we saw included Google requirement of GTIN/UPC information for a list of specific brands, as well as a streamlining and updating of their necessary fields. By requiring more feed information, Google is becoming more transparent with product errors, and is continuing to provide some of the best user experiences. The new year looks to be moving in the same direction, with simplified site requirements and updated shipping rule changes for Google set for release in mid-February.”

- Adam Kirsch, Senior Search Marketing Specialist

New Remarekting Channels & Offerings Assist In Conversion Path

“Remarketing and retargeting practices are nothing new to online marketers. In 2015 we saw two very important players enter the remarketing world – Facebook and Bing. Advertisers have found great new successes with these platforms by utilizing the ability to tag and resend marketing messages through multiple channels and network partners. This has assisted advertisers in capitalizing on visitors that have previously exited a site, abandoned a specific category and/or product page, or even performed a custom action. Multiple remarketing campaign strategies work to create larger brand awareness and instill more confidence in buyers, while also increasing overall site revenue. As Facebook and Bing remarketing products continue to grow, advertisers have had greater access to better reporting and attribution models that outline the interaction between multiple marketing channels and their important roles in the conversion path.”

- Chelsea Cepeda, Search Marketing Team Lead

Pay with Amazon Changes the Game for Volusion Merchants

"By adding Pay with Amazon functionality, Volusion merchants are now able to offer their customers greater flexibility in payment methods, reducing yet another hurdle to making a purchase. This feature will help customers make purchases easily, especially while they're on the go."

- Marketing Services Team

Which online marketing changes have affected you most as a merchant in 2015? Let us know in the comments!