Understanding Digital Marketing Trends – A ZMOT Review of 2019 and 2020 Industry Insights, This Should Be a Fun Ride
The year end is closing in fast, and with 2019 we have experienced some interesting shifts in the realm of digital marketing trends. Every year we see changes in shopper behavior leading (and sometimes following) upgrades in technology. In past years it was an increase in smart phone shoppers or smart-speaker ownership. Sometimes these changes are regulated or dictated by OEM programs. As both dealers and marketers, this requires us to constantly adapt and improve our strategies.
2019 Trends in Digital Marketing Services
Paid Search / Search Engine Marketing
2019 has seen a number of trending topics regarding PPC/SEM. Many of the new marketing options available in Google Ads show promise; car dealers specifically have been increasingly asking about Maps Ads, Brand Name keywords and “owning their SERPs”.
Emphasis on Automation in Digital Marketing Trends
One of the most publicized topics of 2019 is automation. Google has added smarter automation options to many of their platforms. However, more work is needed by Google towards improving all of the different types of Ads available for automation. The accuracy of automated bidding is still largely dependent on the amount of data that has already been gathered in an account – normally through conversions, pixels and tagging. Automated ad types like responsive or dynamic ads may still perform unpredictably at times for campaigns and need to constantly be monitored to hit their KPIs. The Recommendations Interface has gone through many improvements including keyword recommendations, bidding recommendations and targeting/goals. Just like automation, these recommendations need to be monitored and verified, rather than just enabled. The bottom line is that for any automation through Google, we will ensure these changes are right for your business before implementing, and we will constantly monitor the effects of the changes!
Targeting Voice Search
Across the automotive industry, voice search is increasingly talked about. The keywords for these searches vary by tone or query; i.e. “Siri, get me the number for the local Chevy service center” or “OK Google, where can I buy a Chevy?”. Depending on your keyword strategy and business type, it may benefit to look at expanding the keywords you are targeting or adding looser match types to allow for more of these “voice” searches to trigger the appropriate ads.
Hot SEM Topics for Dealers
Hot topics for many auto dealership owners are Maps Ads and Brand Name Term Searches. For Maps Ads, if your location extension in Google Ads is correctly set up, and your Google My Business listing is optimized, Google may (or may not) show a promoted pin for your business in SERP local maps listings. Advertising on business name-related searches is important for a multitude of reasons. Many businesses confuse “owning” their name in SERPs with “owning” every keyword in their niche. The former is incredibly inexpensive per click and per conversion due to high website relevance and high user intent. The latter is a high search impression share strategy for generating awareness and data.
How to Improve in 2020
As automation becomes smarter and more robust moving into 2020, we will become even better gatekeepers to the changes in features and processes, focusing on what is best for our clients. Our role as Paid Search marketers will become even more strategic; Adapting these strategies around contextual voice searches, location or map-based searches, or even reinforced tactics for Brand safety.
Social Media Marketing: Facebook Digital Marketing Trends
When we talk about Social Media Marketing, the first platform that comes to mind is Facebook. Facebook has made some major changes to its platform and advertising policies in 2019; from removing Page Verification Badges, to categorizing Ad Campaigns under Special Categories, Facebook has kept us on our toes. The next few paragraphs explain some of the most significant changes in the platform for 2019:
Facebook Verification Badges, a Thing of the Past!
Late this year, Facebook did away with the verification badges that were once a part of official Facebook business pages. The platform had two verification badge colors: blue and gray. The gray badges were available to all Pages who had verified their information within the Facebook platform; blue checkmarks represented large businesses, organizations, or public figures. This change went into effect on October 30th, 2019.
Additionally, the social media platform revealed that this decision was made after they found that the badges were causing more confusion than were helpful.
Luckily, Facebook has released a statement confirming that this update will not impact the way in which the Pages / Profiles appear in Facebook’s search results.
Special Ad Categories: Facebook Ads
At the end of 2019, Facebook rolled out one of the biggest changes we have seen this year. Campaigns will have to be created under a Special Ad Category, effective immediately. According to Facebook, this is due to the process of purchasing a vehicle; since the process can involve credit, they are requiring that all ads are setup from a Dealership’s business page as ‘Credit Opportunities.’ If they do not comply with the Special Ad Category selection, ads will be rejected and will not run. This also includes non-vehicle related ads, such as: Service ads, Why Buy ads, etc.
Facebook has 3 Special Ad Categories:
- Credit Opportunity: Ads that promote or directly link to a credit opportunity, including but not limited to credit card offers, auto loans, personal or business loan services, mortgage loans, and long-term financing. This also includes brand ads for credit cards that include a specific credit offer. For Example: 0.9% APR for 36 months.
- Employment Opportunity: Ads that promote or directly link to an employment opportunity, including but not limited to part-time or full-time jobs, internships, or professional certification programs. Related ads that fall within this category include promotions for job boards or fairs, aggregation services, or ads detailing perks a company may provide, regardless of a specific job offer.
- Housing Opportunity or Related Service: Ads that promote or directly link to a housing opportunity or related service, including but not limited to listings for the sale or rental of a home or apartment, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, mortgage loans and home equity or appraisal services. You can include the Equal Opportunity Housing logo and slogan to help differentiate your ads as non-discriminatory.
All ads running under a “Special Ad Category” will be required to comply with Facebook’s updated advertising policies. Ads under special categories will have some limited or unavailable audience targeting options; targeting options not available for these types of ads include “Lookalike Audiences” (similar audiences).
- Locations: You can target people by geographic location (such as country, region, state, province, city or congressional district), but not by ZIP code. Specific locations you select will include a 15-mile radius around that targeted city, address or pin-drop. For example, if you want to reach people in the city of Seattle, your audience will also include people within a 15-mile radius of Seattle’s city center.
- Age: You can’t edit this option. Audiences must include ages 18 through 65+.
- Gender: You can’t edit this option. Audiences must include all genders.
- Detailed Targeting: Some demographic, behavior and interest options are unavailable. Excluding any detailed targeting selections is also unavailable.
The “Spray and Pray” marketing strategy is both inefficient and has proven to be expensive, which is why Facebook is buckling down on ad targeting and rewarding businesses who setup more refined targeting. Facebook released a memo stating that they “are also taking action against discriminatory ad targeting in certain business categories, specifically housing, employment, and credit.”
What’s Next in 2020 Digital Marketing Trends?
As we have seen, 2019 was filled with major Facebook platform changes. These changes have helped the social media company position itself in a place where user data privacy comes first. We anticipate additional updates into 2020. In fact, Facebook has already revealed that it will limit the number of ads Pages can run simultaneously. We can expect that this to rollout mid-2020 after Facebook releases a new version of its Marketing API, which will include an Ad Volume API to show the total number of ads running – or in review – per ad account. “We’re implementing ad limits because very high ad volume can hinder an advertiser’s performance. With too many ads running at the same time, fewer ads exit the learning phase and more budget it spent before the delivery system can optimize and ad’s performance,” the company said.
Digital Marketing Trends in Organic Search and Strategies For 2020
Understanding User Intent
Many of the concepts behind building a solid content strategy for SEO value have shifted this year. In the past, you could build content around keywords so that your page and site would rank specifically for those keywords. While these strategies still work in premise, Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving to become more contextually aware – meaning that Google understands the intent behind a search more than ever. This is evident in the “Questions & Answers” results that users see for specific searches: “Where can you…?”, “What is the…?”, “How do I…?” We have always been progressive in our content strategy, so evolving to this next step was already in process for us.
Voice search has been a hot topic for 2019, yet it is hard to connect results as Google does not provide specific data for voice search alone. Third parties have done various analyses of Amazon Alexa/Echo and Google Home/Assistant statistics. Trends have shown the increases of voice search, but with so many options (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Bixby, Google, etc.) the data is spread and unrefined. Voice search varies only minimally from organic search by being a little more conversational, requiring that the pages are as well. By continuing to build content that is structured for user intent and written conversationally, we continue to build quality content that Google serves up in voice and organic search.
Structured data has been at the heart of SEO for several years. Using proper SCHEMA markup helps search engines understand the details or data of a page and how it relates to the content a shopper is viewing. Whether that is an inventory results list, vehicle details page, a model line-up page, or a basic “About Our Dealership” page, we have adopted the strategy early and have continued to expand our strategies. With search engines and the SEO industry embracing structured data, we continue to look for ways to expand our repertoire.
Seasonal Updates to Google
Google is still the largest search engine worldwide with over 75% of the market share. As Google is tied into countless properties for serving results, it’s no wonder that we build, optimize, and analyze Google’s incremental “algorithm updates” throughout the year. Below is a short recap of the updates we saw to have the most impact in the automotive industry in 2019.
March 2019 Core Update
The March 2019 Core Update from Google, in many ways, looked like corrections to the core update from October 2018. Many medical and health sites were impacted drastically, and many news-related sites saw a volatility as well. However, at the local level, very few auto dealers were impacted. Of those that did experience a marginal change, they were related to keywords and Google had trouble understanding shopper intent. In one instance, we saw eight year old articles and blog posts of “conversational content” outrank certain keywords that were ranking high previously. Once the dust settled, those sites and relevant pages had regained their authority in a short amount of time.
June 2019 Core Update
The June 2019 Core Update was a large change that hit many industries. Specifically, the medical, health, and news-related sites. For automotive, while we saw some fluctuation in keyword rankings at the local levels, we never lost any visibility in search. There were a lot of changes in how the keywords were displayed in search that impacted those fluctuations; variations of when the Knowledge Graph or Map Pack were triggered when checking on a week-to-week basis. Our clients continue to have strong rankings, regardless of which way they were displayed.
September 2019 Core Update
The September 2019 Core Update did not have much of an impact for retail as it did for news-based or article-heavy websites. In the automotive space, we saw little to no fluctuation in keyword rankings.
October 2019 BERT Update
The BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) update was constructed
to better understand the nuances and context of words in search to better match those queries with relevant results.
Google has stated that there is not much that can be done to optimize for BERT, but to continue building unique, helpful content designed websites for consumers.
2020 Digital Marketing Trends Most Important SEO Factors
There are several “Best SEO Practices” for 2020, but we believe the most important things to focus on should be optimizing for mobile search and mobile experience. A few of these aspects are listed below:
Optimizing for Mobile and Voice Search
At this time, technology does not yet exist to track rankings or results for voice searches. However, we do have enough evidence to know that voice search is only going to grow in 2020:
- In 2015, Google shared their knowledge that people were using mobile over desktop in 10 countries including the U.S. and Japan
- In 2016, Google announced that at least 20% of searches are voice searches
- In 2018, more than half of website traffic in the U.S. was coming from mobile devices
- In 2018, mobile users spent at least 3.5 hours per day on their phones each day
- In 2018, U.S. Smart Speaker ownership increased by 42% over the previous four years
Take note that Google now predominantly uses Mobile First Indexing when crawling your website. What does this mean? It means that Google will primarily use the mobile version of your site for indexing and rankingand then fall back to the tablet/desktop version of your website for indexing.
Semantic Search or “Intent Optimization”
Several years ago, Google moved away from exact match keyword optimization, now-adays they look for intent or query context rather than just a string of words a user may type into their search bar.
If a shopper uses the search term “Which vehicles have a Hemi engine?” Google will not only return results that include that search phrase, but also variations of the keywords scattered within the page content. Words like “cars”, “trucks”, or “automobiles” are recognized in place of “vehicles”. Or “Hemi engines have” is recognized in place of “have a Hemi Engine”. The result is Google’s attempt to understand a shopper’s intent and return the most relevant results.
When optimizing for Semantic Search, the best practice to follow is targeting a keyword phrase (or a Longtail Keyword) and use it “as is” and mixed up within your content. Google will use – and give you credit for – many of these variations based on shoppers’ intent. For example: “trucks with Hemi Engines” or “cars with Hemi Engines”.
While this is not a new SEO consideration, it is now more important than it ever was when considering 2020 SEO trends.There will be even more emphasis on optimizing for mobile with either an Adaptive or Responsive platform. An adaptive website is designed to recognize the type of device a shopper is using to view the site and deliver content specifically built for that device: smart phone, tablet, or desktop. A responsive website will adjust or “respond” on-the-fly to the device that is viewing the site. Google recommends a responsive design website platform for technical reasons.
But just having a mobile-friendly website is not enough. Now optimizing for speed (minimizing load time) is a key factor to reduce bounce rates and keep shoppers engaged. Google has now included Speed Reporting in Search Console to measure how long before the page renders or a user can interact with the page. Google’s improvements in Lighthouse is quickly becoming the standard which many online optimization tools follow.
Consumer-Targeted, Display, Programmatic and Video Media
The drastic advancements in consumer electronics and tech has created a new consumer that not only demands information at the snap of their fingers but can digest said information in a matter of seconds. The age of static images and standardized display advertising will soon be phased out and make way for in-banner video displays and dynamic creatives. The average attention span for adults can range between 8 – 12 seconds, not leaving much time to capture a shopper’s attention, let alone have a shopper convert on a display ad. Modern day display campaigns need to be easily digestible and in a format that favors the modern-day shopper to convert. As consumer technology improves, new features and capabilities have been made available to advertisers throughout the year.
2020 Digital Marketing Trends in Market and Media Changes
One of the biggest transitions in 2019 advertisers was the implementation of video within their display campaigns. This is not limited to advertising on streaming platforms such as YouTube, but using in-banner videos on web browsers and apps. Consumers are spending many hours of screen time each day watching videos on YouTube, social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Reddit) or other content-based media websites. Advertisers are flocking to YouTube and OTT (Over-The-Top) platforms to capture more consumers and elevate their engagement levels. However, this also has increased the cost to play on these platforms and has also increased their CPA (dependent on the industry). This advertising wave has given rise to the use of in-banner video ads that advertisers can employ at a lower cost. Advertisers have seen as high as 18.4% increase in their click-through rate (CTR) when using an in-banner display ad as opposed to a static display alone ad.
Surge in Dynamic Creative
Another medium advertisers are utilizing is dynamic creatives. Advertisers not only need to deliver an engaging display ad, but relevant messaging to capture shoppers’ interest. For example, if a shopper has been visiting a dealer’s site looking for a new 2020 Chevrolet Silverado, it would not make sense to serve them display specials for a new 2019 Chevrolet Malibu. Dynamic Creatives can deliver custom offers (lease, finance, etc.) on brand new Silverado models to that shopper which would lead to a higher engagement and interest overall. By delivering dynamic creatives, advertisers can deploy a relevant message that is unique to each consumer and can offer a personalized ad experience.
2020 Projections for Display and Video
Technology advancements and platform improvements will continue throughout next year. We expect to see an increase in video-based and programmatic media to engage more shoppers. We expect to see growth with connected displays – also known as Smart TVs – and connected devices that deliver content. Following technology improvements, there will be even more focus on privacy. With many browsers aiming to block 3rd party cookies and trackers, the focus on user privacy will give rise to platforms developing new technologies to retain attribution and tracking. Overall, Display, Video, and Programmatic will become more important than ever for our inter-connected world in 2020.
Recap and Insights on Digital Marketing Trends
Overall, 2019 has led to improvements in our strategies for all channels. Partner services like Google and Facebook continue to add new features and functionality, while consumer behaviors generate more demand for relevant results. With the many digital consumer touchpoints across the web, our objective is to keep our dealers visible and engaged with in-market shoppers. As they are less inclined to fill out forms or squeeze pages but convert through phone calls and chats. Next year will bring even more focus on mobile searching and browsing experiences. This will put more emphasis on automotive websites to be better optimized, use less resources and also retain essential features like Digital Retailing and attribution tracking. The goal will continue to be driving more direct actions that can be attributed to each marketing channel – delivering the best ROI possible.