Digital Marketing Trends from 2016 and What to Look For in 2017

The global performance marketing agency Merkle recently released its Digital Marketing Report for Q4 2016. The report is riddled with a data on the biggest trends, changes and challenges for digital marketers and advertisers. Analyzing data reports like these help marketers develop better strategies so they in turn can help businesses (big and small) navigate the complexity of utilizing multiple digital marketing outlets to increase revenue.

Merkle’s report overviews paid search, organic search, comparison shopping engines, display advertising and social media advertising. Using only one of these may not be enough, but through strategy and testing you can find the right balance that is the right fit for your business.

The agency reported growth in paid search, social media and a boost in Google’s Product Listing Ad traffic. Here are some stats from the end of 2016 from Merkle’s report:

Paid and Organic Search

  • Google partners generated a larger share of Product Listing Ad (PLA) traffic than text ad traffic for the first time ever. PLA spend grew at least 30% every quarter in 2016 compared to less than 15% growth each quarter for text ads.
  • Text ads in third and fourth position at the top of Google results drove nearly 5% of phone text ad clicks in Q4.
  • Local Google search ads, primarily from Google Maps, also continued to ramp in Q4, driving over 4% of brand keyword clicks on phones in December among brick-and-mortar advertisers.
  • Spending in paid search on Bing Ads and Yahoo Gemini platforms was down compared to 2015.
  • Organic search traffic share has lost the most ground recently to social, email, and paid search, rather than direct site visits.
  • Google search ad spending increased to 19% Y/Y in Q4 2016.
  • Bing Product Ad spending increased 16% in Q4, following a 12% decline in Q3.
  • Phone share of paid search clicks rose to 47%, up from 33% a year earlier.
  • Tablet click share fell to 9%,half of its all-time peak. Desktop share of paid search spend rose to 63%, as advertisers moved Google spend from tablet to desktop.
  • Organic search visits fell 7% Y/Y overall in Q4 2016, but phone organic search visits grew 13% Y/Y. Desktop organic search visits fell 15%, down sharply from a 7% decline in Q3.
  • Google organic search visits were flat Y/Y in Q4, after falling by as much a 6% in mid-2016.
  • Yahoo organic search visits declined 28% Y/Y in Q4.
  • Phones and tablets drove 51% of organic search visits in Q4 2016, up from 45% a year earlier, but email, social, and paid search all generated a higher share of traffic from mobile.

Social Media Advertising

  • Social media sites produced 3% of all site visits in Q4 and 4% of mobile site visits. Facebook continues to dominate social media referrals, while Instagram has become the fasting growing major source of social media traffic.
  • Facebook ad spending rose 65% Y/Y in Q4 2016, up from 63% growth in Q3. Spending on the Google Display Network (GDN) rose 41% Y/Y in Q4.
  • Facebook spend grew 65% Y/Y in Q4, with 59% of all Facebook spend going to ads on phones and tablets, nearly double mobile’s share of paid search spending due to the rise of mobile usage.

This year should continue to show a steady growth in paid search, display and social ad spend with a majority of traffic coming from mobile devices. (Last year, more searches were done on the go on mobile than on desktop.) Also with Google’s Product Listing Ad bypassing text ad traffic at the end of 2016, it is likely businesses will continue to spend more here due to the increase in traffic.

Sometimes, it can seem daunting to worry about all the changes going on with all the platforms that are at your business’s disposal. A smart and efficient strategy can make a difference in growing business, but it’s all about finding a strategy that’s right for you. There isn’t just one strategy that fits all—it depends on the business goals, who the audience is and tapping into that market using different outlets (social, paid search, display ads, product listings or email marketing) to see what will work best to reach those goals.

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