In today’s show, Garrett Jackson reveals his 2016 Digital Marketing predictions. Topics covered include the latest on Google, Facebook and mobile.
Read the transcript:
So Garrett, how are you doing today?
I’m doing pretty good. How are you?
Good, thanks. We got together in preparation for this show, I think it was earlier this week, because we wanted to talk about trends for 2016. Obviously, it’s a new year so it’s a good opportunity for us to reflect on changes that have happened in the past year. And also, obviously, as marketers, look forward to future trends. So I don’t know. What’s the first thing that– Actually, let’s start off with is the biggest, most influential thing that happened in digital marketing, for you, in 2015? Is that too general question to start off with?
It’s pretty broad question.
Soft ball it first.
Yeah, you know to try and summarize the entire year down to one thing. And that was kind of the issue when we were talking about this in the first place, is how do you synthesize everything that you can foresee in 2016 into one thing, or a handful of things? So I guess more than anything, let’s focus on what we think would impact our listeners– small business owners. And just kind of talk about that.
And I think in 2015, I think, the biggest shift that we saw is the continued shift to local– local and mobile. And we’ll see that, too, kind of as we talk through these topics today about what we see in 2016. But all the platforms from the search engines, to social media outlets, to just what we need to do on our websites, the way that we prepare the content, the way that we add keywords, and the things that we consider blogging about, writing about, or even just posting on social media, all of those things should be focused on local. And should also be focused on mobile users.
So I think those are kind of the biggest things I saw this last year, and kind of what I anticipate seeing more of in 2006.
Yeah, you’re right to also point out that that’s a big deal for, especially for smaller businesses, because they rely a lot on their local presence. And especially near the end of the year, I think, we started to see some big changes that really laid out the groundwork for what 2016 is going to look like. Google, obviously. That was one our team has been working quite a bit with some major changes that Google has done with their local reviews.
It used to be that if you wanted to have a review– find one, or leave one– you would go to the Google+ page. And then pretty much overnight, it seems like they dismissed that altogether, and migrated the focus towards– it looks like they’re moving it towards their maps.
Yeah. I think that’s something that’s really interesting. You saw Google kind of making movements to this throughout the year. More and more, they’ve been separating Google+ from all of the other services. I think it’s no surprise to us that the only people that were really using Google+ were the few people that accidentally signed up for it. And then marketers, CEOs, some business people that were just trying to get on the platform because they knew it was going to be the next big thing.
Well I think Google’s kind of admitted, through their movements, that Google+ isn’t really going anywhere as a social media thing. And it’s going to be ironic in two years when someone listens to this and they’re like, he had no idea what he was talking about. I think that you see that Google has just realized that the reviews and information about these locations used to be all on Google+ because that’s where they thought the conversations were going to be happening about these different locations and these businesses. But instead, they realized really where this conversation should be happening is on the Maps app, or just in our Maps location. So google.com/maps. Or all of that content that they have in the Maps section of their products.
And I think you see that move because, first of all, where we spend our time when we talk about businesses, when we’re researching businesses or trying to find them, is on our phones. And typically, we access that through a map. We’re searching for a location– restaurants near me. Or we’re asking Siri, or we’re using Google Now to try and figure out exactly which restaurant I should go to in this moment.
And so instead of being on social, which is kind of a disconnected thing– I’m not on social necessarily to find the restaurant– but I am on Maps to be able to find a restaurant, to make a decision right now. So I think it’s actually just a really good move on Google’s part. It’s terrible for us, because all of our reviews blanks broke in a matter of days, which was, thanks Google. That was really nice.
But at the same time, this is the right shift. I think it’s getting us more focused on this. And you and I were talking previously about something that’s really interesting that they’re doing. They’re rolling out this new aspect to their Google review service called Local Guides.
Essentially what they’re trying to do is kind of play into the Yelp gamification of reviewing places. So you know I can go on to Google, look up the restaurant I went to, write them a rating, a review, leave them a message. I can add photos. I can take pictures of the outside of the restaurant, of my food. All these things, and upload it onto Google on the Map section now. And I get points for it. So by doing these actions, I get a certain number of points. And then I think they have it separated out by tiers.
So if I get to 20 of these different points that they award me, then I get cool, new Google product news and information. So they keep it kind of not that awesome at the beginning levels. And it increases there until you get to about 100, 500 points where they start involving you in Google product releases, and letting you know about things that are coming out. They expand your Google Drive stores.
That’s a really cool one.
Yeah, I saw that one. I was like, maybe I’ll start writing reviews now.
I wrote five the morning that I read that article.
You’re only like one– oh no, math– 1/10 of your way? That’s not good math. Someone’s going to have to check me on that.
I’ll just Google it after this.
OK. But I think the gamification’s a great idea. And I think that’s why Yelp has been successful if it’s been successful at all in keeping and maintaining this audience is because it makes you feel really good that you’re a local expert. When you have that banner on Yelp– and I forget what the Yelper title is for like an extreme Yelper.
It’s Yelp Elite, I think.
There we go. We’ll call it that. Yelp Elite, or whatever the highest title is, it makes someone who enjoys going out to these restaurants, these venues in their local area, and giving their advice, or recommendation, or critique of these things. Makes them feel special, makes them feel involved. And I think Google, you just see them doing the same thing.
Foursquare has a version of this too. I don’t know how many people are still using Foursquare. But they used badges a lot, I think. And that was one of the first times that I remember seeing badges. And now I see them– I mean, they’re everywhere. And it’s funny that we talk about gamification in this, because the other place that it comes to mind is like, my Xbox account, or something like that. Where I’m actually playing a game and getting the same thing that I get from interacting with something on social media, which is why it works.
It makes it fun, and so there’s incentive just in the activity, even before you get the really cool incentive. I don’t know how much the extra drive storage is, but an actual, practical incentive.
Yeah. Well and I think this is something important for business owners to think about, because now you’re incentivizing a whole group of people that weren’t really writing reviews before to go out there and start writing their critique of things. And typically, this is going to be a younger audience. I mean like you’re saying, we’re talking about Xbox Live accounts and we’re talking about gamification. So you’re going to see some younger people coming online, venting their frustrations about the recent experience they had, because it gives them one more experience point to the their leveling up as a warlock, or a wizard, or something– whatever Google’s going to decide they call these different levels.
I’m crossing my fingers on wizard.
I’m really hoping for warlock. So the consideration just needs to be made that this is going to be a younger audience that’s coming in. It’s not necessarily incentivized by a bad experience or a good experience. They’re just incentivized because Google is incentivizing them to write these things in the first place. And you’re going to have amateur people taking pictures with their smartphones of your business and uploading them to Google. They’re going to be sharing reviews on social websites and getting that out there.
I think it’s just good to consider this younger demographic that you’re going to be working with, whether your business is necessarily tailored towards younger people or older people. In a lot of cases, we still see that even if I go with my parents to a business where they’re making the purchase, I might still write a review, because if they had a bad experience, I might be the voice for them instead of them having to write the review.
That’s a really good point.
We just need to remember that millennials are scary with their social media power. They’re not afraid of complaining. I mean, I’m not afraid of complaining on Twitter if I have a bad customer experience because I know I’ll get a response. And we just need to keep that in mind, because these are going to show up in search results. This is not going to be an avoidable thing where we can try and move it down. Google is going to be putting these reviews out in the open for anyone to be able to see.
So one of the other things that you brought up here relates to another change that Google is making. So you were talking about standing outside, taking a picture of the business, or the food, or whatever. When you and I were talking about this, we were thinking that this is going to be kind of a must-have for 2016, is mobile optimization for websites and really understanding why Google is doing that kind of says something about where they’re going. But also about the way people are using it.
Google is ranking sites that are mobile optimized way better than sites that are not mobile optimized, because people are looking more and more on their mobile devices to see websites. But there’s another factor too that– maybe we can touch on these as two separate topics but– they’re trying to keep people on their apps, on Google’s app, either the Google app itself or maybe the Maps app, because they want to keep you off of other apps because everyone’s looking at the web on their mobile apps now. I said “apps” enough there, didn’t I?
But do you see what I’m saying? It’s like–
I know. I agree with you.
It talks about both sides of that coin.
Yeah. When it comes to the shift to mobile, it’s not even a shift anymore, I feel like. I think that it’s important for business owners to just realize whereas mobile optimization and remembering to have a mobile responsive site was kind of being ahead of the curve, it’s not the curve anymore. If you don’t have a mobile responsive site, you’re kind of dead in the water.
Google is going to penalize you. People aren’t going to have a good user experience when they visit on their phones. And what we see is the population has smartphones. You can’t deny that that’s where they’re doing the majority of their research, the majority of their decision-making. Yes, they’re still using their desktop computers to be able to do that as well. But the majority of your time is going to be spent on your mobile devices.
This is where I think it’s really important to think about mobile first website design. And this has been kind of more of a discussion, especially this last year, that you can’t just create a really great desktop experience and then have your web developer, or your web designer, as an afterthought say oh, why don’t I just double check this on mobile and see if it looks any good? That’s kind of how things have been done previously, or at least in my experience with web developers or web designers, has been that the mobile site, if it looks good, that’s great. But the desktop, it looks awesome so we’re good to go.
And I think that’s important for a business owner to take a look at your website. Pull it up on your phone right now, see what it looks like. Does it function? Does the menu work? Does the navigation move smoothly? Do you want to scroll down to the bottom of the page? Does it give you what you want?
And with mobile users, that’s so important to think about. Because when I pull out my phone, I’m doing two things– and this might just me but– playing Angry Birds. No, I do play Angry Birds though. But I mean, it’s first research and then taking action. I mean, first is the desktop. The phone is such a tool of action. You are making a decision immediately. Am I going to call? Am I going to email? Am I going to tweet? Am I going to post on Facebook? I am totally positioned to make a change, make a phone call, send a text message, do something. I have the complete access to be able to make a choice.
And so what goes before that is the research. So research and then action. And so when we do mobile first design, what we’re really considering is when people hit this website, when they come to my business, am I first giving them information that they’re looking for first off, to be able to try and make that decision? Are you the best in this specific area? Do you have the best prices? Are you the most conveniently-located?
And then we give them an immediate call to action, or some way to make an action or to make a choice. And that’s kind of what we talk about with mobile first design. It’s not only is this site functional? But we’re also thinking in the thought patterns that a mobile user is going to use versus a desktop user.
You’re right about that. I think about when I am curious about something, I’m usually on the go and I just pick up my phone before I think to even look for my laptop now so I can figure out whatever it is I’m interested in. Like for instance, if I cook something at home and I’m looking up a recipe, I’ll almost always look it up away from my computer, on my phone. And then if I like it, I’ll send it to my computer so I can use the bigger screen. But I won’t actually search for it that way.
But that process of searching for an answer on your mobile phone is something that Google is increasingly aware of too. And so we’ve seen evidence of this because we see a lot more cards, which of course are the– I guess they look just like cards. How would you describe them? Like an excerpt that’s supposed to be the exact answer for what you’re asking, right? Or what you’re looking for.
Yeah. I think that most people probably run into these without really recognizing that they’ve seen them. If you type in an actor’s name onto Google, on the right-hand side of the page, it will pop up with a photo of them, a list of the movies they’ve been in, a couple snippets from Wikipedia, and then a list of the movies, maybe little screenshots of different movies that they’ve been in.
If you search for a sports team, like what was the most recent score for the Seahawks, it will pop up with a little section at the top of the page and show you directly there what the score is of the current game that’s going on. So Google basically is feeding information to people that they’re looking for immediately. And so that’s what we’re referring to when we’re talking about cards.
So if I’m searching for maybe something related to dizziness, previously what Google would do is it would just display all of the local websites and all the most pertinent websites that talked about dizziness and explain all of that to me, via those links. And instead Google is taking WebMD’s answer in response to that, they’re selecting a snippet or an excerpt of that text. And then they’re just putting it directly under the search results, and then just using your business as a citation.
So this is interesting, because it puts business owners in an interesting kind of situation with Google, where you’re the one that’s generating the content. You’re the one that’s going and writing this material that’s out there. And Google’s kind of lifting that out of your website, and putting it out there for all people to see.
It’s kind of a dual-edged sword, in that if you get that card, you have the best answer that’s out there. Google is recognizing that you can answer this distinctly and in the best way possible. It’s adding a lot of authority to you, because you’re at the very top of the page on Google. You’re listed as a citation.
But the other concern is that if Google answers that question with your snippet right at the top of the page, what incentive is there for that user to go through and click to your site, and then try and make a purchase decision after that point? So I think it’s a good notification to you that Google thinks that you have great content on your website. But it is kind of an interesting situation to find yourself in with Google.
One of the things that I think is really interesting about Google’s philosophy, obviously they’re a business so what they care about is making money. I mean, there’s no way to beat around the bush on that. That’s obviously why they do everything that they do.
They do a good job of that, too.
They do a great job making money. But as far as philosophically, there’s this quote that I read the other day in the Slate article that you and I were talking about, where one of the engineers that was working on Google search team, he referred to their goal with Google to make it into the Star Trek computer.
And I kind of love that, because when I was a kid, I always wanted to be able to ask a computer something. It’d just be like, oh hello, Garrett. Here is what you should do with your day today. Or warn me I was going to crash into something, or something. Just that the computer would be involved in my decision-making all the time. And while it is part of our decision-making right now, and we do have Google Now, and we do have Siri, it’s still the beginning stages of this.
And every time they talk about it– these engineers at Google– they talk about it as they want it to be a fully immersive experience with the computer, where the computer is feeding you, anticipating your thoughts and your needs. So on a Thursday night, I’m hungry. And before I really get hungry, Google says, hey you know what? You usually like Italian on Thursdays. So there’s this great place around the corner, and you usually like restaurants that kind of have more of a hipster feel to it so you’ll love this place. And it’s kind of guiding my experience without me having to make any choices, necessarily, besides OK, Computer. I trust your decision.
And that’s where Google is trying to head with all this. With the cards what they’re trying to say is, hey you want this piece of information? You want an answer immediately? Here’s the answer. Right now when I ask Siri about a specific historical question, she’ll pop up and say, here’s an article I think that will help you. It’s not giving me the exact answer. And the cards are kind of seeking out to give me an immediate answer for me to be able to make a choice, or be able to end my research journey right there on Google.
Two things on that. One is tangential. I recently changed Siri’s voice so that she’s now British, and it’s the best thing I did all year. If you haven’t done it yet, you will feel like a million bucks when you do.
I’ll have to try that.
Oh, I love it. Second thing is we’ve talked about Google a lot. And one of the things that I’ve read a lot about with them focusing on this, and especially trying to do things that make mobile search better is they’re really competing with Facebook. Facebook had– I don’t know how long ago, but it seems like it was a couple years ago– they really started to experiment with their search bars being able to do things a little bit more than just finding a name in your Rolodex of friends on Facebook.
And so now you can do stuff like I don’t know, friends who live within 30 miles of me. Or friends who like I don’t know, heavy metal, or whatever it’s going to be. And it’s able to think a little bit more. And as that’s expanding and Facebook is getting better at it, they’re getting more traffic. And Google, of course, wants you to stay on their app.
So they’re trying to do things like the cards and focus on all these changes that keep you into their app so that you don’t believe that, and give Facebook an opportunity to take money that Google wants, like you said.
Yeah. It’s been interesting watching Facebook’s movements on this too. Like you’re talking about that search functionality is called the Knowledge Graph that they have built into it. And it’s great for if I’m going to throw a Walking Dead season finale party, I can just search in there “friends who watch Walking Dead”. And I can see who’s there. I can invite them out to the party.
I’m missing my invite for that, by the way.
Yeah, you weren’t invited.
I just want to talk to you about that. Sorry. This is on the air.
It’s interesting, because you have access like that. Most people don’t know that that functionality is there. And it can obviously be used for very interesting reasons, like political things. I was laughing the other day, because one of my friends was like “search and find out which of your friends like Donald Trump” just so you know. So you can do different things like that with it. And I think that’s what Facebook’s benefit is going to be over Google in this specific area, is that Google doesn’t necessarily have you admitting your likes and your interests out in the open. Facebook kind of tricks you into just saying, hey everybody. This is what I’m interested in. This is what I love. And that’s what they capitalize with advertising. But they can also capitalize on that with search.
Google’s mostly just looking at the specific user. What you like, what you’re doing, what your choices are. And it can’t really capitalize on what your friends, or what your inner circles are involved in. As far as the business end of this is focused, that’s why it’s important to maintain that presence both on Facebook and Google, and all these different places. But specifically those two.
Facebook, that’s where you’re going to see a lot of that social confirmation, where if I’m searching for a hearing thing– and this is what we work with right now with our team. If I’m searching for a hearing care practice and I just want to know which of my friends have been to a place, I can just search on Facebook and find which my friends like a hearing practice, and be able to figure out which ones seem reliable. And it’s word-of-mouth confirmation.
Or I can go to Google and just see which users, based on the reviews that they’re getting, are giving that as well. But it’s important to be both there, because you get that from your own friend’s circle who is confirming that this is a good purchase decision. And then also on Google, for Google telling you through all these other users that it is a good decision.
So one of the other things that Facebook has done recently is they’ve added this feature to it called Instant Articles. And I saw this pop up the other day on my phone when I was scrolling through my News Feed. I saw this little lightning bolt pop up, and it said, instant articles are faster. A really cool, little lightning bolt. You want to click on the ones with lightning bolts. They’re super cool.
Every time, it’s brand new.
Every single time. So I clicked on the article and it does load faster. But it also does some unique things. They have unique video abilities built into it, and they also have a lot of features that are just inherent inside of the app. So essentially what they do is instead of sending you when you click on that link to the website of the person who wrote the article, or the business who wrote the article, it’s just preloaded into Facebook. So it loads quickly. It’s right in front of you. You can access everything inside of it. And then when you close out of it, you don’t have to try and navigate back to Facebook. You’re just still inside of Facebook. So you’re able to read articles there.
I saw National Geographic do, I think that was their demo article that they showed how it worked. It’s a pretty cool feature. And it’s interesting. It kind of falls into this concept I’ve been reading about called digital sharecropping, where essentially, you are given a specific plot of land on Facebook’s real estate and they say, hey everybody why don’t you come and use this? It’s yours. It’s completely yours. In reality, it belongs to Facebook. You’re just coming in and farming a very specific plot or section of it by adding this content to the site.
And really what you’re doing is you’re enriching Facebook. But at the same time, you’re reaping some benefits and some rewards from it from getting users to read the content, to engage with it. But I do think it’s important to remember that it doesn’t belong to you. You are going to be subject to whatever parameters Facebook sets up for it. But it is something that’s new that they’re rolling out.
So one of the reasons that they’re focusing on this is because it’s a better user experience. Their concerned about website load time. They don’t know if your website’s going to function very well on mobile. So instead of opting to send you to another website, they just keep you there because they know they can control the experience. And at the end of the day, Facebook has nothing else but their user experience with you. So they keep you there in order to keep you focused on the content that’s there.
You’re scrolling through your News Feed already. That’s where a lot of people get their news sources from, is from Facebook itself. So by keeping you on the app, you aren’t tempted to go somewhere else and see other advertisers. Facebook keeps you with their advertisers and focused on that.
And for the business owners, the nice thing too is because of the fast loading times and having that content there, is that you’re becoming part of Facebook’s integrated experience. And so you’re adding content that lets users be able to have the best experience possible. So like I said, there are some cool features to it. It is worth taking a look at to see if it’s something where you can write some really good articles and get that content up there. Plus you get that little nifty lightning bolt. I wonder how long they’ll keep that going.
You’ll keep clicking it though as long as it’s there.
It’s really cool. Like every time I see it, I gotta click it because it might have something cool behind it. It is an interesting trend and I think we’ll see more of that happening on other platforms as well, whether that’s Twitter or–
Twitter does have their own lightning bolt, actually, right? I don’t know remember what the service is called, but it’s their way of– it’s like a trending–
Oh, is it the Moments section?
Yeah, Moments is what it’s called.
Yeah. I thought that was really interesting. It just basically summarizes all of the trending topics that are going on. I actually use it a lot just to kind of find out what the Twittersphere is obsessed with during the day. It’s fascinating what things make the top list. But it is a nice little synopsis of what’s going on. I don’t think it’s going to necessarily work for a lot of small business owners.
It’s interesting though to see that in their own way, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are maximizing this way of trying to really improve the reason that you will want to stay on their platform, because they’re fighting against keeping you from going to any of the other two.
Yeah. And I think this is where it becomes really important to remember what belongs to you and what doesn’t as a business owner. My website, it belongs to me. As long as I’m building it on my own and I’ve got my own developer, it is mine. And that content is there. I can change it. I can rework it. I can do whatever I want with it.
When I have a listing on Google’s Maps page, that doesn’t really belong to me. Yes, I am the business owner. I can add stuff to it. I can claim it. But it’s still Google’s. I have to ask them permission to have it. And that’s why it gets so frustrating sometimes if you don’t have access to it, or someone else has access to it and you have to clear that up.
And that’s where it gets interesting with Facebook and these other platforms too. As they start moving more of this content onto their own platform and they say, well technically this is our content. That’s where really understanding the terms and agreements of the platform that you’re using is important to just know where the content is always going to reside, if it’s always going to belong to you? Can they run other advertisers’ content along with it? If I own a t-shirt company, I don’t necessarily want Facebook to be running articles from other t-shirt companies on that article that I wrote, or after they read that article. So kind of some considerations to take into account.
OK Garrett, so this– you’ve done this before. This is going to be the hard part, though, because we covered a ton of ground in expectations and things where our head is at for 2016. But can we do top three takeaways from this huge pile of stuff?
You make it sound so appealing. Huge pile of stuff.
So from this huge pile of stuff today, three main takeaways. First, local. Everything needs to be focused on your local content, your local listings, and making sure that you have that all in tact and together.
Second would be a focus on mobile, making sure that your website is not only mobile optimized, but that you’re thinking mobile first, because that’s where most of your experience is going to be.
And then I would say third, and most important, is going to be a continual look at your website design. And making sure that you are providing the best experience possible. I think more and more, the web is going to look the same, but by having it set up in a similar way that makes sense for conversion, it’s going to lead to more customers for you.
Great. You summarized that way better than I could have, actually. I had no idea where to start.
Not really sure about that. I’m already second-guessing myself.
Well tune in next time, when Garrett gives his second roundup. Garrett, thanks again for coming on. You’re our first return guest, and I’m really glad to have you back on here. We’ll see you again.
Thanks for having me.