Digital Marketing Trends for 2017

Published January 12, 2017
In an industry that can change in an instant, a lot happens in a year. And this year was no different.
The year 2016 saw long-awaited updates, new user behavior habits and expectations, and a virtual explosion of technology driven possibilities. We also witnessed the further development of artificial intelligence, a technology whose full potential has barely been glimpsed.
It’s been a heck of a ride, and it’s not over yet.
As we enter the New Year, digital marketers face exciting prospects from emerging technologies. Our audiences are engaging with tech in different ways, from voice search, to increased mobile usage, to virtual reality. As marketers, with expansion of technology comes an ever greater need to track its effectiveness. In this article, we’ll cover four important trends worthy of your attention in 2017.


Digital Marketing Meets Virtual Reality


Voice Search

Siri. Cortana. Amazon Echo. Google Home.

Whether through a smartphone or stand-alone device, tech companies have released a string of digital assistants with increasing voice recognition accuracy. Want to know the weather outside? Play your favorite song? Add lightbulbs to your shopping list?

Just ask your digital assistant.

People are using voice assistants more and more to conduct web searches. Studies from 2016 showed that 20% of Google searches and 25% of Bing searches occurred via voice. What does this data mean to digital marketers?

First, expect to see long-tail conversational queries continue to grow. For instance, say that you’re looking for a Mexican restaurant. When typing a search into Google, you may simply enter a brief phrase like “Mexican restaurants near me.” However, when asking a voice assistant, you may be more inclined to speak in a full sentence like: “What are the best Mexican restaurants near me?” This behavioral difference is important to keep in mind when planning on-site content and paid search keywords.

In response, Google’s Knowledge Graph will pull a top result directly into search results, correlating with the answer a person will hear from a voice search. This emphasizes the need to optimize content around answering questions, as your chance to appear as a featured answer may become more crucial than simply driving people to your site.

Next, look for new voice search advertising opportunities to appear. If someone’s listening for a response and not looking at a screen, they’re not seeing the top ad results that appear for their search. However, what if AdWords allowed you to bid for a verbal answer to be spoken when someone conducts a Google voice search for a popular query? We may not be there yet, but it’s not hard to imagine this as an option in the foreseeable future.

A True Mobile-First World

Every roundup of digital trends for at least the past five years has declared the “Year of Mobile.” While we want to avoid being cliché, each year we see mobile becoming even more predominant than the last. Increasingly, websites are seeing more than half of traffic coming from mobile devices.

Most importantly, in November 2016, Google announced a mobile-first indexing approach. Google will prioritize crawling the version of a site that appears on mobile devices in determining how it should rank it in search results. This change emphasizes the importance of making sure your site offers a proper mobile experience, including legible content that scales to the device being used.

The trend toward using a mobile device as a primary computing device also forces brands to rethink how they connect with a mobile user. Past approaches to mobile have emphasized mobile users being “in the moment” and wanting quick access to information. However, people aren’t just using their phones “on the go”; they’re sitting on their couches at home browsing the web from a phone. They’re willing to read longer form content, as long as the website experience allows for easy reading and interaction on a phone.

Better Attribution

Attribution presents an ever-present puzzle to marketers who want to know how every piece of marketing contributes to revenue. In a world where people may touch a brand by conducting a search, clicking a display ad, reading an article, watching a video or entering a physical venue, the lines blur when determining how much credit to give each channel. Simply tracking the last channel that led to a conversion helps to show some value but fails to provide a complete picture, especially when a long sales cycle is involved.

While the feature has been available since 2014, over the past year Google has improved its tracking of offline attribution by tying ad clicks to in-store visits. This technology ties together ad click history and phone location tracking to determine if people visit a business’s location after visiting their site. Facebook also offers a similar feature for tracking in-store visits.

Moving ahead, expect to see greater effort to tie online activity to conversions and sales, with expanded opportunity for attribution. For instance, AdWords’ attribution change last year finally allowed you to correlate conversions beyond the last-click model so, for example, you can give credit to multiple keywords that contributed to a conversion. As marketers demand better ways to track conversions all the way to an offline sale, watch for Google, Facebook, and other players to continue to improve their tracking.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has proven to be one of the most popular rising trends of the past year. 10 million people have downloaded the app for Google Cardboard, a low-cost method of accessing VR, and 171 million people could be using VR technology by 2018, according to the Motley Fool. With the growth of VR comes new opportunities for digital marketers.

VR allows for more engaging online experiences, all without leaving your couch. Instead of reading a list of specs about a car, you can actually experience sitting in the driver’s seat and going for a test drive. You can watch your favorite band perform from an on-stage perspective or tour the streets of Paris.

While the technology is still very much in the early stage of development, expect to see VR become more powerful and more accessible in the near future. Ultimately brands should think about going beyond traditional content and videos to produce VR experiences that better showcase their work. From a digital marketing perspective, the ad landscape may expand to include options like VR video ad formats and product placement within VR games. While these may not be available yet, anticipating these developments will make you better prepared when they do come to fruition.


From increased adoption of well-established technologies, like mobile web browsing, to emerging technologies, like virtual reality, 2017 holds new opportunities for brands to reach and engage people. Understanding and utilizing these technological opportunities will help to keep your message in front of the current generation. Make sure your website, advertising efforts, and attribution tracking setup are taking full advantage of the opportunities available now and are poised to take advantage of ideas that may become reality sooner than we think.

What do you consider to be the most important trend facing digital marketers for 2017? Tell us in the comments below!


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.