Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

Published January 12, 2016
The year 2015 saw incredible growth in the digital marketing world, from ever-increasing mobile use to expanded capabilities for tracking web users. Whether you’re an in-house marketer or a member of a digital agency, this is an exciting time, and it’s important for you to stay aware of upcoming digital marketing trends. It will not only affect how you optimize websites for organic search, how you build sites moving forward, how you track data and how you create online advertising campaigns, it will give you more insight into the most important marketing component of all – your audience. In this article, we’ll cover a few of the top marketing trends we’ve seen on the web this past year, as well as what marketers should be focusing on in 2016.


Digital Marketing Trends


Mobile > Desktop

Mobile is certainly no new trend, but last year we saw mobile search traffic officially overtake desktop volume. That’s right, it finally happened, and our own analytics data confirms it as we continue to see more sites in which more mobile and tablet users visit than those from desktop.

With mobile traffic rising, Google made the decision this year to crack down on mobile usability through its Mobilegeddon update. Since the update, if you fail to provide a proper mobile experience, you’re not only risking losing half (or more) of your users, but you also risk losing rankings in search results. Earlier in the year, we wrote about assessing mobile usability to ensure you’re complying with Google’s guidelines and giving users an optimal experience.

As we head into 2016, keep an eye on the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, a Google initiative to deliver articles to mobile devices in a faster loading format. In addition to Google search results, social networks such as Twitter plan to link to articles using this new format.

Understanding this growth of mobile, you should take into account mobile users both in optimizing your site for organic search and in building ad campaigns. Make sure your site scales across mobile devices, and create ads keeping in mind the appeal to people searching from mobile devices. Beyond the mobile web, we’ve also seen updates in the promotion of mobile apps.

Better Mobile App Tracking & Promotion

As mobile usage continues to rise, marketers look to ways to better promote their mobile apps online. Both Google and Bing can index apps in search results, while Google now crawls content directly within Android apps. If you’re promoting an app, you should make sure that you’re taking into account opportunities such as deep links from Google or Bing’s app linking feature.

On the paid advertising end, ad platforms have introduced new ways to push mobile apps. For instance, AdWords is beta testing a Trial Run ad format that lets you preview a game by playing it within an ad.

One User, Many Devices

This year has also seen an increase in the multi-screen user: the same person moving from a laptop in the office, to a smartphone on the go, to a tablet at home. In turn, marketers need to adapt to track that individual as they switch among multiple devices. Thankfully, advertising and analytics platforms continue to develop better ways to target the user, as opposed to simply targeting the device.

The Google Analytics User ID feature allows you to assign a unique identifier to a person, so they’re tracked as the same individual whether logging in from a phone or laptop. This allows you to to track separate sessions as occurring from the same user, providing a more accurate picture of data.

Google AdWords has implemented cross device conversion tracking as well, allowing you to estimate website conversions that occur from people who click an ad on one device and return to your site from another. Identifying people through characteristics such as being logged into their Google accounts allows AdWords to better track down to the level of the user, and gives you a more accurate picture of what’s happening on your website.

Social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter also let you target the actual person, based on their profile data, on any device they may be using. Since people log in to interact on these platforms, you can easily reach them and identify interests and demographics based on the information they provide.

Cross device tracking ultimately comes into play in your reporting of results from the web. Using data available from Google Analytics and ad platforms, you should emphasize the fact that “mobile users” and “desktop users” are not separate people but often the same people returning to the site from different devices.

Rise of Voice Search

Ever since Apple’s introduction of Siri began encouraging users to search via voice a few years ago, opportunities for voice search have been ever increasing. Today, Google allows users to “speak” a search from any device, with its “OK Google” feature simplifying the process on a phone or tablet. In 2015, Microsoft integrated Cortana heavily with Windows 10, encouraging users to initiate searches by talking. Finally, the Amazon Echo, also released this year, has been a popular novelty purchase, always listening to its owners who may ask a question and start a search.

Voice search introduces a paradigm shift in thinking about how users phrase their searches. Instead of typing in a series of words, they’re speaking what’s likely to be a conversational phrase. For instance, instead of typing “furnace repair,” they may say, “Who can repair a furnace in my neighborhood?”

In addition, voice search has increased the potential for users to search via Bing instead of Google, both through Windows 10 defaulting to Bing for browser or operating system searches, as well as Siri initiating searches through Bing.

Growth of Tag Management

Google Tag Manager provides an increasingly popular way to simplify placement of tracking tags without having to continually edit a website’s code base. After placing one simple code on your site, you can use the Google Tag Manager interface to then deploy other tags, such as Google Analytics, Google AdWords remarketing, or the Facebook audience pixel.

In 2015, Google rolled out Tag Manager 2.0, offering a more intuitive user interface and more options for customizing tracking tag placement. This tool is perfect both for basic users looking for a simple way to roll out analytics and ad tracking, as well as for advanced users looking to deploy custom scripts onto the site.


From better tracking capabilities to the emphasis on mobile usage and cross-device tracking, 2015 has driven new opportunities in the digital marketing realm. Marketers can act on these opportunities by taking advantage of new ad formats, reviewing usability on mobile for all sites, updating tracking to account for cross device users, and testing a tag management solution to simplify tracking. By staying on top of current trends, you can stay ahead of competitors and place your marketing efforts in front of today’s digital technology users.


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.