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Companies have changed the way they do business since the pandemic. In a new report, Google forecasts which of those changes are here to stay.
Citing search data to back up some of its predictions, Google says these pivots will become permanent:
Using real-time tracking insights to rapidly respond to consumers.
Holding virtual events.
Working from home.
Offering more convenient ways for consumers to buy online.
Google acknowledges all sectors had to rethink their approach to marketing during the pandemic. Business is likely to resume a degree of normalcy when the pandemic is over, but these consumer-friendly shifts won’t be forgotten.Rapid Response to Changes in Consumer Habits
Consumer habits are evolving at a frantic pace throughout the pandemic, which is forcing businesses to get better at tracking real-time insights and responding to the data.
Habit Change: Searching Before Shopping
Consumers are increasingly turning to Google Search to find which businesses have items in stock before venturing out to a store.
Google points to data from the early months of the pandemic. Searches for “who has” and “in stock” were up over 8,000% year over year in the U.S.
Habit Change: Fewer Trips For Groceries
Consumers are limiting their trips out for food, as Google cites a growing search interest in queries like “can you freeze” in the U.K. and “home delivery” in France.
Habit Change: Saving More, Spending Less
As the pandemic continues to take a toll on personal income, many consumers are saving more and spending less on nonessential items.
Google cites data from a Kantar study showing 71% of people in G-7 countries say their personal income had or would be impacted by the pandemic.
The impact to personal income is highest in Italy (85%), the U.S. (75%), and Canada (75%).
A BCG report finds, of the people who expect to change their spending habits, 29% say they’ll save more and 27% say they’ll spend less on nonessential items.
Habit Change: Consumers Will Find Alternatives
Consumer behavior throughout the pandemic shows they’re keen to find alternatives when something they depend on gets taken away.
When schools were shut down, Google says searches for “online learning” went up 400% year over year.
When gyms were forced to close, searches for fitness apps jumped 200% year over year.
When the world became too isolating, people sought to cultivate connections online. Searches that included the phrase “with friends online” went up 300% year over year.
Searches for “watch party” (for example, “youtube watch party” or “private watch party”) grew 400% year over year.
Takeaway From Google
“To better respond to rapid shifts in consumer behavior, brands created real-time insights tracking, elevated insights within their organizations, and established new processes to quickly act on their discoveries. This new reality will ensure brands are positioned to lead with insights.”Virtual Events Will Continue
The pandemic forced all in-person events to cancel, which lead to marketing teams pivoting toward virtual events.
Live events will eventually return, but Google predicts they’ll look different.
Now that consumers have experienced the convenience of attending events from their living room, live events will need to deliver an outstanding experience to draw them back in.Working From Home Will Continue
Google predicts the changes businesses were forced to make to the traditional in-office work model are here to say.
Search and shopping data suggests the pivot to working from home started before the pandemic. People have been exhibiting a growing desire to spend more time doing what brings them joy and less time doing things like commuting.
For businesses, Google says this means continuing to find ways to meet people’s basic needs:
“The in-office work model has likely changed forever, shifting consumer habits and workplace cultures. For businesses, this means finding ways to meet people’s most basic needs and taking steps to foster a more resilient workforce.”Online Shopping is Now The Norm
Ecommerce took off during the pandemic, with some people turning to online shopping for the first time in their lives out of necessity.
Googles notes there was an increase in shopping activity for items people wouldn’t ordinarily buy online.
“There was a meaningful increase in the number of people willing to buy groceries, clothing, and even cars online. In the first six months of 2023, for example, nearly 10% of cars were sold online, compared with just 1% of cars sold online during all of 2023.”
Brick-and-mortar businesses had to pivot toward offering options such as local delivery and curbside pickup.
These new and more convenient shopping habits likely won’t go away after the pandemic.
Source: Think with Google
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Although the pandemic made executing marketing plans and 2023 goals a chaotic process, the good news is that we have a fairly good idea of what you shouldn’t ignore in your marketing campaigns. Now you have the chance to implement new strategies and be several steps ahead in 2023.
Whatever you do, do not lower your promotion budget. It may seem as if you are saving money, but you are dropping it in the long term.
Marketing your business is the way you are going to boost sales and keep your business booming. Cutting prices in your promotion budget will short circuit your small business.
To help you decide what should go into your marketing budget this year, here’s a list of the four marketing trends you shouldn’t ignore.1. Chatbox interactions
In 2023, people started doing everything from shopping to having meetings in front of their screens.
But online platforms underutilized one service: chatbots. This produces the chatbot new ground for companies and is certainly worth an addition to your 2023 marketing budget.
Chatbots operate on AI-based technologies, which enables companies to talk with clients in real-time. This technology may then answer questions and perhaps even tailor-made recommendations to clients’ needs.
For example, Levi’s Virtual Assistant utilizes data supplied by clients to form through Levi’s available styles and purpose the client in the ideal direction. Clients have the ability to use the helper for design ideas and may even get recommendations for the correct pair of jeans.2. Searchability through SEO and social media
SEO is not a quick-fix strategy to create overall growth. It yields fruit over a long period of time, hence the need to keep it in your marketing budget this year.
Purchasing SEO is a smart choice for any company that wishes to flourish in 2023, as it helps boost the visibility of your own content, goods, services, and your company as a whole. However, to get the best outcomes from SEO, then you need to take matters a notch higher by tracking your search engine optimization data and the progress that you make at every stage in time.
Sadly, this component of SEO intimidates a lot of people. Some companies eliminate this hassle by acquiring a search engine optimization consultant to assist in tracking, assessing, and presenting this analytic information in a means which may be emotionally digested.
However, it does not end there. Additionally, it is important to make funding for social networking, as social networking platforms have developed from being important communication mediums into search engines of their own.
Through the pandemic, more individuals are using social networking platforms as approaches to obtain access to particular content. The takeaway from this tendency would be to provide focus on enhancing the searchability of the articles on social networking.
YouTube, for example, is a search engine of its own. Make it a point this year to pay additional attention to your selection of names, tags, and descriptions.
For other social networking platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, you are going to need to obtain the very best hashtag classes for your articles.3. The power of video marketing
Also read: Top 10 Job Search Websites of 20234. Relatability through influencer marketing
In 2023, feelings were high. Brands that could show emotion about handling the lockdown and the following stress made folks feel a bit less lonely. But combined with the demand for new credibility, consumers have shown a desire to join.
It sounds like Google’s algorithm is going to change again, and while I don’t believe in chasing the algorithm, I do find the impacts on our industry interesting, but even more so the impact it has on user behavior. The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of changes to Google to get people to stay on site longer to compete against Facebook may actually be a bad strategy for Google and more importantly bad for people. The article implies Google is slowly moving to an answer engine to compete against Siri, and becoming more semantic in nature. While I think for the end user this may be a great idea, it may actually hurt Google financially and it will be interesting to see how this evolves.A Primary Source of Revenue
Here’s an example scenario. Say I searched for “things to do in Toronto”. Google’s results may include:
A list of recommended hotels.
The top 5 attractions
The geographic size
Other facts about the city.
The hotel list doesn’t really change from local results, but the top 5 attractions, what impact does this have on tourism? Instead of getting a link to a page that may be able to cover a great variety of events, and attractions, we’re now stuck with Google’s Top 5 list. Whether we realize it or not Google is slowly turning our lives into lists, and if you’re not on the list you’re not relevant.
This is why there was a boom in local search when this was introduced. There will be a boom again as it becomes clearer what types of lists Google will focus on. How about entertainment? Or restaurants? Or events? How much of a coincidence that most of these things also have clear schema’s developed?The Impact to Your World
We know changes to the algorithm also have real world impact as there are countless stories of complaints every time the algorithm changes. Users trust Google so implicitly they don’t question if Google still deserves that trust. As Google gets better at recommending answers and things to do, will users actually get dumber? Will users become more homogeneous? Google already starts to suggest what you should search for as you type, and now they display the results.
Even if Google says they see 20% of searches as new and unique, what volume actually makes up the short head? Further is the head growing? Or are there specific categories of searches that are growing and easily classified? I assume we’ll know as we start to see these search results show up.Why is it a Bad Thing for Google to Keep Users on Their Site?
Today we received confirmation from a Google spokesperson that “several minor changes” were made to the core algorithm this month.
“We released several minor improvements during this timeframe, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Journal.
The timeframe with the most volatility for some websites was between December 12 and 14.
Following published reports about the Maccabees Update, Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search, downplayed its significance on Twitter:
Reports calling this a single “update” or calling it “Fred” don’t reflect what we actually said: there were several minor changes that happened as they routinely do in any particular week.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) December 20, 2023
Learn more: History of Google Algorithm Updates.What is Update Maccabees (formerly known as Fred)?
Updates to the core algorithm do not receive a formal name. So they are informally named Fred. However, Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable named it Maccabees in recognition of Hanukkah and the search community followed on.
In a separate tweet, Sullivan was wary of giving this flux period a name because it wasn’t a single, major update:
There was no single update. I suppose some might find it useful to give a name to the general flux period, but I think it’s important to understand there were different changes happening — as happen in any week.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) December 20, 2023What Does a Core Update Mean?
Updates to the core algorithm can be a variety of things.
Here are some examples:
Algorithms that determine the relevance of a search query to a web page
Change in how links to a site are scored. This means, some links begin counting less or other links can count more. This will result in a re-ranking of certain kinds of sites. Sites that depend on a single kind of link can be vulnerable if that kind link is devalued.
Change in how page content is scored. For example, if a search query is informational in nature, then a commercial site may be deemed irrelevant.What Is the Maccabees Update?
First reports of changes to Google’s search results began December 12. The impact is not widespread.
Anecdotal evidence shows that many affiliate type sites have felt it the most. Normal e-commerce sites have not been affected on the same scale but some have reported as suffering drops in traffic (WebmasterWorld Google Update Discussion), but e-commerce sites appear to be in the minority.
It is tempting to view updates to the core algorithm as targeting a certain kind of site. However, as the Google spokesperson said, these changes are meant to improve relevancy. So that means it could be, as noted above, improvements to on-page or off-page relevance signals, and possibly both.
Here are the prevailing theories and counterarguments:
Maccabees Update is mobile-first related: This theory has been dismissed because some have reported that their sites are mobile friendly and others have reported they’ve seen no increase in Google’s mobile bot.
Desktop visibility affected more than mobile visibility: This is an interesting hypothesis but some have reported the opposite. I am inclined to rule this out.What Kinds of Site are Affected by the Maccabees Update?
Given the timing, it may not be far fetched to speculate that this relevancy change might be shopping related, especially given how many affected publishers are in the shopping space.
I’ve been seeing quite a bit of concern in Facebook groups associated with aggressive linking techniques. This isn’t to say that this is a link related issue.
It could be that those kinds of sites share certain attributes related to their sites. It could be that they lack certain on-page or off-page signals of authority.
There are many affiliate sites that are still ranking fine. So it’s definitely not an affiliate related update. But it may be related to something that aggressive sites share in common.
Jim Boykin of Internet Marketing Ninjas told me that he checked and double checked the rankings of client sites and reported, “nothing changing in rankings or Google organic traffic for the past month.”
Casey Markee, of MediaWyse in San Diego offered this clue:
“I did have some sites contact me and they did have drops… Their content and overall user experience though had some holes.”
I polled some affiliate site publishers who had been affected and they shared that both mobile and desktop traffic has been affected. So there you are, a minor update to the core algorithm that feels major to certain sites on the Internet.
If you have been affected and feel it’s not merited, if the site truly does not merit, then history has shown that Google tends to dial back on changes when they find it’s been creating false positives.
All images via Shutterstock, modified by author
Based on its frequency and level of impact, I believe Google’s quality updates (AKA Phantom) are incredibly important to pay attention to. And we’ve seen several quality updates in 2023.
As a quick reminder, the first quality update rolled out in May of 2023 and impacted many sites globally. Google finally confirmed that they did roll out an update and explained that it was a change to its core ranking algorithm with how it assessed “quality”. And with Google always trying to surface the highest quality and most relevant content for users, that’s an incredibly important statement.
Since May of 2023, we’ve seen six significant quality updates (and three in 2023 so far). The updates are global and industry-agnostic (I’ve seen many different types of sites impacted by Phantom). And websites seeing impact during a quality update can absolutely see the impact by subsequent updates (either reversing course, surging more, or declining further). That’s why I believe SEOs and business owners should be keenly aware of Phantom, and its history. Here are my posts about the November and June quality updates. Both were significant.
For example, here are two sites surging and dropping during the November 2023 update, and both saw impact during Phantom 2 as well (in May of 2023):Let’s talk about Phantom. Part of what makes this update so elusive is that Google plays the ‘neither confirm nor deny’ game. What do SEOs most need to know about this update? Should we be worried?
You’re right; Google will typically not confirm changes to its core ranking algorithm. That said, they did confirm the first quality update, and then confirmed “core ranking algorithm changes” during certain subsequent updates.
But when major algorithm updates roll out, you can start to see a connection with previous updates. For example, sites impacted by a new update that also saw impact during previous quality updates. That’s when you can start to understand if the update was indeed Phantom.
Here is an excellent example of a site seeing impact across several quality updates. You can clearly see the connection between them:
But to make matters even tougher for SEOs, Google can absolutely retire Phantom at any point. They can also push it to real-time at some point. And if they do either, then we’ll have no idea that happened and may never see another immediate drop or spike like in the past (with Phantom anyway).
On that note, Panda is now part of Google’s core ranking algorithm. It’s not real-time yet, but continually rolls out slowly across the web. Therefore, we’ll never see another old-school Panda update (with significant movement all on one day). And I believe Google likes it that way. No drama, no media attention, no subsequent analysis, etc.Moz is reporting an “unnamed update” in just the last week or two. (September 2023). What are your thoughts on their report?
Yes, there was another big update starting on August 31, 2023. But I don’t believe we saw just one update. I believe we saw three (two roll out and one being tested).
The first was spotted by Joy Hawkins and it was a local algorithm update. That rolled out about the same time as a core ranking algorithm update (which I believe was another quality update). Many of the sites impacted by the core ranking algo change (that rolled out after the local update) had been previously impacted by other quality updates. And then about a week later I saw sites that had previous link problems (and Penguin problems) spike. Others saw that too, like Marie Haynes.
So Google could have been testing Penguin 4 (or another link-based algorithm). And now that we know Penguin 4.0 rolled out, which Google announced on September 23, that third movement we saw very well could have been Penguin 4 being tested in the wild.
Needless to say, it’s always tricky when Google rolls out multiple algorithm updates at one time, or across a short period. And yes, Google can and will roll out multiple updates simultaneously. My favorite example was the algorithm sandwich in April of 2012. That’s when Google rolled out Panda, then Penguin 1.0, and then Panda again all within a ten-day period. It was crazy.What strategies do you recommend for long-term Google algo update protection? I hear a lot of “just write good content, and you will always be safe!” That isn’t particularly actionable. Is there anything else brands can or should be doing?
Also, technical problems could cause quality problems as well. For example, canonicalization problems, chúng tôi issues, mobile problems, render problems, etc. can all impact SEO. If you are on top of the situation, then you can quickly rectify any issues that pop up. But if you’re not aware of them, then the problems will keep building until you get blindsided. And I’ve received many calls from business owners who have been blindsided by algorithm updates in the past.
So, auditing content that gets published, educating writers, editors, and others that are in control of publishing content, crawling and auditing a site over time, reviewing links on a regular basis to ensure something funny isn’t going on, and then nipping any problems in the bud to ensure they don’t become bigger and scarier problems. That’s how you can protect your site from getting dinged during future algorithm updates.Looking forward, what is the #1 thing SEOs need to be thinking about as we move toward 2023?
With so many changes and new things going on in SEO, it’s really hard to pick the number one area to focus on. That said, I’ll quickly cover two areas that webmasters need to be aware of.
First, if Google keeps rolling out quality updates (Phantom), then webmasters should be keenly aware of those updates and the quality of their own sites. I covered this earlier, and it’s extremely important. We’ve seen quality updates roll out every few months, and the last was early September. So we will probably see another at the beginning of 2023 (just like last year). So keep your eye on Phantom. It’s certainly keeping its eye on you. 🙂
Next, and to state the obvious, mobile is booming. I have some clients with 80%+ mobile traffic. So staring at the beautiful desktop experience you are providing may not mean very much. I would make sure your mobile experience is as strong as possible. Google has a mobile-friendly algorithm, and it plans to incorporate mobile speed into the equation at some point. So I would start taking a hard look at how mobile users experience your website, how fast those pages load, if there are obstacles, etc.
Also, accelerated mobile pages (AMP) started rolling out to the core mobile SERPs on 9/20. I think AMP should be an area that business owners take a hard look at, since amplified pages load near-instantaneously for mobile users and Google is pushing AMP hard. I’m not saying every site should jump on the AMP bandwagon, but business owners should evaluate its performance, how it works for users, how it impacts conversion, revenue, etc.
And then there’s the mobile popup algorithm that’s rolling out in January of 2023. Many sites will be impacted by that, and some probably have no idea it’s coming. If a site is presenting popups or interstitials on the first page from the search results, then those pages could be demoted in the mobile search results. And popups and interstitials are used so heavily now by publishers that the algorithm will definitely impact many pages across the web.
Therefore, I highly recommend that sites evaluate their use of popups and interstitials, make the necessary changes well ahead of January 1, 2023, and then be ready for the algo to roll out. One thing is for sure, it should be interesting.
Don’t forget; you can still buy tickets and come learn more from speakers like Glenn in NYC Nov. 2nd at the TimesCenter in Manhattan.
Screenshots taken by Glenn Gabe Sept 2023
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