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Biggest Digital Marketing Game Changers of 2016 & What to Expect in 2017


You may be ready to get a fresh start with the New Year and see what opportunities 2017 has to offer—but not so fast! If you really want to be successful in the year ahead, it’s important to reflect on all the changes that have occurred in online marketing so far—and what it means for your business moving forward.

To help you succeed in the New Year, our Internet marketing company has put together an overview of 2016’s biggest Internet marketing game changers, and the top trends to prepare for in 2017. Learn about the biggest trends and insights for the following categories: Website Design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Paid Search Advertising, Social Media Marketing, and Video Marketing.

Website Design

Biggest Game Changers of 2016

Continued Importance of Mobile-Friendly Web Design – Responsive websites are designed to automatically adjust to various devices and screen sizes for better user experiences on smartphones and tablets. Mobile-friendly websites were an important priority for businesses in 2016, especially with Google’s rollout of a mobile-friendly algorithm boost following 2015’s Mobilegeddon. The 2016 boost gave mobile-compatible websites higher rankings in mobile Google searches. Google also started experimenting with a mobile-first search index, which is further discussed in the SEO section.

Greater Implementation of Animation & Video – Video is expected to make up 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020, according to Cisco. More businesses have been taking note of this trend and are incorporating animation and design elements into their websites to make them more interactive and engaging.

Key Takeaways: Mobile-friendly websites are now the standard, not the exception. Businesses that fail to make their websites compatible with mobile devices could see their online visibility affected. Also, web designers should embrace animation and video as an integral web design element.

Our Web Design Predictions for 2017

“As we enter into 2017, more designers and businesses are going to shift their focus from simply creating mobile-friendly websites to designing sites with a mobile-first mentality. This will entail designing the website with mobile in mind as the primary device and desktop as the secondary device. It will also continue to be important for websites to create unique and engaging experiences for online users, who encounter a flood of digital content every day.”

—Jeffrey Licas, Vice President of Creative Design, Scorpion

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Biggest Game Changers of 2016

Possum – In September, local SEO professionals noticed some big changes in Google’s “Local Pack” and Google Maps results, and they dubbed the update “Possum.” The update changed Google’s filter of local results, causing businesses outside of city limits to now be able to rank in local results related to those cities. The update also removed results that appear to be duplicates, and it makes a number of other changes that impacted local results.

Penguin 4.0 – Google officially launched its real-time Penguin 4.0 algorithm update in September. (Penguin cracks down on spammy optimization practices, such as unnatural link schemes.) The update made Penguin a part of Google’s core ranking algorithm, therefore making it operate in real time. It also changed the way websites are penalized—simply devaluing spammy links instead of penalizing the entire site.

Google’s Mobile-First Search Index – In November, Google announced that it started experimenting with a mobile-first search index. Through this type of index, Google would default to the mobile version of the website (instead of the desktop version) when ranking that site’s pages. This shift stresses the importance of having a solid mobile strategy, as websites with a robust desktop version but a pared-down mobile version will see their rankings affected.

Key Takeaways: Local search is becoming more sophisticated, Google is ramping up its efforts against spammy SEO practices, and the world of online search becomes even more mobile-focused.

Our SEO Predictions for 2017

“Going into 2017, I believe we are going to continue to see a great amount of focus being placed on quality over quantity when it comes to content, an increased need for a killer user experience (especially on mobile!), and increasingly hyperlocal search results. Search engines will continue to devalue and penalize black hat tactics, which will make it easier for legitimate businesses to succeed online as long as they are backed by an intelligent digital marketing strategy. Businesses should continue to focus on building up a great online reputation with reviews; in that vein, traditional SEO and PR will only continue to blend.”

—Megan Ramirez, Vice President of SEO

Paid Search / Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

Biggest Game Changers of 2016

Google’s Removal of Side-Bar Ads – In February, Google confirmed that it was removing ads from the right-hand side of the search engine results page (SERP), making desktop results look more like mobile results. Instead, the search engine switched to having a maximum of 4 ads at the top of the page (above organic results) and 3 at the bottom of the page (below organic results). The removal of the ads shook up the paid search advertising scene and created fiercer competition as greater importance was placed on making it into the top-ranking ads. The change also pushes local and organic results further down the page.

Google Switches to Expanded Text Ads – Google upgraded its PPC ads with its expanded text ad format in July. The expanded format give advertisers:

  • Two 30-character headlines instead of just one 25-character headline
  • One long description of 80 characters instead of two separate description lines of 35 characters each
  • A more streamlined display URL setup process
  • Automatic mobile optimization of ads

With more space for copy, businesses now have the opportunity to improve their messaging and make their ads more engaging to potential customers. Google is making the full switch from standard text ads to expanded text ads by the end of January 2017.

Key Takeaways: More space at the top of the SERP is being dedicated to PPC ads, making the practice of paid search advertising even more competitive. PPC advertisers need to step up their game to make it to the top. Meanwhile, those who are only focusing on showing up in organic results may be missing out on valuable exposure.


“Google has become more restrictive about who it allows to advertise on its AdWords platform. In certain markets, advertisers are required to provide thorough business information that proves they are a legitimate local business. Without that information, you cannot advertise. Google appears to be focusing on service industries with higher rates of fraud for the time being but will likely roll its business verification process out more industries in the future.

“Mobile traffic has rapidly increased to the point of overtaking desktop searches. Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri are becoming more intelligent and artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted searches from these channels may overtake the current methods of interfacing with search engines. As a result, the way ads are served on these platforms will likely become very competitive.”

—Elliott Golbar, Senior SEM Manager

Social Media Marketing

Biggest Game Changers of 2016

Greater Focus on Storytelling – There has been a greater focus on storytelling and less on stand-alone pieces of content across various social platforms. A few examples include Instagram launching its stories feature, Snapchat story playlists, and chronological video ads on Facebook—which allows advertisers to target users with additional, related videos once they have watched a portion of an initial video ad.

Live Video – Over the past couple of years, we have seen the popularity of video skyrocket across various social platforms. In 2016, one of the big game changers for social media was live video. While social apps such as Periscope and Meerkat already brought live video streaming to online users, 2016 was the year that live video really took off with the introduction of Facebook Live. Many businesses have started using live video streaming to market themselves and connect with their social media followers on a whole new level. According to The Boston Globe, Facebook Live now has 1.79 billion active monthly users. Instagram and Twitter have also recently joined in on live video.

More Paid Content Promotion Advertising – Business Insider projects that spending on native ads in the U.S. will reach $7.9 billion in 2016 and grow to $21 billion by 2018. Here at Scorpion, our clients have started ramping up their native advertising (advertising that is designed to mimic organic content and blend in with their surrounding content), as well as their paid content promotion in general.

Key Takeaways: Businesses should stay ahead of the curve with social media content that engages users with stories and keeps them connected right in the moment. They should also explore the growing and ever-changing social media advertising opportunities.


“There has definitely been a stronger focus on using social media for lead generation and direct response. It seems many businesses have mastered reach and awareness techniques on social platforms, and they are now exploring how to better close new business through their social channels.

“Businesses are no longer posting just for the sake of a post. They’re setting social goals, understanding their ROI, doing more A/B testing, and just improving their overall social strategy to achieve better results. For 2017, I see businesses investing more into social media advertising and getting smarter about their ad strategies, especially as new opportunities such as Facebook Messenger ads pick up momentum.”

—Jen Holub, Director of Social Media, Scorpion

Video Marketing

Biggest Game Changers of 2016

360 Live Video Streaming – This is the year that YouTube and Facebook rolled out 360-degree live video broadcasting, which The Verge calls “the gateway drug to virtual reality.” One of the biggest attention grabbers was National Geographic’s use of Facebook’s 360 live broadcast of the Mars Desert Research Station facility in Utah.

We are only in the beginning stages of seeing what we can do with 360 video, livestreaming, and the combination of the two. How businesses use these mediums to create unique, right-in-the-moment experiences for potential clientele will affect their continued evolution.

The Rise of Video Digital Advertising – It’s no secret that the trend of online video is spreading like wildfire, and that includes in the advertising sector. eMarketer reported this year that digital video ad spend in the U.S. will experience double-digit growth each year through 2020. According to the 2016 IAB Video Ad Spend Study, a survey of marketers and agencies show that advertisers were spending 85% more on digital and mobile video advertising in 2016 than they were in 2014. The survey also showed that nearly two-thirds (63%) of advertisers said they plan to spend more on digital and mobile video advertising over the next 12 months.

Key Takeaways: Ignore video, and you’ll quickly fall behind your competitors. For 2017, consider video ads, marketing videos, and even live broadcasting.


“Not only will we see a significant increase in businesses using online video to market and advertise themselves in 2017, but we’re also going to see more experimentation with 360 and VR ads. Businesses that want to gain a competitive advantage should start strategizing how they the can incorporate video into all aspects of their Internet marketing, from their website design to their advertising and content marketing.”

—Paul Michael Gordon, Senior Creative Director, Scorpion

Create a better Internet marketing strategy that will help you dominate 2017! Contact Scorpion today to discuss who you can improve your online presence and maximize growth for your business for the coming year.