Google Mobile-first indexing

2020 A Year in Digital

Agency life is challenging. However, rising to these challenges is why we love to do it.

It’s a dynamic industry where we continually have reasons to learn, evolve and succeed for our clients even with our great many years of digital expertise.

2020 has been especially challenging for one big obvious reason…

The Coronavirus

Yes, the elephant in every room all over the world, the novel coronavirus, designated COVID-19 was the most disruptive issue of the year.

This particular coronavirus variant spread globally and has caused an ongoing pandemic, affecting life at every level from the personal to global institutions.

COVID’s waves of influence touched the digital world too. Firstly, and most obviously, searches for coronavirus information increased massively. In December 2019 the were hardly any searches for the term. However, by the 29th of December, searches started to increase. By March 2020 search volumes were at their peak as people across the world sought information.

Coronavirus was the most searched term of 2020, as noted in Google’s year in search results earlier this month. Our clients nearly all benefited from traffic for COVID related searches. One of the first things we did for all website owners was to help them with their messaging, informing visitors of their business continuity during the pandemic and providing the correct signposting.

Other clients were able to provide specific advice on the subject, relaying business and legal information to search audiences in their fields of expertise.

For us as a digital marketing agency, we were directly affected too, especially with having to all work at home. The great positive of having to work from home was that it accelerated the adoption of all our collaborative tools. You know all the stories about the incredible boom in Zoom meetings. For our business we all rejoiced in the new world of Microsoft Teams.

The pandemic affected other digital agencies too. We had applications from their former staff, we saw them suddenly and very publicly drop prices in attempts to win new business.

Some businesses folded, both digital companies and their clients. Some firms decided not to take on new recruits, others cut back, some furloughed workers. We saw the affect on search as people looked online for answers and solutions to every aspect of life affected by the pandemic.

COVID-19 certainly changed the world in 2020.

SERPs Updates

Staying with the subject, as well as the explosion in searches for the new virus, the nature of search presentation changed too.

To cater for the public information service, Google’s results pages became far more focused on providing the most relevant COVID-19 data.

”Fake news” became a real problem too, affecting search as misinformation gained greater visibility. The search engines provided public duty by furnishing the results with only the best, most accurate and reputable sources. This was surely the best example of strictly following their owner Quality Raters’ Guidelines and flexing their E-A-T muscle, showing primarily results from sources with Expertise, Authority and Trust.

With scientific advice from medical experts being to wear a mask then that was the sort of trustworthy, peer-reviewed information that needed to be shared. Positive and life-saving knowledge was more important than opinion.

Now Google provides significant news stories and valuable resources on statistics, testing and health information with national and local health authorities providing trustworthy resources.

Social Media

With social media being such a powerful tool, the good, and the not quite so good, all continued to show their faces in 2020.

On the plus side, Black Lives Matter came to the world’s attention, putting racial equality firmly on the table, people shared jokes about lockdown, Joe Wicks became an internet phenomenon for his daily exercise classes for lockdown kids and the NHS received tons of love and appreciation from a grateful and supportive British public.

However, false information thrived with Donald Trump saying injecting disinfectant could fight the coronavirus, as well as throwing tantrums about losing the election.  You’d expect better from a 74 year old, but then this is the person who likes to shout “fake news” at channels he disagrees with before spouting his own divisive and toxic mistruths.

Twitter did a good job of starting to label false and misleading information as such:

There were also permanent Twitter bans for the likes of hate speech promoter Katie Hopkins, conspiracy theorist David Icke and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, amongst others.

Google Core Updates

We had a few Google broad core updates this year, all now following a logical naming convention as Google took ownership of correctly labelling these algorithm changes.

In the past we’ve had the SEO community and high profile SEO experts give names to updates; Hilltop, Hummingbird, Penguin, Panda, Pigeon and Caffeine were prominent early names. But latterly we’ve had more obtuse versions like Medic and Maccabees. Luckily the Mountain View search giant has called them easy to remember names like January 2020 Core Update and August 2020 Core Update – so much more logical and obviously less abstract.

As always, these core updates generate lots of chatter in the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) communities with the usual talk of how they may have benefited or otherwise affected rankings and search traffic. As disclaimers always say, results can go up as well as down. Google tends not to say what exactly will be affected by its updates, why or even how businesses should work with these core updates. This is probably to avoid webmasters gaming the system.

Ultimately, we understand that Google is continually trying to improve search results for its users and so, as digital marketing experts, we’re happy go along with these adjustments, whatever they are. The best advice is always to create websites that are the best user experiences, that your content fulfils their needs, and Google RankBrain likes natural language, so write for people first and leave the SEO consultants to boost this copy for the search engines.

Core Web Vitals

Back in May, Google announced that it would start measuring user experience using a simplified set of metrics it called Core Web Vitals.

Previously, in Google Lighthouse, the engine that measures web page performance, there were numerous metrics that website owners needed to keep a close eye on. These included First Paint, First Meaningful Paint, First Contentful Paint, Time To Interactive etc.

Google decided to simplify the signals it uses to gauge user experience and settled on three core metrics, the new Core Web Vitals;

  1. Loading.
  2. Interactivity.
  3. Visual stability.

However, from a more technical standpoint, these are better known as:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).
  2. First Input Delay (FID).
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Further to this development within a month, on the 29th May, Google said it would use core web vitals as signals for users’ page experience ranking.

Google has also said that sites on mobile which focus on these core web vitals will be able to perform well against AMP websites (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Reading between the lines, we think that AMP may be less of a competitive edge for websites over the next few years and we believe that it could be phased out or no longer supported from a particular date. This is very similar to the WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) websites that we had to build back in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Working From Home

We mentioned working from home earlier, as part of the early disruption most businesses felt during the lockdown to protect public health from the coronavirus. However, working from home (WFH) was a key aspect of digital marketing in 2020.

Initially it was quite a shock, especially for our design team who are desk-bound and work from their professional Apple Macs. However, after the move, the team adapted really quickly. There were, of course, immediate concerns for people’s health and wellbeing. As a tight-knit team, we thoroughly enjoy working with each other, so it was quite a wrench to be all working remotely. The office and studio buzz disappeared and we all had to adjust to the new way of working.

On the plus sides, we adopted the tools rapidly and became well-versed in the use of MS Teams, keeping in touch regularly via chat and conference calls. The team kept an eye on each other, and we ensured our quality of work was maintained, keeping in close contact with our clients and continuing to provide the same level of excellence our customers have come to expect.

The only downside to the first period of lockdown was for the single parents in our team who had to home school and entertain their children whilst trying to work a full week – that was a real challenge.

The Rise and Rise of Online Shopping

With the initial pre-warning of an imminent lockdown, stories abounded of panic buying amongst the British public, mainly pasta, tuna and toilet roll, with many empty supermarket shelves across the country. Then once lockdown began, in March 2020, UK residents took to online shopping to fulfil their needs. The first three weeks of lockdown had zero free slots for supermarket deliveries, so those with empty cupboards and no chance of a delivery had to chance the open stores. But soon the big stores increased their delivery capacity to be able to serve the country’s online ordering habits as best they could.

Turning online for our groceries, essentials and even luxuries, ecommerce took over where traditional bricks and mortar retailers were unable to operate. The downside was that businesses unable to have an online model were instantly disadvantaged. Pubs and restaurants rely on footfall so were immediately hit by the new reality.

Where traders could supply booze delivery, garden products and DIY sundries, online activity boomed. Faced with the lack of real-world options, the nation went digital to feed its needs.

The Outlook for Digital in 2021?

We will all be working from home a lot more again, buying and selling online ever more, so usable websites and ecommerce SEO with online shopping strategies will be key.

We know that Core Web Vitals will be so important with User Experience Ranking coming to the fore in the first half of the year. So website owners need to focus on creating faster, more stable websites that run perfectly on mobile then desktop too.

Voice search should continue to rise as smart speakers continue to gain popularity in households. Businesses and website managers must continue to create rich content for their audiences, trying not to focus on mere keywords but fulfilling the intent of businesses and consumers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to play a subtle part in our work, from powering chatbots to filtering the best data in our keyword strategies.

But overall, 2021 will be a year when digital really drives progress, stabilising life in the online realm as more and more we rely on search, ads and social to find digital solutions to all our questions.

Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyLooking to go more digital in 2021? We are experts in web design and development, conversion rate optimisation, SEO, PPC and paid social. We’ll build you a website that gets you noticed, converts visits into leads and performs as a website should.

Give us a call on 01276 534 680 or simply fill in the form and we’ll be happy to discuss taking your web project to the next level and beyond.

The Most Searched Things on Google in 2020.

The Most Searched Things on Google in 2020

Google has published its top trending searches of 2020 and it will come as no surprise that of the most searched things on Google in 2020 Coronavirus dominated search this year.

Coronavirus topped both global and national searches and was the most common term in news queries.

However, in a video fronting the report Google stated that 2020 was the year in search where more people than ever start with why?

The weirdest one has to be the top why search of 2020:

“Why were chainsaws invented?”

But then we had the more sobering

“Why was George Floyd arrested?”

Accordingly, the Black Lives Matter movement saw a five-fold increase in interest over 2019.

We even had that question on all our minds at the beginning of the first lock-down:

“Why are people buying toilet paper?”

We also asked “who?”, which is interesting because those three innocuous little letters in that question are also the acronym for the World Health Organisation. Skipping the combined WHO searches with Coronavirus and COVID-19, the real who questions came to light.

“Who won the election 2020?”

“Who invented blow up dolls?”

OK, we all know who won the US election in 2020, apart from Donald Trump [Has anyone told him yet? Ed], but that second big query is another rather bizarre term.

Global terms aside, what did we look for in the UK?

Our where questions were:

“Where did the coronavirus come from?”

This most pertinent of questions is now dominated by paid ads from the WHO but also now the NHS, offering more information on the new COVID-19 vaccine.

The top featured snippet in Google today is from a trustworthy source, much-needed in a year of fake news, as the UK government presents facts on the origins of the pandemic.

On a more homely note, the nation also asked:

“Where does vanilla flavouring come from?”

Presumably that stems from the home baking phenomena as we all baked so many cakes and discovered how easy it was to whip up a tasty banana bread recipe. Oh, and sourdough loaves too, the most searched for in the world.

After the  Coronavirus, the UK was just as interested in the “US election” but slightly more so than the passing of celebrity “Caroline Flack”.

Over here we asked “how to make a face mask”, “how to make hand sanitiser”, “how to make bread” and “how to cut your own hair?”

As for who we were most interested in, “Philip Schofield” came out on top with that crazy US pair “Carole Baskin” and “Joe Exotic” in the UK’s top 5.  Renowned businessman and engineer “Elon Musk” was of great interest to us as well.

Best Digital Marketing Agency

Our clients are always relying on us to generate business leads for them whilst the rest of the country asked Google about “Amazon jump leads”.

However, getting back on topic, digital marketing was paired with searches for “digital marketing agency near me” and “best digital marketing agency”. A particularly interesting term was “digital marketing apprenticeships” and “digital marketing salary” searches.

The UK also looked for “professional SEO services”, “small business seo services” and the most searched county specific term was SEO Hampshire.

As for the Pay Per Click abbreviation, “PPC campaign management” and “PPC management services” were top 5 UK searches.

Delivery, DIY and Fitness

Outside our profession again, delivery, DIY and fitness were top topics across the nation.

How very British that we looked most for “afternoon tea delivery” followed closely by delivery of wine, compost, milk and fruit & veg.

In the field of Do It Yourself, furloughed workers and stay-at-home professionals were still looking for “DIY shops” but a lot of “DIY garden ideas” especially “DIY decking”.

In fitness, you’ll not be shocked that of all the things, it was Joe Wicks and his workouts for children that caught the attention of most of us. We also searched Google for skipping, workout benches and exercise bikes. Good on us.

Financial Services and Information Technology

With Clever Marketing being known for developing online business in the financial services, fintech and IT sectors, digital searches were highly on brand. Mazda and Audi were key financial services searches.

In the IT sector, a top-trending search was “how to learn coding”, an encouraging move, especially when Python was the most searched for programming language. We totally love that as Python is an awesome tool in our SEO toolkit.

Back to Google’s worldwide analysis, their key standouts for the year in search 2020 were “support small business”. Hardest hit by COVID-19, we rallied around and increased our support tenfold when compared to last year.

The NHS captured our hearts and minds as the amazing National Health Service workers  worked so incredible hard to deal with the pandemic. Our overstretched healthcare sector inevitably generated the top term “volunteer for the NHS”.

Homeschooling was big on the agenda this year, with some of us having to work from home as well as tending to our children’s educational needs. Distance learning and home tutoring were top topics but “how to be a teacher” was a huge term.

2021 Search Terms

And so, as we approach the year end, it’s interesting that “meditation” was a big hit, as we all try to find a little inner peace. But how that big question so many were asking…

“When will we get back to normal?”

That’s such a pertinent question because, what is normal and do we really want to get back there? The world has changed, and more people are doing business from home as the hybrid model of working changes our future.

Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencySo there you go, the most searched things on Google in 2020. What search terms does your business need to stand our for next year?

For SEO, PPC and paid social call our digital agency on 01276 534 680 for a friendly, professional insight into how we can help you succeed in 2021.

Digital Marketing Ninjas, Gurus and Rock Stars

Have you ever seen a digital agency use peculiar language when referring to their own skillsets?

Ever read about web developers calling themselves coding ninjas?

Or how about those website designers saying that they’re rock stars?

Well, it’s not quite as prevalent these days as it used to be, but once upon a time it was pretty common. Some in the industry used these odd self-titles to differentiate themselves, but then it became common and eventually, a bit of a joke.

But actually, it was never particularly funny.

There was once a tweet, that I cannot for the life of me find, but it went along the lines of:

“Dear fellow creatives; please stop calling yourselves, ninjas, rock stars and gurus, you’re making us all look like tw*ts!”

Totally agreed.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary definition, a ninja is:

“A person skilled in the Japanese art of ninjutsu.”

Ninjutsu is:

“The traditional Japanese art of stealth, camouflage, and sabotage, developed in feudal times for espionage and now practised as a martial art.”

From these definitions, I’m not sure what form of black-masked subterfuge is relevant to digital marketing, web development or graphic design.

As for being a “Rockstar”, singing, playing the guitar/bass/drums/keyboard and touring the globe with a drug habit and an entourage of groupies is nothing I’m familiar with in my twenty years in the digital profession.

It’s similar for the moniker “guru”. It actually means a “Hindu spiritual teacher” which I don’t think many creative in the UK can genuinely purport to being, correct me if I’m wrong please. However, there is a more modern definition in the OED which states:

“An influential teacher or popular expert.”

Again, I could be wildly incorrect here, but how many self-styled gurus fit the description? If I were an influential teacher, I’d modestly duck out of bearing that sign. As for popular or expert, again, humility dictates that something more unassuming is appropriate. Are you a guru? Have you presented a TED talk?

Digital Marketing Experts: The 10,000 Hour Rule

One thing I will say about being an expert though, is that there is a formula for that. There’s also a formula for “the perfect bacon sandwich”, but I digress…

Back in 2008 the journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote his book Outliers. The Story of Success.

Examining the factors that contribute to success, Gladwell proposed that expertise arises from experience and repetition. Studying successful people, from hockey teams to Bill Gates to The Beatles, Gladwell claimed that best practice and repeating a specialism resulted in expertise.

His magic number was ten thousand, in that to be an expert you would have immersed yourself in your art or science for that number of hours, or the “10,000-hour rule”. That amounts to being in a particular role for around five years, plying your specific trade day-in, day-out.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to a digital marketer, in their early twenties, and they were referred to me as being a “guru” in our profession. With five years’ experience, that neatly fell into the 10,000-hour rule definition, but does that apply to the whole spectrum of digital marketing?

Once, in 2009, someone made a remark at a conference I was speaking at, saying;

“SEO isn’t rocket science is it?”

…and they were right. SEO is not rocket science. SEO is not mechanics (fluid mechanics, structural mechanics, orbital mechanics), flight dynamics, physics, mathematics, control engineering, materials science, aeroelasticity, avionics, reliability engineering, noise control and flight testing.

However, SEO is on-page SEO, technical SEO, local SEO, involving HTML, CSS, maybe some JavaScript, but always an innate understanding of the English language (Here in the UK for a UK audience), synonyms and nuances, getting deep into the psychology of user intent, user experience and so on and so forth.

Then there’s PPC or Pay Per Click, another realm of digital marketing, with not just Google Ads but also Bing Ads or the Microsoft Advertising Network as it is now rather clumsily known. But wait, there are also LinkedIn sponsored posts, paid InMail, text ads, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Instagram ads, WhatsApp for Business etc. etc.

But what about the tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager, or the myriad of other SEO tools like SEMrush, Screaming Frog, ahrefs or BuzzSumo?

How can anyone possibly know ALL about digital marketing in just five years and be an expert in ALL of its fields? Personally, I don’t think that’s not possible, not unless you were a precocious child prodigy and junior world chess champion at the age of seven.

Well, that’s how my mind works anyway.

Clever Marketing Experts

All this aside, we are experts. I’ve been doing digital marketing for over twenty years now. Our resident PPC manager has at least 8 years in the industry. Our number one developer also has 8 years’ of WordPress dev under his belt whilst our graphic designers have a good twenty years each…

I think that puts us in a good position as a digital marketing agency. We won a client in September 2020 who chose us because of our age and experience. Having been around the block a few times themselves, they were acutely aware of and averse to using juniors. Don’t get me wrong, the youngsters are our future, in all industries, not just digital. However, it’s the people with experience who have developed years of expertise. Having a well-balanced team is what you need, as a business looking for an agency.

So, when making your decision on who to employ as your next digital agency, make sure that you see their results, that they share their successes, and that they have a team of experts onboard, young or old, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they have the expertise to understand, innovate and deliver, be it brand awareness, lead generation or business development.

Digital marketing ninjas need not apply.

Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyIf you’re looking for an SEO expert, a PPC specialist, a social media consultant or a web designer with the skills to deliver your vision, you’ve found your new agency.

Call Clever Marketing on 01276 534 680 or complete the easy form and secure our experts for your next project.

Digital marketing ninjas we are not, experts we are.