Top 5 Digital Trends for 2017

By BKV in Media Strategy on January 23rd, 2017


Digital Marketing Agency, Media,

From search’s sneaky transformation into something that looks more and more like programmatic, to what voice search means for your search strategy—plus the coupling of content and integrated marketing, and more—the media experts at BKV tell you what trends to tackle in 2017.

1. Is search the new programmatic?

It’s a good question, especially when you consider that search is already programmatic—or at least automatic: someone searches a term, you bid on the term, and your ad automatically displays. So, in a sense, search has always been programmatic. But in recent years, it’s become even more powerful, and we expect search enhancements to continue in 2017.

In addition to Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA), where we can either serve a different ad or simply increase bids for someone who is meeting the requirements of one of our targeting lists, we can message and bid differently on searchers based on CRM data, as well as demographic data such as household income, age and gender. And recently Google announced “Similar Audiences” as a feature that will be available for search campaigns (currently it is a display feature). Search managers will have the ability to reach new customers with similar search behavior as current customers, allowing for advertisers to increase reach from RLSA as well as target new users.

In addition, search is programmatic in that we are able to use across devices and assist data to help us determine a user who fits our targeting criteria. So if someone searches, clicks on a mobile ad but later comes back to search on desktop, Google is able to determine that it’s the searcher in both cases, and use that information to keep them in the correct remarketing or demographic list so they don’t miss out.  

2. Voice Search

Siri. Cortana. Google Now. Alexa. If you have a smartphone, the chances are you’ve used at least one of these famous digital assistants before. In fact, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed in May 2016 that 1 in every 5 searches made on Android devices are now via voice search. Additionally, ComScore estimates that by 2020 half of all searches will be done by voice. But how many is half? Well considering that Google alone has reported that they handle 1.2 trillion searches a year, half is almost an unfathomable number.

Because we’re able to interact with digital assistants like we would a person sitting next to us, voice search is by nature much more sophisticated than a traditional keyboard search.

So, while we don’t anticipate trashing our keyboards anytime soon, voice search is increasingly becoming an important factor to consider when crafting paid search strategies. Because we’re able to interact with digital assistants like we would a person sitting next to us, voice search is by nature much more sophisticated than a traditional keyboard search. Instead of typing in general key words or phrases, we tend to ask more complex, highly-specific questions.

This means search marketers need to think strategically about what questions lead consumers to their brand. Instead of targeting what may seem like endless variations of the same simple keyword, use knowledge about topic selling products or features to add more long-tail questions or phrases. But do keep in mind that highly-specific searches require equally specific landing pages. For example, you wouldn’t send someone searching for “size 7 red heels under $100” to a page that doesn’t prominently feature red heels.

Because so many voice searches occur on mobile, it’s now more important than ever to ensure your landing pages are mobile friendly. You’ll also want to experiment with mobile settings to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. For some this may mean creating entirely separate mobile campaigns; for others, it may simply be a matter of boosting mobile bid adjustments. And because mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be local than traditional keyboard searches, search marketers with brick-and-mortar stores should target relevant “near me” searches and enable both location and call extensions.  

Lastly, if you find yourself stuck, get the ideas flowing by actually using voice search. By doing so, you’ll be able to see firsthand what types of searches trigger not only your ads, but competitors as well.

Closeup businessman working with generic design notebook. horizontal

3. Content and Integrated Marketing

While content marketing and integrated marketing are buzzwords dating back to the 1990s, we expect them to come together in measurable way in 2017. (They started gaining traction a couple years ago. Here’s our fellow Atlanta marketer Erin Everhart, Senior Manager of Media Strategy & Mobile for Home Depot ,talking about the relationship of SEO link building and content marketing back in 2014.)

But the majority of marketers haven’t been putting this into practice in a strategic, measurable way. 

In a 2016 study, we found about half of B2C marketers meet daily or weekly to discuss their content marketing programs. But the same study showed 56% of B2C marketers don’t have a documented strategy—even though no  strategy means no measurement plan, and no proof of value!

With the current availability of tools and information on content marketing, the next logical step is to create a strategy that involves various media channels and their measurement. In late 2014, Conductor Searchlight launched its content mapping tool, which uses SEO and web analytics to measure website content performance.  This was on the heels of Content Optimizer by Brightedge for Adobe Experience Manager.

Throughout 2015, most marketers could claim to do content marketing because they had a blog and were active social media channels. During 2016, some marketers documented their strategies using customer journey mapping. A few of those actually did a content audit and matrix to measure content gaps and performance using a tool like Conductor Searchlight.

We predict that, during 2017, more marketers will go through the task of a content audit so that they can measure gaps and performance using an available measurement tool. 

Content marketing cuts across most marketing channels whether it’s the content itself or promotion of the content across media.

Also in 2017, a few leading-edge marketers will use content marketing as a means to optimize integrated marketing. Content marketing cuts across most marketing channels whether it’s the content itself or promotion of the content across media. It is possible to measure and optimize integrated marketing efforts by expanding upon the content marketing matrix to include multiple media channels. This can be implemented in a custom reporting tool such as Tableau. With this reporting in hand, a few marketers will begin to measure the effect and relationship between media for a particular content segment such as audience, product, business unit, etc. Short of attribution modeling, this method will allow marketers to start running tests in one channel to see effects on other channels.

Custom reporting, Tableau, KPI

4. The impact of digital on in-store sales

Another common topic discussed at conferences last year was the importance of measuring digital channels’ effect on in-store visits and purchases. Similar to measuring assisted conversions online, it’s important to understand a channel or device’s impact on in-store activity, particularly when it comes to mobile devices, which people often use when they are on the go and researching.

In fact, according to a Google study, 70% of smartphone owners who bought something in a store had first turned to their mobile device for information relevant to their purchase. Often, when one looks at mobile last click performance alone, the KPIs are less efficient than that of desktop,but when you consider that mobile not only impacts desktop conversions, but also offline conversions, it’s a force to be reckoned with. So, when it comes to mobile, you should be tracking more than just direct conversions – you should also track phone calls, clicks on location extensions, engagement with inventory ads, and more.

Bridging the gap between online and offline will be a huge puzzle advertisers will try and piece together in the upcoming year.  Google has pushed forward an effort to measure in-store visits based on aggregated and anonymous statistics. They create modeled numbers that use previous and current data tied to the number of people who have clicked ads and, at a later point, visited a store.  To set this feature up, you must have a Google My Business account, which needs to be linked to your AdWords account.

If you’re running a digital initiative, you can also measure whether you’re seeing a lift in store revenue – and see if that lift increases as you invest more digitally. In addition, if you offer a coupon, you can measure in-store redemptions.

Digital marketers often discuss the impact that that offline (such as TV) has on online, but we don’t often discuss digital’s impact on offline. It’s time we move past a on- KPI mindset, and measure other interactions to better understand the true impact of digital – and as technology catches up, there should eventually be a more clear-cut way of linking online activity to offline sales.

5. Header Bidding

Header bidding became a trending topic in 2016 and will likely continue to gain traction and evolve in 2017, as both advertisers and publishers see the advantage of this new model. Header bidding puts the publisher in control, by allowing the publisher to pick and choose who is allowed a first look in real time at their available inventory.

Up until this came into play, bidding was done based on the waterfall effect, moving down the chain of bucketed “buyers,” without just taking the highest bid across all buckets. Header bidding evens the playing field by strictly taking the highest bid across all buyers. This allows all partners to have a first-in-line access to their inventory, while also usually increasing the final bid for the publisher. With more players bidding on the publisher’s inventory and thus increasing competition, publishers are reporting up to a 50% increase in CPMs with header bidding.

As page load times become an issue with header bidding, however, header bidding wrappers that debuted in 2016 will allow for easier installation and management. We predict header bidding wrappers will be the “trend” of 2017.  


To be a smarter, more effective digital marketer in 2017, keep your eyes on these five top trends to look out for—and take on—as part of your digital strategy:

  1. Search that functions more like programmatic
  2. Voice search and its implications on your keyword strategy
  3. The coupling of content and integrated marketing
  4. The impact of digital on in-store sales
  5. The continued rise of header bidding

Music to your ears? Then talk to the media experts at BKV to see what we’re doing in digital.

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