Now that 2012 has drawn to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the year overall and look at what 2013 has in store for us. As marketers, 2012 was a normal year in that things went as expected. There were some surprises, several noteworthy breakthroughs and some avoidable failures.
2012 Was, Yes Really, the Year of Mobility
By far, the biggest breakthrough of 2012 was mobility. Take note that I didn’t say mobile. For the past five years everyone has been saying, “this is the year of mobile.” In 2012, it all finally happened. The distinction here it is about more than just activating mobile marketing as a channel. Mobility is far more than just a channel. It’s about acknowledging behavior changes have occurred as a result of participants having a computer less than a foot away 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 2012, a number of brands began adapting products and services specifically with mobility in mind. An example is UPS. The company has, for some time, empowered shippers and receivers to track packages. Now, with UPS My Choice, customers can avoid missed deliveries by subscribing to advance text or email messages that alert them the day before a package is scheduled to arrive. Customers can then reroute or reschedule delivery for a different day. Since its introduction in October 2011, two million people have registered for UPS My Choice and the majority of participants are managing their deliveries from a mobile device. Mobility provides individuals with information anytime, anywhere and this provides participants the luxury of managing situations which in the past have not been in their control. For a $40 annual fee, a “premium” member can instruct the UPS driver even in mid-route, where and when to deliver. For example, I can send instructions to put the package behind the potted plant; drop it next door; deliver at a different time or bring it to my office. These are services that would not even be considered several years ago, but the new mobile environment is reshaping where, how and when brands connect with customers. Not to be left out, FedEx has been late to this game and is just launching a similar service with an added benefit of offering evening or “by appointment” deliveries. These services are just one example of how brands are adapting to living in a world where mobility is prevalent.
It’s hard to remember that Google+ has been around since mid-2011. The new social network began with a trickle and had early meaningful participation, but that seemed to dwindle nearly as quickly as it arose. Now the dust has settled and 2012 passed without Google strategically and publicly addressing the reason for Google+. Perhaps the company believes this is not necessary as there is certainly a growing recognition among marketers that the only real value of Google+ is to boost search results. Google’s intent with Google+ was not just a me-too strategy to compete with Facebook, and there is no doubt the company understands the nuances of how search drives social and social drives search. However, I would argue that Google has not done a good job of explaining to anyone why they ventured into the social space to begin with and the importance of linking search and social. I fully anticipated Google to release a well-articulated strategy with data to support their argument about the link between two very important components to any marketing plan. The reality is Google+ is not very exciting to use, and as a consequence, lacks participation. There are indications that Google understands this as it finally launched 24 new features for the Google+ experience just last week. All of these new additions are now available for iOS, Android and web user, and Google has redesigned its social network’s iPhone app, too. Google does understand the importance of mobile, and prioritizing Google+ features for this platform is wise. It could be that the link between social and search will play itself out completely in the form of mobility in 2013.
Gaming Search Algorithms Never Has Been and Still Isn’t a Good Idea
A number of companies paid the price for choosing to “game” search algorithms in 2012 and suffered significant consequences as a result. I understand the attraction—given it was a particularly difficult year for marketers who navigated a complicated media space with, in many cases, significantly reduced resources. So, it is tempting to seek solutions to quickly and cheaply scale marketing activities, including acquiring volumes of inexpensive site links to bolster organic search results. Numerous companies are soliciting brands with the notion of cheaply and quickly solving the site link problem. They don’t mention their methods, and this is a really important question for any marketer thinking of choosing this approach. The brand that experienced the most painful public outing in the press over this activity was JCPenney, but there were others. You know who you are. Search is one of the digital channels that has been around for some time now. Marketers should know better. Great SEO will never chase algorithms. Google constantly adjusts algorithms to improve participant experience and this is a good thing for everyone involved. Great SEO should do the same and keep participant experience as the primary objective for any SEO activity.