There are two fairly significant changes to Internet Marketing in the coming months. These changes are of a technical nature, and they won’t draw too much attention from your average web surfer. But… they WILL have an impact on small to medium-sized businesses’ advertising costs, and therefore overall profitability will diminish if you don’t prepare.
Whether you’re an ad agency or business owner, we’d all be well-advised to get ready for these changes, sooner rather than later, if we’re to stay ahead of the competition.
So what’s happening, exactly?
Well, rather than getting too, TOO technical, let’s have a practical look at how these two changes will affect any of us who use our websites and social media accounts as Internet marketing tools.
Changes to Internet Marketing
Round 1: Clash of the Titans (Facebook v. Apple)
One of these changes involves a battle between two tech giants, Apple and Facebook. The core of the debate involves how user data is shared. With the next update of the iOS platform, Apple users will be asked to manually opt-in to sharing their data with each app that they are using on their various devices; iPhones, iPads, etc.
But it gets more complicated than that. At first glance, it might seem that Apple is being altruistic by protecting user privacy. However, many cynics believe that Apple is merely attempting to hoard the data for their own ad platform to be released in the not-too-distant future.
Either way, what it means for you and me in the business world is that we won’t be able to target (or re-target) our customers as accurately as we can right now. And as I’ve written before, smart targeting is at the very core of cost-effective advertising. Instead, if we’re left merely “shot-gunning” the public, our ad costs will increase significantly, often to the point of a net loss.
Further, the Facebook tracking pixel that we all have on our websites won’t be as useful anymore if the end-user opts-out of data sharing. One of my favorite custom audiences is “website visitors in the last 30-60-90 days.” Retargeting these folks (and creating “lookalikes” from them) is marketing gold. Well, that gold is about to slip away.
We’ll still be able to create custom audiences based on demographic information, and also, we’ll still be able to retarget based internal Facebook activities. But what happens off Facebook will no longer be available. We won’t be able to “stalk” people all over the Internet based on their Facebook data. For marketers, that’s a tough blow.
Here's a quick summary on NPR:
Round 2: Google Me This...
The other change is related to Google’s algorithm and how this might affect your website’s search engine rankings.
From time to time, Google tweaks their algorithm—nothing too newsworthy about that. However, they usually keep these changes under the radar and close to the vest. They seem to delight in keeping us all guessing.
But in advance of this next update, they’ve actually gone out of their way to let everyone know. Most times, these small adjustments don’t individually add up to much at all. The fact that they’re really talking (practically shouting) publicly about this one should be cause for high alert that this update is quite significant.
In summary, they’ve announced that they’re going to update their algorithm in May 2021 to include a ranking factor called “Page Experience.” Page Experience includes all aspects of how users interact with a web page and how smooth (or cumbersome) it is for them.
This is going to be an important signal that will have a relatively high impact on rankings. For our benefit, they’ve announced some measuring parameters called “Web Vitals,” which are series of benchmarks essential to enhancing the user experience on the web.
For now, these are LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift), and FID (First Input Delay). In English, we can call these loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
- Loading measures perceived load speed. It’s the point in the page load timeline when the main content is likely to have loaded and can be seen by the end-user.
- Interactivity is the time from when a user can first interact with a page – a click or a tap — to the time when the browser begins processing that interaction.
- Visual stability has to do with preventing annoying and unexpected movements of page content. In practice, this can mean that a button doesn’t jump around causing erroneous clicks, or that clickable elements aren’t too close to one another.
(With this update, we should also revisit existing Google Search signals such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.)
Solutions You Can Enact TODAY!
While any changes to Internet Marketing can cause challenges (read: problems) in the short term, they also present opportunities for anyone who prepares in advance.
Here’s what you can do:
For the tweaks to Google’s algorithm, it doesn’t have to be too difficult. I suggest three easy fixes to start.
- Get a FAST hosting service. This is number one, and if you only do this, you’re ahead of the game. Many people try to save money with cheap hosting, but cheap hosting is always SLOW hosting. SiteGround offers a great mid-priced solution and would be a great choice for most small businesses.
For managing the iOS changes related to Facebook advertising, we’ll need to be a bit more creative. In some ways, we’ll have to go back to some of the core fundamentals that we used 7, 8, 9 years ago when we didn’t yet have all the beautiful retargeting data that we have access to now.
We should probably consider optimizing our ads for Clicks rather than Conversions, or even Landing Page Views. Then it’s up to us to engage (and capture) the visitors to our website, just like in the “old days.” We might need to go back to creating more compelling opt-in offers to collect the contact information from our target audience. This is a good practice, anyway, because you own your email list, whereas you’re only “borrowing” the retargeting data from Facebook.
In this way, we actually can still retarget our audience, but we have to supply the customer list instead of getting it from Facebook. We can also create lookalike audiences based on our email lists instead of my beloved “website visitors in the last 30-60-90 days.” Alas.
Look, as the saying goes, the one constant in the universe is change. So while everyone else is busy complaining and wringing their hands, you can get ahead of the game by jumping on these tips asap, and thereby getting a jump on your competitors.