We’re on the home stretch now, and we love wrapping up the year as much as the next person. Let’s take a look at what worked in 2014 (and what didn’t!) to better plan for a fantastic new year in 2015. Let’s take a look at some game changers that happened this year.

Goodbye, Google Authorship!

Some of our readers may remember a few months back as we covered the sudden culling of the Google Authorship experiment. Seen by many webmasters as a free, easy and powerful way to increase search rankings, authority and overall marketing reach, Google’s decision to rescind its Authorship benefits was met with incredulity and outrage.

Two years of Google encouraging websites to feature an image and website author credit alongside its search result saw many websites gaining increased on-page real estate in search engine result pages (SERPs), higher engagement and boosted search rankings. Unfortunately, like many other SEO tactics, Authorship snippets were abused by many, and Google decided that Authorship failed to provide the end user with any real value. The years-long experiment came to a sudden end earlier this year, a stark reminder to all of how rapidly the landscape of online marketing can change.

What did we learn?

New features and SEO algorithm changes come and go constantly, and as more and more customers depend on search to provide access to goods and services, it’s important to stay abreast of developments. Being aware of what’s available to you and what becomes obsolete will determine the edge you have over your competitors in the online arena.

Web Design Trends

Much like fashion, web design trends change every year. 2014 was no different, and we saw there were a number of trends in their sunset, as other elements came into favour. Some design elements have remained popular – parallax backgrounds (for example, scroll down to the enquiry form on our home page) and flat UI (flat colouring without gradients or 3D-suggestive elements, like Astute Projects’ new website) that had started to pick up steam in late 2013 have continue to be mainstays in popular web design. As browsers are becoming more capable, we’ve seen a steady increase in ambient video backgrounds, and what shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; mobile responsive sites. All signs show that mobile will continue to gain popularity in 2015, and the conscientious business will ensure their website is easy to navigate and read on all mobile devices. While these elements were predicted to be popular this year however, the once-standard homepage image sliders have suddenly fallen out of fashion, with single hero images (large image banners) taking their place. Providing a higher degree of control over what users will see at any given time, and able to send a clearer message than rotating image sliders, it looks like hero images have come full circle this year.

What did we learn?

Sometimes the classic ways are still the best. Finding new and creative ways to speak to a visitor in split seconds is the name of the game, but it’s important to understand why certain styles and elements are trending instead of simply being used for the sake of trendiness. Relevancy to your demographic is the key, as always!

Social Media Becomes Social Again

In recent years, Facebook have added numerous features to help businesses better reach their target audiences. Boosted posts, pay-per-click advertising, Apps and promotions, Business pages… As online marketers experimented with each of these, most found little to no success in achieving cost-effectiveness. As a result, many turned to rampant flooding of Facebook’s standard, free posts to promote of their goods and services, and content quality quickly went south.

By 2014, it became commonplace for users’ Facebook feeds to be inundated with spammy, irrelevant content, to the extent that some users began drifting away from using the social platform. Facebook’s answer to that, in late 2014, was to overhaul its policies surrounding business posts, in order to maintain customer satisfaction and keep both individuals and businesses happy.

In a November update*, Facebook put their foot down – “Beginning in January 2015, people will see less [overly promotional] content in their News Feeds.”

For business owners, this significantly changes the nature of what can and can’t be posted, and Facebook have provided three main points they will consider to be “too promotional” in organic posts:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

What this means is clear. Facebook is cracking down on shilling posts, and inviting businesses to use their pages as a way to communicate and nurture relationships with their customers. Providing valuable insights or resources through posts to show knowledge and credibility, inviting user feedback and discussion on topics, and creating new, original content for your posts are just some of the ways you can better utilise Facebook to engage with your Likers!

What did we learn?

Overenthusiastic promotion has never been considered a highly effective method of marketing, and Facebook is no different. Now that Facebook themselves will be actively penalising those who persist in doing so, 2015 is the time for you to dust off your brainstorming chops, create a plan and provide real value for your clients on social media!

*Source: http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/11/news-feed-fyi-reducing-overly-promotional-page-posts-in-news-feed/