A Look Back at WordStream’s Top 25 Stories of 2016
I’m not the biggest fan of year-end lists to begin with, but to say I’ve been dreading the inevitable tsunami of retrospectives more so than usual this year would be understatement of… well, 2016.
I won’t revisit any of the myriad horrors we’ve endured this year again. There’s plenty enough of that to go around as it is. I will, however, be taking a look back through the past 12 months to see which posts were the most popular at the WordStream blog all year, and examining the wider trends behind the traffic that can help explain why 2016 was such a pivotal year for digital marketers.
So, before we dive into the list of which posts really caught our audience’s eye this year, let’s take a look at those broader trends and what they tell us.
Trends in PPC, Social, and Search: 2016
Looking over the list of the most popular WordStream blog posts of this year, there are few surprises. Our original data and research continued to prove popular with our readers, and breaking news headlines about major new AdWords features struck a chord with our audience as they always do. However, there are some tell-tale clues that show us why some of our posts were more popular than others.
Knowledge is Power: Staying Ahead of the Curve
Take a look down the list. Notice how many popular posts summarized major changes in marketing in an easily digestible way? This shows that small-business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketers are in desperate need of concise, actionable content about seismic changes taking place across the digital marketing landscape.
Something else we see by looking at this data is that our readers aren’t just looking to understand new features; they want to know how these changes affect their campaigns. That’s why our explainer posts about everything from Facebook ad targeting options to Expanded Text Ads proved so popular with our readers.
A Growing Shift Toward Paid Social
Compared to last year’s end-of-year round-up, we saw a significant increase in the popularity of posts focused on social advertising, Facebook in particular.
Facebook advertising has gained in popularity enormously this year, not least because of its remarkable ROI and highly granular and sophisticated targeting options. Twitter doesn’t seem to gained the same ground, but it remains a very cost-effective and competitive way of advertising your products and services, or promoting content.
Survival of the Fittest in a Post-Penguin World
Another trend we see this year is the growing need for marketers and advertisers to keep up with changes beyond their control, such as adjustments to Google’s search algorithm and the shocking decline of organic reach on Facebook.
These changes are arguably even more significant than new AdWords features or Facebook targeting options. Advertisers can adapt to and learn to leverage new tools and ad formats, but algorithmic changes are much harder to cope with. In some cases, entire organizations have had to radically rethink their approach to digital marketing, particularly with regard to Facebook’s transition to an almost entirely “pay to play” model. We’re glad that our content has helped advertisers and business owners stay on top of wider changes and adapt their strategies to succeed.
Even if they won’t admit it, even the most confident advertisers secretly want to know if their account performance measures up to their competition. Fortunately, our most popular post from March allowed readers to do just that.
WordStream’s resident data scientist Mark Irvine explores a vast wealth of AdWords benchmark data in this post, and the results have been beautifully packaged into an infographic so you can check out how you stack up quickly and easily.
In May, Google announced the biggest change to its text-based PPC ads we’ve seen in 15 years – but what’s going on? Find out in our second-most popular post of the year, in which WordStream’s Fearless Leader Larry Kim highlights what you can expect from Google’s newly expanded text-ad format, and how you can leverage these new features for maximum gain.
This was the story in digital marketing in May. Google unveiled a host of new features that advertisers and marketers can expect to take advantage of as early as next year, including location-based ads in Google Maps and new responsive display ads. Larry was at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, for the announcement, and this detailed summary of the impending changes should be at the top of your reading list.
Value propositions are essential to differentiating your business from your competitors, but what is a good value proposition and how can you craft your own?
In this post, I examine seven of the best value propositions we’ve ever seen and explain what makes them so effective.
I’m honored that my post on our best social media marketing tips ever was the most popular post of January. Far from a lazy round-up of links (ahem), this post goes into detail about why these tips, tricks, and strategies are the best we have to offer and how you can apply them to your own campaigns. Whether you’re just getting started with paid social or you’re a seasoned vet, you’ll find plenty here to increase the ROI of your social media advertising campaigns.
Facebook offers an amazing variety of targeting options to advertisers, which is one of the factors that makes Facebook advertising so cost-effective for small businesses. However, keeping track of exactly what you can do in Facebook Ads is a little confusing, to say the least.
That’s why we created this epic infographic that neatly summarizes all of the many targeting options in Facebook Ads – the perfect cheat sheet for handy reference!
Another of yours truly’s blog posts from January, this post highlights 25 (a mere handful, really) of the must-read digital marketing news sources that should most definitely be in your RSS feed. If the events of Q1 were any indication, it’s no wonder our readers are so keen to stay in the loop.
Newcomers to paid social usually have one burning question – does Facebook advertising work? It’s a reasonable question, considering that for many businesses, every cent of advertising spend has to drive results. Fortunately, Facebook Ads are among the most cost-effective means of expanding your audience and driving leads and sales, and in this post, I’ll show you why.
The launch of Expanded Text Ads was among the most significant of the changes we saw in 2016. While many advertisers embraced the new ad format enthusiastically, there are certain strategies and approaches that will yield better results.
Find out how you should be using this powerful new formatting option in this guide to seven best practices for ETAs.
Earlier in this list, we established that Facebook Ads not only work, but do so extraordinarily effectively. However, for advertisers new to paid social, actually creating compelling ads can be a real challenge. That’s why, in this post, we look at seven real-world examples of excellent Facebook ads, as well as what makes them so effective. Essential reading for those new to paid social.
The initial news that Google had killed off ads from the right-hand side of the SERPs in February was, quite honestly, shocking.
It didn’t take long for shock and disbelief to transform into worry and speculation, and this post was among the first to break the news of Google’s major SERP shake-up.
The world’s largest and most popular social network is a regular feature here at the WordStream blog. Despite its dominance of the wider social media ecosystem, there’s a lot more to Facebook than meets the eye, and in this post, we explore 21 amazing facts about Facebook that you didn’t know – probably.
Facebook Ads are a great way to leverage the platform’s inherently visual nature to captivate the attention of potential customers. That doesn’t mean, however, that your ad copy can take a back seat to attractive imagery. In this post, we offer nine tips to write not just better ads, but the best ads you’ve ever written. To make it even easier, we’ve included real examples of these principles in action.
In June, Google announced a series of dramatic changes to its platform. While Expanded Text Ads may have grabbed most of the headlines, the inclusion of Local Search Ads in Google Maps was a major reveal, especially for small, locally focused businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence.
This post tells you everything you need to know about how to leverage the power of these ads and drive more foot traffic to your store.
Earlier this year, I wrote a post about Google’s emerging artificial intelligence machine learning program RankBrain, speculating on what this amazing technology could mean for SEOs. Well, Larry explores this notion in great depth in this popular post from March, in which he outlines (or prophesies, if you prefer) four detailed SEO strategies you’ll need to adopt in order to survive “SEO Judgment Day.” Be warned – if you haven’t seen any of The Terminator movies, many of the excellent references and in-jokes may be lost on you.
Networking on LinkedIn can be extraordinarily powerful, but sending bland, generic connection requests is a sure-fire way to be ignored and stagnate your network. In this post, Larry – who’s quite the LinkedIn expert – explains how to write the perfect LinkedIn connection request, and shows you why this method of connecting with strangers or acquaintances is much more effective.
The decline of organic reach on Facebook has decimated online publishing. Some brands saw drops in organic traffic of more than 90%, a sobering statistic that reveals the extent of the problem.
Although many publishers have embraced Facebook Ads as a solution, all hope is not lost. In this post, Larry explains how you can “hack” the Facebook News Feed algorithm and reclaim some of your organic traffic.
Gmail Ads can be remarkably powerful, but to many marketers, they remain somewhat mysterious. If you’re on the fence about whether to get started with Gmail Ads, Larry provides you with a ton of helpful information on why you should, as well as seven actionable tips on how to get the most out of this powerful ad format in this popular post from February.
To many advertisers, Facebook is a platform they know they should be using, but may not necessarily know how. Fortunately, Margot’s got you covered in this post. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have 10 actionable – and easy – ideas for future Facebook marketing campaigns.
Content amplification via social media is an extraordinarily powerful technique used by many of the world’s most successful content marketers. However, sending out tweets with a link to your posts just isn’t enough; you need to think more strategically.
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. Check out this post for our top 10 social media marketing tips for content marketers, and start expanding your audience in ways you never thought possible.
Writing excellent PPC ads is a lot harder than it sounds. Sure, your ads might be good, but are they great? For this post, I went back over our very best copywriting advice from the past several years and updated it with fresh new examples. If you want to write even better ads to increase your CTRs, check out our best copywriting advice ever and see how many of these strategies you’re using.
Of all aspects of digital marketing, SEO has perhaps changed the most during the past several years. As Google’s algorithm (and artificial intelligence technology) have become increasingly sophisticated, many search engine optimization experts have struggled to keep up with Google’s relentless improvements and changes. However, SEO is still crucially important to digital marketers, and in this post, we explore six SEO experiments that will, quite possibly, blow your mind. Consider yourself warned!
Despite being among the most highly coveted of marketing demographics, Millennials have a bad rep these days.
In this post, Erin offers 10 fascinating statistics about marketing to this notoriously finicky demographic, and does so in a way that doesn’t reduce Millennials to the whiny, precocious snowflakes they’re often portrayed to be in the mainstream media. If your products are aimed at a Millennial audience, you need to read this post.
In July, Google gave ads on the Display Network a much-needed facelift by making them fully responsive across a range of devices, a move that also gave advertisers significantly more create control over visual consistency and brand continuity. In our penultimate post of this year’s round-up, we take a look at everything you need to know about the changes to Display Network ads and how to best make use of them.
Facebook advertisers already have a ton of control over to whom, when, and where their ads are displayed. However, as any marketer worth their salt could tell you, it’s impossible to have too many tools at your disposal. To close out this year’s retrospective, Erin outlines six completely free Facebook marketing tools that can help you get even more out of your Facebook campaigns in 2017. If this year has been any indication, this is something every advertiser will be keen to do in the new year.