If you’re confusing pandas and penguins, and you think the cookie law is getting tough on the chocolate chip industry, then you’ve probably missed a few big Internet marketing stories this year. The worlds of SEO, PPC and social move fast, so to help you get up to date on the big gossip of 2012, online copywriter Oliver Pyper looks back at the most interesting stories of 2012 – the reports that really got brows sweating, hearts racing and attentions grabbed.

Google’s Algorithm saw some major updates, the most notable of which was Penguin, which emerged on April 24. The Panda algorithm, which was first introduced in February 2011, also saw numerous data refreshes throughout the year. This cross-species spam-fighting duo cracked down on sites with poor-quality content, tackling issues like keyword stuffing with hefty penalties.

The AdWords policy was also updated, in October, to ensure that ads are clear, accurate and relevant. Post-update, Google requires that ads are grammatically correct, logical, and relate directly to landing page content – and forbids the inclusion of generic call to action phrases like ‘Click Here’, amongst other regulations.

The good ship Facebook floats… and sinks. The social media giant embarked on its maiden stockmarket voyage on May 18, with an initial share price of $38 apiece. By September, this had fallen to a low of less than $20. Then, in December, the firm’s lead underwriters Morgan Stanley were fined $5 million, having been accused of exerting an ‘improper influence’ over research analysts. Not quite a Titanic-scale disaster, but still…

Buyouts and buyouts. Facebook acquired hipster-friendly, faux-nostalgia photo app Instagram, in April for $1.1 billion (reportedly after Twitter had offered a cool $525 million for the app). Google, meanwhile, snapped up restaurant-review website Zagat, incorporating its reviews and ratings into its re-jigged Google Places service (see below).

The law gets tough on cookies. The EU became the Cookie Monster this year, at least in the eyes of online retailers, putting a law in place that demands that customers are informed of any cookies used – and are given the option to opt out. As of November, though, only 12% of UK websites were complying with the new directive – and the Information Commissioner’s Office had received just 550 complaints from users about websites’ cookie policies, compared to 53,000 complaints in the same period about unwanted marketing communications.

Google Places gets a makeover, in the form of Google+ Local. New features include the ability to post reviews and photos directly to a business’s Google+ page, as well as the aforementioned incorporation of Zagat’s reviews and scores.

Google Shopping, meanwhile, looks almost completely unchanged but now conceals a dark secret beneath its search results. Businesses are now expected to pay for the privilege of having products displayed, giving smaller companies even more reason to hate Amazon. In time for Christmas, Bing responded by launching an advertising campaign, ‘Scroogled’, pointing out that customers were no longer seeing organic shopping results, but ads.

The power of viral was well and truly demonstrated through the success of the half-hour ‘KONY 2012’ clip, about African warlord Joseph Kony. The video garnered 74 million views within a week of its release in March, and was recently named the most shared clip of 2012 by The Drum. The video’s total views now stand at 95 million.

Shoppers shunned the high street again, continuing the trend towards spending online, with huge rises in mobile purchases (see below). In December alone, UK bargain hunters were expected to spend more than £5 billion. Compared to last year, online Christmas spend has risen by four per cent.

The mobile love affair continues, with mobile searches increasing by a factor of five over the last two years, and 72% of tablet owners making purchases from their device on a weekly basis, according to Google.

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About the author:

Oliver Pyper is senior online copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing. He writes on-page content, blogs, press releases and loads of other bits and pieces too numerous and brilliant to mention. He’s also responsible for Kate Bush: The Musical and a series of videos depicting a young man’s search for energy drinks in New York City. Drop him a line if you want to talk content solutions or Kate Bush.