Lauren is a self proclaimed marketing nerd who loves to analyze, organize, and colour code EVERYTHING! Lauren also loves to hang out at the gym or in the mountains, and has an (unhealthy) obsession with Disney movies.

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The Mobile Movement & What it Means for Marketers in 2017

Mobile First is Real

Nowadays, everyone and their Grandma has a smartphone, and a recent poll from eMarketer shows that penetration is still growing across all age groups, with 97% of 25-34 year olds owning and using a smartphone. With the increased penetration comes an increase in time spent on those phones, as illustrated in this study from comSCORE, and some demographics are even spending more time using their phone than watching TV! What does this mean for marketers?

The Mobile Movement in 2017

It’s time to capitalize on this trend as all major online platforms are now offering more mobile and local offerings, with an emphasis on ‘mobile first’ in design.

Mobile Impact on Paid Search

Google caught this mobile trend early, and addressed it by changing the layout of the search engine results page (SERP) drastically in 2016. Let’s have a look at these changes:

  1. Removal of right hand ads – One of Google’s strategies towards this mobile-first world was to align the experience across devices (mobile, desktop, and tablet), bringing us to our first major change in 2016. Before this change, ads showed above the fold on the right hand side of the search engine results page, but mobile devices did not have this capability due to the screen size. Google decided to remove those positions completely. Now the ad positions previously found on the right hand side are at the bottom of the results page, and the results page now looks nearly identical between desktop and mobile.
    •  What this means for marketers – The top 4 ad positions are even more desirable now! Only users that scroll to the bottom or go to the next page of results will end up seeing ads in position 5 or lower.
  2. Expanded text ads – Released in beta last summer, Expanded Text Ads changed the way advertisers write ad copy for Google Search. This change not only allowed for more characters in your ad copy, the expanded format makes ads look like organic, non-paid links. They even tested different colours for the ad labels, making it less and less obvious that the ads are indeed ads. Why would they do such a thing? The less the ad looks like an ad, the more likely people are to click on it.
    • What this means for marketers – If you haven’t updated your Google Search ads to expanded form, you’ve been left behind! Google no longer allows ads to be created in the old standard format, and all new ads must be in the expanded format moving forward.

With both of these changes now in play, there is little distinction from paid and organic links.

Organic and Paid Google Search Results

On the Move!

Let’s have a look at a few more updates to the Google local experience.

  1. Promoted pins & local ads – People are increasingly relying on their phones for timely information based on where they are. On cue, Google Maps took this opportunity to release the all new, ‘promoted location pins’ to select advertisers in April. Now companies can pay to show up when users are searching on Google Maps, offering highly localized promotions.
    •  What this means for marketers – Businesses with physical stores or branches can capitalize on this new feature by driving more foot traffic through timely location based advertising.
  2. Direct answers – Need to know how long to boil an egg? Google will crawl the web and show you the answer in a ‘Direct Answer’ box, directly below the ads (but before the #1 organic link). But Google doesn’t just pull information from the #1 organic link for this, they will look for the most relevant answer. This means you don’t necessarily need to be in the #1 spot, you could aim to show up for a direct answer instead.
    • What this means for marketers – If thought leadership is your goal, this is an excellent way to show your authority on your subject matter or industry. Though this requires a bit of on-site optimization, a direct answer strategy can help you own more Search real-estate, and insert your brand in a great position on that results page.

New AdWords Updates from 2016

Along with the new products and formats, Google added some horsepower to the features in AdWords as well:

  1. Device Bidding – After years of only being able to bid on ‘mobile’ (containing both tablets and phones), we can finally isolate and optimize the bids for tablets, phones, and desktops independently.
    • What this means for marketers – If your users are more likely to visit and engage with your brand on mobile, you will now be able to tone down the visibility on desktops and tablets (or exclude those devices all together). This adds efficiency to the media spend as you can more readily focus on what’s working from a device perspective.
  2. Demographic Bidding on Search – Originally only available on the Display network, you can now optimize Search campaigns based on gender and age. The catch? You’ll need quite a bit of volume to get any valuable insights, and a large percentage of the audience will always come in as ‘unknown’.
    • What this means for marketers – If you can understand how different genders and age groups perform, and adjust bids accordingly, you’ll be able to get more strategic and more efficient with your ads.
  3. Store Visit Conversions – Google has been tracking store visits for a while now, but they officially added this as a metric available in all AdWords accounts in 2016. Google will track how many users (those signed in with Google accounts on their phones) click on ads, and then physically visit the advertiser’s store.
    • What this means for marketers –  There are still a few gaps with this metric and its accuracy, but it’s still one step closer toward online to offline conversion tracking; the Holy Grail for Digital Marketers.
  4. Customer Match – This feature allows you to upload first-party email lists (Gmail addresses) and use them as a target audience. The catch? Minimum list size is 1,000, and they still have to be actively searching for your products or services.
    • What this means for marketers –  Customer match is a great way to get even more value out of your email list. Start collecting email addresses through lead forms and leverage those contacts across both Search and Email!
  5. Responsive Display Ads – The Google Display Network has a huge list of ad sizes and formats available for marketers, which is cumbersome from a creative production standpoint. Often people will elect to run with a handful of formats, instead of the full menu, which limits placements and leaves ad inventory on the table. To address this issue, Google released Responsive Display ads, which basically re-size your creative assets into the appropriate size as they’re placed. Not only does this expand your reach by opening up inventory, the responsive ads are designed to look and feel like they are part of the website that they are placed on, which elevates the awareness of them and entices click through.
    • What this means for marketers – Stop wasting time on resizing and let Google do the work for you! Instead, spend your time on developing on-point creative assets that will break through the noise and get noticed.

What’s Next?

This year we will see the mass adoption of the features released in 2016, and further refinement on all of them. As more people start using their phone’s personal assistant, we expect to see a rise in ‘voice search’ related ad products and formats. Also, with products like ‘Google Daydream’ and other virtual and augmented reality technologies in the works, it’s not if Google comes up with a way to monetize this, it’s when… 

Mobile Impact on Paid Social

Making Something for Every Business

Similar to nearly everyone now owning a smartphone, the majority of people also have Facebook installed on their device. According to a study by Insights West, most Canadians use Facebook daily. However, other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat are quickly on the rise. With people spending so much time on these platforms, paid social has created ad formats and features to fit for nearly any business objective. Let’s take a look at the major changes from 2016.


Facebook was one of the first platforms to offer ad products, and they are definitely leading the way in terms of social media advertising innovation. Here are a few of the exciting new products that came available in 2016, which in many ways were driven by the mobile movement:

  1. Canvas Ads – Launched early last year, advertisers can essentially create a micro-site within the Facebook platform itself. The user interacts with the ad unit by swiping between slides of content (images, video, etc), with the real advantage being the user doesn’t have to leave Facebook to visit an external website.
    • What this means for marketers – Don’t have a mobile-friendly landing page to use? No problem! Canvas could be a good alternative for you. The mobile-only ad unit is great for education or displaying large amounts of visual content, and for sculpting user experience to aid in accomplishing your campaign goals.
  2. Lead Generation Ads – In the old days, Facebook ads were known for awareness-related objectives, but weren’t usually great for direct-response tactics. Just between you and I, Facebook actually copied Twitter when they created their lead generation ads in 2015, which allowed the user to submit their information to sign up, learn more, or show interest in a product without leaving the app. In 2016, Facebook one-upped Twitter and added features such as information cards, remarketing, and integration with major CRM systems to make the ad unit more flexible.
    • What this means for marketers – If you want to increase the leads for your business, this is the ad format for you. You can customize most areas of the form to get the information you need about your potential customers. We have seen strong results from this new ad unit!
  3. Facebook Offers – Yet another ad format revamped in 2016 was ‘Facebook Offers’. This unit allows users to download exclusive offers or coupons from the advertiser’s business, directly from the app. The revamp allows users to claim offers with greater ease, straight from the app, an emailed code, etc.
    • What this means for marketers – Facebook has made it easier for users to redeem your great offers, which will improve the effectiveness of this unit.
  4. Facebook Chatbots – Similar to Google’s ‘Click to Text’ option, businesses can also program chatbots on their Facebook pages to answer simple or predictable questions.
    • What this means for marketers – Save time and money answering commonly asked questions by programming a chatbot from your Facebook page. Any complex questions, or those that will require some human finesse, can be directed to your actual staff.
  5. Facebook Live and 360 Videos – It’s easier than ever to bring experiences right to your phone with these new video formats. Live videos are streamed in real time from the app, and allows things such as concerts, announcements, and sporting events to be experienced as they happen. 360 videos aren’t live (yet), but allow the user to experience the environment in a new and novel way, by changing the video viewpoint and perspective with a simple swipe of the screen.
    • What this means for marketers – Bring the action to your users while it’s happening with Live! Or, show of all aspects of your product, like a complete show home walk through, using a 360 video. These new video formats seem will be more engaging and they open up the creative possibilities for marketers.

Instagram & LinkedIn

  • Instagram – Facebook owns Instagram, and as the baby sibling, many ‘hand me down’ features on Facebook will eventually be available on Instagram. For instance, in late 2016 Instagram released Promoted Posts and Carousel ads. Instagram also launched dynamic remarketing ads, which are customized to users based on products they have engaged with on your website.
    •  What this means for marketers – If you have highly visual products, don’t shy away from Instagram just because of the limited features compared to Facebook. They will come, and being first to leverage these features will likely have great benefits when it comes to performance. Tread cautiously though, Instagram tends to be more expensive than Facebook in terms of clicks and engagement, and people don’t generally like to leave the platform.
  • LinkedIn – Although Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016 made the biggest headlines, marketers around the world were celebrating a different change on LinkedIn; the removal of minimum ad spends and moving to a true self-serve platform. Though a bit later to the game than its peers, LinkedIn boasts advanced job and industry related targeting that you can’t get on other platforms, as well as a handful of unique products that can be leveraged to help you reach your goals.
    • What this means for marketers – Knocking down the minimum ad spend, which used to be $10,000 per quarter, has definitely opened up the possibility of LinkedIn advertising for smaller businesses. Also, introducing the self serve platform allows agencies like Vovia to optimize the audiences and spends to ultimately make advertising on this network more efficient and effective.

What’s Next?

Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn will continue to develop new ad formats in line with the 2017 mobile push, but watch out for other players are quickly advancing in this space as well. As Snapchat’s user base continues to grow, advertisers are eager for Snapchat to start offering ads, beyond the sponsored filters currently available. We’re also anticipating continued growth in Pinterest advertising, with the release of Promoted Pins in late 2016. While Twitter was one of the first platforms with ad offerings, the innovation and adoption among the other platforms has definitely surpassed the little blue bird. We are interested to see how they will respond, and expect them to focus heavily on video in 2017. All in all, we expect paid social in 2017 to be very exciting in terms of innovation and performance.

Now Is Your Time!

After an eventful 2016, marketers are left with even more online ad choices to meet a multitude of business objectives. The changes in user behaviour also confirmed that mobile is here to stay, and users will continue to spend more time on their phones and less time on desktop. If you haven’t capitalized on the mobile wave yet, now is your time! Whether that means focusing on your local audience, amping up your Social Media, or improving your mobile brand experience, you have more options than ever to strengthen your mobile-first strategy.

Tell us about your mobile movement! How are you leveraging this trend?