Digital Marketing Essentials: Marketing Tech Infographic, Apple News, And More

The most important digital marketing changes in March are a new overview of marketing technology tools and Google’s removal of sidebar ads on its results page.

Digital Marketing Essentials: Marketing Tech Infographic, Apple News, And More

An overview of marketing technology tools and the impact of Google’s removal of sidebar ads are among the most important digital marketing changes in March.

The Marketing Technology Landscape 2016

Scott Brinker, author of the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, has just updated his Marketing Technology Landscape map for 2016. It’s something I’ve been using for several years now and you’ve almost certainly seen one of the earlier iterations since it has—quite rightly—been widely shared.

If you look at the latest version (which can be downloaded here), it’s certainly awesome for its visual impact and the level of detail that goes into it.

I love it because it’s such a useful infographic, highlighting the wide range of vendors serving digital marketing categories. It really helps as a prompt to marketers to review their current technology stack and take action to improve it.

What began as a list of 150 companies in 2011 has now grown to illustrate more than 3,500 tools. The categories have also been updated to focus more on those digital marketing activities that need management rather than just infrastructure, which I think is an improvement.

Despite the huge number of tools the map illustrates, I think there are other ways to skin a cat and at Smart Insights we have been thinking about how to create a simplified digital marketing tools visualisation covering both insight and management tools. I’ll share where we’re at next month.

Platform Developments: Google’s Sidebar Ad Removal

The most significant platform change over the past month is Google’s decision to end its use of ads in the right sidebar for desktop searches. Instead it is opting for three above-the-fold text ads for queries on the desktop Search Engine Results Page and a further three ads at the bottom.

Explaining its decision, Google said: “We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”

A fourth ad will be shown for the types of search where people express a deep intention to buy, such as “car insurance”, “hotels in New York” and “cheapest smartphones”.

It doesn’t mean the death of the sidebar altogether, as removing the ads has provided more real estate for relevant Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and brand information from the Google Knowledge Graph.

Although it was a surprise for most, it perhaps shouldn’t have been. Google has been aligning its search results with the mobile experience over the past year or more.

So what impact has the change had? The analysis by search and digital marketing agency Merkle|RKG includes this chart showing desktop non-brand traffic.

This is where we would expect to see the greatest impact from the change. The analysis found that top-of-page ads are now producing about 80% of text ad clicks, up from around 70% of clicks just prior to the removal of right-hand sidebar ads.

The analysis shows that the impact has varied through time as users have adjusted. Certainly the position four ad at the top of the page has benefited and is now producing 8% of non-brand desktop text ad clicks, up from around 0.5%–1.0% in early February.

As you would expect, the proportion and volume of clicks at the bottom of the page has also increased.

Of course, what really matters is the impact on the cost-per-click. Currently this seems neutral. The proportion of paid ads has not changed significantly either. So far it seems like concerns around the removal of the sidebar ads are unfounded.

Platform Developments: Apple News Opens Up To All Publishers

The other platform news in March is that Apple News is now available to all publishers and other site owners if they are interested. This is part of a broader trend where platforms such as Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s AMP have enabled publishers to syndicate their content to other platforms and share revenue (in the case of Facebook and Apple). You can read more about what’s required to publish on Apple’s platform on the Apple Developer Site.