2017: A Digital Marketing Year in Review

Posted on March 15, 2018 Mary Merritt

Another year has passed and a lot has changed in the world of digital marketing. This has always been a fast-paced industry with new tools, methods, and strategies to discover every day. Let’s explore a few noteworthy and exciting changes in search, social, and content marketing from the past year.

AdWords: A New User Interface

AdWords has been a cornerstone in how digital marketers connect businesses with potential inbound customers for over 15 years. In that time, the platform has evolved and improved consistently, but 2017 marks a particularly large change for AdWords.

Google has been beta testing and slowly deploying a fresh new AdWords interface (first revealed in 2016) throughout the year. They tout  the new UI as a faster loading and easier to use update to the old standard interface. The new interface also gives Google a new platform to continue to improve AdWords with new features. The NerdyMind team is most excited about a few of the features that are already available when using the new UI: 

  • A new “Promotions” ad extension
  • Additional demographic targeting options
  • More robust data visualizations for easier reporting
  • Granular quality score metrics

An Update to Organic SERPs: Longer Text Snippets

The basic formula for optimizing a page’s search result snippet hasn’t changed much since Google became the dominant search engine in the early 2000’s. In December, Google confirmed that a page’s text snippet can now show up to 230 characters, an increase from a previous cap of around 160 visible characters. While Google may choose not to use your custom meta descriptions at all, this is still a big change that gives SEOs more freedom in writing informative, relevant, and effective meta descriptions for pages.

Facebook Ads: More Robust Principles and Policies

Facebook has grown its relevance and reach over the past few years, and 2017 saw Facebook’s monthly active users continue to reach record numbers. No digital marketing strategy is complete if you haven’t considered how to utilize Facebook to engage with your audience and find new customers.

Due to controversy around how Facebook ads were used in the 2016 presidential election, Facebook put a lot of effort in 2017 toward improving transparency in ads seen on Facebook. Most notably, users will now be able to easily see the ads a page is running on Facebook, and political advertisers will need to verify their identity (read more). 

Facebook also published a list of advertising principles for advertisements on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger.

We are excited about Facebook’s dedication to empowering businesses and continually improving their ads products - we’ll see how things continue to improve in 2018!

SEO: Four Major Algorithm Changes for Google Search

SEO continues to be an important discipline that businesses can’t ignore if they want to be effective on the web. While specific SEO tactics and methods seem to be ever-changing, the core principle stays the same: create relevant and usable websites with original and helpful content, and you will be rewarded with organic traffic.

At NerdyMind we don’t often pay a lot of attention to search algorithm updates, because we try our best to only engage in evergreen SEO practices that will never result in penalties for our clients’ websites. Impactful algorithm changes generally only affect sites that have engaged in SEO practices that Google disagrees with, and they are forever correcting their algorithm to fight spam and black hat SEO tactics while trying to keep search results relevant and helpful. In 2017, Moz marked four major periods of change.

Here is a quick summary of the observed changes:

  • In January, Google announced they would start penalizing websites that have aggressive interstitial ads and pop-ups, in an effort to improve mobile browsing experiences (more information).
  • In February, an update (or two) helped discount spammy backlinks (more information).
  • Also in February, many SEOs noted what was thought to be a “significant core ranking update” (more information).
  • In March, the “Fred” update reportedly dropped the rankings of many sites with “low-value content” (more information).

We’re most excited about the January update incentivizing better browsing experiences for users.

Voice Search Adoption is Becoming Mainstream

In 2017 Google’s “Home” smart speakers really established themselves as worthy competitors to Amazon’s line of Echo smart speaker products. Google’s “Assistant” Android app also became more widely adopted. Both Google Home and Google Assistant allow users to ask questions and effectively search the web with their voice. This is directly related to SEO because Google pulls many answers and information for voice queries from featured snippets. The value of “Ranking #0” increases as voice search becomes more mainstream.

We’re interested to see whether Google introduces advertising to voice search, and how an increased volume of voice queries will shape organic traffic and SERPs in 2018.


Overall, this past year has shown that digital marketing is truly a maturing discipline with a proven track record of generating sales and leads for businesses small and large. We are happy to see thousands of our contemporaries in the space continue to innovate and improve the experience of exploring, learning, buying, and creating on the web. We look forward to continuing to stay on top of changes in the industry, and bring expertise and hands-on experience in all things digital marketing to our clients in 2018.