2015-2016 Trends in Online Marketing


Digital marketing is an ever-changing art form, with technological advances, guidelines and trends constantly affecting the way we do business.

It is therefore helpful to have a good grasp of the previous year’s trends, in order to have a better chance of predicting this year’s and adapting your strategy accordingly.

A report by SimilarWeb has handily ranked the top trending websites, and the various traffic sources, using global desktop website data. Focusing on January 2015 through January 2016, the data is broken down by industry and category, so we can see which sites, and which methods, came out on top.

The report makes interesting reading, with an increase in relative share for news and media, adult sites and gaming, and an overall decrease in relative share for travel, finance and sports.

Once you start drilling down into the figures, however, it becomes obvious that the top-line stats don’t give the overall picture. For example, whilst social media decreased its relative share across the web by 1.67%, social networks still dominated the traffic, with Facebook the most visited website overall. Google came second, and Instagram was eighth.

Travel, shopping and sports did manage to increase their relative share from social but, on the whole, social was driving less and less traffic to websites in 2015.

In fact, referral traffic from any source decreased, with direct up 6.19% and search up 1.92%, meaning most visitors were either heading straight to specific websites, or finding them through search engines such as Google.

This makes SEO and PCC more important than ever for digital marketers.

If the majority of your visitors are coming directly to your site, they will more than likely land on your homepage, so make sure they are going to like what they see. Remember the basics - make the site easy to navigate and have plenty of fresh and engaging content.

If, however, they are coming via search, you need to be paying close attention to your SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) to ensure that the information there not only accurately reflects your company, but is detailed and well-thought-out enough to help with your SERPs’ ranking.

Email was another marketing tool which suffered, decreasing by 21.50% overall. However, shopping and gaming both bucked this trend.

It was a good year for the gaming industry, with a relative share increase of 24.10% - the largest of any category, due in large part to year-on-year display ads. There was a drop in traffic, but on average visitors spent 30 seconds more on the site per visit, and viewed 15.5% more pages.

2015 was the year click-bait started to take over our newsfeeds, and indeed traffic from display ads was down 21.33% across every category, except for news and media.

News and media did increase its relative share – from 10.02% in January 2015, to 10.83% in January 2016 – but due to the sheer number of sites popping up, people spent on average 12 seconds less on any particular website.

The proliferation of websites across the board meant that engagement was down overall, as was viewing duration. Simply put, we’re spending more and more time online, but our attention spans are getting ever shorter as we get bombarded with content.

When we’re not on Facebook, we’re watching Netflix. The TV viewing site had the biggest year-on-year increase, rising 26 places in the most visited websites.

Adult sites increased their relative share too, from 4.51% to 4.87%, driven by live camera sites and a 20% growth in virtual reality, but there was a surprising 43.41%.drop in traffic coming from display ads – traditionally one of the most popular traffic sources in this industry.

Travel sites such as Booking.com and TripAdvisor experienced a substantial drop in paid traffic, however this was clearly due to a change in strategy, as social, search and direct traffic sources were all up.

Russian and other Eastern European sites contributed hugely to traffic growth, whilst the US dominated sports and gambling.

As the number of active websites continues to grow exponentially, the competition for traffic becomes ever more fierce. With a downward trend in referral traffic, it’s more important than ever to reach your target audience, to take a multi-channel approach and not rely on any one method of communication.

Social is driving less and less traffic to your website, but most people spent most of their time on Facebook, therefore a strong digital presence on social media is still a must in terms of brand identity.

Search is increasing, so your SERPs must be optimised, and direct is the most valuable source of traffic, so your website must be up to scratch.

Certain industries can still benefit hugely from display ads, whilst others would be better off focusing their resources elsewhere.

It’s all a question of doing your homework and tracking your traffic sources effectively and efficiently.

Yearly reports certainly help, and allow us to compare and benchmark our websites’ performance in relation to competitors, but in the end it’s all about keeping on top of those analytics, and not just recording, but responding, to the data.