Changes and advancements in the digital marketing field are accelerating, and it can be hard for the casual observer to keep up. So, as we near the end of 2014, let’s review the marketing trends we've seen this past year, as well as what we can expect in 2015.
1. Mobile-optimization will become more important than ever
Optimizing for mobile has been a significant priority for businesses in 2017, but 2018 will be the year that mobile strategies move beyond simply having a responsive site or mobile app, and focus on mobile-optimized content and social media marketing as well.
We know that Google has been placing additional emphasis on how mobile-friendly sites are; in fact, they've stated that mobile usability is now “relevant for optimal search results.” This emphasis is apparent in the recent launch of a new feature in Google Webmaster Tools called Mobile Usability.
I predict that the latter half of 2018 will see many businesses finally incorporating mobile into all areas of their digital marketing: a fully responsive website, mobile ads, and separate content specifically for mobile website users. Businesses will also begin to realize the necessity of having a mobile social media strategy that considers how mobile users consume and interact with social media posts.
2. Social media ad spend will sharply increase as brands realize the importance of social media marketing
In the first part of 2017, we saw Facebook reporting increased ad revenue (10%) over the previous fiscal period. As organic post reach continues to fall, and as Facebook restricts what types of posts can be shown in users’ feeds, paid advertising is only going to increase as businesses struggle to maintain traffic and sales from social media channels.
Businesses are seeing positive results from their investment in social media, including increased exposure and traffic, and are seeing paid social ads as the way to scale these results. Twitter’s new advertising options (currently in beta), where payment is triggered by specific actions like website clicks, app downloads and email opt-ins, will mean small to medium-sized businesses will be more likely to invest in these objective-based campaigns.
3. Content marketing will be (even) bigger than ever
According to the B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks report, 93% of B2B marketers said they used content marketing in 2014, and 42% said they considered their strategy effective (up from 36% last year).
As marketers continue to see the benefits of their content strategies, money previously earmarked for search engine PPC, SEO and social media will be re-allocated to content marketing efforts. A major struggle, however, will be finding ways to stand out amidst the throngs of other content vying for attention. Case studies, video content, research-intensive content, and content that abides by the 12 quality metrics will be what gives businesses an advantage over their competitors.
Businesses will be increasingly willing to invest in mobile content, including creating short-form content that’s easily readable on mobile devices, understanding their audience’s mobile habits and putting more emphasis on video and visual content that’s easily consumed via mobile.
4. Email marketing will receive a renewed focus
With social networks reducing the amount of visibility brands and businesses get on their platforms, and with search engines intimidating business owners and marketers with ever-increasing complexity of their ranking algorithms, businesses will return to the one marketing asset that they can control entirely; their email list. This renewed focus on email marketing will intertwine with content marketing to blur the lines between email and content marketing.
As brands realize the value of content marketing, they’ll begin to discover ways to streamline their email content in order to avoid redundancy. One way in which they’ll do this is to repurpose existing content into downloadable PDFs (such as whitepapers or eBooks), which can be offered as opt-in incentives to build an email list.
5. The lines between SEO, content marketing & social media will become more blurred
Content marketing has been described by some as the “new SEO;” which is somewhat accurate. SEO and content marketing will continue to co-exist as two separate but intertwined disciplines that rely on each other for success. That said, content marketing is now the primary influencer of search visibility. Businesses that don’t invest in a solid content strategy will discover that their SEO campaigns are ineffective, at best, and damaging to their search visibility, at worst.
SEO will come to be seen more as a subset of online marketing, dealing with technical aspects such as meta tags, indexing issues, penalty recovery, and keyword research. Social media, on the other hand, will come to be seen as a necessary amplifier of any content strategy. While businesses have been focused on creating high-quality content, less focus has been given to promoting and distributing that content.
Businesses will also increasingly realize the other important benefit of social media, including increased brand recognition and brand authority, improved customer insights and higher conversion rates.
6. Brands will scramble to humanize
With the rise of social media, brands will realize that their customers are on social media channels to interact with other people, not with brands and corporate-sounding lingo. Brands that are able to connect with their audience on a human-level will enjoy higher conversion rates, better brand loyalty, faster audience growth, and happier customers. I wrote about this and other benefits in my post Why It’s Important to Humanize Your Brand on Social Media.
I believe a company’s ability to humanize their brand will be the single most important factor in their success using social media. Brands who engage and develop relationships with their fans, followers and email subscribers will see tremendous benefits, all of which will ultimately increase their bottom line.
7. Marketers will find new ways of making native advertising less promotional and more relevant
With steadily decreasing click-through rates over the past few years, businesses have begun to fully realize the ineffectiveness of banner advertising for driving sales. While increased visibility is still a benefit of banner ads, small to medium-sized business looking for results will be less inclined to invest in channels that don’t offer a calculable ROI.
With the increase in popularity of native ads, marketers and publishers will constantly be looking for new ways to mimic editorial content while remaining transparent to website visitors. 2018 will see collaborations between publishers and brands whereby sponsored content is specifically created to be shown alongside the primary content; in this way, native ads will not be promotional in nature, but instead will offer relevant and engaging supplementary content.
Marketing Wife-ager at Asset Media Group, Inc.