2016 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for digital marketing. New ideas and technologies are taking shape, even as Google and other major online markets implement sweeping changes to better accommodate growing denominations of the digital marketplace. Here’s a little bit of a preview as to what you should be expecting in the very near future.
Content is Still King
“The need for good content will not slow down. Ever.” (Forbes –Newman)
A more mobile-friendly Internet is just around the corner. Google is taking mobile innovation further than ever; as they recently announced that websites that are not optimized for mobile users are going to be phased out of their search engine index. The reverse is not the case; mobile-friendly sites without an optimized PC version are fine. Coupled with the expanding resources of many mobile devices today, it seems clear that desktop users are slowly being phased out… and the decisions of major online markets such as Google and Amazon are hastening that eventuality.
Text-based content will rely on more conversational language. Your content needs to be optimized for SEO, but the conventional wisdom of the past – that text needed to be succinct and organized primarily for search engine bot convenience – is falling by the wayside. With the focus of SEO shifting more to multimedia, and relying less upon keyword optimization, text-based content is assuming more of a customer-focused role. It needs to be conversational, friendly, and personal, and to read as though it were written for real people.
A more personal approach will be needed. Customers like interacting directly with the companies they patronize. Through avenues like social media and interactive blogs, they feel like they’ve established a more personal relationship with their favorite brands – and, as a result, that their favorite brands care about their needs personally. Businesses on every level are starting to catch on to this, hiring professionals to manage their social media accounts as needed, responding to customers’ individual concerns with the voice of the brand… and often reaching out to their entire client base individually through email, social media, and instant messaging.
SEO is Changing
“(Content) tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher” (Search Engine Land – Schmidt)
Authorship ranking is coming. It’s long been a rumor, but authorship ranking – the tying of search engine optimization to not only a given page’s content, but also to the verified authority of the person who wrote it – is right around the corner. Something resembling this on a rudimentary level has been going on for the last year or so already, but in terms of this being a viable strategy to focus your own SEO efforts on, the practice is still in its infancy. Look for Google, in particular, to be coordinating this with the expansion of its focus on social networking, in an attempt to boost the ever-lagging popularity of Google+.
Graphics are going to dominate. In terms of Google’s crawlers, several major decisions made over the past few years have increased the value of images. Now, their impact on a site’s SEO compatibility is far greater than that offered by keyword optimization. This isn’t to suggest that optimizing text is no longer worthwhile; for the foreseeable future, it’s still a viable part of any good SEO campaign. That being said, you might want to think about replacing a paragraph or two with infographics, while using text primarily to draw in the human reader.
Video ads will take over SEM. Multiple heat map-based studies have demonstrated that many people no longer pay any attention to paid graphical ads. Demonstrable eye-mapping data shows that, even when they’re placed in a website’s header, traditional banner ads often attract little to no attention. Video-based advertising merged with other content is the new wave. Many people rely upon Internet-based video for much of their news and information.
“The potential value of well-collected metadata is near limitless.” (FastCompany – Beer)
Social networking will rise to prominence. Within the last six months, Google has begun involving social media content directly in its search engine ranking… in a big way. This earmarks a trend which isn’t going to slow down any time soon. We’ve already discussed things like authorship ranking – how a writer’s profile will impact their work’s search engine optimization directly. The major online interests are gearing more and more towards the individual, personalized element in digital marketing strategies, and social media is going to be a huge part of that. Involving the content of posts and tweets directly in SEO is merely the beginning.
Customers want to see right through you. Transparency is the new “in thing,” and it’s only going to get bigger. With concerns such as the handling of secure online information in the forefront of peoples’ minds following several recent high-profile database hacks, customers want to know how a business works from top to bottom – and how their personal and financial information is being protected. What was once deemed private information is now clamored for by the general public. As a result, the Internet is now flush with software and online services designed to help online businesses accommodate this need – without jeopardizing their security in the process.
User-generated content is on the rise. This change is already in evidence, but in the next few months it’s going to explode. Having marketable content that is generated by your customers in the first place serves a dual purpose: it promotes your brand, and it shows you exactly what your users are thinking. Taking advantage of this – whether it’s in the form of online reviews, social media, or customers’ blogs – requires that your existing online marketing efforts be strongly focused on creating a positive overall impression with your customers. It’s no longer enough to satisfy in one area; your customers will need to be delighted with the entire experience, or they’ll be talking about somebody else instead.
2016: The Year of the User
If you’ll forgive the Tron reference, the point is that while user-focused content has long been the dominant aspect of most digital marketing strategies, we’re seeing a rapid shift to user-directed content. Customer-driven advertising and a focus on increasingly personal interactions are now possible thanks to recent advancements in technology, as well as a slight shift in philosophy. This movement has been given additional momentum by policy changes within organizations such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, particularly through catering to mobile platforms that require more conversational tones and personal digital assistants to achieve optimal levels of interaction.
People want a completely personalized experience. As technology advances, they’re looking for something that is more and more convenient to the end-user, taking their own individual preferences into account – not simply as part of a particular market denomination. Through the prevalence of miniaturized tech, new apps, and marketing strategies that reduce the relationship between a business and a customer to something strictly 1-on-1, they’re finally starting to get what they want. The viability of future digital marketing strategies relies almost entirely on their ability to keep up with the pace of personalization.