Now that we’re a few months into 2014, I thought might be valuable to share some trends we’re already seeing in the ever-changing realm of Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing. As the Digital Marketing Manager here at Paramount Consulting, it is most interesting to me how fast the sometimes forceful winds of digital marketing blew trends in and out 2013. Nevertheless, its 2014 now, Google is further honing their ranking requirements and the following patterns seem to be emerging already as dominate. The best news: most of them are tried and true – not really affected by any of the algorithm changes Google may implement as they settle into their role as dictator of everything relevant and authoritative online.
1. Content will remain King.
If you know anything about SEO, this adage is pretty cliche, but the evidence is in the massive amount of success content generation had in 2013. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the the trend has been moving toward eliminating the fluff. If search engines are in the game for their users, and marketers are in the game for their clients, then innovative marketers that earn the most “user experience” points will win the game. Genuine, relevant content (as always) will be necessary to compete.
In Sum: If you’re not dedicating a budget toward content development, it’s time to do so.
2. SEO and SOCIAL MEDIA will become inseparable.
Okay, social isn’t the heavy hitter inbound strategy has been when it comes to search engine friendliness, but it is still a major “Pillar of SEO” and everyone knows it shouldn’t be ignored. Even though social media is most definitely a vital piece to a well-rounded online presence, the fact remains: social media is it’s own animal entirely. The past couple years, search engines like Google have recognized the uniqueness of social signals, and moreover their increasing impact on consumer decision making. Because of this, search engines will use social signals more in 2014 to factor the overall authority of a site.
If businesses have involved social media platforms, with relevant, original content, that demand audience interaction, they will find themselves showing up more often in the search engine in 2014, no longer just for their site, but for their external social and blog content. Social interaction and “shares” have become the internet’s proverbial “stamp of approval”. Search engines will sort social content by these stamps and trust signals just like they do when they determine authority for websites. This enhanced focus in 2014, will ensure original content, posted on social media, is showing up more often in your every-day search results, and may even outweigh inbound links by the end of the year.
Conclusion: Social media is no longer the “should have” product of 2013; its now the “must-have” product of 2014.
3. Higher demand for “Mobile-Friendly” content.
This is about user accessibility: plain and simple. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit the current disconnectedness of the modern world, disguised by “connectedness” sometimes disheartens me. But the truth is: we are on our devices and phones SO often, because they are just THAT cool. I mean, think about it, the future of our childhood has quite literally arrived. Almost limitless accessibility, boundless discovery, and do-anything applications at our fingertips have officially changed the way we access and process information. It feels kind of like Star Trek. Now, the evolution of Mobile browsing has unearthed “responsive” web design, which is fast replacing “mobile-friendly” as the norm on new website builds.
Forbes predicts that, by 2017, tablets and smartphones will be 87% of connected device sales throughout the world. With the affordability and user friendly interfaces of the newer tablets, more and more people have been able to gain a personal access point to the internet that could not afford one previously.
Point Is: Good luck in 2014 if you’re not at least “mobile-friendly”. And NOTE: If you’re looking at investing in a new site, you might as well go responsive, because mobile friendly won’t be enough to stay competitive by the end of the year.
4. Simplicity will drive a new age.
The best, most innovative marketers will strive to have less of the marauding flashiness that dominated the online advertising space of 2013, and develop campaigns with honest messaging, presented simply. Successful marketers will know their users are getting sick of all the sensory stimulation. We all still love having the access to information at our fingertips, but we don’t need it to scream at us if its truly relevant to our needs or desires. And though simplicity is easier said than done; less will truly be more when less hype equals more genuine engagement from users in 2014.
As the market becomes more educated on the potential of advertising online, the hype of the digital marketing industry itself will deflate and we will see the lazy marketing tactics that have begun to cloud the industry slough off like dead skin, and a new age of competitive high design will emerge into the online advertising space.
In Summary: Neon is dead.
5. Video Marketing: “Multisensory Impression”
Videos can be obnoxious and turn users away, if they’re produced wrong. But when they’re done right, videos are potent online marketing tools. Videos have the ability- with captivating imagery and relevant music- to actually embody a marketing message. Text certainly can’t do that, and even the best photography often falls short. In no other media can we really talk directly to the user in multiple ways.
I know I just got done saying that we are all sick of the sensory perception. But a well produced video, with honest messaging, can be your best sales person in this online age.
My Suggestion: Get your business in front of a good video camera, with someone who knows how to use it, ASAP.
6. UX will become a key factor in search ranking.
UX or “User Experience” is a bit harder to measure for return on investment than some other methods like keyword ranking. Nevertheless, Google’s Panda updates focus on content quality measured by click-through (does the user select the page from the search results?), bounce rate (does the user do anything on the page?), and conversion (does the user indicate that their information need has been solved?). But really, just like with mobile friendly and responsive design, this is about getting your user base where they want to go on your website and doing it efficiently and with as little difficulty to the user as possible.
Relevant user experience data points from most site analytics programs, like Google Analytics, would be: unique visitors, their social actions, the number of pages visited, the average time on page (exclude the bounces), bounce rate, exit rate, top content and top landing pages.
Don’t Forget: You’re website needs to flow
Now, this is of course not ALL the trends we’ll see in Digital Marketing in 2014. Each year brings it’s own surprises, but these 6 trends will be worth paying attention to, that is sure. Remember, If you have questions about Digital Marketing, just give us a call. We love this stuff.