The Internet has drastically altered the way in which information is shared, and has had a profound impact on marketing. Over the past few years, there has been more of a shift toward inbound techniques, while many outbound tactics have become antiquated. More businesses are finding success publishing original content rather than embedding advertisements within external content, because of the additional benefits these tactics offer, such as branding and audience growth.
With these trends in mind, let’s discuss my predictions for the top online marketing trends of 2014.
1. Content Marketing Will be Bigger Than Ever
One of the main ways that companies are establishing authority and gaining trust with consumers is by consistently creating valuable content through a variety of channels. This typically involves relevant industry information that provides insight or entertainment to an audience. Doing so allows a company to steadily build rapport with its demographic and develop a loyal following. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the top B2B content marketing strategies are social media, articles on a business’s website, eNewsletters, case studies, videos and articles on other websites.
By using one or more of these channels, businesses are able to build a positive reputation within their industry. This trend suggests that marketing to the masses through techniques like television ads and radio ads are becoming less effective. Instead, it’s better to concentrate on inbound marketing, by producing valuable, engaging content designed for a specific audience.
2. Social Media Marketing Will Require More Diversity
Just a few years ago, businesses were limited with regard to the social media networks they could implement into their marketing campaigns, with the biggies including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Now, it seems like new social media sites are appearing all the time. While some never really get off the ground, others like Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr and Instagram have surged in popularity and have provided businesses with a plethora of new options that allow them to produce engaging content in a variety of media forms and build their audiences across more channels than ever before.
Consequently, it has become common for businesses to branch out and experiment with multiple networks with the aim of reaching the maximum amount of consumers. This diversification seems to prove fruitful for many companies because it often builds brand equity by making it easier for consumers to recognize a particular brand.
3. Image-Centric Content Will Rule
As consumers are hit with an increasing number of advertisements, it’s becoming more important to make content easily and quickly digestible. If you look at the social media sites I mentioned previously that are on the rise, three of the four have a common characteristic…they place an emphasis on images. The rapid rise to success of Buzzfeed and Pinterest are testaments to the power and viral potential of image-based content.
Successful blog posts that receive the most social shares also usually have a common characteristic: they pepper in some well-placed pictures to break content up and emphasize certain points. Another example is infographics, which combine images with a minimal amount of text to explain a topic and provide statistical information or data from research studies.
While I doubt that traditional text-based content will ever completely go out of style, it’s pretty clear that incorporating images is beneficial to a marketing campaign.
4. Less Will be More
One notable trend is the apparent shift in consumer preference regarding simplistic marketing messages instead of in-depth messages. When you think about some of the top brands in the world like Apple and Google, they clearly value simplicity. A large part of Pinterest’s appeal is its clean, uncluttered, and minimalist aesthetic.
With many consumers feeling burned out by a constant barrage of information and advertisements that scream “look at me”, some of the most innovative marketers are going the opposite direction. The’re now making efforts to tone-down their campaign messages and not overwhelm consumers with hype.
Perhaps an article by Forbes said it best: “there is a sense that from the hyper-connectivity of our highly-digitized lives to the bright, flashy, complicated sensory input we’re fed everyday, there is no way to continue at this pace. As a result, 2013 is likely to be a year where the most successful marketing strategies will be ones that are not only simple in nature, but promote goods and services that serve to simplify the consumer’s life, or even just their customer experience.”
5. Mobile-Friendly Content Will Be Necessary
Due to the widespread (and quickly growing) use of smartphones and tablets, it’s necessary for companies to create content that’s accessible to mobile users. According to Forbes, “87% of connected devices sales by 2017 will be tablets and smartphones.” Whether it’s creating an alternate mobile version of a website or utilizing responsive web design, it’s important to provide a positive experience to users that are browsing via a mobile device.
Otherwise, it’s easy to lose customers to competitors who have adapted to this trend. As the shift from traditional PCs and laptops to mobile devices continues, businesses that aren’t onboard are likely to suffer.
6. Ad Retargeting Will Grow in Effectiveness
This is a marketing strategy that has really caught on recently. In a nutshell, it works by utilizing browser cookies to track the websites that users visit. Once they leave a certain site, the products or services they viewed will be shown to them again in advertisements across different websites.
It’s fairly obvious as to why this technique can be so effective. With only two percent of web traffic converting on the first visit, ad retargeting works to increase the overall conversion rate by reminding consumers of the product or service they viewed. This keeps the brand and the product at the top of the consumer’s mind. There are even psychological studies that have shown that simple exposure to brand names and logos creates familiarity, which builds trust and makes consumers more likely to make a purchase.
Even if there’s no immediate purchase, this can really pay off in the long run. Due to the success that many marketers have had with ad retargeting, there’s a good chance that it will become more mainstream in 2014.
7. SEO and Social Signals Will Become Even More Intertwined
Although social signals still don’t typically carry the same weight as traditional inbound links, it’s pretty undeniable that they play a role in organic search rankings these days. After all, they’re one of the three pillars of SEO. Since the goal of Google and other search engines is to provide users with the most relevant and highest quality content possible, it makes sense why they would factor in the number of social shares that a blog post, article or product page receives.
The more people that are sharing a piece of content, the higher quality it’s likely to be, and therefore its position should increase within the search engine results pages. It’s no coincidence that the top-ranking search results tends to have lots of social shares, while those ranked lower have fewer.
Besides this, social shares can serve as a stamp of approval (ie, a trust signal) for visitors landing on a page. If they see that it has hundreds or thousands of shares, it’s likely that there’s something of value. That’s a big reason why so many businesses are installing social share plugins and encouraging consumers to share as much as possible.
While it’s difficult to predict algorithms will evolve in the future, there’s a reasonable chance that social shares will match or even outweigh traditional inbound links by the end of 2014.