If there is one constant in the web marketing industry, it’s change! There’s no doubt heading into the new year that search engines will tweak the way they rank the web, new social media platforms will surface, and Google will make changes to its products. What’s a web marketer to do? Stay on top of trends and use brains and experience to determine which trends are fads, which ones will stick and where those trends might lead in the future.
As members of the PPM Pit Crew, we’re constantly watching trends throughout the year to make strategic moves for the success of our clients. Here are some of the trends we’ll be watching as we start 2014 in the areas of SEO, content marketing, social media, PPC and analytics.
SEO – Stoney deGeyter
As an SEO I’m always trying to stay ahead of the algorithms. No one likes to get caught with their pants down, but that happens all the time in our industry when SEOs don’t try to be forward thinking. The goal is to apply to our sites what we believe Google MIGHT do down the road. With that said, very little on-page optimization has changed over the years. What was good SEO in 2000 is still good SEO today. However the effect that on-page SEO has on the overall ranking performance of a site has diminished. First it was links, and now it’s social. I’ll be keeping an eye on how these two areas become more or less relevant to the ranking algorithm and what other signals will be coming in 2014 and the years ahead. In 2014, you can’t succeed on SEO alone; you need a complete web marketing strategy.
Content Marketing – Deb Briggs
With Google’s Hummingbird changes, it’s become even more important for businesses to find their voice and tell their story in a way that’s beneficial to those searching for their goods or services. It’s no longer just about throwing keywords on a page, but really considering searcher intent and delivering the best quality content to meet those needs.
You’ve probably heard about Coca-Cola’s initiative to effectively kill the press release by 2015. While that might sound ambitious, it’s really not if you consider that brand journalism is at the heart of their strategy. Brand journalism effectively cuts out the middle man (traditional news sources) and brings those storytellers in-house.
As a former print journalist turned web marketer, I understand the benefit of hiring writers trained in the art of not only informing, but also telling a story in an engaging and thorough way. My only concern is objectivity, but perhaps that’s something brand journalists can bring to the table to help instill confidence and trust in the mind of a site visitor.
I see the trend for quality, engaging content continuing in 2014. Is your brand ready?
Social Media – Kathy Gray
At the end of 2013 we saw businesses become increasingly disenfranchised with the declining reach of their Facebook brand pages. While reach isn’t the end-all, be-all stat that marketers should focus on, I think it underscores the importance of having a strong home base and being agile in your marketing. Having a strong website, blog or email marketing program with quality content to engage those fans will help keep them with you long after Facebook’s luster has faded, and when/if they (and your business) migrate to another social network.
The other important takeaway from the declining reach saga is that social networks are businesses. As businesses ourselves, we should understand this and shouldn’t expect our free ride to last forever. With the growing increase in traffic and noise on social networks, it should come as no surprise that we should be using a mix of free and paid social activity to reach our target audience, much like with search marketing.
Lastly, there are social signals and the impact of social media on search rankings. With the Hummingbird update, Google is poised to use social signals as a ranking factor in the future. There is much debate as to how much weight social signals currently carry, how much of an impact Google+ in particular has on search results and how much weight social signals will carry in the future. It is definitely something to watch and prepare for. The best way to prepare for it? Building solid engaged social communities and sharing quality useful content with them will put your business in the best position possible.
PPC Advertising – Mike Fleming
With Google AdWords now taking into account the expected impact from ad extensions into their Ad Rank formula for ordering ads on search results pages, it will be interesting to see how this affects the performance of competitive PPC accounts; especially with the addition of interesting new extensions like Review Extensions. As time marches on, it becomes ever more important to communicate credibility and excellence through your web presence.
Will 2014 be a year when small businesses start flocking to PPC in droves to attract local business? In 2013, it seemed like more and more small businesses were thinking seriously about their web presence because of the continuing shift of the way people search for solutions on the web. With the immediacy and control that PPC offers, I imagine the interest in this marketing channel will be high, with the intent of positioning themselves to win in 2014.
Analytics – Mike Fleming
With the recent rollout of Universal Analytics and the forced switchover for all Google Analytics accounts that will be occurring throughout the coming months, there will be a fundamental change in the way data analysis is done. It will now be easier than ever to tie online and offline customer behavior together and to group those customers into meaningful segments to gain insights. This is a huge win for attributing marketing investment to customer acquisition, behavior and outcomes. It will be interesting to see how this new functionality changes the way businesses invest in online marketing.
What trends will you be watching in 2014?