Digital Marketing in 2016, Trends and Lessons from the Past

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The digital marketing landscape is becoming increasingly more complex and, in many ways, ephemeral. With the volatility of  the digital sphere, the trends indicate several opportunities for brands looking to position themselves online.

As new technologies emerge, new software created, and companies are founded, the associated risks for businesses is determining a position on integrating the newest, shiniest technology or to focus their marketing efforts on their core efforts. Early adopters gain a clear advantage in terms of brand positioning and securing new market interests while conservative brands tend to miss out or have to catch up by investing resources to retain their market share.

What’s in store for 2016?

Before any predictions, it’s clear that the digital marketing landscape is quickly evolving and continuing to blur the lines between real time and longer form content. As these changes emerge, consumer preferences are shifting but can brands actually preserver their positioning and respond to these changes?

The best place to start is to look back at 2015 and allow those trends to determine what’s in store for the coming year.

In 2015, four digital marketing predictions emerged.

  1. Content/ Context will continue to dominate
  2. Cross platform marketing will grow
  3. Mobile
  4. Data and personalization

Looking forward to 2016, last year’s digital marketing trends require some fine tuning to better suit consumer preferences, marketing realities and a more crowded online marketplace.

Content/ Context

In 2015, valuable content boosted via paid promotion was important. Content in the right context seemed to be an important aspect of long-form content for many brands. Especially in light of SERP’s trying to bridge the great divide.

It will remain that way in 2016 with a few minor tweaks.

Blogging and content creation will remain a critical aspect of brand positioning online. With that, social promotion and dynamic image and video-based content will take a more prominent role in the content funnel. Words won’t be the only touch point for brands. Especially with video streaming giants Periscope, Meerkat and Blab positioning themselves, content marketers need to readjust their definitions of content or, at the very least, expand their content offerings within this new reality.

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Within content offerings, companies are now realizing the significant impact of user-generated content. User generated content programs are clearly gaining popularity, some notable ones of 2015 include:

National GeographicWindows 10, and Camelbak.

These brands span the industry spectrum from tech to product to global tourism. A little creativity and a willingness to engage and solicit content from fans, can go a long way.  Expect this user focused trend to grow in 2016, as more companies integrate some form of UGC campaign to increase brand affinity and loyalty.

Creative content is not specific to either the B2C or B2B spaces. In 2016, content marketers need to test visual and video platforms, not to mention live streaming, as new means to offer content that is engaging and will entice users beyond the classic text-based blog.

Mobile First

Last year, the trends of mobile usage were outstanding. As the surge in the mobile market directly affected the marketing industry, 2015 pushed the industry to its limits in terms of content marketing on mobile device.

In 2015, Google made a clear statement of mobile trends by announcing that mobile took over desktop traffic in 10 countries. They also released an algorithm update boldly stating that mobile is here to stay and pushing out those sites that aren’t willing to play with the big boys. While Google is willing to accept two versions of the site, they are clearly making a statement of their predictions in terms of mobile trends.

The mobile-first, or multi-screen, trend will only continue gain steam in 2016. Responsive design is just the tip of the iceberg. Customers are clearly showing their multi-device and multi-channel preferences. In an attempt to face the new digital landscape, marketers are shifting their strategy towards an omni channel marketing approach.  Mobile will continue to dominate in 2016 and marketers should focus on creating a seamless user experience across several devices and channels.

This mobile-first approach is especially important for marketers working with the next generation. According to some research, this generation spends almost 18 hours a day consuming content on a mobile device. Remember, they were born with mobile devices in their hand. So they are extremely comfortable with this medium, which means that this generation is performing a majority of their searches, purchases and media consumption on mobile.

It’s time for companies to realize that the next gen users are the future, engaging them now will only secure their affiliations and purchase preferences in the future.  

Users are screen-agnostic, so why are brands so hesitant to jump on the cross platform bandwagon?

Separate digital strategies for different devices won’t be effective for today’s multi-screen user. It’s too difficult to segment consumer behaviors based on mobile, desktop, tablet usage. With so many potential touch points for users and multiple channels of engagement, brands need to ensure that their content is relevant and in-line with the various content delivery channels.

Social Media Gaining More Steam

According to recent studies, social media is the number one online activity surpassing entertainment.  This surge clearly parallels the increase in mobile device usage.

For many brands, social media is turning into one of the top referral traffic sources and, at the same time, dominating advertising spending. As an example, social media powerhouse, Facebook, launched in March 2015 an entire new array of advertising options for brands including dynamic product ads and a carousel style display (both native and on Instagram), as a response to the growing trend of social media consumption.In 2016 and beyond, social media will continue to dominate the online world, so marketers must put more of their efforts in integrating social media into their overall marketing strategies.  

The Underlying Factor: Evolving Data

Last year was focused on data driven marketing efforts. The predictions of a 60% increase in marketing analytics spending fell short in comparison to actual spending. Venture Beat’s report predicts that it will continue to increase to 73% in some industries and reach almost 100% for large cap B2C companies.   

What does this trend in marketing analytics usage mean? It just means that big data is growing and driving many business decisions.  Data analysis is becoming increasingly more sophisticated enabling companies to analyze multiple layers, or dimensions, of data simultaneously. 2016 will be the year that this more complex style of interpreting data sets dominates the market. This format may overwhelm the beginner marketer, but this strategic and informative process is quickly becoming the baseline for correlating business results with marketing goals. Obviously, data has always been a critical aspect of business success. Now, in today’s digital first landscape, a multi-faceted strategy to data analysis enables companies to identify the cause and effect of any digital efforts and its impact on the bottom line of the business.

Awareness of data is not enough. Staying ahead of the curve will only be possible for a company that integrates multi-dimensional data analysis. aware of these in order to stay ahead of the curve.

As we ring in 2016, digital marketing trends for companies should focus on creating a refined almost personalized digital journey that is consumable on any device, at any touch point, and can be attributed back to the marketing efforts of the brand. With a data-driven, consumer focused, non-device focused digital marketing strategy, any brand can succeed this year and transform this past year’s trends into actionable, growth oriented long-term results.

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SEO Future Predictions for the Next Year: 2016

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SEO has become probably the best methodology to drive your ROI. In 2016, it’ll aim to help you get more out of your conversions. So, let’s take a look at the SEO future predictions for the next year:

To begin with, take note of how Penguin 4.0 update has affected your website. Make use of the remaining days of 2015 to resolve all existing issues. Create a robust SEO strategy to fight Penguin and step in the new age of SEO as you welcome 2016.

Here are some other predictions to take note of:

  1. Mobile-friendly

mobile-friendly

mobile-friendly

As mobile devices are ruling the world, having surpassed laptop and desktop searches in terms of paid clicks and traffic generation, it has become imperative for businesses to develop mobile-friendly websites and make their business decisions attuned to this new wave of mobile savvy clientele. Every mobile related aspect, like mobile design, mobile marketing strategy, mobile search advertising and marketing, mobile CRM, mobile payment and mobile e-commerce, mobile coupons and integration of mobile with local and social, needs to be considered.

  1. Semantic searches

semantic search

Semantic search is an advanced data searching technique where the search query targets to determine the contextual meaning of the search words and intent of the searcher rather than focusing on finding just the keywords. Thus, it provides the user with more meaningful search results by understanding and assessing the search phrase and finding the most relevant results in a database, website or any other data repository. No wonder that semantic search is touted as the future of marketing. By applying the following tips, you can make the most of semantic search.

  • Create content that is understandable.
  • Try to identify the “companion” words that usually follow the keyword and insert them into your content. That way, you’ll be able to provide some clues related to the subject of your content to search engines.
  • Use variations and synonyms of words that are directly related to the subject matter of your content.
  • Use the keywords effectively to take complete advantage of semantic search.
  • Link to third-party websites related to some aspect of your business/domain/industry to provide your users with more value.
  • Mark up your content on specific social networking sites.
  • Use tools like schema.org, Yandex Checker, AlchemyAPI, Schema Creator, Gruff etc. to add more semantic value to your content.
  1. Outstanding quality

quality quotes

As SEO has become extremely content driven these days, you need to hire experienced people, even if the charges are steep, especially when you wish to get good results. After all, doing link audits, performing complete link clean-ups (if required, based on the results of link audits), driving organic traffic your way via quality content – all take effort and time, which explains why quality SEO services won’t be cheap. Company executives and CEOs too shouldn’t opt for SEO trial-and-error methods as they aren’t aware of the present SEO landscape and may end up doing more harm than good. So, it always pays to hire experienced SEO specialists for the task.

  1. Good user experience

Good UX

Search engines directly consider a restricted number of changeable factors like links, keywords and site structure. Linking patterns, machine learning and user engagement metrics jointly help search engines to make a significant number of hunches about a site. User experience and usability provide significant benefits to the external popularity of a site. This popularity is interpreted by search engines as an indication of higher quality. An empathetic and thoughtful user experience encourages users to bookmark, share, return visits etc. – all of which are signals of a quality site, which in turn helps in achieving higher rankings.

  1. Organic link

Organic Link

Links that don’t have a direct objective of influencing Google’s rankings are called organic links. When a site links back to another, the link is considered by Google as a vote. These “votes” normally help a site to get higher ranking in the search engine results. The only requirement here is to get such backlinks naturally or organically. Following are some useful tips to obtain organic links.

  • Create original information
  • Share your knowledge
  • Be an active participant on various social networking platforms
  • Provide valuable answers to questions online
  • Build community
  • Offer a service to your community for free
  1. Mobile optimization

Mobile traffic estimates

Earlier in 2015, mobile searches exceeded desktop searches. The trend will hold strong even in 2016 as mobile traffic is predicted to be of much more importance than desktop traffic in the coming 5 years. According to Google, a desktop-specific website isn’t required. Commitment of Google towards a “mobile” user experience across all devices reflects in their change to local three-pack.

  1. App store optimization

App Store Optimization

To sustain in this extremely competitive world, you have to find the right audience for your app. App store optimization or ASO is one of the most effective methods to execute mobile app marketing. Execution of ASO ensures showing up of the mobile app for appropriate search queries and thus getting organic installs and impressions. Finding the right keywords or topics is the most fundamental and significant part of app store optimization as that would describe the exact search items of your target audience.

  1. Local SEO (Customized Research Study)

Local SEO

With the advancement of local indexes of Google and arrival of wearable devices, local searches will provide more accurate results. When searching for a certain business, the results will consist of your neighborhood or street corner instead of showing the city or state region.

  1. Voice SEO

voice SEO

Voice SEO has shifted the entire mobile search interface to a different era. When a voice request is made, the results show up on map interface. Users can hear more information about a particular listing by touching the map icon. Audio files are worth adding to your website in order to make your presence felt in such search results.

  1. Indexing of Social Content

indexed twitter

In a mobile search for a particular news object, the results consist of a couple of tweets as Google has finalized deals with Twitter and Facebook. More social content platforms will become indexed in 2016 and be made available to search engines. Social media posts will carry a similar amount of value as independent web pages. From an SEO viewpoint, the difference between “social media” and “web” will begin to become indistinct.

  1. Conversion Optimization

conversion

Conversion optimization is the process of using customer feedback along with analytics to improve your website’s performance. A better conversion rate is equal to an improved ROI. Other than improving the ROI, conversion optimization also helps to protect the restricted attention span of visitors by providing them with exactly what they want. It’s important to keep in mind that optimization is all about acquiring the right type of customers for your business. In 2016, Less-is-more technique will be massively used for conversion optimization.

  1. Social Presence

Social Presence

In 2016, social presence is going to be more important for businesses. Google searches already show Facebook and Twitter results when you search for a news item these days, and in the forthcoming years, you are likely to see more of these social media pages in your mobile search results. Consequently, the boundary line between “social media” and “web” will get blurred further in 2016 from an SEO perspective.

  1. Page tagging

Page Tagging

2016 will experience more of mobile searches, which will surpass desktop searches. This change will give a boost to page tagging in a more frequent manner as businesses start rolling out tags to offer structure to mobile users’ results that require different browsers and devices to load pages differently.

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  1. Bifurcation Buyer Journey

buyers journey

In 2016, SEO will be divided into these three stages:

  • Awareness: In this stage, you will have to work on a strategy that provides information. Create marketing materials that will make them aware of a problem and related information.
  • Consideration: Here you give them a set of solutions that work best to solve their problems. Giving them enough options will then help them select the best suitable one.
  • Decision: This is the stage where your audiences have made a decision and have agreed upon a point that they will move ahead with. You have to create material that will encourage them to move forward without hesitation.
  1. Call-only ads

Call Only Actions

Call-only ads are upgrades of existing call extensions. In call-only ads, phone number is the first visible thing normally created using larger font size and different text color. The second visible thing happens to be the call button that enables an instantaneous call to action.

  1. Alienation of keyword research

keyword research

In 2016, you would no longer be able to use a blanket SEO strategy for all platforms or the same list of keywords for every platform. Rather, you will have to use:

  • Voice SEO: The algorithmic rules that are applicable for any mobile optimization will work well for voice search too. You’ll also have to use Google’s Knowledge Graph and local SEO strategies as voice searches primarily occur on mobile devices and most have local intent.
  • Local SEO: You can leverage Google Trends for this.
  • Mobile SEO: You can get mobile-specific keywords using the Google Keyword Tool and Google Analytics (go to Audience, then click Mobile and then go to Overview in the R.H.S navigation to filter). Though it won’t be possible to ascertain mobile keywords using Bing Ads Intelligence, you can use a little trick and leverage Bing’s autocomplete feature in mobile to get the desired keywords.
  • App SEO: SEO for mobile apps or ASO (App Store Optimization) will be very important in 2016 to ensure that your app reaches the right audience. ASO would become an integral part of mobile app marketing, which would be the most efficient and cheapest way to attract organic impressions and installs.
  1. Search box optimization

Search-Box-Optimization

Search box optimization is the method of deceiving Google Algorithm to put your blog or brand name in Google Autosuggestions. As Google Autosuggestions affect 75% of search queries, a lot of internet marketers are using search box optimization to keep their brand in front of the users before they hit the search button. This is accomplished by searching the target term for numerous times in Google.

  1. Outgoing links

outbound link

Google identifies the nature of your article by using outgoing links. If you link to a trusted source, Google considers your site as a trusted one as well. However, if quality of the linked article is poor, it will affect your site’s reputation and search rankings adversely. To avoid this, you must provide outbound links to trusted sources.

  1. Link Building trends

Link Building

Link building was considered as one of the fundamental elements of SEO. In the present day media landscape, internet marketers incorporate significant links instead of gathering bunch of useless links. To sustain in today’s competitive world, marketers have to publish unique and fresh content and insert only those links that promote or support the main message provided by the content. Google always encourages a site that has the ability to provide answers for associated search queries and thus the site ranks high in SERPs. Incorporating links of these websites would greatly help you in 2016 to increase the quality of your website’s content.

  1. End of content farms

content farm

It seems that there will be a dead end waiting for irrelevant content farms in 2016. Websites filled with robotic articles that are created by content farms will be highly targeted and penalized by Google in the coming year. The chances of ranking in SERPs are pretty less for these websites and some large scale content farms are likely to face a big penalty.

Conclusion

As these trends affect the SEO landscape in 2016, site owners and marketers have to think “mobile” and build robust mobile marketing strategy as mobile is the next version of digital marketing.

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