The Digital Marketing Crystal Ball – 7 Predictions for 2016!


Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 12 seconds

As always in the digital marketing industry, 2015 has been another year of change. With new tools, algorithm updates, customer behaviour changes and the shift to a more user focused approach, we are constantly evolving and innovating to stay on the cutting edge.

As 2015 draws to a close, I asked some of the State of Digital bloggers What big changes do you expect in the digital marketing industry in 2016? See what they think will change in 2016 below:

Google to monetise more free features

When Google made Shopping a paid offering from free a lot of businesses and advertisers were up in arms about the whole thing but looking at the product now, I think it was a smart move from Google. Obviously they are making a huge amount from this channel but advertisers are also really capitalising now.

So this makes me wonder what else Google may look to monetise moving forwards and one of the more obvious features would be Google Maps. Local businesses heavily rely on their map listings and if it were a paid option (in addition to a free) there could be a lot more Google could offer businesses to enhance their listings.

This would be one of my predictions for 2016.

Sam Noble – Koozai – @SamJaneNoble

Google to focus more on the user, whilst an increase competition in online payment methods

  1. In terms of the Google Algorithm and all things SEO, I think we’ll see the user focus trend continue. With the debate around if Panda was more focused on quality issues than just duplicate content, and the additional Doorway Pages statements made by Google, it is clear that quality for the user is still a focus. Google is becoming more human in how it interacts with individuals on their devices which is reflective of the types of results it’s wanting to display too. Our strategies need to attempt to be future-proof, so that means stop being solely a numbers game of search volumes and competition, and ensure they focus on the user.
  1. There really hasn’t been as much attention around online payments as I would have expected this year. It’s one of the areas of digital that has had some of the biggest changes – the launch of Apple Pay, split of eBay and Paypal and Google’s announcement it would be focusing on the development of Google Wallet. With the chance of these large companies purchasing PayPal, and its beacon technology, or PayPal.Me’s initial successes growing further, we could see a complete shift in how the majority of payments are made. The impact on digital marketing? We’ll see the importance of second-screen advertising increase again, and the opportunity to greatly increase conversions as payment simplifies.

Hannah Thorpe
Hannah Thorpe – – @hannahjthorpe

Businesses will get better at understanding their audience

2016 will be the year of the mobile!

No, just joking, we are long past that. Mobile is now commodity and every business should have this optimised. The thing about mobile that in 2016 hopefully will take more shape is the realisation that ‘mobile’ isn’t just the device, its ‘where people are’, regardless of which device they are on.

Another big change I think will be in the content marketing area. I think more businesses will start to create their own, or buy, publishing platforms. A trend in which some will get it right and others will just create more content that ‘pollutes’ the web.

Finally I think in 2016 businesses will realise more what they can do with the data gathered in the past few years and that they will get a better understanding of the audience they are targeting.

I hope 😉

Bas van den Beld – @basvandenbeld

Backlash against ad blockers

There will be a backlash against ad blockers, with some websites blocking visitors that have ad blockers enabled. The deeper root causes that make ad blocking so popular will be left almost entirely unacknowledged, with publishers and advertisers instead preferring to use crude measures to protect their ad revenue rather than face up to the fact that they’ve been behaving like total pricks for years.

Barry Adams
Barry Adams – Polemic Digital – @badams

Mobile web Vs Mobile Apps – Consumers moving to a search-centric web

Building on from Jonathan’s excellent post I think it’ll be very interesting to see how things develop for the mobile web versus mobile apps, and what this means for SEO as consumers move away from the search-centric web.

In October 2015, mobile browser-based searches via Google overtook the number of desktop searches, but a recent study found that only 10% of mobile usage are browser-based, with the remaining 90% in-app. That’s a lot of keyword data lost, but also a lot of revenue Google is losing via PPC.

Google’s already shifting position in response to these changes. They’ve been indexing app content for over 2 years now and have indexed over 100 billion pages from native apps as of October 2015. With more and more app content featuring in mobile searches, we may see industry standardisation in the way that deep links are interpreted, built and discovered.

But, more excitingly, on the 18th November,Google announced that you’ll be able to find and stream app content in their search results. This test is starting with nine selected Android apps in US English search results. If the results are good, they may well expand to more apps and markets (maybe even iOS). This interesting development will likely mean that App Store Optimisation (ASO) becomes a higher priority in 2016.

Briony Gunson - SEO Account Manager 2
Briony Gunson – @brionygunson

Google to pay more attention to rich snippets

My prediction feels a bit like cheating, as I’m ‘borrowing’ what one of the Google analysts (Gary Illyes, a.k.a. @methode) hinted at during a conference recently, which was that Google would be paying more attention to rich snippets / structured data in 2016. I’d welcome this, as I was a massive fan of rel=”author” (R.I.P.) and I’m a fan of anything beyond the bog-standard ‘page title / URL / meta description’ setup – especially if it’s something that webmasters can utilise in order to improve their click-through rate and therefore gain a competitive advantage.

In my experience, rich snippets seem to be especially prominent in a small number of sectors, and largely non-existant in the rest, so it’d be great if they were opened up across the board and therefore usable by more websites in more sectors.

Steve Morgan – @steviephil

On-demand economy will have huge implications for businesses

I think that the on-demand economy will have huge implications for businesses this year. A company is popping up to take care of many tasks which could have in the past lead to direct contact between a consumer and a business. Now, customers would rather deal with intermediaries to do the choosing for them. Coupled with this lack of traditional exposure, businesses are dealing with mobile users who want results fast, so must ensure that everything they create is easily-digestible and impactful, so that they can achieve results in what Google call the “micro-moments”.

Jack telford
Jack Telford – The Media Flow – @JackTelford

There you have it, seven predictions for 2016 from the State of Digital bloggers. Do you agree with the predictions made above? What do you think is going to happen in 2016? I’d love to hear your comments either in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!

[Image Credit – Christian Schnettelker Flickr]

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Daniel Bianchini is the Director of Services at, a creative digital marketing agency based in Oxford, UK. Having been in digital marketing since leaving University, Daniel has worked in-house at Dixons Stores Group (Dixons Carphone), with many leading UK brands and helped start a digital marketing agency based in Hertfordshire.

State of Digital


Is search data the new crystal ball?

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The more ubiquitous, pervasive and natural search is, the more intelligent it becomes. No longer is it a magnifying glass surfacing content from the depths of the web. Search is starting to look more and more like a crystal ball capable to predict the flight of flu epidemics, match winners and presidential election outcomes.

Not many technologies are capable of processing as much data, as frequently and actually make sense of it all. Search was fed on big data, grew with artificial intelligence and, if some say it is not rocket science, it is verging towards science fiction.

Brains in a box.

Historically search engines were indexing a web of documents to point searchers in the most relevant direction when they tapped a couple of keywords in a search box. Coping with the expansion and diversification of that universe was no small task, neither was the treatment of the ever increasingly more complex queries. So the technology had to gain in sophistication.

Algorithms started to extrapolate the strings of characters that were inputted. It became less about finding a specific phrase, and more about understanding its meaning. It was an evolution dictated by necessity. First, human beings are so prone to mistyping that machines could not rely on us ; second a same need can be expressed by different synonyms; and third, words have several meanings based on their context (e.g. from a PC, searching for “coffee” may relate to coffee harvesting whilst the same person using the same keyword on his smartphone may be after a caffeine shot).

This led to new functionality like query suggestions, auto-correction, auto-fill, semantic search… but also drastic evolutions of the algorithms with the integration of social, geographical or device signals. Search was no longer literal; it had become contextual.

From smart to intelligent

Cortana_Traffic_Prediction_Cedric_ChambazHowever, searchers still require to proactively engage with a user interface in order to trigger queries. These interactions remain contrived, even if you consider the conversational nature of voiced queries. Search will only truly become intelligent when the engine can anticipate what I need, even before I verbalise that intent. That is one of the promises of digital personal assistant like Cortana who relies on Bing information architecture and machine-learning to anticipate your needs. One of my favourites is her ability to urge me when to leave for my next appointment by making sense of my current location and the traffic conditions to my destination.

So could we take anticipation to the next level and predict the future.

Search engines are a database of intent where millions of people converge to look for information of what is top of mind for them. At the same time, social networks are the depository of sentiments. If you have developed the ability to process, analyse and understand these two humongous, historical and real-time information sets you have the opportunity to discover user sentiment for certain events or entities, estimate popularity trends, as well as predict outcomes of future events.

Bing Predict explored that concept with popularity-based contests like American Idol, for which web and social signals can highly correlate with popularity voting patterns and thus allows the engine to accurately project who will be eliminated each week and who the eventual winner will be. At the other end of the spectrum, predicting the outcome of the World Cup, Tour de France or the Premier League requires the incorporation of player/team stats, tournament trends and game history, location, and data from social channels.

The data from social channels provides the Bing model with the “wisdom of the crowd.” This approach is different from predictions for popularity-based contests. That model is able to interpret specific data as priority information such as team strengths, as popularity alone doesn’t dramatically help a team win or lose (some fans may object to this assertion but it’s largely true).

This machine-learned approach proved to be more reliable than traditional statistical methods on several occasions. Bing predicted accurately the Scottish Independence Referendum  outcome from the very first day whilst the official statistic was oscillating between the Yes and the No. Our predictions for each of the men’s and women’s Wimbledon matches had an average accuracy of 71 percent, and got the winners from the first serve. We also predicted Froome’s victory in the Tour de France.

What can brands learn from these forward-looking experiments?

Machine learning models are already making their way to the advertiser toolset. Bing Ads for instance includes an opportunity tab which allows brands to evaluate the future impact of actions taken on their search marketing campaigns based on auction and competitive behaviours. That is just a first step.

I have already written about how brands should think outside the (search) box , and harness the full potential of the search data to inform their marketing strategy. Think for instance about the evolution of the geographic spectrum of your search queries to inform your stock strategy for the next holiday season.

Next, businesses can enrich their own data with real-world, publically available data sets to identify further correlations. It can be a small collection of manually curated convention centre calendars which infer future influx of visitors to a city, or richer data sets from Open Data sites around the world .

It might take some creative thinking on your part to reveal true insights, but ignoring this resource means missing out on a big opportunity to create value for your company and customers. This is about modelling the real world in advertising campaigns with extra rigor and an opportunistic mind set thanks to the accessibility and democratisation of Business Intelligence tools, like PowerMap or Cortana Analytics .

Finally, I am convinced that soon enough new advertising models will come to fruition. Trajectory marketing, for instance, would consist in geo-targeting consumers based on the location they will be at rather than the location they are, by modelling their current position, their celerity, external factors like traffic, weather conditions, etc.  After all, marketing is about seeding the right message to the right audience, at the right time.

And that time is in the near future.

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Tasked with promoting Microsoft’s search marketing platform – Bing Ads – around the world, Cedric works closely with advertisers, from Blue Chip brands to small businesses, to help them develop effective online strategies which can boost their visibility with PPC, provide more targeted communication and deliver higher ROI.

State of Digital