With enough twists and turns to send the Tasmanian Devil dizzy, members of the digital marketing world ought to fasten their seatbelts for another fast-paced, action-packed year in 2018. Looking directly ahead, as well as a little further into the future, Active Internet Marketing (UK) discuss the future of digital marketing and SEO and how to cope with any potential changes and updates.
As yet another year draws to a close, there comes a time for reflection and revisiting; in the topsy-turvy world of digital marketing and SEO, there is, unsurprisingly, a lot of revisiting to do. As we trek all the way back to January, Google kicked the year off by introducing a penalty to punish aggressive and annoying pop-up adverts, which affected a user’s mobile browsing experience. It followed this up in February with algorithm updates which sent the world of SEO into a mini-meltdown. Showing no signs of letting up, our good friend ‘Fred’ was coined in March when Gary Illyes (Google bigwig) jokingly named an unconfirmed update that targeted ad-heavy websites; it just so happened that everybody in the world of digital marketing stuck with that name. With a few months to collect our thoughts, Google interrupted this period of calmness and stability by rolling out their latest algorithm, ‘Hawk’. Chewing up and spitting out the bad bits of Possum, Hawk now provides users with multiple businesses in a specific area, rather than just the one. With a number of high profile changes being made to Google’s algorithms and ranking system, the current trend suggests that we should prepare for more of the same, but what exactly can we expect?
Because this blog will feature many predictions and educated guesses about the future of digital marketing, I must offer you a disclaimer. As previously mentioned, these are only predictions, they are not confirmed industry updates and I am in no way affiliated with a search engine of any kind. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can outline the four sections that this blog will study and focus on:
If you are particularly interested in any of these segments, then click on the links above to skip ahead to that designated section. However, if you are here for the full, director’s cut of ‘The Future of Digital Marketing and SEO’ then roll the titles and enjoy! (Also, keep an eye out for my predictions for how the SEO landscape will look at the end of 2018)
Depending on your age, the term ‘influencer’ can mean one of many things. For some, it may be associated with an electoral whip for the senate or parliament, while for others it could resemble a celebrity who has dedicated their life to an art or a noble cause. From a marketing perspective, however, an influencer is a vlogger, a blogger or just a general social media star. I’m aware that these comparisons may have simplified the term ever so slightly, but these internet superstars already play a huge role in the world of SEO and the future of digital marketing.
Media consumption as a concept has changed drastically in recent years. TV is now playing second fiddle to laptops and tablets, as the majority of the population opt to tune in and see what their favourite vlogger has been up to that day, rather than flicking between Coronation Street and The One Show. These are not vague guesses, either. The Ofcom adult media use and attitude report for 2017 found that over a third of adults have watched some form of content on a video sharing site, with 97 percent of 16 to 24 year olds admitting to streaming content from online. Even 89 percent of 25 to 34 year olds confessed to watching clips and packages from sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. With figures such as these, it is clear to see why influencers are an effective marketing tool and why they will continue to play an important part in the future of digital marketing, especially when we recognise the market these online celebrities have a direct line of access to. Focusing specifically on UK influencers, talents such as Zoella, KSI, Alfie Deyes and Joe Weller boast millions of subscribers and followers, and their faces, their voices, and their opinions are being streamed to this mass pool of people on a daily basis. From a digital marketing perspective, using an influencer to promote or advertise a product, whether it be makeup, clothing or the latest must-have, provides guaranteed eyes on their products, a move which is more than likely to result in a lot of conversion.
With television viewing figures steadily decreasing, and with online streaming sites becoming the most common form of media consumption, it is no surprise to see influencer marketing becoming more and more effective from a digital marketing perspective. As the demographic that is loyal to traditional forms of media, such as TV and radio, decreases over time and the numbers of people being raised and nurtured on social media and online content increases, the conclusion is that influencer marketing is likely to continue to grow in importance and significance. Not only are these influencers’ video sharing platforms important, but their social presence is also extremely relevant from a digital marketing perspective…
Prediction: There will be a significant increase in the number of SEO strategies incorporating guest blogging, video reviews, and influencer marketing.
— Active-IM (UK) (@ActiveIMUK) 25 October 2017
With influencers becoming increasingly more, well, influential, and with millions of new and existing users logging into social media platforms every day, it seems obvious to suggest that search engines might one day acknowledge social media accounts and take them into consideration when ranking a business. As it stands, Google does not care about how many comments your Facebook post received, or about how many likes and followers you have, but it does care about your reviews on Facebook; these are now displayed on a Google My Business listing. With 76 percent of internet users in the UK having some sort of social media account, maybe we will begin to see Google leaning on social media sites even more to help decide who ranks and who doesn’t. Besides, Google’s algorithms are all about how beneficial a site is to a user and how trustworthy that website is, and what says ‘This website can be trusted’ more than hundreds of thousands of followers, huge post reaches and high levels of engagement? With these reasons in mind, it seems fair to suggest that search engines may begin to introduce certain social features into algorithm updates before too long.
If social media accounts are such good indicators of how trustworthy a company and business is, then why have sites such as Facebook and Twitter yet to be included in any of the most recent algorithm updates? The simple answer is that social media has been in a period of transformation for a number of years. The Facebook and Twitter of 6 years ago is a completely different kettle of fish to what it is today, but the introduction of visual sites such as Snapchat, Instagram and Vine (RIP) have forced Facebook and Twitter to switch from being predominantly text based, to becoming a site which focuses around images, videos and GIFs. The reason influencer marketing has become so popular so quickly is that they were never able to establish a huge following through text and written copy. There are countless studies that outline how people focus more on visual content than plain text, so now that a number of platforms contain so much visual media, vloggers have access to a healthy and conducive environment.
Influencer marketing is not the only reason as to why social media sites (mainly Facebook) have become so important to the future of digital marketing, however. As we have just discussed, Facebook has been transforming in recent years, and it has been changing for the better. When Facebook recognised the potential of Instagram in 2010, a shift from textual content to visual media began, and the benefits are clear to see. From 2004 (when Facebook was founded) to 2010 (when Instagram was founded) the social networking site grew from 0 users to 500 million. Over the same time frame, but starting from the creation of Instagram, Facebook grew to over 2 billion monthly users. Although this stark contrast in user figures cannot be solely attributed to a shift towards visual content, it does offer an explanation as to why influencer marketing has thrived in recent years, and it is also why businesses on Facebook now offer video content, image-based posts, GIFs and any other forms of multimedia they can get their hands on.
For the future of digital marketing, search engines have obviously identified that social media sites are only going to increase in size and popularity, so their arm may be twisted into harnessing data from these sites to influence their rankings. Switch to a user’s point of view in a few years time; if you have been raised on influencers and social media all your life and are looking to purchase a product from a website, you are more than likely going to head to their Facebook business profile to find out more about their history and their services. If you see that they have only a few followers and likes, their content is bland and posted sporadically, and they have nothing but bad reviews, the chances are that those users are going to head to a business with a glowing, trustworthy social presence. For the purpose of the user, it makes sense for search engines like Google to acknowledge social networking sites, and the prospect of this happening in the near future is very real. As everyone in the industry will be fully aware, user intent is the key to any successful SEO strategy.
Clearly, social media remains an extremely important part of any SEO strategy. If you’re looking to develop your own social media performance, check out our guide to The Must-Dos and Myths of Social Media for Business.
Prediction: By the end of 2018, we will see Google introduce an algorithm which takes a businesses social media presence into consideration.
As expected, advancements in technology are also likely to play a part in the future of digital marketing. One of the breakthrough products this year has been the rise of voice activated home assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. As these products have been flying off the shelves, they do shed light on one of the most pressing issues for digital marketers: voice search. Home assistants may be the latest gadget, but voice searching on mobile phones is going to be the focus of many digital marketers, and for good reason. According to Smart Insights, the number of mobile users overtook the number of desktop users in 2013, and the rise and fall of both of these platforms has continued ever since. With mobiles becoming one of the most commonly used products on a daily basis, it is highly recommended that SEO organisations and marketing companies accommodate for all of their features, including voice search.
Earlier this year, one of the biggest SEO conferences took place – Brighton SEO. At this conference, every aspect of SEO was dissected and discussed, and although the crowd did not compare to some of the other keynote speakers, optimising for voice searches was analysed by Saeley Jnr Johnson, a technical director at OMD UK. In this talk, Johnson discussed how voice searches bring the customer and the brand closer together, and how optimising for voice searching will help SEO companies avoid being left behind, similar to when other companies began optimising for mobile sites. Now are these just personal opinions and theories, or do they ring true? Unsurprisingly, these thoughts do suggest that a future of digital marketing places voice searching at the forefront of its considerations, considering that 40 percent of adults use voice search at least once a day. It is about time that voice searching received the recognition it deserves, as it has been a feature of mobile devices since 2008. Fast forward to 2017, and Google voice search engine queries are 35 times more common than they were in 2008, according to figures from Search Engine Watch. The popularity and effectiveness of voice searching has finally reached a stage where it can demand the attention of digital marketing agencies all around the world, so with voice searching having cemented its place at the heart of the future of digital marketing, do not be left in the dark and begin optimising.
To find out more about what was discussed, and for a more in-depth look at how marketers can optimise for voice search, take a look at our review of the conference here.
Prediction: Voice searching will overtake typing as the most common method of searching on mobiles.
Again, everything in this blog has merely been an educated guess, so do not forsake your entire SEO strategy in place of these snippets of advice. Instead, try and integrate them into your existing strategy and stay one step ahead.
Now that the second disclaimer is out of the way, let us discuss the ways of coping with any industry updates and the future of digital marketing, which is sure to be as topsy-turvy as the year just gone.
The first thing to discuss is optimising for mobile devices. We have already discussed how mobile devices have overtaken desktops as the most commonly used device for searching, and this trend is set to continue. To make sure you are keeping up to date with this trend, be sure to check the mobile version of any website if you see any stagnation or drop in rankings, as a poor mobile experience for your users could significantly harm your rankings. If an update or algorithm is introduced to target and prioritise mobile sites, then optimising for mobile sites will become even more important for digital marketing agencies. For a more precise breakdown of all of the google algorithms, check out our SEO guide to Google algorithm updates. The future of digital marketing is more than likely going to continue moving towards mobile devices, so ensuring your site operates perfectly on a mobile is a surefire way of avoiding any ranking drops if an update such as Mobile First Indexing, or ‘Mobilegeddon’ rolls out.
On the subject of website content, video material and multimedia looks set to play a huge role in the future of digital marketing. This isn’t to say that website copy is completely irrelevant, as keywords and keyword density will still play its part in determining rankings, but applying video content to your site will only become more effective as time goes on. We have already seen SEO tools and ranking trackers and monitoring systems identifying when videos are ranking for your keywords. This pattern is likely to accelerate, and, like Facebook, prioritise websites with an array of multimedia content.
With the future of digital marketing potentially throwing up many hiccups and speed bumps, it is important to recognise the way in which the industry is moving and to avoid becoming stuck in your ways. We could well be about to see a complete shift and change in the practice of search engine optimisation, so stay in touch with the latest industry news and updates to avoid being left behind in the dark ages.
For more industry news, tips, and pieces of advice, flick through Active Internet Marketing (UK)’s blog page to find out more about all of our services, and about how to improve your digital marketing strategy.