It’s that time of the year – the time in which we reflect on the last 365 days and predict what the next 365 have in store for us. Digital marketing is no exception. Three of our digital marketing strategists took a few minutes to write about the biggest digital trends they saw in 2015 and what they predict 2016 will yield.
2015 Trend: Don’t Forget the Basics
In our rush to get out content quickly to the masses, we've set a precedent of missing the little things that help a website perform well in search and with prospects. Google is rebounding from devaluing smaller signals like H1s, meta titles, and meta descriptions, to using the user engagement metrics that these elements improve as ways to measure the success of your page in addressing the inquiries of the end user- and thus how Google ranks your web pages in search. Other signals, like content length, proper use of images (and alt tags!) and internal linking are still incredibly relevant and let users know you're serious about your content.
[twitterQuote quote="In our rush to get content fast, we forget the little things" ]
The "vote" of those users to come to your site from organic search (high click through rates) and to stay on your page to read what you have to say (low bounce rates, high time-on-page) are the key primary signals Google is using beyond backlinks to judge the merits of your on-page content and place you appropriately in the SERPs.
2016 Prediction: More Tech, More Context
As machine learning continues to improve at a rapid pace, and our ability to incorporate fast, powerful machines into smaller and smaller devices evolves, you'll begin to see wearable technology continue to play an incredible role in how users respond to and interact with content, and how search engines, social media, and other content delivery devices work to get the end user the information they are looking for. The app economy will continue to grow, but so too will the ability to deliver more content in more ways outside of apps. As tech giants continue to fight over users, headlines, and profits, smaller entrepreneurial developers and businesses will continue to innovate products like AdBlock that pull control away from the conglomerates and place it in the hands of the ones with the ultimate pocketbook vote - the end consumer.
2015 Trend: Mobile Web Wins
Apple and Google are going head to head over the future of mobile usage, both in operating system tech and also culturally in how individuals utilize their pocket computers. Apple is on the side of apps and creating dedicated software for users to download and use directly on their hardware. Google has been a big supporter of the mobile web, i.e. websites that are mobile-friendly and render across all device types. Both tactics have their benefits, but I'm going to call it now – Google's vision for the mobile web has decidedly won.
[twitterQuote quote="Google's vision for the mobile web has decidedly won" ]
Apps are great for games and providing a direct service, but each app is an island unto itself. To find it without the use of the web, you have to either know of it, have someone tell you where to go, or somehow miraculously find it through top category charts. If you have an app, you still need the web to direct users to download, whereas the same app functionality can exist on a mobile website, consolidating your marketing and service efforts. Now, Google is indexing apps via their search and the web, effectively making mobile web versions of the software render in browsers. Checkmate.
Even apps themselves still need the internet and websites for people to find them, and the more mobile-friendly these sites are the better. Furthermore, apps still need to connect to the internet, and most of them function as internet browsers themselves, still connecting users to web pages. Internet usage on cell phones and tablets has risen dramatically in the past five years, and culturally as individuals, our curiosity is funneled directly through web searches.
Having mobile responsive functionality is the best way to ensure people can find you anywhere and on any device, and it now works at least as well as most internet-dependent apps. Even when you ask Siri about a topic or where to find something, her de facto response is to look it up on Safari, not to scour the app store for something to download. It doesn't matter if you’re a content producer, a service provider or a manufacturer, mobile-friendly design preps your organization for the future, and positively impacts your usage and bottom line.
2016 Prediction: HTTPS / SSL Necessity
SSL is a great way to secure all of your site content, and Google identified it as a positive SEO ranking signal, thus improving rankings. However, most people are still rolling on the old HTTP, which is fine but only for so long. Not only does this open up your site to malware and hacking threats, but you're doing a disservice to your site’s visitors. HTTPS is about 70% faster than HTTP, and obviously more secure.
Browsers are moving away from insecure content as well. Firefox announced that it won't serve insecure content on secure sites, so now your functionality can be altered by browsers, affecting the way your visitors engage with your content. Bottom line, you'll need to change to SSL sooner rather than later. 2016 is the year to do it.
2015 Trend: Brands Emulate User-Generated Content
This is happening across the board. Major news and entertainment outlets are adopting Snapchat "stories" as well as tailoring content to the vertical Snapchat format in their own channels. Companies are also starting to produce their own "unboxing" videos. Disney recently put a twist on this phenomenon with a “boxing” video of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens lightsaber showing how it’s made and packaged. It's a trend that brings home the idea that consumers trust recommendations from their peers more than they do brands, so these brands have started to emulate the format these peers are using as a result.
[twitterQuote quote="Consumers trust their peers more than they do brands" ]
2016 Prediction: Digital Marketing Reaches into the IoT Space
There's an increasing number of consumers who have connected cars, thermostats, personal fitness trackers, and even refrigerators. In 2016 the relationship that digital marketers have with consumers is going to go from computer, phone, and tablet all the way to real-world interactions that can have a direct impact on a company's bottom line.
button allow consumers to order products without going to the store or even going online to search or log in. Imagine the potential for this kind of technology in fields like automotive, home maintenance, and even the B2B space. Opportunities are going to explode in 2016 as companies are able to gather more information about consumer behavior and purchasing patterns than ever before, and harness that information and apply it to the real world.
The field of digital marketing strategy doesn’t stay the same for very long. Even as experts, we’re constantly learning and adapting to changes in strategy, the Google algorithm, technology, and more. These 2015 trends have guided us over the past year, and we’ll be keeping a lookout for 2016’s trends as they develop – and checking back on our predictions to see whether they come to pass.
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