The only constant thing in life is change. As we look forward to another year, we are once again reminded of this adage. Technology, business models, consumer behavior—everything changes. And to those who work in the dynamic world of online marketing, the reality of change being constant is never lost. This is why online marketers take time at the end of every year to take stock of the changes that have occurred and make predictions as to the changes that are yet to come.
This year, one of the most notable changes in the online marketing arena is the shift of focus from the old marketing tactics to that of striving to provide the best answer to user queries. With the world being bombarded with information these days, it can be a bit difficult to stand out, but that’s what businesses are now striving to do. And one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd these days is to constantly provide your audience with the freshest, most relevant, most useful, and most entertaining content.
More changes are expected as we welcome 2015. Prepare yourself for these changes by taking into account the most common predictions for digital marketing in the year ahead.
A Departure from Traditional SEO Companies
When search engines were first invented, it took only a short while for online marketers to figure out how they can use it to their advantage. They employed a number of sneaky (some even bordering on unscrupulous) tactics just to get to the top of search results. They bought links, stuffed their content with keywords, and did many other things that are now categorized as black-hat SEO.
The ease with which you can get a website to top the rankings led to the proliferation of SEO companies, and these companies earned a lot of money from businesses that appreciated the quick results they were able to deliver. Google, however, quickly caught on and started taking steps towards ensuring that all the information they provide users are of good quality. The result of their efforts was a series of algorithmic updates, the most controversial of which were the Penguin and Panda updates.
These updates disqualified websites that practiced black-hat SEO; they were hit with penalties that are quite difficult to recover from, which means their digital marketing campaigns suffered losses that lasted for a considerable amount of time. When businesses realized what Google is doing, they began to take the necessary steps to improve their marketing strategies. It is expected that in 2015, businesses will make a complete departure from the SEO agencies and practices of old, and start working towards a more sustainable digital marketing campaign.
Inbound Marketing Development
Now that businesses have realized they can no longer trick Google into easily giving them top rankings and that their sneaky marketing tactics will no longer work, they have also realized that their only options are to either improve their inbound marketing campaign or just sit back and watch competitors overtake them. You didn’t establish your business just to have it lose out to competitors, did you? Therefore, you need to start focusing on attracting more visitors to your website, converting them into customers, and earning their loyalty.
Of course, one of the best ways to strengthen your inbound marketing campaign is through your content. This is the time when your ability to engage and communicate well with your audience isn’t just a nice skill to have, but a necessary one. It allows you to tell the general public who you are as a business, what you are all about, and what you have to offer. It lets people know how sincere you are in providing solutions to their problems and in addressing their needs. It helps you show depth beneath your brand image.
Where inbound marketing is concerned, remember that it isn’t enough to create content of excellent quality. You should also pay attention to where your content is posted and what form it takes. Different forms work well on different platforms and even in the digital world, location is key. Consumers have become more critical of brands that constantly push self-serving content, and this attitude is expected to become even more pronounced in 2015. So make sure you offer content with real value at all times.
From e-mail Marketing to Lead Nurturing
Do you still buy email lists and then send emails en masse? Stop! Most people are irritated by promotional emails, and this old-school marketing tactic is bound to hurt your brand in the long run, especially if you insist on still using it in 2015. Note that when people become irritated with a particular brand these days, it is very easy for them to tell the world about it via social media. And the people they tell can just as easily share the “news” with tier own social media circle. You wouldn’t want your brand to suffer such a blow, would you?
Stop bombarding your target customers with emails and start nurturing your leads instead. Flickr.com photo by Pink Sherbet Photography
What you need to do, instead, is focus on lead nurturing. This means you need to build and nurture relationships with your target customers. Towards this end, you need to build a strong online presence and strengthen your brand image. Once you have established your brand’s authority, your target customers will be more likely to trust you. When they’re ready to avail of a product or service that you offer, they will then be likelier to choose your brand.
The key to lead nurturing is to shift the focus from quick sales to putting your brand in a position that brings in sustainable, long-term results. Looking at the big picture is the secret to lead nurturing success. If you need to hire a third-party online marketing agency, look for one that knows the value of positioning their clients online. These are generally those companies that offer not just optimization services, but also content creation/marketing services, along with applications that help you find and nurture your business leads.
New Ranking Metrics
There was a time when putting keywords in your content title and URLs worked perfectly to get Google to give you good rankings. These days, though, this strategy is no longer enough to get good rankings, as Google has put in place new ranking metrics. If you paid attention in 2014, then you’d know that Google now cares more about content quality, social interaction, and website interaction than the old ranking metrics. Websites that perform well in these three areas are deemed most deserving of good search rankings.
4 Phases of Digital Marketing
As you draft your online marketing plan for 2015, therefore, you need these new ranking metrics into account. When you create content, make sure it is relevant, fresh, and informative. Create content for people, not search engines. Engage with target customers on social media sites and treat them as individuals. Talk to them as you would to anyone in your personal social circle. Personalization is expected to become 2015’s marketing buzzword. You need to catch on as early as now.
Targeted Website Design and Landing Pages
How your website and landing pages are designed plays a huge role in creating a positive impression for your brand. This will be even more obvious in 2015. Customers have become pickier in recent years, and they are expected to become even more critical of poorly-designed websites in the years to come. When you fail to go with the trends in terms of web design, people take this to mean your products and/or services also do not go with the trends and are therefore sub-par. This makes it very important for you to conduct an audit of your website and implement the necessary adjustments.
The good news is that there are now a countless number of tools and services specifically designed to help webmasters in creating, developing, and optimizing their websites. This leaves you without any viable excuse for coming up with a sloppy website design. Take advantage of the materials at your disposal and make sure your website and landing pages are designed to give visitors a positive experience. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
So many changes have indeed occurred in the world of digital marketing, particularly in recent years, with the implementation of the Panda and Penguin updates. Consumers have gained more marketing savvy and search engines have become more intelligent. But as long as you know how to go with the flow and adapt to the trends, you should be able to look forward to a bright future for your business.
So, if you’re still using the old SEO techniques, you need to stop right now. Start 2015 right by ditching these black-hat SEO practices and focusing on more positive strategies instead. Present your online audience with a steady stream of truly valuable information. Adjust the design of your website and landing pages to make them more responsive and offer a more positive experience to website visitors. Unless you learn to do all these, your competitors are bound to leave you behind. Will you make the necessary changes, or would you rather eat their dust? Your choice.