5 Digital Marketing Strategy Predictions for 2018

5 Digital Marketing Strategy Predictions for 2018

By Karen TaylorFeb 20 /2018

Digital marketing began in 1993 with the simplest form of online marketing — the first clickable web-ad banner. Today, 25 years later, digital marketing has changed in many significant ways, including search engines (remember HotBot or LookSmart?), social media platforms (remember the first one called SixDegrees.com?), Gmail overtaking all other email platforms, YouTube multiplying the power of videos, LinkedIn changing business prospecting, Google’s instant, real-time search results and more.

In fact, digital marketing is changing every year and at an increasingly accelerated rate. Literally, what worked last year may not work this year. That’s why every digital marketing professional has to stay enrolled in the proverbial “digital marketing school,” always staying informed on the latest and greatest advances in the art and science of online marketing.

This year is no exception. Several digital marketing practices have been bumped to front of the line in relevance for digital marketing success — including conducting more frequent SEO audits, taking a serious look at expanding into artificial intelligence (AI), considering a new keyword attribution model, leveraging conversion rate optimization and giving user experience a fresh look on your website.

Are you prepared to leverage these five digital marketing predictions this year?

Prediction 1 — You Need to Update Your SEO Strategy More Frequently

Your first thought at hearing that SEO is important in 2018 might be, “When isn’t SEO important?” While that’s true, this year the crucial added urgency is with frequency. In other words, you must update your SEO strategy more often. How frequently? Every quarter. While this may sound a bit crazy at first, consider this: Google updates its algorithm more than 500 times a year.

If you’re not updating your SEO strategy to reflect all of the updates, you could easily lose your traction in the search engine cycle, your keyword ranking position and your business gains. Three areas that need your immediate attention are semantic search, voice search and unlinked mentions.

  • Semantic search — Back in 2010, Google began experimenting with latent semantic indexing (LSI). It’s the relationship between words, ideas and user intent. Now, eight years later, LSI has morphed into semantic search, which attempts to replicate how humans naturally process and communicate information. Semantic search looks for clues or phrases that have any relationship with the primary keyword. Google rewards brands that have skillfully included these keywords and phrases into their content in natural, seamless ways.
  • Voice search — Voice search is based on people verbally stating their search terms, and so the search is conducted in natural language rather than keyword lingo. As with semantic search, the goal is to focus on how people are actually looking for information and how they phrase their queries, then adapting web pages accordingly. The good news is that you can write more natural content that flows like humans speak versus trying to manipulate your content to fit around often-awkward search terms.
  • Unlinked Mentions — Links are the holy grail of online search. What’s new is “unlinked mentions.” Instead of working hard to get other webpages to link directly to your webpages, now even mentions without links have the potential to generate “link juice.” Bing has already admitted to using unlinked mentions, and it’s likely that Google is as well. Marketers can optimize for this by doing a better job of distributing their content far and wide.

Prediction 2 — You Need to Start Implementing AI

Before 2017 was over, an estimated 57 percent of marketers were already using AI, according to a Salesforce study. However, so far it’s mostly used in simple contexts, like online gaming. But that’s bound to change sooner rather than later. The prediction is that the possibilities for AI in digital marketing are only in the beginning stages, but could be breaking soon.

The most common uses of AI are collecting data, automating research and helping drive decisions. Companies like Amazon, Netflix and Facebook use it to provide better customer experiences by showing more relevant content and suggestions based on customer data. Other technologies that use AI include image recognition, voice search and smart content. The idea is these AI capabilities will stimulate faster customer conversions and higher revenue generation.

The central promise of AI is personalizing the user experience on a consumer-by-consumer basis by combining customer data with AI capabilities, such as chatbots and augmented reality.

  • Chatbots are programmed to interact with customers based on the data received. Using multi-dimensional communication systems with sensory abilities, such as voice and touch, the chatbots give consumers the impression they’re talking to real people.
  • Augmented reality can boost user experience by, for example, providing consumers with the ability to see and interact with products before purchasing them.

Prediction 3 — You Need to Expand Your Keyword Attribution Model

In 2018, keyword attribution needs to expand beyond the norm. The overall goal of implementing and understanding conversion attribution models in Google AdWords is to gain more insights into customers’ complex decision process. With today’s multiple channels, multiple devices, multiple clicks and more, it can be challenging to get a handle on how customers are moving through the buyers’ journey. Keyword attribution models provide valuable insight.

The problem is that most companies use an attribution model that gives credit only to the last click along the path to conversion. However, if you only focus on the last click, you’re not seeing what other keywords or clicks assisted with the conversions. Google AdWords provides five other attribution models to choose from:

  • First click — gives credit to the keyword that was clicked first in the conversion process
  • Linear — gives equal credit to each keyword in the conversion process
  • Time decay — gives more credit to keywords clicked closer to conversion
  • Position-based — gives 40 percent credit to the first and last click, then spreads the rest of the credit between the other clicks
  • Data-driven — gives credit for clicks throughout the conversion path based on past data

While keyword attribution is one of the most powerful SEO techniques, few professionals use it or even know about it. Google is hoping to change that by supporting marketers with attribution tools that simplify the complexity and overcome poor integration of attribution elements (such as AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClick Search). To help marketers measure the impact of marketing campaigns on customer purchasing decisions across devices and channels, Google will be launching a new product called Google Attribution. It will have a free version, and an enterprise version called Attribution 360.

Prediction 4 — You Need to Stop Ignoring CRO

When it comes to conversions, there are two numbers that don’t add up. In 2015, an in-depth study by Venture Beat found, among other pro-CRO results, that the average return-on-investment on conversion rate optimization tools was 223 percent. Yet, today only 22 percent of businesses are happy with their conversion rates, according to Econsultancy. Clearly there’s a huge benefit to incorporating CRO into a digital marketing strategy. But many companies haven’t leveraged the opportunity. That’s a mistake — especially as we move into 2018.

Here’s how it works. Say you’re getting a thousand visitors to a webpage every week, and you’re converting at 3 percent. You make some alterations that boost your conversion rate to 6 or 7 percent — more than doubling your results with no additional marketing costs. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

CRO makes your website work harder using traffic it already generates. CRO is an investment in the internal flow of a website that can double results without having to double traffic. It’s a riff on the old adage: Work smarter, not harder, with a digital twist. If you’re not using CRO now, here are the top reasons you should be:

  1. CRO helps the right clients for your business move through the sales funnel. The right techniques will prioritize quality over quantity.
  2. When you optimize your website’s sales funnel you also improve your users’ experience. In particular, visitors can clearly see the ideal path to take to get what they want.
  3. Increasing conversion rates means decreasing the cost per acquisition. As a result, you maximize your profits because you’re paying less per customer acquisition.
  4. Engaging in CRO helps you keep track of what’s working and gain the ability to quickly change things that are not working.
  5. If your website helps a visitor move along the sales funnel more easily than your competitors’ websites do, you’ll gain an edge over them.

Prediction 5 — You Need to Design Your Website for Users’ Preferences, Not Yours

Building websites has long been a practice wherein companies create sites to suit their own preferences — from colors to navigation to content. The result has often been websites that don’t fully engage visitors or inspire their return. When users are not engaged, they move on. In 2018, digital marketers have to rethink their approach. In some cases, this will just entail some tweaks to their current design, but in others it will mean a wholesale takedown and revamp. In any case, keep in mind these user experience points as you create a website that is, first and foremost, for your prospects and customers.

  1. Less is more. It’s easy to clutter up a website. But the goal should be to make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for and take action. As a result, lean pages—especially the homepage and landing pages—should streamline user tasks to the bare minimum. In other words, get rid of all the clutter that doesn’t add value or that distracts from your users’ intentions and your goals.
  2. Make mobile a priority. One of the challenges of mobile design is that website creators work on large monitors with the best resolutions. But today consumers are more often on laptops, tablets or mobile devices than on desktops. User design for mobile needs to be bumped up to a priority to ensure that all elements, including visual hierarchy, spacing, content grouping, positioning, and sizes, are optimized.
  3. Personas are evolving. While buyer personas help marketers understand a target audience based on demographic categories, there’s another way to look at personas: how people engage with a website. In fact, different personas may interact with sites in similar ways—browsing, comparison shopping or looking for content to aid in decision making. Recognizing these groupings offers insight into what customers want from their experiences and how best to deliver content. As a result, marketers could design websites to reflect web habits of their most important personas based more on their site interaction style than their demographics.

Digital marketing has come a long way in the past quarter century. Today the pace of changes has reached an accelerated speed. Marketers who incrementally update their digital marketing strategies to keep pace will outperform rivals. In fact, that may be the smartest digital marketing strategy of all.

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Karen Taylor
The Author

Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor is a professional content marketing writer with experience writing for over 100 companies and publications. Her experience includes the full range of content marketing projects — from blogs, to white papers, to ebooks. She has a particular knack for creating content that clarifies and strengthens a company’s marketing message, and delivers optimum impact and maximum results. Learn more at karentaylorwrites.com.