Digital Marketing Trends That Are Here to Stay: 2016’s Predictions Revisited

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We ended 2015 with hopes, concerns and predictions about upcoming digital marketing trends. Now, 2016 is underway and with almost two months behind us, we need to re-evaluate what has changed and what has stayed the same. I believe this step is indeed important, since having a concrete understanding of recent trends helps us lay the foundation for defining our goals. However, we still have a few “unknown knowns,” meaning that although we may have mapped out all the possible directions for our marketing activities, we may not haven’t figured out yet exactly how to deal with them. To ease your struggle (and mine as well), I reached out to more than 30 international marketing gurus who shared with us their advice on how to effectively utilize the newest digital marketing trends. I also included tips and predictions from 54 experts called together by David Bain for Digital Marketing Radio’s Christmas Special episode, which was a pleasure to be a part of. I distilled all their wisdom into several categories: marketing strategies, social media, content marketing (including video and podcasts), mobile, paid advertising, analytics, marketing automation and, of course, SEO. In addition, you will find in this post some of our guest experts’ thoughts (spoiler alert: even skepticism!) about current global trends.

To help you navigate this post, click on one of the following categories to see a display of experts’ quotes:

Marketing tactics

Saul Colt

saul.is hubba.com

In 2016 people are quickly going to come to their senses about fads and go back to earning trust and creating connections with customers. Brands are going to move away from distracting their customers with sizzle and start managing meaningful experiences instead. Relationships will drive the bottom line.

Ilise Benun

marketing-mentor.com

People need to get comfortable with going live and being “human” and imperfect. So many businesses want to present perfection and this stops them from marketing their services effectively.

Jamie Turner

60secondmarketer.com mobilexfestival.com

We’ll witness the opposite of inbound marketing: 2016 is the time for outbound marketing. We’re no longer drawing people to our websites or blogs, but going out to meet our customers.

Geno Prussakov

affiliatemanagementdays.com amnavigator.com

With consumers weary of traditional online ads, yet eager to follow celebrities and experts, and seriously relying on friend recommendations for purchases, we’ve reached a crucial inflection point – a ‘perfect storm’ situation for influencer and advocacy marketing to thrive. 2016 will be the year of influencer marketing.

Trevor Young

prwarrior.com

Don’t lose your humanity – use tools to take people behind the velvet rope of your business. Use your experts internally, tell better stories, but don’t make it about you – make it about people in your community and what is relevant to them.

Matthew Turner

turndog.co

2016 is all about experience, which extends into everything. Think about how you’re going to expand customers’ experience by using various types of multimedia – writing, video, audio, Periscoping. Get your audience to feel more invested in the journey.

John Lee Dumas

eofire.com

Business is not always about scaling or leveraging, and it’s going to come down to one-on-one connections, which create life-time customers and life-time value. You need to think about how you can set up times to have one-on-one conversations that could exponentially grow and be a lot more leveraging, rather than solely relying on other marketing methods.

Janet Fouts

janetfouts.com

We really are going to be focusing on human interactions and using social as a way to warm things up, get a foot in the door and actually talk to people face to face.

Olga Andrienko

semrush.com

Social proof will become even more important in 2016. Everyone is social and everyone mentions brands, so social proof is big right now.

Warren Whitlock

warrenwhitlock.com

Push marketing is dead. Buying more media or tricking a search engine doesn’t matter to your buyers. Find the people who buy and listen to them. Work through those who influence and help them get what they want.

David Horne

davidhorne.me honestly.co

We’re now looking at more of a slow web, delivering experiences that are “timely”, but not necessarily in “real time.” . That means we need to start meeting customers where they’re at and reaching them there, instead of being bullish on the platform or tool that we want to use.

Mark Asquith

excellence-expected.com

The success of livestreaming, email marketing, segmentation, etc, will all come down to personality. You have to stand out; you have to be different, and the only thing you have that’s genuinely different is yourself. We’ll see more brands taking on different voices for different types of people they want to target.

Alita Harvey-Rodriguez

milkit.com.au

We are on the verge of one-to-one marketing communications. Marketers need to find new ways to get past ad blockers and create authentic one-to-one relationships.

Ash Nallawalla

ash.nallawalla.com suncorpgroup.com.au

There will be lots of work for consultants, because companies now think they know enough, so some of them will get into trouble with old tactics.

Paul Ryazanov

magecloud.net

Marketing goes to the local niches. Especially, small brands will have to start working with local communities and list of influencers, because targeted audiences will lead to better marketing nationwide in the future. I guess these days we can’t win fast and easy, so we have to prepare our resources to play a long tail marketing game that will improve and grow our business as a snowball.

Roberto Blake

robertoblake.com

We’ll see a dramatic shift in practicality, with people focusing on revenue generating activities in the digital marketing space in terms of small businesses, individuals and even marketing professionals. You always need to have a plan for how to monetize your content and what is going to be your overall ROI and value proposition. You have to know what your content marketing strategy is and how it adds to your pipeline. Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it.

Sam Hurley

optim-eyez.co.uk

The nature of targeting will take a whole new path, to the point where advertising becomes completely personalized and virtual reality means consumers will be able to touch and feel products (even services?!) as we are placed in the complex nurturing funnel of big-spending brands.

Ryan Buchanan

eroi.com

More than ever before we need to know our audience. Analyzing data derived from both mobile and the Web and looking at all consumers’ touch points along their journey will help brands create a seamless marketing strategy.

Jeremy Boeh

jeremyboeh.com

I believe that Snapchat is going to become more legitimate and we’re going to see a lot more brands utilizing it as a way to connect with their audiences. It will be particularly important for brands that put storytelling at the forefront of their campaigns and start-ups who need to get their story across quickly.

David Shaw

davidmarkshaw.com

I see the move away from personal blogs and personal websites and the uprising of Facebook Notes as a platform for long-form publishing. People will publish less on their own territory, pushing their content to external sources like Facebook Leads and Facebook Notes, and use their personal websites or personal blogs as more of an archive.

Kyler Patterson

hostgator.com

Get ready for Facebook to make an ever larger impact on the marketing game. So many are pitching it as the way of the future, which is causing a lot of beginners to get their feet wet. But those that really understand what’s going on will continue to be on top. Lear Facebook ads now.

Trevor Young

prwarrior.com

Blab, Meerkat, Vine, Periscope, – all those little snippets can mean a lot. We need to use these tools to connect with audiences. Sometimes just providing a platform, bringing people into the conversation and advancing that conversation will have the desired effect.

David Bain

digitalmarketingradio.com

Facebook is also bringing in live streaming, which has the potential to really ratchet up the game, because personal video broadcasting will go mainstream on Facebook. Also, Facebook will become much more important for SEO and community building in 2016. Over the past couple of years, community building has diverged into different platforms. I predict that Facebook will recognize the importance of fostering business communities on their platform. They’ll also start to do more to make their site more SEO friendly for businesses, adding more product review functionality.

Rand Fishkin

moz.com

Promoted pins will make Pinterest an emerging juggernaut in the social media and social advertising world, particularly for e-commerce.

Kelsey Jones

moxiedot.com searchenginejournal.com

Social will see a boom in unique content with Facebook Instant Articles and the publisher partners with Snapchat.

Dennis Yu

dennis-yu.com blitzmetrics.com

Watch for other channels to follow Facebook by having business-based objectives. That means custom audiences will extend to LinkedIn soon, just like they did to Twitter and Google.

Amy Schmittauer

savvysexysocial.com

Facebook wants to be the next YouTube. I’ve now syndicated my show on Facebook, and it’s giving me a ton of brand awareness. The reach you can get there – which is totally for free at this point –  is incredible.

Mobile

Kelsey Jones

moxiedot.com searchenginejournal.com

Optimizing PPC campaigns for mobile will continue to become more of a demand, because you can customize campaigns based on how they are being viewed (mobile, desktop, tablet), which greatly influences what you should have in your ad copy.

Yiğit Konur

seozeo.com

“Next year will be the year of mobile” is a cliche like “SEO is dead,” but I strongly believe that mobile-backed SEO strategies will dominate 2016’s SEO world! App indexing and mobile deep linking will especially be new trends for technical SEO agencies. Because of the updates on understanding content on search might mislead SEOs into only focusing on content marketing, but these kinds of technical requirement will help SEOs to stick with a technical mindset as well.

Martin Waxman

martinwaxman.com

In 2016 I’m going to pay attention to what Google calls “micro moments” – all those times during the day when we reflexively turn to our smartphones to satisfy those incessant impulses like “I wanna know…”, “I wanna go…”, and “I wanna buy…”. And because these are really “mobile moments,” it’s really about figuring out how we, as marketers and communicators, can create stories that go in the moment, that can be found, that help, that engage and that are ultimately shareable.

Paul Ryazanov

magecloud.net

Our discussion about Conversion in the Mobile Era seems quite relevant to the future of digital marketing trends. My opinion on that is that the Google algorithm will move mostly into the entire customer experience rather than back links and other factors. So my guess in the future Google will track links that drive traffic to the site which are converted into engaged visitors, i.e. visitors with a low bounce rate – these links will probably get a lot more credit from Google.

Jamie Turner

60secondmarketer.com mobilexfestival.com

Mobile is such a big deal now! We’re organizing an event in May called Mobile X Festival and I’m amazed at the number of people who have jumped in on that.

Susan Baroncini-Moe

businessinbluejeans.com

Mobile overtook desktop in 2015 and we need to ensure that all businesses have mobile-friendly websites.

Abbas Rajani

pacandcopy.com

The Mobilegeddon update was a big change. Recently, a website’s being mobile friendly used to be an added feature, but in 2016 it will be a basic need for any search engine.

Content marketing

Ian Anderson Gray

iag.me

We need to produce actionable content that will make a difference to business. And we’ll see more tools and platforms that will help us with repurposing content.

Sam Hurley

optim-eyez.co.uk

Mobile and video content reaches its pinnacle, leading the way for intimate behavioral targeting

Tom Treanor

rightmixmarketing.com wrike.com

2016 is the year of “content shock”: as more and more content gets out there, it’s becoming harder and harder to get attention. So the trend will be more scrutiny of content and social ROI, and that’s why you’ll need better tracking and attribution; you’ll need to focus on more original and better-quality content.

Chris Marr

contentcrashcourse.co.uk

Content marketing needs to be a cultural thing within an organization, something that the whole organization takes on, otherwise it will hold a lot of businesses back.

Art Jones

artjones.tv

“Edutainment” is a solid concept for 2016. With live streaming and video becoming so dominant, if you’re not willing to provide both an educational and an entertainment experience with your content, nobody will watch.

Andrew McCauley

thesocialmediabloke.com autopilotyourbusiness.com

My prediction is a lot more repurposing of live content. We’re now seeing that events are being broadcasted with Periscope or Meerkat running at the same time to show people different angles, instead of having just one point of view. There may not be a lot of people watching a live event, but the repurposing of what was recorded during live broadcastings is going to be everywhere.

Adam Vowles

adamvowles.co.uk susodigital.com

We’ll see more interactive content designed to improve user experience and work in tandem with social. The goal is to create an emotional attachment with the content, so that the user feels involved.

Jeff White

kulapartners.com

In 2016 we’ll see a ramp up of interactive content – useful tools that help customers find you, such as payment calculators or ROI devices. Useful and helpful content converts much better than non-interactive content like white papers.

Colin Gray

thepodcasthost.com

This year we’ll have to blog a few times a week, do regular podcasts, turn them into videos – get into the world of repurposing and make sure we use everything to its utmost. We need to make content marketing sustainable, so that our content ties together and comes up week after week, like a “series.”

Kelsey Jones

moxiedot.com searchenginejournal.com

We’ll see a boom in more unique content with Facebook Instant Articles and Snapchat’s publishing partners. And I’m so glad more brands are realizing how important high-quality, useful content truly is.

Emily Hill

writemysite.co.uk

I have three predictions:
1) Content next year will be all about EAT (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness). Google will make it harder for sites to rank when they don’t have enough supplementary/supporting content for their topics.
2) YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages will come under additional scrutiny from Google because financial and healthcare content has the greatest impact on people’s lives. Such content needs to be in-depth and substantial, as well as fact checked and published by a reputable source.
3) Content is getting longer! In 2015, there was a 72 percent year-on-year increase in the number of 1,500+-word blog articles published by marketers, while only 18.2 percent of bloggers bothered with pieces under 500 words. Why? Because more length offers more opportunities to investigate the subject matter and use semantically-linked keyphrases. In 2016, we’ll see more long-form content, such as guides and white papers, because brands are realizing this is the content their audiences and Google want to see.

Abbas Rajani

pacandcopy.com

Ordinary guest post sites that serve as content farms will not provide you with your expected results; content marketing standards will definitely be enhanced.

Heather Porter

heatherporter.com autopilotyourbusiness.com

We need to focus on using dynamic content. Popping up banners, exit pop ups that are used creatively and better cross-linking will help you to have the next level conversation with customers.

Alex Tachalova

alextachalova.com

There will be more quality, data-driven content, as this is what allows you to stand out. This is just as achievable for small businesses as it is for larger corporations with big budgets, because quality, rather than quantity, is what counts.

Video

Amy Schmittauer

savvysexysocial.com

My prediction is more video in 2016. The accessibility of mobile video is going to drive more brands to create archives on YouTube. And YouTube is the best place to invest in video, because archives can work for you for a very long time. And we are likely to see both big brands and small brands profiting from that medium. If you have been pulling back on video because of perfectionism or “analysis paralysis”, it’s time to stop.

Kamila Gornia

kamilagornia.com

Live streaming is definitely going to increase even more, especially thanks to Facebook Live. I really think that the purpose behind all of this is transparency and authenticity. People can’t relate to you if you make everything super-perfect. But people can relate to you if you’re truly being “live”, because we connect to other humans, not just brands.

Jamie Turner

60secondmarketer.com

Finally, video is coming on strong. People are starting to use video as a way to engage with their prospects and customers.

Susan Baroncini-Moe

businessinbluejeans.com

Streaming video is really coming into its own now.

Jabez LeBret

gngf.com

Video will dominate 2016. Google will add auto-play videos to SERPs, YouTube will crush it, and companies will double their budgets on video production.

Kelsey Jones

moxiedot.com searchenginejournal.com

Live streaming will continue to grow, especially with Blab and Periscope. A Periscope conference already took place in NYC in September, 2015!

Podcasts

Mike Russell

newmediaeurope.com

All the time time we’re hearing “podcasting, podcasting, podcasting”, and my predication for 2016 is that advertising agencies will become significantly more interested in podcasting.

Dave Jackson

schoolofpodcasting.com

Podcasting will continue to grow mainly due to the smartphone usage and Bluetooth, especially in connected cars. We’re going to see more companies sponsoring podcast shows as brands start understanding the true connection that podcasters have with their audience and the influence they have on their listeners.

Analytics

Calin Yablonski

inboundinteractive.ca

2016 is the year of conversion rate optimization (CRO). We’ve seen that cost-per-click advertising on AdWords and Facebook has slowly started to ratchet up the price, and the way to combat that is to increase your website’s conversion rate.

David Bain

digitalmarketingradio.com

Since PPC is getting more expensive, conversion rate optimization will be increasingly powered by personal brand authority. Websites that are getting traffic from sources that haven’t heard of you personally won’t convert, but if you build your brand authority as an individual, your conversion rate could be fairly high.

Alex Harris

alexdesigns.com

We’ve been focused on conversion rate optimization for many years now, but I think there’s going to be a step up in the systems and tools that people use for CRO, especially now that businesses are looking for alternatives to Google Analytics, other tools that can be used to get both qualitative and quantitative aspects of data in order to understand users at a more granular level. Services like Mixpanel, LeapAnalytix, Hotjar and Adobe Analytics will become increasingly popular.

Susan Baroncini-Moe

businessinbluejeans.com

Now we’re starting to see clients who care about ROI, and they’ve become more data-driven and data-focused. Nowadays we have to show our clients that they’re going to see real results and tangible yields from the efforts we make. Also, we’ve had this big push with Big Data, though many still don’t know what it means. In 2016 we’ll have to start getting a handle on it.

Kevin Krason

biznetdigital.net

Future marketing will be based on behavior-driven actions. We’re going to use data to fine tune our communication, because that’s what it takes today to get people’s attention. Knowing how, when, and with what to engage your customers has to be based on the behavioral data we are collecting.

Olga Andrienko

semrush.com

Data-driven marketing is indeed important. Even those marketers who are not particularly tech savvy, have started focusing on different social media tools. I believe that we’re going back to all-in-one marketers who integrate every process, work together and understand other marketing channels.

Marketing Automation

Calin Yablonski

inboundinteractive.ca

In 2016 we are going to see people who are taking control of their content and converting it into sales leads, product sales, subscriptions, etc. People will adopt platforms like Unbounce and LeadPages at a higher rate and transition to marketing automation software such as Infusionsoft and Hubspot in an effort to get the full value from the traffic they’re currently driving to their websites.

Heather Porter

heatherporter.com

Big businesses that don’t’ have time for all the one-on-ones can benefit from better marketing automation and a deeper level of segmentation within their own systems. Those of us who use CRMs like Infusionsoft, Salesforce and Ontraport for managing marketing and sales funnels need to exploit marketing lists more effectively for segmentation purposes.

Liam Martin

staff.com

Combining metrics and interactions is the most powerful mechanism when it comes to customization. Dealing with customers through a combination of CRM and email allows me to create personalized communication with each client.

SEO

Cosmin Negrescu

seomonitor.com

If people are asking questions on Twitter or Quora, that means they can’t easily find answers on Google – this is a powerful SEO opportunity for marketers. Instead of looking to big ideas that are overused, we need to find our customers’ current pain points using Quora, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and respond to them.

Joel House

onlinevisions.com.au blackshirtmarketing.com.au

In 2016 a lot of businesses will start focusing on revenue-optimized SEO. Because of the huge ROI on content, small businesses will begin focusing on where they can make direct money without using the same content approach that big businesses use.

Danny Ashton

neomam.com

We’re going to become a lot more specialized, especially within the SEO space. We’ll continue moving away from full-service agencies running everything for companies, and will see a lot more internal SEO teams that will allow business owners to understand SEO and PPC and to be able to strategize.

Jonny Ross

jonnyross.com

Structured data, markup, and using schema – simple, basic stuff, but they can still make a big difference. Now you need to be even more reactive, as with Google’s new live blog Carousel, you can add structured data and schema to your content and enter live blogs.

Mary Bowling

ignitordigital.com

Gaining links, citations and mentions will become increasingly important in 2016 and more people will think about brand building within their own market areas.

Henrik S. Jørgensen

accuranker.com

I predict the growing importance of a rank tracker. The trend we are seeing today is not people having focus on just a few keywords, but they import everything that Google is indexing their site for from Google Search Console. It’s important today to know which keywords point to which landing pages, as this is really where the focus should be. What good is it if “printers” points to a landing page that concerns “scanners?” You will see a huge bounce ratio. Normally if you are just looking in GA, you will think that there is something wrong with the design, because how would you know that the visitors that you are getting are actually interested in something else? Only with a fast rank tracker. When you get this fixed, then your visitors will stay longer, Google will know you are delivering the content your visitors are searching for, and it will reward you with better rankings. You can monitor all this with AccuRanker.

Abbas Rajani

pacandcopy.com

In 2016, the idea of introducing real-time Penguin will further improve Google search results. This clearly shows that Google will become more and more concerned about the links that you’re building.

Andrew Dennis

pageonepower.com

Links have remained extremely valuable within SEO—despite many predictions of their death—and they serve a critical function on the web. As more businesses’ marketing budgets are transferred to digital and online marketing sees a bigger spend, traditional marketers will look to links as a signal or key performance indicator.

John Paul Sherman

redhat.com

I predict that in 2016, more companies are going to implement and really flesh out microdata and schema. Microdata is amazing because it creates structured, taxonomic relationships between entities and their attributes.

Doug Platts

icrossing.com

Knowledge Graph and schema mark-up are going to continue to expand to deliver a richer, more tailored search experience for users. In addition to search user experience, site user experience will become a stronger factor. To date, search engines look at content relevancy to deliver quality search results. This will now move to usability signals to ensure that the content relevancy is delivering on its values. This has started Mobilegeddon and it will continue with the usage of non traditional search engines (such as social media search, meta search and app search) that are going to become increasingly important to brand discoverability than traditional search engines (such as desktop Google searches).

Bill Slawski

seobythesea.com gofishdigital.com

We will likely continue to see more innovations and interesting changes to search results from Google, Bing and Yahoo in the following year. More industries and extensions will be added to Schema.org, helping to enable richer sets of search results for a wider diversity of websites.

Ash Nallawalla

netmagellan.com ash.nallawalla.com

The offshore sweatshop kind of SEO will disappear and the focus will return to quality products and services, which will benefit SEO as a whole.

Martin MacDonald

webmarketingschool.com

If I had to single out one specific new issue we will face in 2016, it’s likely to be the proliferation of ad blockers, which are great for SEO when they remove Google SERP page advertising, but terrible for SEO when they challenge your business model. I wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of technology released to “fool” the ad-blockers, but I would be surprised to see Google having the agility to work against them at the kind of speed they will need to.

Stephen Kenwright

branded3.com

Google will announce that it won’t rank sites using HTTP as well as those using HTTPS. At the very least there will be talk of ranking improvements for sites using HTTPS. Either way it will be impractical to action. Penguin will run once. It will take months to roll out, but it won’t be in real time. And apps that support deep links will suck up more and more traffic from Google.

Bastian Grimm

bastian-grimm.com

There’s a lot of different formats out there (e.g., attribute/value pairs, JSON-LD, Data-vocabulary.org) causing a lot of confusion with site owners. With some of the latest examples, Google seems to be favoring JSON-LD, but even this notation has its downsides (e.g., bloated code and overhead); therefore, I suspect (and hope!) we’ll see a movement towards one unified approach. Also, proper crawler control (efficiency and indexation) will become even more important in 2016: the web is growing significantly day by day, and websites are getting more complex and using new technologies. This can cause a lot of confusion for search engines and lead crawlers to spend a lot of time on non-ranking relevant assets. Combine that with poor page speed and you’ll suffer in rankings and have a very hard time getting your really important pages ranked properly!

Eugene Lata

serpstat.com

We are expecting the introduction of new filters from search engines in the near future. SEO professionals have already started changing their promotion strategies, and this trend is likely to continue. It’s not just about mobile versions of websites and website response times, but also about finding an answer to your question in the shortest amount of time. Local search is expected to evolve even more rapidly. This will make the life of the SEO professional more complicated, but it will facilitate access to the necessary information for users.

Been there, done that

Simon Heseltine

simonheseltine.com

Some things will change; some things will stay the same. SEO will be declared dead several times, then like Lazarus it will come back from the dead. Google will make changes that people wail and gnash their teeth over, then they’ll get over them. Facebook will make changes that people wail and gnash their teeth over, then they’ll get over them.  Twitter will…you get the picture.

Martin Macdonald

webmarketingschool.com

Every year, we all make the same predictions: “It’s the year of mobile,” or “Google will finally crack down on spammy links”…  Both of those predictions have been partially true every year for the past five years; the problem is of course that these are all long-term, industry-wide, transitional changes.

Tony Wright

wrightimc.com

Video and mobile are going to be the talk of the industry. Search will continue its evolution into content marketing and Google will throw us all some sort of curve ball like it does every year.

Whew! That’s a long post!
Do you think those predictions are coming true? Please, share with us your thoughts in the comments down below

  • Olga Andrienko

    Great work, Alexandra! Thanks for taking your time and effort to put all these tips together 🙂

    • Olga, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think social approval is becoming a big deal, especially since Google has started to understand whether a mention of a brand was positive or negative!

  • David Bain

    Thanks for pulling together such a fab list Alexandra. We’ll have to shoot for over 100 next year! 🙂