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
- Paid advertising
- Content marketing
- Marketing Automation
- Global Trends
- Been there, done that
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Social proof will become even more important in 2016. Everyone is social and everyone mentions brands, so social proof is big right now.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I predicted the onset of Paid Local about three years ago, and it’s becoming apparent that Google needs to move in that direction to grow revenues. I’m calling 2016 “the year of Paid Local Listings”.
Eventually the growing number of Google-centric results that are pushing organic results down the page will hit a tipping point. Either Google will pull back on the amount of real estate they take up or searchers will begin to abandon Google for other engines
For PPC, we are seeing a continued ability to target audiences in very detailed ways, based on their online behavior, their demographics, and even their email addresses. In 2016 I think we will continue to see this trend, however, consumers are becoming more savvy to this targeting. Ad blocking and privacy concerns will increase as audience lists become smaller and border on personally identifiable”
Paid advertising will focus more on exceptionally strong targeting, so you can build small, customized groups that you can serve your advertisements to. I’ll always be a fan of organic acquisition, but I’m fully aware that paid acquisition will give you much stronger tools for specific targeting, and it’s necessary when you reach a very narrow audience.
In 2016, we’ll see the increased prominence of niche audiences. You need to reach out to specific audiences that want to see your ads, because having spammy ads beside your content is becoming less efficient. Hypertargeting is moving into the world of search engines. Google now has customer list audiences that allow you to upload emails into Google and target people via their Google IDs. You need to reach out to specific audiences that want to see your ads.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Mobile overtook desktop in 2015 and we need to ensure that all businesses have mobile-friendly websites.
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.
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.
Mobile and video content reaches its pinnacle, leading the way for intimate behavioral targeting
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Ordinary guest post sites that serve as content farms will not provide you with your expected results; content marketing standards will definitely be enhanced.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, video is coming on strong. People are starting to use video as a way to engage with their prospects and customers.
Streaming video is really coming into its own now.
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.
Live streaming will continue to grow, especially with Blab and Periscope. A Periscope conference already took place in NYC in September, 2015!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gaining links, citations and mentions will become increasingly important in 2016 and more people will think about brand building within their own market areas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Google’s going to continue to take over search. So, as digital marketers we’ll need to maintain integrity and continue to fulfill our customers’ intent quickly and beautifully
In 2016 we’ll see a much broader connection between leadership in companies that want certain goals accomplished and the digital marketers who can make that happen.
Facebook might even be talked about as the dominant search engine by the end of the year
2016 will be the year of VOC: the “voice of the consumer.” Business owners and websites are going to have to put the customer’s voice on their sites as a key differentiator. If we want to demonstrate that we’ve got real value to offer our customers, the best way to do that is to put their voices on our websites. Instead of monitoring and aggregating mentions of your business online, just open up your site and let people talk.
This year there will be a push towards better products and services. And content marketing will be built into the product or service development process.
The situation with ad blockers is kind of sending the message: “Enough with the bad ads, let’s do something creative.” Whether using different ad units, different sizes, native advertising, or paid content, marketers will be trying to reach people in a different way than through a 728×90 banner ad.
Google will keep pushing on, making the web faster: The AMP project (Googles’ Accelerated Mobile Pages) will become another important format to deliver content in (desktop / handheld / AMP (kind of a “minimalistic” mobile version)) and Google will force its adaption / usage by announcing AMP to become a “ranking factor” in 2016, at least for mobile-ready results.
In 2016, for the first time, ad blocking has become native to the digital experience with the introduction of the ad blocker from Apple and its iOS 9. While it has made life a lot better for users with faster load times and no distractions from ads, there are ramifications for marketers. The question is what will marketing be like for content-heavy sites without an ad-based model?
More closed ecosystems with Apple, Google and Facebook running to create a whole closed ecosystem which they own and everyone has to pay for. The start of large scale virtual reality takes up by consumers and the efforts to sell those eyeballs.
Everything is moving at incredible rates. Technology is evolving and the Internet of Things brings wearable tech to the forefront of brand marketing. Our fixation with data will continue and the measurement of such will become highly advanced, closely connecting the dots to omni-channel marketing efforts. I think this year will mean great change for marketers and many will get left behind, purely because of budget and distance from new practices and devices.
We’re going to see more female faces in 2016. We don’t have enough women in the industry, but we’re going to see them taking more leadership positions, presenting at conferences, on panels and during roundtables. There will also be more appreciation for those who make the effort to include the very, very smart women who are out there in our field.
New technology makes headlines, but old technology is the most important. Most successful digital marketing campaigns are those that integrate TV with digital. And if you want to drive people into the sales funnel, you need to be able to push targeted messages via email. Older people are the ones that we need to target, since they have the purchasing power; but, they tend to be slightly slower to take up the latest new things.
I think the interest in behavior targeting will continue to grow. I also think this will raise users’ concerns for their privacy once they really start to catch onto what data is being collected.
We think digital marketing will get even more competitive. As a digital business, you’re not just against your local competitors, you’re against the world, and companies that are average can’t expect to succeed.
E-commerce businesses will flourish in 2016 and more competition seems to be expected in the upcoming year. SEO, email marketing and PPC will be the building blocks for every e-commerce business. With reference to a Kissmetrics post: 30.5 percent of all traffic comes from Google organic searches. Those businesses that have pre-planned holiday campaigns and who are ranked well for long tail keywords will have an edge in the market.
E-commerce companies will have to go offline and figure out how to offer that offline experience, since 93 percent of sales are still happening offline.
Google will use Twitter signals in a whole new way. Apple will launch search, combining in apps search, Internet, and probably emails and contacts all into one, bringing your own personal ecosystem into their search.
More marketing disciplines are going to merge, and this will require SEOs to learn SEM, content, social and mobile. The best marketers are like Leonardo da Vinci. They are artists and scientists who look at the world holistically rather than in segments.
Social media has now moved much closer to SEO: there are no longer any silos to divide them and they dance together all the time. If your piece of content is doing well on social media, don’t worry about backlinks and its organic performance – it will get a high ranking.
Been there, done that
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.
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.
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