You could probably say that only fools make predictions about the direction of the Internet and online marketing.
Who would have imagined, when the first websites were being built, that Google would have so much control over the way we search and utilize information on the web? Who could have foreseen, a decade ago, that Facebook and social media would become such a normal part of our day-to-day lives? And who besides tech industry experts imagined a world where everyone would have a high-speed Internet connection in their pocket all day long?
The point is that it’s difficult to predict big changes when they are still far on the horizon. However, when you take a step back and look at the near future, lots of bigger trends take shape clearly. It isn’t that we can’t anticipate them, but that a lot of business owners and marketers ignore what’s happening around them because they don’t want to change.
Of course, change and improvement are central to online marketing. You can’t get ahead without responding to current trends. With that in mind, today we want to look at a few ideas that are likely going to impact your business and website in the next few years. Let’s take a look at what the near future of online marketing looks like, and how your business can prepare…
Search Engines and Social Media Sites are Becoming Engagement-Driven
The developers at Google and Facebook (along with their competitors) have in some ways become victims of their own success. Because search and social sites are so important to online marketing, competition for visibility on both has gotten intense.
Algorithms can only take you so far when determining what types of content to display, or in what order. In order to deliver better results, the companies involved have moved to engagement-based formulas. That means they study what users like and respond to and then show more of it. It’s a way to put decisions in the hands of humans rather than mathematical models, and ultimately yields better results.
Expect this trend to continue in the future, and for user engagement to weigh more heavily into search and social formulas than keywords or links.
Content Quality Will Eclipse Content Quantity
This point is directly related to the first, in that it is normally standard practice for businesses that want to extend their online marketing reach to produce as much content as possible. Some of that content might not be of the highest quality, but it doesn’t necessarily matter if your goal is just to improve search engine positioning or get a few new Facebook followers.
With all the competition out there, though, and the increased prioritization of user engagement, there’s a good chance that quality will soon surpass quantity as the standard for content marketing. In other words, it’s going to be better to have a few posts that people like, share, and comment on than it is to just blitz the Internet with new material week after week.
Mobile Computing Will be the Default Choice
Already, we are seeing a lot of web designers and their clients adopt a “mobile-first” approach to building sites. This is in recognition of the fact that more than 50% of all web traffic originates from phones and tablets. That trend is accelerating, both in North America and around the world.
It’s not hard to imagine that we’ll reach a point where laptop and desktop computers will be more of a rarity, especially as mobile Internet connections get stronger and tablet processing power increases. Marketers are already facing up to the reality that they need to be mobile-compatible online. Soon, that won’t even be a discussion.
Credibility and Accuracy are Going to Become Important
We are seeing a lot of debate these days about what is and isn’t “fake news.” Beneath the political sides of the argument, though, is an important point – that it’s very easy to spread fraudulent or misleading information on Google and Facebook.
You can bet it won’t be very long before both services come up with new standards for posting and sharing material. These might start with straight news and political commentary, but they’ll inevitably cover marketing posts, too (perhaps in the same way that the FCC monitors TV advertisements). The point is that companies are likely going to be scrutinized for the accuracy of what they post, and perhaps required to use citations and supporting materials more extensively than they do now.
A New Age of Online Marketing is Coming
In the long run, it’s almost impossible to say what factors like changing search algorithms, new social media platforms, and artificial intelligence will do to the world of online marketing. Additionally, we’ve overlooked the impact of cloud computing, new advertising models, and some other exciting technologies that are just coming into their own…but we’ll save these for a future article.
For the next few years, though, it’s safe to say these four trends are going to take shape and push new ideas and promotional strategies in big ways. Is your business going to be ready?