Since late last year, dozens of articles and blog posts have forecasted the top digital marketing trends for 2016. With topics such as video ads, mobile, social media, the Internet of Things, SEO, and virtual reality are constantly recurring themes, these predictive analyses offer a broad perspective of the 2016 digital marketing industry.
However, areas such as SEO, virtual reality, and social media deserve in-depth attention, as they play key roles within the digital marketing industry.
SEO in 2016 impacts a range of industry practices, from voice search, position zero, to ad-blocking. As digital assistants, search engine algorithms, and ad-blocking software evolve, SEO practices will continue to transform.
The introduction of Mobilegeddon last April wasn’t the ending, but rather the beginning of changes that are impacting what’s still to come for SEO. In 2016, mobile will continue to shape the future of SEO with the emerging trend of voice search.
Voice search entails calling upon digital assistants such as Siri, Cortana, Google Now, and Alexa when conducting online searches. Although voice searches offer more convenience for users, they also add more complexity to searches. SEO practitioners will face challenges in optimizing content for voice search queries, which are expected to be drastically different from typed search queries because of their focus on natural, conversational language. This means that keyword-focused queries will become less relevant. Instead, long-tail keyword queries will be the way to go.
What is position zero? Usually when digital marketers talk about search engine rankings, position one is the highest ranking they seek to achieve. However, with the introduction of Google’s Featured Snippets, position one may not hold the throne of search engine results pages (SERPs) any more. Instead, Featured Snippets is now the new position one.
One interesting aspect of Google’s Featured Snippets is that it doesn’t necessarily display content from websites ranked in position one. However, to be a potential candidate for Featured Snippets, a website has to be ranked on page one. SEO professionals are still testing and analyzing how to optimize content for it to be presented in Featured Snippets. While some claim that the algorithm involves schema markup and others disagree, it’s important to keep an eye on emerging patterns that contribute to the algorithm behind Featured Snippets.
With the introduction of ad-blocking software, more challenges have been posed to digital marketers in recent years. Ad-blocking software causes two problems for digital marketers: a lack of data feedback and improper page rendering. Without data feedback, website owners can’t make accurate evaluations and improvements to their sites. On the other hand, when pages don’t render properly, it harms the user’s experience.
However, these two difficulties can be overcome by focusing on basic SEO principles: quality content, title tags and meta descriptions, social sharing, and rich snippets.
2. Virtual Reality
The recent launches of low-cost virtual reality devices such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear are making virtual reality technology more accessible to the general public. Though virtual reality is now adopted more frequently by B2C digital marketers, the technology has great potential to be widely used in B2B digital marketing, as well. Apart from technology companies, media platforms like Facebook and YouTube are adopting and developing virtual reality technology that users can experience without wearable devices.
Last September, Facebook introduced the 360 Video feature. Shot on a special set of cameras, 360-degree videos allow viewers to explore scenes from different angles by dragging the video around with either a cursor on desktops or with a finger on mobile devices. When viewing 360-degree videos on mobile devices, viewers can also move their phones around manually, and the video will follow their movements.
Ultimately, 360-degree videos make the viewing experience more immersive for Facebook users. This feature presents immense opportunities for both B2C and B2B digital marketers, whether they choose to use it to market big purchase items or to tell a brand story.
YouTube, which entered the 360-degree video scene earlier than Facebook, is reportedly working with manufacturers to develop technology that allows anyone to stream 360-degree videos globally.
While digital marketers can use YouTube’s 360-degree videos for the same purpose as Facebook’s 360 Video, YouTube’s application of user-generated content expands the usage of this technology. Once the technology to stream 360-degree videos is made widely available to all YouTube users, B2C digital marketers can adopt the technology for influencer marketing. On the other hand, B2B marketers can use 360-degree videos when marketing their products or services on their YouTube channels.
3. Social Media
Undoubtedly, social media will continue to be a key player in digital marketing for 2016. Although there’s a proliferation of new social media platforms, existing social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are constantly making changes to their networks to stay ahead of the competition.
On February 10, Twitter announced it was making changes to its timeline by implementing a non-chronological algorithm.
So what will this mean for Twitter users? Since the new timeline is optional, the non-chronological algorithm will only affect those who choose to opt-in to the update. For them, the top of their timelines will feature the best tweets that users follow and engage with, instead of the most recent tweets in chronological order.
This change makes it even more important for marketers to not only remain relevant for their Twitter followers, but also to maintain close relationships with them so they’ll be featured at the top of their followers’ timelines. Timing of posts will become less important, and content will remain king.
Like Twitter, Facebook also announced a new function for its platform on the same day: automatically captioned video ads—a move that was made based on negative responses its users had expressed toward mobile video ads that played automatically.
Although brands are already able to caption their own videos, Facebook is offering to do so themselves. Ultimately, auto-captioning will allow people to know what the video ads on their feeds are about before turning on the sound.
According to Ad Age, Facebook emphasized to advertisers that, ideally, video ads will feature content that’s designed to be viewed with the sound off. What this means for digital marketers is that video content should be more visually oriented and be able to take on a life of its own without the help of audio.