Digital Marketing: What’s New For 2018?

How will artificial intelligence (AI) impact digital marketing next year?

In the past 10 years, the craft of digital marketing and SEO has undergone a major transformation. In just the past few years, there has been an even more dramatic shift brought on by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates as well as Rank Brain. Google is moving toward artificial intelligence solutions to better understand the relevancy of content and the ranking of websites. Facebook, Google, and other media platforms are trying to use AI to help them weed out the spam on their networks and help better optimize the user experience. Check out what Facebook has been up to recently.

Building A Better AI

The race to build a better AI started as each media channel acquired a new AI company. It appears AI is currently being used to help improve efficiency for many simple tasks or repetitive tasks like designing basic graphics for their data. Large media companies have lots of data, which they plan to use as a way of enhancing their user experience.

None of these changes should come as a surprise. Media companies are under some serious pressure from state and federal governments to crack down on political propaganda on their ad networks. In the future, the early days of Facebook may be seen as the “wild west” of the Internet.

Trends To Watch In 2018

Change happens so quickly in digital marketing and search engine optimization, we’re sure things will never stay the same. Here are just a few trends we think you will likely find going into 2018 and beyond.

  • AI-like Content Engines
  • Programmatic Advertising
  • A Continuing Shift To Mobile
  • More Attention To User Experience
  • Increasing Paid Content Exposure
  • More Focus On Technical SEO
  • Influencer Marketing Explodes

AI-like Content Engines

Software that looks like artificial intelligence is being used to generate content on websites. Tools are used to create web pages and articles with data fed into a program like Wordsmith. Wordsmith isn’t truly AI, it’s more of a template system for creating content around your data. Natural language generation (NLG) software simply gives your data context. It’s likely these tools will become more popular in 2018 and 2019 as companies invest more in content marketing.

There is some fear in the creative writing field that AI will take over journalism. We’re not there yet, but it’s possible generic product descriptions and basic data overview pages can be automated. The role of social media community manager has begun to take over more traditional media buying and PR roles.

Programmatic Advertising

Marketers will continue to explore ways to reach their targeted audience through programmatic media buying. Marketers will take advantage of media consumption across devices and mediums like YouTube, social media, and Google. Having a programmatic ad strategy to reach a wider audience will be key to growth. AdWords, Facebook Ads, and other tools will be used to target customers and improve media spend.

“A good digital agency wouldn’t throw away money on a bad advertising program”

Paid digital media has received some pretty negative press lately. The negativity is mainly due to poor strategy and execution, but the issue still remains. If you can’t manage your spend and audience effectively, you’re wasting your money. Slashing digital ad budgets to grow a business is just nonsense. Dig deeper and you’ll see it’s not just what you spend, but how you spend and who’s managing the spending. A good digital agency wouldn’t throw away money on a bad advertising program, it’s not in their best interest.

A Continuing Shift To Mobile vs. Desktop

Mobile will continue to be a bigger portion of website visitors. While the percentage growth of smart phone users will start to plateau, there are still more customers transitioning to mobile next year. Since a large share of social media activity is mobile, the growth in total mobile activity will continue to shift more focus to social media campaigns from desktop search.

Chart Source: Ironpaper.com

Websites need to transition from a desktop-only experience to a responsive layout as soon as possible. Mobile-only and desktop-only websites are not ideal. Check to see if your website is mobile-friendly.

More Attention To User Experience

With machine learning algorithms becoming a bigger factor in search engines, the importance of a good user experience is becoming evident.

“You need to provide [Google] engaging content that drives social media shares and links”

Simply placing keywords in content isn’t going to cut it in 2018. You need to provide engaging content that drives social media shares and links. The links and sharing activity from having a positive user experience will drive search engine rankings. Keywords are important for research, but it comes down to having the right content theme and engagement.

Increasing Paid Content Exposure

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites are focusing more on their paid content platforms and giving brands less free exposure. Unless you’re already a household brand name, it will be very hard to grow visibility in social media without an advertising budget. For your content to reach a wider audience, you will need paid advertising exposure. Organic search and organic social exposure will be limited to the freshness of your audience. Organic activity will most likely not be enough to drive results on its own. Using PPC as a tool to grow your content exposure is just one way to improve social proof and indirectly advertise for links that help search engine optimization.

More Focus On Technical SEO

Having a strong technical SEO foundation is very important. Google factors in your overall website quality when applying rankings. Site quality can be the difference between position 6 and 2 for any given keyword. If your site has server errors or any other major technical flaw, Google generally does not list these sites in the top 3-5 spots for competitive keywords. Sure, you can do well for very niche searches but getting to the next level is nearly impossible with a technically bad site.

“If you have broken internal links, site errors and other things Google hates, that good content you spent several hours creating is going to get nowhere”

If you have broken internal links, site errors and other things Google hates, that good content you spent several hours creating is going to get nowhere. If you’re generating a ton of good content but not seeing great results on Google, I recommend getting a full technical audit done by an experienced search marketing professional. Tech audits are a relatively low cost and high value investment, assuming you have a team that can fix issues correctly.

Influencer Marketing Explodes

Using influencer marketing on social media channels will become a popular way to grow brand awareness. Getting exposure for products will need to go beyond Google in order to reach the target audience. Since social proof is so important to getting your content noticed, marketers would be wise to invest in social media campaigns.

“Since influencers are not an official brand, they may have some flexibility in how they communicate product benefits.”

Influencers have the added benefit of word-of-mouth marketing. Not only are they promoting your products and videos, but they carry a voice that legitimize the brand and gain trust with customers. Once customers know and trust your brand, they are more likely to find you via organic search or link back to your website in other media. Influencer marketing is a bit of a stretch for link building, but it can be a great way to get exposure for your more interactive content. Since influencers are not an official brand, they may have some flexibility in how they communicate product benefits.

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photo credit: emilianofelicissimo The World shall be mine… (license)