It goes without saying that every year will bring fresh marketing challenges, so in order to thrive marketers absolutely must stay ahead of the curve. That’s not always easy – no one likes to make decisions based on a crystal ball, but the best we can do is make educated guesses on where the current trends will lead us next.
SEO – in permanent evolution
As an SEO specialist, you can’t afford to stand still. For a long time, it’s been all about hitting the top of the Google rankings, but SEO is changing in line with people’s search habits. Bing is gaining traction, and, at the same time, forward thinking marketers are applying SEO tactics to their social media platforms and achieving great results. These different channels have different audiences which may require varied approaches, but exploring these avenues will pay dividends.
Another key factor in the future development of SEO that is reaching critical mass is AI. Automation and the use of Artificial Intelligence can allow small businesses and agencies to scale up their efforts, but it’s essential that users understand the technology – both its advantages and its limitations. Chatbots, automation, call analysis for keywords, data analytics, and interactive and virtual videos are the tools of the future – but it pays to remember, a tool is only as good as its operator.
Some things don’t change
You can change platforms and automate all you like, but wise marketeers understand that some of the essentials remain just that – essential. Foremost among these is providing excellent content that speaks of brand authority, thought leadership and adds real value for your clients. By building your reputation on such solid foundations, you’ll stand out for your expertise, and you’ll find it easier to convert referrals into relationships. But did you realise that this is now an area ripe for using tracking and analytics to leverage your expertise. Use your website and your social media platforms to understand your customers’ pain points and provide solutions – if they can see the benefit in interacting with you, they’ll provide the data you’re looking for.
New ways of using data
Being able to access data that justifies your offering and proves the ROI for your services is a reliable way of retaining clients and increasing their confidence in your relationship. The same data has internal uses as well – track where you’re making money and hold yourself accountable in areas that are weak. Follow where the data leads you and you’ll start to perform better, for your clients and yourself. When you use data to lower the cost of customer acquisition, you’ll be in a position to pass more value on to your clients – money saved through marketing analytics.
Furthermore, now’s the time to prepare for the demise of third-party tracking next year. When cookies disappear, companies will become more reliant on collecting first-party data. Don’t wait for that to happen – start planning now how you’ll harvest the information you need. There are various options – using opt-in to collect data directly, by partnering with large publishers who have knowledge of content consumption, and by increasing your use of contextual advertising. Work out which mix will work for your business and get the mechanisms in place.
Another area in which data is becoming increasingly critical is in the optimisation of paid ad spend. If you can harvest detailed data by tracking traffic and engagement across a range of platforms, the resulting data insight will be able to separate out hot leads and conversions from bounces and poor-quality prospects. If you report different types and values of conversions back to Google Analytics, this data can be used to obtain higher-quality clicks that will benefit your business.
Google Analytics 4 is coming
Are you ready for the switch from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in July this year? Do you understand what’s changing? GA4 is a whole new way of analysing data and the old-world order, in the form of UA, is coming to an end. The best way to prepare yourself is to start running the two systems side by side, so you can appreciate the differences and take advantage of the big new improvements GA4 is bringing. This means that by the time UA disappears, you’ll already be comfortable with GA4, and you’ll have several months of data to work with.
Looking beyond 2023
Forewarned is forearmed, but looking into the future of SEO can sometimes seem like guesswork. Keeping an eye open for future trends is part of the job, so what might we be seeing in the years ahead?
Messages will become conversations – the way in which brands communicate with clients is changing and this will continue. Your sales message is no longer an info-dump. Your customers want to be part of the conversation, and they want you to hear their needs. Direct engagement will grow, touchpoints will multiply, and consumers will expect co-creation. The challenge marketers face will be to create consistent messaging across multiple platforms, while reacting and responding to the desires of different consumer groups.
Brands will have to respect Gen Z values – as the economic power of this new generation blossoms, marketers will have to start seeing the world through their eyes. Diversity, gender expression and equality are important and Gen Z spending is led by their values. They will be looking for products and services that not only reflect this, but companies will have to put their money where their mouth is by incorporating these values into the way they do business and conduct themselves. Authenticity will change from a buzzword to an increasingly important strategy for success.
Blended experiential advertising – the internet of things is gaining currency and the digital world is becoming increasingly enmeshed with the physical world. Customer journeys will entwine the physical with the digital as brand interactions become experiential. The demand on marketers will be to build trusting relationships in new ways with multiple touchpoints that are both digital and physical – with no friction between them. This will come into being against a backdrop of increased privacy concerns that need to be squared with a more in-depth customer relationship demanding tailored interaction. You’ll need to be responsive and on message, while still considering sustainability.
There’s a lot of food for thought here, so where do you think the future will take us?
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