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Digital Marketing Predictions for 2014 – From the Reload Digital Team

It’s that time of the year again where we dust off our crystal ball and peer into the future of digital marketing. It is clear now that 2013 was a year like no other with the developments of various social channels, the cementing of inbound marketing and 100% [Not Provided] keeping many a SEO up at night. 2014 shows no signs of slowing down and giving marketers a break, so without further adieu, here is our insights into what to expect in the new year…

Paul Jackson

1. Social Media: Mixed fortunes for the big guns…

In 2014, I see the real battle being between Twitter and Instagram, whilst Facebook will plateau and Google+ will really pick up momentum and become a key player in more than just supposed active user numbers – although I see its usage being very different to that of the other core social networks. Will we see ads appearing on G+ in 2014? Perhaps towards the end of the year, but I’d guess not. Following the introduction of Instagram video in 2013, expect to see Instagram’s growth continue in the first 6-9 months of 2014 at least.

It will be a big year for Twitter. Twitter will increase its options for UK businesses (including a self-serve ad platform) and will become increasingly image, video and product friendly, whilst cracking down on fake profiles, automated software and SPAM to be more brand, user and ‘rich content’ friendly.

2. Social Media: No luck for the outsiders…

The likes of Vine and Snapchat are tipped to become fundamental to marketers in 2014, but I’m expecting a peak and then a decline – but perhaps we’ll see the delivery of Snapchat style content employed elsewhere. Pinterest’s decline in activity may be temporarily halted by Sponsored Pins for brands, but I can’t see it coming out of 2014 stronger than it goes into it unless they can capture a more diverse global market and present a real marketing opportunity to mainstream brands and businesses.

We may see some underlying and niche social networks (such as WeChat and Polyvore) stick their head out, but they are unlikely to become major channels.

3. Pay Per Click: Boding well for Bing/Yahoo! while AdWords gets interesting…

Google AdWords will remain the core platform for PPC advertisers, but Bing/Yahoo! will creep upwards in market share and the Bing Advertising platform will continue to catch up with the capabilities and options of Google AdWords. Advertising on Google AdWords will continue to diversify and allow greater targeting and segmentation based on demographics and user behaviour, although AdWords may become a more competitive medium for advertisers and more challenging for amateur users. I’d expect Google AdWords to take into account and incorporate more social elements into ads and to become more brand-friendly where it is possible for competitors to bid on your brand’s name.

Cara Whitehouse

1. SEO: Small companies will stop investing in SEO, while big companies will invest more.

I absolutely hate to say it, but with Google’s removal of Organic keyword data from Analytics, I think small companies are going to find it increasingly difficult to justify SEO to their bosses. In future, all we’ll be able to see is what’s happening to overall Organic traffic, rather than the specifics of how an SEO campaign is working within the wider mix. Although there are workarounds for the loss of keyword data, it does undoubtedly make it harder to ‘prove’ the value of SEO work – and as such, I suspect small businesses will be unwilling to invest in something that they can’t put a precise ROI against.

On the flip-side, I think big companies will start to take SEO more seriously, and invest in the high quality content marketing skills that are now critical to achieving results. Despite the fact that ROI won’t be as easy to prove as before, large brands will know that they risk being left behind if they do SEO half-heartedly, or not at all.

2. PPC: Ads on Google will become more sophisticated and expensive

Costs per click across a number of AdWords platforms seem to be creeping up – and as attribution across multi-screen purchase paths becomes harder, Google is rolling out a range of new ad types. From Engagement Ads (which ‘pop up’ in a lightbox when users hover over them for 2 seconds) to Brand Surveys (which will enable the success of branded campaigns to be measured based on consumer recall of ads shown), it’s great news for agencies that have the experience and skills to maximise these new opportunities. Though it’s likely to make life harder (and more risky) for brands that want to DIY. So again, I see it becoming harder for smaller businesses without agency support to find the same levels of ROI in PPC.

3. Social Media: Serious consideration meets consolidation

After years of Social Media being laughed out of boardrooms, it’s found its place in the convergence of digital marketing and PR/Reputation Management. Big brands have grappled with its highs and lows over the past year or so (from Oreo’s much lauded Super Bowl tweet to British Gas’s car crash Q&A), and 2014 is going to be the year that smaller businesses start taking it seriously too. But savvy businesses will be narrow in their focus, concentrating on Facebook, Twitter and increasingly Google+, with value falling away from more ‘faddy’ platforms such as Pinterest, Vine and others.

Ed Tate

1. SEO Agencies to rebrand themselves as ‘Content Marketers’

SEO has changed so much over recent times; with Google bringing out numerous major algorithm updates aiming at killing off ‘Black Hat’ SEO tactics. Traditional tactics such keyword stuffing and irrelevant backlinks are no longer effective ways to obtain great search rankings and Google is getting better at penalising websites that have adopted/still use these tactics.

As digital marketers – we are aware that SEO is changing and not dying, we understand that providing relevant content on websites, easy navigation, interactive features, relevant blog material- along with relevant keywords and backlinks, will all bode well for online visibility. However I believe that there are fears among agencies (that solely provide SEO services) that less savvy people that don’t understand the progression/transition that SEO is under and will believe that SEO is dead and therefore will be less likely to seek out their services.

So expect these kind of SEO agencies to start re-branding themselves as ‘Content Marketers’ to fall in line with the Algorithm updates and assure customers that they are providing the right kind of SEO service.

2. Agencies to offer more complete ‘Digital Packages’ and SME’s to seek out them out

At Reload Digital, with have recently taken on clients who are looking for a full digital service and I feel that this the way that digital is going for agencies of our size. But how are these linked?

  • SEO and Content Creation – In my previous prediction I talked about the rise of ‘Content Marketing’, which essentially is the combination of traditional ‘white hat’ SEO and providing great content i.e ‘Content Creation’.
  • Social Media and SEO – Then we have Social Media- it is increasingly being understood that Google is now recognising websites with good social links, great blog content, video and a great presence on Google+. So the link between Social and SEO is getting closer and closer.
  • PPC, SEO, Mobile – We then have PPC – if you have a great SEO ranking but no PPC presence you are running the risk of missing out on significant first page real estate and your competitors steal traffic away from you- especially with the rapid emergence of mobile (i.e. a smaller screen with fewer search results, which is largely taken up by ads!).
  • Don’t forget Email – And despite all of this Email is still the most direct way of contacting people on the web and is a great way of getting your content (blogs, articles and promotions) directly to your target audience.

So basically SME’s need all of the above, and with all of these digital components being so closely interspersed it makes sense to have one agency provide these services (aka Reload Digital!).

Rick Eliason

1. I’m going bold this year and predicting Google+ will overtake Facebook in registered users in 2014 (and active users shortly thereafter).

I know lots of people will be throwing their hands in the air, screaming “no frickin’ way man” but hear me out. Google+ is growing at an exponential rate, while Facebook is slowing.

  • Google+ is the fastest growing social media platform and has already overtaken Twitter and is catching up to Facebook. http://dustn.tv/active-users-2013
  • Facebook is hacking people off. Individuals are having to contend with a higher concentration of ads and sponsored posts and seeing less of their friends which is what they signed up for in the first place
  • Facebook is hacking businesses off. Organic reach of marketer’s posts is falling and Facebook is basically saying they will need to pay for it – not good for those that have built a solid and enthusiastic following by playing by the rules.
  • Google+ is integrated into almost everything Google does including Android (http://www.theverge.com/2013/11/6/5072210/google-links-phone-number-to-google-account-picture-android), YouTube, Gmail, Search, Local Search etc so it it increasingly means you will have no choice but to use Google+ if you use Google (which a heck of a lot of people do)
  • Google+ has better features (lively communities, hangouts, auto-awesome)
  • You get notifications of interactions in the top right of your screen wherever you are on the net drawing you on the the platform and encouraging further engagement – you have to physically have to remember to log on to facebook to get this.
  • Brands ignoring Google+ will now have to jump across to take advantage of the +Post Ads being rolled out. Big brands coming across means their customers come across

Google+ is growing at a faster rate than Facebook as illustrated by this graph (source)

social-media-growth-2013

Google Plus has everything Facebook has, albeit one thing – your friends and family are all on Facebook, not Google+. However, with all of these features bringing people steadily over to Google+ and with big brands doing big things on the platform, it is only a matter of time before Google+ reaches tipping point, its critical mass point and the floodgates open.

2. Trust in SEO will dip (but will prevail in the end).

Business owners will appear to shun SEO as they learn that keyword-centric traffic can no longer be tracked through Analytics accurately, and then welcome it back with open arms when they realise keyword-level metrics are not the metric they should be on anyway.

I’m sure I won’t need to tell you that relying on high keyword rankings is fraught with problems such as regular algorithm updates ringing unnecessary alarm bells, the wider adoption of rich snippets skewing click behaviour, and dumb SEOs picking the wrong keywords in the first place.

What smart marketers and business owners have known inherently is that converting traffic and bottom line figures is what matters, not rankings or even overall traffic figures. I believe that many business owners who have relied on keyword-led traffic as their key metric for so long will have difficulty accepting the fact that SEO agencies cannot “prove” their worth by showing how specific keyword rankings have led to traffic increases and ditch them/downgrade investment in favour of a more measurable marketing avenue such as PPC.

Many will realise before it’s too late that SEO and all of it’s abstract contributors (content marketing, conversion optimisation, Google+ integration etc) is the undisputed champion of online marketing and re-enlist its services. Is this a prediction or a hope? Probably the latter…

Rick Eliason

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

Rick is Reload's most senior SEO expert, and started his digital marketing journey way back in 2007 as an in-house online marketing executive. Now with over three years under his belt at Reload Digital, he handles search and conversion campaigns for a wide range of clients from e-commerce and start-ups to large service-based businesses and not-for-profits.