So, 2014 is well and truly up and running! Christmas and New Year feel like a lifetime ago, we’re all back into our normal work routines and everyone’s marketing teams have finished planning for the year ahead.
Now that the dust has settled from a hectic month of predictions and expectations from across the blogosphere, I’ve had a proper chance to really consider my digital marketing capabilities and where I’ll be focusing my efforts over the next 12 months.
If we consider both econsultancy’s andSmart Insights’ survey results of the major trends in digital marketing for 2014, it’s clear that there are a number of common topics and areas that are high on digital marketers’ priority lists this year.
Whilst customer experience and personalisation stand out from econsultancy, both survey results show consistencies in social, big data, content marketing and mobile.
Unsurprisingly, these results correlate strongly with the broad themes I’ll be looking to work on and develop this year. However, for the purpose of this post I’m going to look in more detail at specific areas within these themes:
Stay on top of SEO trends
There were some big changes in the world of SEO in 2013, most notably from Google. Whilst the world’s largest search engine continued to roll out more Panda and Penguin updates, in September Google
announced the introduction of a completely new search algorithm, called Hummingbird, which is aimed at improving conversational/ semantic search to help understand users’ intent.
With 2013 also being the year that (Not Provided) hit 100% for many sites, and only this month an announcement from Matt Cutts that guest blogging is on the way out as an SEO tactic, Google has certainly shaken things up, prompting a rethink in strategy, tactics and analytics for many SEOs and digital marketers.
Key areas of focus:
Semantic search - With the introduction of Hummingbird, semantic search will play an increasingly important role in SEO. And this move to more conversational search will provide websites with the opportunity to create a variety of different types of content to answer specific questions and queries that will rely on the long-tail as much as higher volume head terms.
Rich snippets - 2013 saw the continued growth in rich snippets and structured data within the SERPs. Google is continually trying to contextualise search results for users and therefore authorship, product reviews/ratings (primarily using Schema.org) and local SEO will become an important tactic in 2014 from strengthening visibility within the SERPs and improving click-through rate.
Analytics - As mentioned above, Google’s move to 100% secure search has made things quite tricky for SEO analysis and reporting. Whilst there are ways of identifying keyword level data, in order to create really meaningful analysis using standard web analytics software, analysts will have to become much more creative and smarter in order to effectively idenitfy how search engine optimisation efforts are improving quality organic search traffic, conversions and sales.
Define a clear content strategy
Content and content marketing has been a hot topic for a number of years and this trend is unlikely to change in 2014. With search engines placing more and more emphasis on (quality) content as a ranking factor, and social media marketing continuing to attract attention of a wide range of demographics, I consider content to be the ‘glue’ that binds these two disciplines.
In order to execute content marketing effectively, marketers need to have a clearly defined content strategy so they can determine the direction they are looking to take. The content strategy will act as the roadmap for all content marketing efforts, outlining the key audience groups, competitors, resource considerations and measures of success.
Key areas of focus:
Formulate an integrated content strategy - To be successful in 2014, a content strategy should be created both to set the direction for content creation and syndication and to establish a process for introducing rigour and a level of quality around content production. The content strategy should be integrated across multiple areas of the business, including corporate communications, marketing, PR and brand.
Types of content - Article marketing used to be popular, as was guest posting and testimonials. And then came infographics. What will be the content de jour in 2014? It’s important to consider a range of different types of content and the value they can deliver. Every piece of content should be created with a clear objective in mind and a consideration as to how it will be used and what it can achieve.
Content planning - It’s important to plan what content you’ll be creating and where it will be hosted, both on-site and beyond. A content plan will ensure that the right content can be scheduled and produced for the right audience, at the right time. However, it’s also important for the plan to be agile and the inclusion of space to account for newsjacking opportunities.
Create a strong, varied social presence
Whilst the dizzying allure of social media has diminished since its heights in the early part of the decade, social media still has a very big and important role to play digital marketing and is something I believe will be important to focus on in 2014.
However, instead of being managed as a separate function, it’s likely that social media will continue to be integrated into different areas of the business and permeate many different roles and positions. For example, just as social media now plays a more important role in SEO (although Google maintains that social signals may not directly benefit rankings, there is an indirect benefit from building engaging, valuable social identities that drive qualified traffic), with an increased focus on content and content marketing in 2014 it will continue to be a primary distribution channel for big and small brands alike.
Key areas of focus:
Focus on what works for you (and your audience)? - With the emergence of exciting, new challenger social networks, such as Instagram, SnapChat and Vine, it’s easy to forget about the continued development of established platforms such as facebook, Twitter and Google+. In 2014 it’s important therefore to have a presence of a blend of social platforms that best fit your brand values and the audience you wish to connect with.
Engage with influencers - In the early days of the social media boom, many brands were obsessed with growing the number of likes and followers they had across their social networks. But as businesses continue (and rightly) demand clear evidence of ROI from their social media efforts, more sophisticated methods of measuring success will be necessary.
As with SEO and content marketing, there should be more focus on quality over quantity. To really understand the ROI of social media, brands must begin identifying, engaging and reaching out to influencers to amplify their efforts and measure the conversations, interactions and leads that may be generated as a result.
Mobile - Some argue that mobile is now more important than desktop.
With mobile devices contributing an ever-increasing amount of website traffic, mobile will play a stronger role across social media as well as SEO and content. So in 2014 it’s worth considering how your social presence, and the way you engage and post messages, look and feel across mobile otherwise you could alienate an increasingly large section of your audience.
As mentioned at the start of this post, there are a number of key themes and trends to be aware of in 2014 and it’s likely that some will play a more significant role than others depending on the type of business you have and the sector you’re in. It’s also possible that some will be more influential than others as the year progresses whilst other new trends emerge.
The key will be to stay on top of the trends in what is already a very fluid and changeable area of marketing and be flexible enough to adapt wherever possible to stay ahead – or just keep up – with the competition.