It’s been a wild year for digital marketing, to put it mildly: expanded text ads roll out, Penguin becomes part of Google core algorithm, and Donald Trump singlehandedly leads a successful brand awareness campaign.
Since we were on point with last year’s predictions, we decided to have a go at next year.
This should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect in 2017. And since not all of these are being widely discussed just yet, you’ll have that extra edge to make 2017 a truly epic year.
So, without further ado, here are our top digital marketing predictions for 2017. Enjoy!
Table of Contents (clickable links):
Search Engine Optimisation
by Mark Proctor (Head of SEO)
There’s plenty of buzz around Alexa and Google Home at the moment. While they’re still in early-adopter territory, it’s an interesting addition to the list of ‘things for SEOs to worry about.’
There will be plenty of related opportunities to raise brand awareness and initiate transactions, but there’ll be no list of search results to choose from – just that one answer to each question. Once Google finds a result that works, it’ll probably be tough to knock it out of the top spot.
Now is the time to get stuck into keyword and consumer research, making sure you’re answering all the questions relevant to your product or service that you can.
For the moment, all voice search answers appear to be organic, so it’s rewarding brands that have taken the time to build authority. It’ll be interesting to see if Google introduces a paid component to this part of the market, perhaps for high intent transactional queries.
Imagine that both of your hands are frantically covering a leaking pipe. Shouting ‘get me an emergency plumber’ at Google Home is a 100% conversion guarantee. For now, however, it’s nice to see organic results getting top billing from a Google product for a change.
The carrot of higher rankings convinced a percentage of the web to move to https, but now Google has got out the stick: Chrome browser warnings for any site that hasn’t made the switch. We’ll see more related migration this year, and for business websites, it should be high on the priority list if it isn’t already.
Accelerated mobile pages are getting a considerable share of visibility for news-related searches lately. They’re perfect for that particular purpose, but it’s becoming apparent that the reduced script guidelines and limited templates really limit what brands can do in that space.
AMP might not be for everyone, but as the visibility share increases on mobile search, it’ll be interesting to see whether design follows for the sake of visibility.
The Future of SEO
I liked this article I read last week which talks about SEO’s role as a strategic business driver.
Google’s ‘live penguin’ updates to its algorithm this year have made it much more difficult for black-hat SEO practises to get the short-term visibility they previously managed.
The field isn’t quite there yet, but it’s on the way to a place where the risk/reward ratio involved in gaming the search results swings the balance in favour of just doing a proper job of it.
That’s important for SEO as a whole because it will assist in shifting a common perception of its role from ‘gaming the results’ or ‘making the website more efficient’ to becoming an integrated part of the marketing strategy: a combination of advanced market segmentation, fast, relevant user-experience, and tailored content delivery that has strategic impact on an organisation.
It might take more than a year to get everyone round to that way of thinking, but my fingers are crossed!
By Malcolm Figures (Head of Paid Media)
& Angeliki Alvanou (Paid Media Executive)
Start paying attention to the adverts that show when you’re catching up with your favourite show on demand. You might start noticing trends, even across different shows or platforms.
Programmatic video will become prevalent though as providers collect more data from you while you watch TV shows online. If you’re watching a program on catch up, for example, you’ll see a different ad to your friend who’s watching the same video at the same time.
What’s the benefits? Targeting, targeting, targeting. The more tailored an ad is, the more likely the user is to convert.
Expanded Text Ads
This has begun already, but universal adoption of expanded text ads will be forced in February 2017. This means that any marketers who haven’t already embraced the format will have to rethink their ad copy and messaging ASAP.
And that’s a good thing. The extra space allows for more information and, when combined with extensions, there should be plenty of room to promote all your key messages – plus any extra info around promotions, ratings, etc.
A potential downside is that when ETAs and short text ads were shown together, ETAs normally had higher CTRs. But since it’ll be only ETAs from February onwards, all advertisers will be competing on equal terms when it comes to occupied space.
More Sophisticated Bidding
Search will become even more sophisticated with increased use of device and demographic bidding.
Just think about it: as digital becomes more personalised and targeted, users will come to expect tailored experiences. They don’t want ads; they want value.
By refining your bidding techniques and targeting specific devices and demographics, you’ll get ahead of the game and attract loyal customers who crave a valuable experience from brands instead of a sales pitch.
The time has come to embrace your creative side (and your colleagues in the creative department) if you want to cut through the clutter. And 2017 is the perfect time to do it. With a bigger playground in the form of expanded text ads and more opportunities than ever with display and native, it’s a new era for PPC. Hit the ground running before everyone gets in the race.
It’s time to get our heads out of our AdWords account and really think about what your audiences needs and how you can deliver it. Do that and do it well, and the rewards will follow.
By Chris Sharp (Head of Content)
& Joey Gartin (Content Executive)
Less Selling, More Storytelling
You may have heard of ‘content shock.’ It refers to the idea that there’ll soon be so much content out there that no one will be able to read most of it. While many marketers are terrified by this idea (and understandably so), we’re excited about it.
Because that means simply selling stuff won’t cut it anymore. If you want your message and your brand to be seen and embraced, you’ll have to begin sharing an honest, authentic story with users. Only then will they become interested and stick around for more.
A greater focus on storytelling will give creative marketers a chance to shine, and it’ll start cutting out the noise and giving customers what they really want: honest, valuable content.
In the search for honest, authentic content, users will increasingly embrace user-generated content over brand-created content. Again, this isn’t a bad thing.
Creative marketers should be excited, because it gives them a chance to work directly with real influencers to generate unbiased, creative content. Whether it’s through influencer marketing on or off site, recruiting real people to be your brand advocates will also attract customers craving that oh-so-hard-to-find authentic story.
Local Presence Management
Think about the last time you wanted to know when the shop down the road closed or when you needed to find the nearest coffee shop. What did you search?
Coffee shops near me . . . When does Next Princes Street close . . . Where is the nearest post office?
Managing your brand’s local presence is the next big frontier in content marketing. It’s a simple idea, but so many marketers ignore this – focusing on the forest instead of looking after the trees.
Think of the last time you Googled a shop’s opening hours and showed up to find the door locked. That alone should tell you the importance of local presence management.
No one wants to click on an ad tailored especially for them only to land on a page built for the widest audience possible. They’re not going get what they wanted, and they’re not going to convert.
As content marketing gets greater buy-in from marketing managers and stakeholders, they’ll have more opportunity to experiment with personalised content.
If a user is in her mid-40s, for example, and she is a time-poor C-level executive, she’ll receive a different landing page than the recent hire with no decision-making ability. From travel agencies to software developers, the possibilities for delivering enjoyable, relevant content are endless. Your customers and your conversion rates will thank you.
Data & Analytics
By Yanina Mowat (Head of Analytics)
Customer Journey Analysis
The customer journey is more important than ever. Actually, it’s always been important, but more and more marketers are starting to give it the attention it deserves. You have to act now if you want to stay ahead of the curve and deliver the best results for your clients.
By combining behavioural data with CRM data, we can develop a more effective understanding of when, where, and how to engage with new and returning customers. Perhaps most important of all, this allows us to determine what messages work best at different stages of the user funnel.
In a year where personalisation will become king, understanding your user’s journey is vital to attracting and retaining valuable customers. The question isn’t what they can do for you; it’s what you can do for them.
Programmatic Tailored to Sales Funnel
Programmatic will substantially improve in efficiency through the whole customer lifecycle.
Why? Advanced customer segmentation analysis.
Customer segmentation will become a must-have to compete in any market, so marketers and analysts will strive to use a mix of behavioural and socio-demographic data sources for better understanding of customer needs at different stages of the marketing funnel.
Programmatic platforms will be more open to adopting the insights from Customer Journey Analysis for better targeting and ad performance.
Extended Use of Marketing Attribution
Proper attribution isn’t just about getting the credit – it’s imperative in order to learn from and replicate successful results.
Attribution of marketing touchpoints will extend to include studies on cannibalisation and amplification effects in the marketing mix. Pundits predicted that last-click attribution, for example, would die each year for the last three years . . . so why hasn’t it?
The secret is that adaptation of attribution modelling isn’t fun. That’s why hordes of marketers are still relying on outdated methods like last-click attribution.
As the competition to cut through the noise increases, however, more marketers will begin optimising their spend to meet the rising demand from stakeholders for better performance. Be one of the first to ditch last-click attribution before it’s too late.
My husband is a professional baker. While his career is focused on making the perfect brownie or carrot cake, he recently started to program on Python and looking into neural network and genetic algorithms.
This was when I realised that the adoption of machine learning for more accurate performance forecasting and real-time customer segmentation won’t be limited to only the big businesses.
As more small businesses begin to experiment with machine learning, the early adopters will be able to leverage their flexibility and knowledge. This could bring a dramatic change to existing market positions.
2017 could be a major shake-up for those who use analytics properly, bringing small businesses to the limelight and prompting big businesses to become more proactive in seeking positive change.
2017: The Year of Personalised, Local Experiences
By Grant Whiteside (Product and Development Director)
So what does Grant Whiteside, one of Ambergreen’s founders and a veteran digital marketer, have to say about 2017? We asked him what one thing he thought marketers should have their eyes on.
Here’s what he had to say.
2017 seems like the right time to approach the local search space: the stuff that appears in your results right here, right now. For many, the next battle on the internet search space will actually be won and lost on the high street and retail parks.
Our locally-based, mobile-driven audiences are now looking for results that are personalised, locally relevant, and in real time.
They want to know when the store is open. They want to know that they’re going to the right address. They want to know if an item is in stock before they actually turn up to buy it.
If you thought that you had the local space sorted, I urge you to think again.
Updating your store hours in Google may be a start, but Google’s knowledge graph crawls the web and looks for pieces of third-party structured data from a wide range of sources – and the world doesn’t exclusively spin around Google.
Your iPhone won’t automatically default to provide map listings from Google, and Apple Maps still needs to understand your specific business category and how third party reviews influence the offline business you may receive from your digital footprint.
So there is a genuine need to update your local information on Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Review sites, and social channels, and even your own website!
You will be amazed at the lack of consistency that many big brands have created by not managing their local presence properly. They’re not making the most of their local footprint, and they’re not identifying the channels they need to optimise and grow their local footprint.
Larger chains of stores and offices also have the problem of not addressing the content issues around their local presence. Whither this is the duplicate content issue because each store has a very similar product/service offering, personalising the content to a relevant local audience can be an issue.
Content at scale may be a suitable solution for some larger chains.
To summarise the situation:
- Get your local presence sorted everywhere. This isn’t just about Google.
- Keep it mobile first and very user friendly
- Your entire strategy should be data driven. Set up a measurement protocol to understand that most offline visits start with online visits. By setting up unique user codes, you can identify the user journeys, the intent, the device used, and the exit points of the site visits.
- Try using vouchers, maximising the information from your CRM, email, and offline mail drops.
- If your site can understand local product availability, utilise this to your own benefit. No one wants to go to a store to find out the product wasn’t there in the first place.
- From a coding perspective, use structured data wherever possible. Google wants you to this, and you want to be on Google.
- If you have multiple locations and each local presence needs its own search space, think about how you provide relevant yet unique content that is relevant to a local audience.
Content at Scale can be a daunting task, and a costly investment, but for many, the next battle on the internet search space will actually be won and lost on the high street and retail parks – make it a priority in 2017, and you’ll enjoy the long term gains.
Digital Marketing Predictions for 2017
So there you have it: our top digital marketing predictions for 2017. Now go forth, marketers, and create some awesome stuff.
If you want more tips and tricks going forwards in 2017, sign up for our quarterly newsletter. There’s no spam, no marketing, just a handy newsletter with some expert advice every three months or so.
Happy New Year, and happy marketing!