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Digital Marketing Predictions of 2013

Monday, March 12, 2012
Grant Whiteside

Is it too early to write a blog post about the predictions of what’s going to change in the digital marketing landscape in 2013. Probably not; the writing has been on the wall for long enough. As always, when the discussion comes up, I’ve got a tendency to try and think like Google;

They’ve invested millions in their search engine to make it the advertising platform of choice.

They own the largest slug of the search market and their display network has 20% global reach.

They’ve invested millions on their Video platform (You Tube) and Internet TV.

Their browser; Chrome is gaining ground across the world and is now the most used browser on the planet.
They have produced Nexus, one of the best selling mobile / tablet technology platforms.

Their social media platform called Google +is an integral part of how they would like users to use the web.
Their analytics tool is now the most commonly used platform across the web.

For the 1st time in a long time, their market share has dropped to below 90% in the UK and the balance of power is more closely related to new devices and platforms than it ever has been.

They need to make billions to keep their investors happy. So what should we expect to see happen in 2013.

Organic Search – Let’s look at the organic search opportunities; in summary there will be less of them. Following the success in the US, Google shopping feeds officially turns into a paid search channel in the UK in early February 2013. What was a great way of generating free organic search space, ideal for those browsers in shopping mode will be a paid search channel. It’s great if you have a product that can be promoted as an enhanced product listing ad, click through rates are excellent if you have a well thought out advert with a competitive price. We’ve been waiting for years for Google to make money out of this channel, if you’ve been pondering for the past 5 years whether Google’s free shopping channel was ever worth it or not; you’ve lost your chance. The shopping channel will be a must for all retailers if they need search engine visibility as the amount of free organic results space, visible above the fold will continue to decrease in 2013.

We will continue to see updates and tweaks on a regular basis. Panda and Penguin updates will continue because we are still not seeing the most relevant search results on the devices we use or the locations that we search from. Buying dodgy links still works and will continue to work until Google has enough data to understand how social signals (not social spam) actually works in accordance to visibility and engagement.

Schema Data – Geeky as it is, this is something that will benefit those that use it, less so in 2013, more so in 2014 and onwards. Having a universal language that can pull data from your website into your feeds (news, shopping, people, places, affiliates, social) is a great thing that simply means you will be able to syndicate and share your content (regardless of what it is) over a wider range of devices. It all sounds like VISIBILITY to me and it’s probably the one of the last bastions of technology advances that will make a marked difference to how your content is distributed across the web and your internal data sources. Big Data is here to stay and search based applications are the new business intelligence tools of the future; ignore this stuff at your peril, however we are aware that the biggest limitations will be the resentment of ditching costly outdated legacy information and content management systems. Everything takes time; normally, too much time.

Content Creation – Hardly a surprise, is it? Content is what keeps us engaged and informed and creates both stimulus and interest to the point of conversion, search engines love it, because it is a measurable asset that tells us what and who likes our content. There will be no revolution here; simply more people will use it and share it over a wider range of formats and more content providers will see the benefits of using it. The knock on effect is, content creation will become commoditised, just like the dodgy link building and septic blogging industry that grew like a rash on the back of the SEO industry. Why?

If you ask this question client side; the response may be that despite the organisations willingness to implement a content strategy, it’s all down to a lack of internal resources, or internal politics, or a lack of budget. Agencies will cite a lack of client side content creation skills, a lack of a good business case or a failing to provide training as the key reasons why their clients should go out of house to ensure that content creation can be implemented. Regardless of the different reasons why most companies haven’t really focussed on content creation, buy in across the entire organisation will only ever happen if a defined set of metrics can be set up, understood and measured. Whilst the debate on in house and out house content creation develops, the content industry will grow at a faster rate than the understanding of how you harness it to your best advantage. Watch the content creation space, there will be as many content creation ‘gurus’ as there as social media ‘gurus’ in a years’ time. Similarly, there will be as many winners as there as losers in this space.

Paid Search – It’s hardly the newest kid on the block regarding advertising channels, but it still grew 15.9% in the UK on a like for like basis on last year’s spend. This channel will continue to grow; we have already discussed the death of Google’s free shopping channel, this means that there will be more paid for Product Listing Ads. We have already discussed the changing digital landscape and the use of advertising to different devices and we have already highlighted the organic shelf space diminishing further, but what happens next?

We are going to see a stronger alignment with post search visits in the form of display advertising. Retargeting and real time bidding (RTB) has matured in the past 2 years, in 2013 programmatic advertising will start a trend that the majority of advertisers will follow if they are to stay relevant to their audiences for the next 3 years. Ebay have already confirmed that they will spend 40% of their UK advertising budget on RTB next year, Sky have hinted at similar figures. The latest predictions are that real time bidded, programmatic advertising will have 27% of the display market share by 2016. Google will have to grow their market share in this arena if they are to remain the world’s favourite advertising platform of choice. Retailers already know that advertising on Google is not enough, this is display advertising with some maths and clever segmentation behind it and a few of the smart search and advertising agencies have recognised that traditional display digital advertising is on its way out as personalisation proves its worth on the advertising stage.

Regardless of what opinion that you may have on the state of the economy, the digital advertising space will continue to buck all the trends related to the overall economy and display growth in almost all its channels in 2013. Enjoy the opportunities if they make sense to your business and make the most of them, before your competitors do.

Grant Whiteside
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