A lot has changed in the world of digital marketing. In 2005, we had 28 MSN accounts, Myspace and Nexopia. Our website was a single run-on page with keyword laden paragraphs. Everything was PC based.
In 2010, we were knee deep in organic reach on Facebook, posting as much as we could, our websites were flashy, and SEO was defined by 4, rather than 2 engines.
2015 has been all about the balance of paid media, content, simple websites, and the social/SEO connection.
This brings us to 2016, and our list of what is expected out of the new year. We don’t need a DeLorean to get where we need to go for this particular blog, although it would be nice to fly one up to our balcony for nostalgia purposes.
There was a time when flashy sites were a commodity. Customers then dictated a content driven model. Mobile meant further simplicity of design. In an effort to create a balance between design and content rich formats, you’ll see an explosion of split content websites. This is a positive trend, and we have a couple of them out there on the web of the world. Split content is not only pretty and functional, but the format also keeps things on the site organized, thus making the UX (User Xperience) that much more pleasant.
In the beginning, man created websites. Then adaptive sites found their evolutionary way into the conversation. Responsive sites grew some opposable thumbs. Well, it turns out responsive design was finished growing up. Say hello to ultra-responsive design. Yes, ultra—the superhero of web design.
In all industries one must consider browser, screen size, and mobile. In some though, considerations have to be made for Oculus Rift, Google Glass, and other future platforms that will become a part of the regular, fluid online conversation. Expect to see ultra-responsive sites from brands with a ton of R&D money on hand. Once the likes of Coke and Starbucks fully implement the tech, you’ll see the efforts trickle down to medium and small businesses.
The single page site is back with a vengeance, but there have been some improvements under the hood since 2005. Now, one-page sites offer snazzy graphical layouts with just the right amount of information. For those that have a few products to sell, the days of multiple pages to list each individually are vanishing. In many cases, those with large inventories are going to be linking brands before individual items. Customers want to get in and get out, and streamlining the information for them is critical.
Have a business that closes whenever there’s rain? Do you feature products during the day, and then a whole different line at night? Well, contextual design handles those types of issues with automation that you’ll fall in love with. Expect an explosion of contextual sites in 2016.
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Bye, Bye Side Bar Menus (Almost)
Side bar menus take up valuable website real estate. Just stop using them, unless … your site is full screen. In that case, your site will still be socially acceptable in 2016.
More Social Integration
When you take social media seriously, employing all the right techniques, it’s a thing of beauty. So, show it off! Social integration on your site will only benefit your brand with more followers, stronger SEO, and a good number of interactions.
RIP Pop-up Windows
Sites featuring single brands will need to stop with the pop-ups. The dated practice annoys consumers. The Walmarts of the world will still get away with it, but if you’re going for a personal feel, it’s time to say goodbye to pop-ups.
Mobile Design is Officially Crowned King
When Google comes out and says without a mobile optimized site, you won’t rank on mobile devices, you know it’s time to take the mobile revolution seriously.
As more consumers check out the web on their phones, mobile strategy needs to be pristine. Forbes offers a great look at mobile strategy if you want to go into great detail.
Voice Search & Structured Data
No question mobile search is a huge deal, but don’t think it’s the be all, end all of search changes. Voice search is on the rise with Siri, Google Now or Cortana. We’re already seeing some subtle changes. Not the least of which is the fact that 21% of queries on Google provided direct answers or rich snippets. What does that even mean? Fine, make me speak English. Essentially, rich snippets are your search listings on steroids. Ratings, votes, and additional information display, which help people decide whether they should check out your link or not.
Local Search Takes Center Stage
Approximately 35% of all search traffic carries local intent. That’s a pretty staggering statistic. Think about the last time you Googled something on your phone. What did you type? Of my last three searches, two were Restaurant near me, and Co-op near me.
Local search is any search involving an offline transaction, finding something within a geographical area, and information that your grandma would have looked for in theYellow Pages.
Social SEO Means Blurred Lines
Agencies like Immediate are now having to re-evaluate our options to clients. The days of social media and SEO being separate are gone. Whenever you sit down with an agency to talk about one or the other, if they don’t mention both as important to the conversation, that’s probably a good indication they’re not keeping up.
The Rise of Bing
No, not Chandler. Microsoft needed a solid product to show everyone they still matter. Enter Bing …
The search engine has become a serious competitor to Google, mostly because Microsoft has packaged it with Cortana (Siri’s slightly less attractive sibling) and offers it with Windows PC/mobile. X-Box also uses Bing.
Real Time Social Media Updates
I’m not going to go into very much detail on this one. It’s more fun to experience what I’m talking about. Go download Periscope or Meerkat and do some R&D. This might be a fad, but then again, maybe not. If you have the budget to venture outside of the big 3 (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) then I recommend taking a look.
Content is Facebook’s Advantage
In an effort to stand out, Facebook is offering features that Twitter and other social platforms can’t—great long-form content. Just take a look at Instant Articles, which offers up content without users having to leave Facebook.
Mobile E-Commerce via Social
Have you looked at your feed lately? Buy buttons are everywhere. The trend will only grow with in-app innovation. You no longer have to search for stuff to buy, it will search for you. Scary but cool at the same time.
The Competition Will Calm
How many social media platforms do you have a profile on? 3, 5, 8? Now, be honest; how many are you actively using? Now you understand the future of social. There are a few good ideas out there that have staying power, and those are likely to be absorbed by the big networks.
The social landscape is quite different now. The big networks are too far ahead, and possess too powerful a reach to loose. Networks like Tsu will try, but ultimately fail to reach “Facebook status”.
Remember that good news about pop-ups going out to the farm? Well, social is going to step in. This provides an opportunity to brands, although I suspect it’ll be a short-lived opportunity. Consumers will get annoyed pretty quickly.
Brands that take social media seriously, and develop strategies that enhance customer experiences will see increased sales. Why? It’s where the people are, and consumers are getting comfortable with the role of social media in their wallet.
Digital chipped away at brand advertising budgets in a big way this year. Traditional mediums have started to sell more online advertising than on-air or in-print. That’s a staggering change from just a few years ago.
There will come a need for content managers in a completely different way. They won’t write, they’ll syndicate. A blog needs to hit many different platforms. Some will accept automation, some not. Sharing information will become a big piece of business.
All in all, if you’ve been on social for awhile, and your brand is doing well, you’re ahead of the game. However, if you have yet to really dive in, each year it’s getting harder to catch up. Luckily, web development has gotten easier. So there’s some wins and loses for everyone, but 2016 is shaping to be a glorious year for digital.
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Jay Hall - Chief Strategist