As the owner of a digital marketing agency, adapting to change is one of the most important parts of my job description. It's hard to believe, but just 15 years ago, the majority of American adults reported that they did not use the internet. Back in those days, internet marketing was virtually unrecognizable from what it is today: Social media did not exist in its present form, video was extremely slow to buffer, and a far larger percentage of online ads were based on popup technology and other formats that are considered obtrusive and unprofessional in this day and age. Even a few years ago, most websites featured an alternate site for mobile users, sites like Twitter were just emerging, and a social media marketer from that era would be completely lost nowadays.
Because of the rapidly-evolving nature of internet marketing, one of the most common questions I hear from my clients year in and year out is, "What changes do you expect in the online marketing world?" This is an astute question -- and, although some changes are truly unexpected for everyone, there are always a few trends that offer clues into the future. In this article, I will share three trends that I am confident will continue to influence the world of online marketing over the course of 2017.
1. Algorithms will change.
Of the three predictions I am making, this first one is by far the least controversial. Virtually anyone who works in the world of online marketing -- or even pays attention to the industry -- would be inclined to agree with me. Search engines have been constantly updating their algorithms on a very consistent basis ever since the days of Ask Jeeves. So why have I included such a straightforward trend? Because it is probably the most important -- and, despite this, many professionals in the industry ignore its inevitable consequences.
Every search engine out there is always working to update its algorithms and provide better, more relevant content for its users. A few possible updates to expect from Google in 2017 include a stronger focus on e-commerce and mobile compatible sites, as well as a gradual "stamping out" of ultra-low-quality results. Apps may also become more heavily featured. Ultimately, however, I recommend that my clients not stress too much over such details.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't work on mobile friendliness or on adding e-commerce; I'm simply stating that you shouldn't work on these features only for the sake of SEO. In the end, the constantly-changing nature of search engine algorithms renders any effort to follow specifics exactly for the sake of a higher result futile. Instead, as most successful SEO marketers understand, you should focus on creating high-quality content. After all, this is what search engines are ultimately seeking, and it is the best way to ensure that your content stays valuable and relevant for a long time to come.
2. Mobile will continue to grow.
This is another trend that certainly has a historical precedent: The growth of mobile over the course of the past few years has been off the charts. Businesses have bent over backward to ensure that their e-commerce functionality remained intuitive, effective and secure in order to boost mobile sales, and results show that these decisions have paid off.
Some experts predict that the explosive growth of mobile may begin to plateau here in the U.S., but I disagree. The entire growth of the internet has been largely based on convenience: Music, business listings, phone calls, letters, rental movies and a million other in-person services already existed before they become inexorably tied to the internet. The continued rise of new wearable mobile technology will also be a contributing factor to the ever-increasing popularity of mobile. Google's own insistence on increasing the SEO value of mobile-friendliness should function as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. Native advertising will grow.
Defined as advertisements designed to blend right into the content of their host site by imitating every element of the host site's style, these advertisements strike a real nerve among many journalists and internet activists who claim that native advertising degrades journalism and can even be grossly misleading, "tricking" unwary readers into thinking that the ad they are viewing truly is a news piece. Many advertisers and news companies, however, argue that native advertising is a way of turning the formerly stale ad industry into a source of content that readers really enjoy, all while helping to make news organizations profitable once again.
Because of this controversy, some online marketers predict that native advertising will decline in 2017. In my opinion, this is simply wishful thinking: Native advertising, as problematic and polemic as it may be, is effective. Therefore, it is here to stay. As commendable as the effort to boycott or ignore this type of "news" article may be, it will ultimately be ineffectual, as there are always going to be those willing to produce and host such content. Instead, creating ethical native advertising is ultimately a more meaningful way to effect change. If you believe that native advertising serves your company, by all means, go for it, but be sure to set a good precedent. Ensure that your articles offer real value while also being thoroughly factual -- and be sure to include a visible disclaimer.
The simple takeaway that readers should consider? Understand how your online marketing strategy can place stronger influence on both quality and convenience. By offering this to your clients, you can ensure long-lasting impact from all your digital marketing efforts.