July 13, 2015

Digital Marketing Trends: A Mid-Year Review


At the beginning of 2015, many of today’s leading experts in digital marketing were asked to predict some industry trends that would be important to note. Many of the trends are still extremely relevant, especially the drive towards mobile with the Google mobile algorithm rollout back in April, but there are also new unforeseen advancements such as the Google’s integration of the ‘Buy Now’ buttons.

Being halfway through 2015, we decided to ask some of these same experts about their predictions from a few months ago with the following questions:

• Are the trends that were predicted in the beginning of the year still relevant?
• Are there any significant trends that weren’t previously foreseen?

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Linda Bustos Jim BustosViveka Von Rosen Andy Crestodina Daniel Gonzalez
Brian Honigman Spencer Padway Chris Makara Dan Shure Sambit Bhattarai
Click to Read Expert Insight

 

Linda Bustos

Linda Bustos
Director of Ecommerce Research, Get Elastic
Trend: Drive to ‘Buy Now’Twitter Button

Certainly this year there’s been a trend towards new, more “direct” mobile experiences, but in the last month, there’s been a rather sudden twist: we’ve seen the news about Google introducing a Buy Now button for mobile search results, where advertisers in Google’s paid search program essentially only fulfill an order, with Google’s own landing page and checkout flow handling the conversion.

Pinterest just last week announced a similar functionality. This is a serious trend that impacts online merchants, as these third parties take over the customer experience and even the customer relationship more and more. This is both an opportunity (customer acquisition with less friction on behalf of the customer, especially important for mobile acquisition/conversion), and a threat – no business wants to take a step back from their customer, and miss cross-sell/upsell and remarketing/lifecycle nurturing opportunities.

It’s only a matter of time before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. start rolling out their own direct-buy features. Marketers will need to figure out ways to both take advantage of and mitigate this – prevent their loyal customers from converting through third parties, and figure out how to keep the conversation going with those that convert through social networks, without really experiencing “your” brand.

As Director of Ecommerce Research at Elastic Path, Linda Bustos authors the Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog and provides consulting services to some of the most exciting ecommerce companies in the world. Previously, Linda has been named one of DMNews’ 30 Direct Marketers Under 30 for her contribution to the marketing community through Get Elastic.

 

Jim Bustos

Jim Belosic
CEO, Short Stack
Trend: Landing pages are keyTwitter Button

My personal prediction for 2015 was that marketing campaigns would be more platform agnostic and we’ve definitely seen that trend so far this year. About a month ago, ShortStack.com looked at a sample of 75,000 marketing campaigns and noticed that only 23% of overall traffic came from within Facebook.

On average, our users are seeing a 77% increase of traffic to campaigns run on a landing page or embedded into their website. We’ve written quite a few case studies on company’s that have seen success with platform agnostic promotions.

Mountain Grand View Resort & Spa is a vacation resort that runs a contest  a few times a year and for the first time they published their campaign as a landing page instead of onto Facebook. Their entries doubled from 7k to 15k. Zipcar UK embedded their campaign on their website and saw 717% increase in entries into their competition versus when they ran it on Facebook. They also saw a 203% increase in page visits.

And mobile! I was surprised that no one discussed the trend of mobile. Hop onto Google and look up the most recent mobile stats and you may be surprised to learn that mobile accounts for 22% of all email-generated revenue and 45% of all email clicks. Facebook’s latest reports show that 30% of Facebook users only login from their mobile device.

At my own company, ShortStack.com, we recently learned that 52% of marketing campaign visitors – including those who enter contests and promotions – are coming from mobile devices. All of these stats show that the current mobile trend cuts across digital media and marketers must strategize, plan and execute with mobile in mind.

Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-service platform used to build engaging campaigns for social, web, and mobile. ShortStack contains 40+ widgets and applications where users can integrate contests, sweepstakes, RSS feeds, Twitter, YouTube, MailChimp, and Aweber newsletter signups that maximize their online presence and potential.

 

Viveka Von Rosen

Viveka Von Rosen
Founder, Linked Into Business
Trend: Focus on contentTwitter Button

Halfway through 2015 and some trends begin to grow while others fade away. Turns out neither Facebook not G+ are dead, although Ello’s ghostly cries can barely be heard from the grave.

LinkedIn really is focusing on content marketing, proven not only by its publisher platform and Pulse (and their newest Pulse app), but also by the acquisition of Lynda.com. I did not see that one coming!

And wearable tech, while not as invasive as it seemed to be heading (Google Glasses and Google contacts) is making big strides as far as wearable fitness tech (Fitbits, Jawbone UP and of course, the new Apple Watch).

I think digital media will continue to push the edges, see what people will put up with, and what they’ll ignore. The line between engagement, relationship and commerce will continue to blur as customization marketing increases. And who knows? Print might even be the new media in our future!

Viveka is known internationally as the “LinkedIn Expert” and speaks to business owners, corporations, Legal Firms and associations on the benefits of marketing with social media, and in particular LinkedIn. Viveka has 29,000+ first level connections and a network of over 31 million people on LinkedIn, and 52,000+ followers on Twitter.  Her seminars, webinars and workshops have taught and trained well over 100,000 people.

 

Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina
Strategic Director, Orbit Media
Trend: Measure ROI via AnalyticsTwitter Button

Earlier I predicted social media marketers shifting towards re-branding themselves as content marketers in 2015, and yes, those trends are alive and well. A lot of companies have rebranded themselves as content marketing companies and that will continue to be the case, especially among PR and SEO firms. Also, the frenzy of marketing automation seems to be slowing down a bit. Companies seem to be a bit more cautious.

Yes, the obsession with ROI has gotten stronger since January 1st. Measurement and analytics are part of almost every marketing conversation. Unfortunately, a lot of marketers still don’t know how to setup Analytics properly or don’t use the data to gather real insights. Still, as paid social media takes off and the cost of good content marketing becomes more apparent, 2015 is coming the year of Analytics and ROI measurement.

As Strategic Director for Orbit Media, Andy has provided web strategy advice to more than 1000 businesses over the last 12 years. Andy loves to teach web marketing, both as a public speaker and on the Orbit blog. He has written more than 170 articles on content marketing topics including SEO, email marketing, social media, and Analytics.

 

Daniel Gonzalez

Daniel Gonzalez
Head of Conversion Optimization, SellPoints
Trend: Utilize insight collectionTwitter Button

In the CRO field, I’m seeing a lot of movement towards personalization from A/B testing tools in general. This is lining up with the predictions.

Something that no one predicted is the consolidation of insights collection tool. I don’t think many people dreamed up a tool like Hotjar, but it’s great as a 1 stop shop for insight collection in the CRO field.

I’m not seeing much else in terms of unforeseen trends, but I do have a prediction. I believe we’re going to see A/B testing tools start moving into buying or building their own analytics platforms. I also expect someone will start working to build a tool to handle all the needs of an optimization team: A/B testing, Personalization, Insights Collection, and maybe even Project management in that same tool. At least, I sure hope someone does.

Daniel Gonzalez is our in-house conversion rate optimization nerd working to increase sales and conversions. He eats data, dreams in wireframe, and is happiest at the intersection of psychology and analytics.

 

Brian Honigman

Brian Honigman
CEO, Honigman Media
Trend: Cater content to channelTwitter Button

My prediction is still relevant because if you aren’t optimizing your content per each channel you’re distributing it on, then you’re far behind in marketing for today’s consumer. Customers today interact with a business across different channels and devices everyday and it’s increasingly important that your organization caters to these preferences or you’re likely to miss out on key opportunities to engage them regularly. By engage, I mean serve relevant content, ads and products to them based off of the actions they are taking on your properties.

One marketing trend that wasn’t previously called out in the original article is the increasing need for businesses to be more socially responsible with their marketing and other organizational practices. Millennials today respect companies that have a social good angle to their offerings to ensure they are regularly giving back. This often impacts the type of organizations a millennial wants to work at, not to mention, purchase products and services from.

Brian Honigman is the CEO of Honigman Media, a content marketing consultancy that provides strategy on content distribution and content production. As a content marketing and social media strategist, Brian is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the World Economic Forum and others.

 

Spencer Padway

Spencer Padway
Director of Performance Marketing, SellPoints
Trend: Rise of Google snippetsTwitter Button

In SEO, the prediction that mobile optimization would be more important than ever is still very relevant. In fact, in February of this year, Google actually gave the community a heads up that ‘mobile friendliness’ would affect search engines in all languages worldwide, and would have a significant impact on its search results. They pushed a new Mobile Friendliness Test, a Guide to Mobile Friendliness and a Mobile Usability Report in Google Search Console.

To further emphasize the importance of mobile optimization, Google announced in May that for the first time, more searches occurred on mobile devices than desktop computer in 10 countries, including the United States and Japan.

One significant trend that we noticed was the increasing appearance of Google’s featured snippets.  Featured snippets appear above the top search result, and feature sourced answers pulled from one of the ranking URLs.  After analyzing the structure and types of content Google preferred for these features, we’ve had success in optimizing our content to achieve this feature, while also simultaneously improved our rankings, sometimes even achieving the top search result for the same search queries.

Spencer Padway found his passion for digital marketing when he began SEO work on his father’s website out of college. He harnessed that passion and founded Brandfish online marketing, which was later acquired by SellPoints, where he is currently the Director of Performance Marketing. He spends every day doing what he loves and strives to provide the best marketing experience possible.

 

Chris Makara

Chris Makara
Digital Strategist, Chris Makara
Trend: Importance of mobile dataTwitter Button

I’m a big believer in data. It’s what I use to drive decisions, analyze what’s working (or not), and use it to try to paint a complete picture.

As many noted for 2015 (and even the previous years), mobile was finally going to overtake desktop as far as usage. With this, mobile data is more important than ever – yet a bit harder to get a real grasp on. Particularly with cross-device use for many, it makes it harder to align a single user and their behavior to your site when they are multiple devices. In the end, you are not always getting the full picture on a user and their behavior. However, there are tools out there that are getting better at tracking this data.

Chris Makara is an interactive marketing & digital strategist with 12+ years of experience. He is the founder of Ciked, a digital marketing agency for small businesses. Whether if it is coming up with SEO or social media strategies, developing websites, managing team members, or compiling multiple data sets into Excel or Google Docs, Chris loves being immersed in all aspects of the digital world.

 

Dan Shure

Dan Shure
Owner, Evolving SEO
Trend: Relationships in searchTwitter Button

Mobile, but specifically App Indexation has really accelerated with Google’s recent announcement that they would be indexing iOS Apps in search. We’re only going to see further integration with mobile search and apps.

Something not mentioned in the Forbes article, and slow to catch on has been the idea of entity relationships via search query data affecting rankings. I think as SEO’s we should be watching this and studying it a lot more closely. Some SEOs have been taking about it a little, but it’s a lot bigger than it seems.

For example, Will Critchlow from Distilled tweeting this interesting finding yesterday. He noticed Apple already ranking #1 for “watch”. On the surface one might question if this is what searches want, or if Apple has done some clever SEO.

But as SEO’s we need to keep shedding our old view of “link + keywords = rankings” and shift our paradigm to things like entities and user behavior. If you dig deeper, as I shared on Google Plus you will notice something peculiar. [Apple Watch] is searched for five times more than just [watch]. I believe Google views “apple” (the company/brand) and “watch” (the product type) as strongly linked in a semantic and entity driven way.

We’re only going to see more #1 rankings that follow this pattern in the future. It will be important for brands and sites to hack into ways of influencing these entity associations (without gaming the system of course).

Dan is the owner and consultant at Evolving SEO. Dan has worked with startups, e-commerce sites, bloggers, small businesses, and everything in-between. Formally a full time musician, his career transitioned to SEO and internet marketing full time with the birth of his company, Evolving SEO, based in Central Massachusetts. Dan has also been an SEOmoz Associate since April of 2012 and an active member of SEMNE and many of the search marketing events around New England.

 

Sambit Bhattarai

Sambit Bhattarai
Director of Paid Media, SellPoints
Trend: Mobile Search + Google Shopping PLATwitter Button

As expected and forecasted by us, mobile search continues to rise: People now spend more time online via their mobile devices than on desktop computers, according to comScore.

Industry data also shows mobile search is expected to overtake desktop search by 2015. In light of this trend, search marketers can’t afford to neglect their growing mobile audience by sticking to the old desktop formulas.

Google Shopping has been a paid service globally since February 2013, requiring retailers to buy PLAs incorporating images, pricing and other information in order to promote their products within Universal Search integrations for relevant keyword queries. The appearance of Google Shopping Product Listing Ad (PLA) integrations increased by 118% during 2014, according to new research.

As the director of Paid Media at SellPoints, Sambit provides thought leadership, management and execution expertise in Paid Search, Shopping (PLA), Display, Social and analytics. Sambit has been doing digital marketing for last 10+ years. He strongly believes that digital marketing should focus on both quantitative and qualitative data to hit business objectives and successful KPIs. He wants his customers to see his team as an extension to their teams working towards a common goal.