It’s that time again: a new year has begun. Let’s leave the retrospectives to others and instead look ahead to the important digital marketing trends of 2017.
2016 marked the breakthrough for mobile traffic. All the big players reported that the traffic from mobile devices was significantly higher than ever before with desktops. Facebook already knew this in 2012, when it went public – and for which Zuckerberg and company was somewhat ridiculed. Today, it is not only clear that the founder of Facebook was correct - it is also a fact that no digital marketing strategy can function without focusing on mobile optimization.
By now, Google also favors mobile-optimized websites, and in 2017 this will become even more evident. There is, of course, no explicit difference between a mobile and a stationary index; however, Google has taken the liberty of using the mobile version of your website to determine ranking. If your mobile presence is weak or non-existent, your ranking could suffer massive disadvantages.
Mobile traffic also means more money, because advertisers always advertise where there is the greatest potential for reaping profits. And if 80 percent of your target group uses mobile devices, you don’t have to be a genius to recognize what this means. Google will continue to invest in the further optimization of mobile searching, and you will need to react if you want to be a successful player. Naturally, this also goes for mobile conversion. A lot is going to happen in this area in 2017: just because your advertisement functions via a mobile platform doesn’t necessarily mean your landing pages will as well.
I intentionally no longer write "high-quality content", because the adjective is too trite - and "high-quality" is also not sufficient. In 2017, your content should be excellent because the competition is getting harder all the time. On Facebook alone, the user sees numerous articles every day, many of which are not worth the electricity consumed in reading them (I hope that the topic of "fake news" will be tackled seriously in 2017).
You want to stand out from this great mass of content, and this can only be done if you are solving the problems of your target group. Not just once, not just twice - but always and again and again. It doesn’t matter if you or your company have a successful campaign, even if you get 10,000 likes. Such numbers are irrelevant – we're talking about the "long term". Think and act for the long term, and don’t let yourself be distracted by the prospect of short-term successes when planning your content strategy. It might go slowly at the beginning - but if you stay focused on your target group and always deliver the best version of your content, you have already won.
In 2017, more and more professional authors and filmmakers will enter the business of "content marketing". Your content must be excellently produced, stand out from the pack, and, above all, must go the “extra mile.” Always offer 10% more than your competition and users will remember you and your useful content. Of course, this costs more time and energy - but it will pay off in the end.
Facebook and Google number among the most influential powers on the Internet. Many people don't like this, but it is foolish to pretend that things are otherwise - anyone who wants to have an online business must come to terms with this situation. This is necessary because Facebook and Google are the two largest innovators in digital marketing - so it is not surprising that Google has announced that it will allow video advertising in its search results.
From Google’s perspective, it is a logical step since they’re always looking for new ways to get more money out of established channels. The medium of video is by now long established on the Internet, and the combination with mobile devices makes it easier than ever to consume videos at any time. So, of course, there will always be more video content (subject to the same rules as "conventional" content) and, naturally, more video ads.
Figure 1: Example of a video ad from a stroller manufacturer, JogAlong Stroller, on Facebook.
This development will give a big boost to the format in 2017. Users will come to accept video advertising more and more - even if it wasn’t there before. There will be more — and new — formats that will draw the user’s attention and thus cannibalize other web formats.
Even here, consumers will not tolerate just anything - poor content that has little added value, doesn’t solve problems, that doesn’t offer help, or provide good entertainment will have a hard time and will most likely be penalized by users.
Over the past few years, major providers such as Google and Facebook have not made any progress in "social commerce". Many users view social media exclusively as a social networking tool. Facebook and company were created as a place for users to exchange digitally with and amongst each other - why should they buy something there? Watching ads, receiving recommendations, exchanging about products - this is okay and happens offline as well, but it is not yet the place for buying products and services.
This is going to change in 2017, because Facebook, in particular, is going to bring the topic of "f-commerce" to the forefront. Zuckerberg and his team have already been trying to do this for a few years - with little success.
Problem: Users were not comfortable purchasing directly on Facebook. That’s what Amazon and all the other large online shops are for. And, until now, nothing much has changed in this basic opinion. Take yourself as an example: when you want to buy something, you probably don't think of Facebook first.
Like2Buy is a provider that wants to help companies sell products on Instagram. For each published Instagram photo that features products, this commerce software shows their potential impressions, clicks, and generated sales. On the one hand, such key figures are important for the company, but also for Instagram influencers.
Figure 2: Like2Buy partners plant the appropriate URL in their Instagram profile and thus lead users into a mobile-optimized shop
So, direct sales work on social media; they are just not very elegant. But another important component in social commerce does work elegantly: Facebook is really good at generating leads – i.e. contact with potential new customers who you can further attract through email marketing and lead nurturing and thereby transform into shoppers and regular customers.
This principle works very well, and in the past few years, Facebook has developed into a high-quality supplier for the development of thematically-relevant and, above all, focused sales funnels - this is also social commerce, and in 2017 Facebook will play an important role in this arena.
Google and "Machine Learning": this topic will hold the worldwide SEO industry on tenterhooks in 2017. The largest and most important search engine is always receiving more data and is always improving in its ability to process this data. If you are a Webmaster or site operator, this means, among other things, that you will have to better structure your content if you want to become more successful. The biggest challenge in search engine optimization in 2017 will be about being as adaptable as possible - or becoming so.
Google will change its algorithms more often and more quickly, because the technological capabilities now are so good that Google can react more quickly. If they see that an algorithm needs to be changed, it will be quickly tested and converted. The SEO industry will need to hold itself accountable on this point, because one false step and your rankings will deteriorate. Incidentally, this means that old methods are outdated and won't work anymore.
The best SEO strategy in 2017 - Be authentic, deliver useful information, and solve the problems of your target groups – the same recipe for excellent content marketing. By now, Google can discover by itself which content helps users and which does not. Which content has the most users and which content answers the most questions? In 2017, SEO will become more dynamic and sophisticated.
2017 will bring many innovations and advances to digital marketing. Whatever is technologically possible and helps things function faster, more simply, or more successfully will be used. If you can't keep up as a Webmaster, advertiser, or publisher, you will have a problem. It is always possible, however, to adapt and profit from innovations.
And this is what will define 2017 - as it has every year. Differently than in previous years, however, the changes will come quickly and there will no longer be only "the one channel" – it would be dangerous to concentrate only on Google or Facebook. Flexibility, adaptability, and, above all, perseverance are rewarded - even more so when you think outside the box and try new methods.
Published on 02/02/2017 by Björn Tantau.
Björn Tantau has been active in digital marketing since the late 1990s. He explains what strategies are guaranteed to work in marketing, and how these methods can be used successfully to make a profit. He is a well-known keynote speaker and he has written several books and ebooks. As a consultant and coach he offers seminars and workshops and has been interviewed by many German TV channels. He has also been a successful podcaster.