2016 has been quite a year for changes – the expected and the unexpected. And, we’ve definitely seen changes and introductions of new tools in digital marketing this year. For instance, Facebook Live has paved the way as a new ‘outlet’ for marketers and Google’s ever-increasing algorithm updates continue to make the search engine smarter.
With all the advances digital marketers have seen this year, it’s an understatement to say we’re excited to see what 2017 holds – we’re thrilled!
We’ve rounded up digital marketers’ predictions for what lies ahead in the coming year, and we are so eager for these predictions to come to fruition.
Managing Director, Traktek Partners
“Digital agencies and advertisers will continue to shift media spending to retargeting and intelligent targeted display based on past search and browsing behavior as they continue to generate the highest ROIs.
Website analytics tools such as Google Analytics have evolved quickly, becoming highly robust in functionality, and in 2017 I anticipate this will continue. I expect Google will come out with new enhancements to Google Analytics to help companies drive more engagement online, increase leads through their websites and provide users with a more customized user experience.
Social media advertising through Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest will continue to grow as companies realize their audiences are more engaged on social than other digital marketing avenues. However, I predict Twitter will experience double-digit decline in active users, become irrelevant to advertisers, and will get bought by another digital media company.
There will be a growing trend in personalized display & intelligent online marketing through the use of session and user identification tracking technologies. As marketers find it more difficult to engage prospects through email marketing, it will be important to drive interest through retargeting and capturing user online behavior to inform targeted display advertising.
Tourist boards, resorts, and cruise companies will start using virtual reality to market vacation travel packages to bring their brand experiences to life.”
Digital Content Specialist, Inseev Interactive
“Content will, once again, be at the forefront of digital strategy. Studies show that relevant content is the most effective way for pages to rank in Google SERPs. Influencer content will be heavily utilized as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other social sites continue to grow, change, and develop new ways to promote brands that don’t rely on easily blocked banner ads. Developing this type of branded content that appeals on an emotional basis and helps businesses rank in relevant search terms will be the main strategy behind digital marketing in 2017.”
“Predictive Analytics Makes its Marketing Debut: Thought predictive analytics was just for data scientists? No more. Next year nearly half (48%) of marketers plan to invest in the technology to make smarter bets that customers are more likely to love.
Personalization at Scale – Not an Oxymoron: Netflix and Amazon are paving the way for contextualized content. 81% of marketers today personalize marketing, but only 13% take things a step further by leveraging app and service context. Expect to see more behavior-based personalization come into focus next year.
Developers Can Relax, Marketing’s Got This: top-performing marketers are picking and choosing what’s in their toolkit a la carte, and no longer have to rely on developers to stitch it all together. Sayonara all-in-one software.”
CEO & Cofounder, ON24
“2016 saw the rise of live video in the consumer worlds, whether it be in terms of Facebook Live or Twitter’s streaming platform. In 2017, I think we’ll see marketers in both the B2B and B2C worlds will begin to really leverage live video for their initiatives — particularly those types of solutions that can provide tangible insights and data on the back end. Video had long been a black hole for data — where you don’t know how long someone watched and what they engaged in — but the latest technology has made it possible for marketers to glean invaluable intelligence from this channel.”
[tweetthis]In 2017, I think we’ll see marketers will begin to really leverage live video for their initiatives.[/tweetthis]
Sr. International SEO Strategist, Getty Images
“1) Fast and mobile-friendly websites will continue to be hugely important for SEO. Mobile users want fast-loading pages that do not take up a lot of bandwidth. Since mobile traffic continues to grow internationally, Google is putting more emphasis on websites that load quickly and are lightweight. Google (and more recently, Bing) has been pushing AMP implementation and mobile-first websites, so see if AMP makes sense for your website if you want to have mobile-friendly pages.
2) Secure websites will be more important than ever. Google Chrome will be rolling out an update in early 2017 where login pages that are not using HTTPS will have warning labels appear next to their search engines result snippets. This is just another one of many steps that Google has taken to encourage website owners to use HTTPS to deliver secure content.
3) Improvements to answer boxes and Google’s knowledge graph will continue. For websites that want to take advantage of ranking in Google’s answer boxes, it will be critical to keep up with this trend. Google just recently added Local Restaurants and Online Courses to its list of verticals that show Rich Cards in search results, and we’ll certainly see more verticals added in 2017 and beyond.”
CEO and Founder, The Marketing Zen Group
“There are 2 big V’s this 2017 to focus on: video and voice search.
Social media is constantly changing, and we all know this. What used to work at grabbing our attention isn’t anymore. An image isn’t going to just cut it moving into 2017. Users are wanting more, they are wanting to be visually stimulated more. Take a look at your Facebook feed, what do you see getting shared the most? A static image or a video? Chances are you’ll see more videos being shared by your connections than images or long text status updates. Not to mention with Facebook Live rolling out last year, expect to see more people going live to share those special moments in life, versus writing a status update coupled with an image. If you want to stay ahead and really capture your audience’s attention, you need to incorporate video marketing; it has never been more vital than it is now.
And next, we come to voice search. With the introduction of the 2 powerhouse smarthome speakers, Amazon’s Echo and Google Home, search has found itself in quite the predicament. We now have to focus on conversational search and understanding the contextual meanings behind natural phrases. With a vast amount of teens and adults already performing voice searches on a regular basis, and with the holiday season finishing up and smarthome speakers are finding a ‘home’, SEOs are now faced with a higher demand for optimizing their sites for voice search.
It’s exciting to see what we have to tackle ahead in 2017.”
“One of the hottest things for 2017 will be the Instagram shoppable ability upon landing on a website. This means websites will have their Instagram feed curated on the website, and users will be able to click on the page to “get the look” as well as actually make purchases from Instagram. Users get an even better view of the product being utilized by people with similar interests and that is the most powerful tool available online. Realistic social proof!”
Director of SEO, MWI
“As an SEO director, here are a few things that I’m looking out for:
1. “Ranking 0” – Google is trying to answer queries in the “answer box”, so it’s important to keep an eye on the keywords you’re ranking on page 1 that are informational in intent, then try to answer those queries directly within your site content. Make sure to structure the content in a way that Google can easily understand and present in the answer box, and you’ll be in great shape to increase traffic even if you don’t rank #1 for the term.
2. SEO in a Rankbrain World – Machine learning has taken over Google’s algorithm as Google continues to better understand search patterns and related searches, even though they may use completely different phrasing. It then matches the most relevant ranking signals to best serve a users search. So it’s really important to try and understand what might be sending the strongest signals for particular search patterns and search intent.
3. Voice Search – With all of the virtual assistants on phones/smart devices like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, voice search is booming. Often times people are looking for quick answers. This falls in-line with “ranking 0”, but having the ability to structure content and be the best at answering questions in your niche can be a huge boost to your brand.”
Founder & CEO, Peeks
“2017 will be a continuation of the efforts made in 2016 regarding social companies focusing more heavily on video, live streaming, social commerce and AR.
The convergence of applications and features will continue to trend in 2017. Larger players will begin adding features to accommodate an ever-evolving user base which will demand a multitude of their favorite daily social habits rolled into one ecosystem. These trends will begin to take off as more companies move towards the next evolution of social media.
Furthermore, social commerce will become more prevalent in North America and play a larger role in this convergence by combining interactions and transactions. People have to see it and want it to buy it.
I recommend that brands look towards the impending growth of social commerce and begin to build their campaigns around measurable metrics that go beyond interactions and towards actual transactions, both through platforms and social influencer marketing.”
SEO Specialist, Rapidvisa Philippines
“With SEO, most SEO practitioners will still be struggling with Google’s very competitive algorithm with the dawn of Google assistant and it’s rich snippet feature in SERP that steals your metadata. Content will shift big in visual and videos since these kinds of content can be easily shared on most social platforms, so a quality image and a catchy video can accelerate website traffic.”
Marketing Team Leader, Petplan
“I believe Instagram will keep growing in 2017. It’s a very popular social media channel with the best user engagement after Facebook, but advertisers and marketers still haven’t managed to really benefit from it because up to now, it wasn’t possible to link to a shopping page in a post.
Instagram Shopping will change everything next year. Businesses will have the opportunity to mention up to 5 products in their posts, with links to the product details and shopping pages. This will be an amazing opportunity for companies to gain new customers and increase their ROI on Instagram.”
SEO Manager, Soldsie
“I think one trend to like out for is more personalized content along with better use of data. Businesses will need to get a clear idea of their target audience, their pain points, how they prefer to consume and interact with content (series of images (a la Instagram stories), video, audio, long-copy, short-copy, etc.) – with this information, businesses will then need to personalize their offerings.
Consumers are overloaded with content and purchase choices – personalization allows businesses to cater specifically to the needs of their customers which can help with building brand authority, customer trust, and ultimately moving a user down deeper into the marketing funnel.”
Founder, SME Pals
“Marketing has already begun a shift toward influencers in 2016. This trend is only going to gather momentum because it offers a far more cost effective way to gain long-term, sustainable reach and coverage (i.e. quality backlinks for SEO purposes) than any other type of marketing.
The reason? According to independent studies, bloggers are a far more trusted source of information than traditional endorsements (i.e. paid celebrities). Online influencers hold a lot of authority and trust, and Google continues to place emphasis on quality links.
Fortunately, there is a real opportunity for smaller businesses to get the drop on big business while brands and advertisers are still catching on. Unlike traditional endorsements, influencer marketing is not really a “paid” relationship – it’s more like a genuine friendship or mutually beneficial relationship that offers great search optimization potential. Big business still focuses on paid relationships, so there is a window of opportunity in 2017 to build genuine relationships with influencers and start growing your visibility quickly.”
[tweetthis]Instagram Shopping will change everything next year.[/tweetthis]
Digital Marketing Manager, Wealth Club
“In 2017 the technical side of SEO is going to rear its head in a big way.
For years we’ve tracked rankings, and appearing anywhere in top 5 generally means traffic.
But this year, a whole lot more searches will be carried out where the user never sees a search results page at all.
Instead, Google, Bing, Siri, Alexa et al – will be responding to your voice query with their best answer.
That’s right, voice search essentially means a shift from “à la carte” (a list of resources for you to click on) to “chef’s table”, where the search engines increasingly try to answer your question directly.
This requires the search engines to amass a detailed knowledge of “things” and the relationships between them – not just pages and the text they contain.
How do you get your “things” to the top of search?
Yes, of course, you still need links and domain authority. But increasingly it means you need to mark up the “things” your site represents – real-world entities like books, products, people, organizations, events – with structured data formats.
And that means a rise in the technical demands of SEO. If you’re in e-commerce or event management, you’ll know that schema.org markup is already vital. In my industry, we’re working on full recognition for financial services in schema.org, and adoption by search engines will follow. So you’ll be able to ask your AI-powered voice assistant “what’s the best value share dealing account for five trades a month” and it will tell you the answer.
Essentially in 2017 if you don’t know how to mark up pages with structured data, or know how to liaise with developers to get this done – you’re less likely to be featured as a top answer in search.”
Digital marketer and SEO consultant, Dijitul
“More In-House Digital Marketers – This is something which seems to be growing every year, and I’ve no doubt will continue to in 2017. Digital marketing is very much a buzzword at the moment as more and more every day small businesses learn of the expansion opportunities available online. Therefore, more of these SME’s are looking to take on their own member(s) of staff dedicated to pushing the business online. Whether the workforce with the skills for this expansion is there remains to be seen.
Personalised Marketing – One of my favourite pieces of content marketing in 2016 was the collaboration between Toyota and James Marsden which saw them use 100 different video clips to create over 100,000 different spots which were then sent out to social users, presenting them with what appeared to be their own “personalised” ad video. I think personalised advertising can be incredibly effective and will continue to grow in 2017, and the advancement of 360 video and VR make the possibilities increasingly exciting.
Influencer Marketing – Influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways of getting your brand and product in front of a large number of people in your key demographic, and with the continued growth of the Instagram/Youtube celebrity phenomenon, businesses are going to increasingly look to reach out to these influencers and offer them something in return for access to their following.
Voice Search/Personal Assistants – One of the biggest technological talking points in the 2nd half of 2016 has been the growth of personal assistants and voice-activated tools such as Google Home & Amazon Echo. The growth of this technology could have a significant effect on digital marketing and particularly SEO in 2017. The vast majority of websites gear their SEO strategy toward traditional search engine “Keyword” search carried out by typing, however, typing is slowly being replaced by spoken voice search. People do not tend to speak the same way that they type, and therefore search is becoming more “conversational” and long tail, EG: Someone may type “Japanese Restaurant London”, but when voice searching they would be more likely say “Where can I get Japanese Food in London”. Brands and in particular SEO professionals are going to have to adjust to this to ensure that organic traffic levels stay up.
Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
“I think most sites are mobile friendly now but they will be optimized for a better mobile experience going forward with more personalization in 2017. I also predict there will be stronger cross-device optimization with the majority using the internet across multi-platforms today. Businesses and organizations will continue to invest more in online and digital marketing to stay current with these trends at the expense of more traditional media like print, etc.
I predict Gen Xers and Baby Boomers will cut back time spent on Facebook and Twitter with Trump as President. I think that post-election, people have fake news fatigue and feel they have wasted too much time on these sites which suck their energy and make them feel depressed. What got him elected will not keep people engaged. Now he needs to deliver on his promises and execute his plans. Everything else is a distraction.
I also predict Content Marketing will grow in importance with the quality gap growing as well so that good/relevant content leveraging influencer marketing strategies will be more important than ever. If you know your subject well and can tell compelling stories then you will build your brand and following using Social Media and Content Marketing in 2017, this is your year! The good will get better and the bad will be ignored. People are getting savvier to fake news and things that waste their time so be a brand they trust and follow.”
PR Coordinator, Amplify Relations
“We saw the beginnings of live video in 2016, but as platforms continue to grow and change in 2017, I believe the popularity and use of live video will grow as well.
Facebook Live helped many brands and brand influencers engage with their followers, leading the charge for other brands who were unsure of live video’s effectiveness to do the same in the coming year. Whether using live interviews, product demonstrations, or taking part in the latest viral craze, there’s a way for almost every brand to utilize live video.
Twitter’s live video platform video Periscope hasn’t been as much a success as Facebook Live, so 2017 would really be a “make it or break it” year for them. This has more to do with Twitter’s users than the actual effectiveness of Periscope. In order to keep their platform, and continue to grow with live video, Twitter will definitely be making some big plays to ensure their users are logging on at least once per day.
Instagram has always been a slightly different social media platform, and their rollout of live video is no different. In an effort to compete with Snapchat, they’ve just released their version of live video that disappears after the user is done filming. Releasing it this late in the year gives them a chance to work out any bugs that happen when millions of people are using your service, and tweak it in time to be a success in 2017.
2016 has been a building year for live video, but 2017 will be the year that it finally takes off, as users and brands realize what an effective tool it can be for reaching their followers.”
Head of Digital, AccuraCast
“Below are some predictions I have on SEO, social and PPC in 2017.
SEO: As Google’s personalised search results get more sophisticated, local SEO and link building will get more important for businesses that rely on their locality. Links that come from a website that is relevant to your local area and has servers based locally will be worth more than a site with higher DA. Building local citations now will likely have next to no value without the link.
To take advantage of this, view where your competitors are linking from for new ideas. Network locally with businesses with an online presence, and try to get links from any sponsors or connections your business has already (never engage in reciprocal link exchanges though).
Social: There will be a continuing refinement in marketing channels and how each brand chooses the platform for them. As companies become accustomed to using social media for business, they will discover which type of content works for their commerce and audience, and in turn which platform promotes it best. Whilst it may be important to test which platform suits your brand offer, don’t spread your budget too thinly in 2017 – find out which channel is the most efficient for your business and concentrate on expanding that market.
PPC: Advertising, in general, is moving more and more towards personalised experiences. As the online world becomes more crowded it will be more important to improve your chances of getting in front of the right people. Targeting specific niches and focusing ads to the right people is becoming the only way, potentially in the future at a personal level. Combining campaigns of PPC with things like video ads is a good way to cover all bases when trying to find a highly-niche audience.
Personalization shouldn’t be about creeping people out by demonstrating how clever your remarketing setup is… it’s more about delivering timely and relevant messaging, segmented by visitor traffic or customer personas, and that resonates across all your marketing channels.”
“I think in 2017 inbound marketing will become a more valuable means of customer acquisition. With artificial intelligence improving at a faster rate, platforms where people discover new types of content that interest them, including search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook, will be able to better analyze and interpret the content itself similarly to how a human would. This means that the value of an article, image, or video will have more weight than outside variables like backlinks, likes, and shares to determine how valuable a piece of content is.
So in 2017, I think providing value within content will produce more long term gains for businesses large and small.”
Chief Content Strategist, Content Hackers
“The chatbot marketing revolution is one of the most exciting trends still being absorbed by marketers. Already gaining massive adoption in the business world, chatbots (either in the form of text messages or as integrated components inside of messaging apps) are seen primarily as a cost reduction mechanism. Yet chatbots have the potential of becoming a channel through which relevant marketing content can be easily distributed to a target audience. From product releases to re-engagements with inactive customers and everything in between, marketers should pay close attention to this emerging marketing channel. Chatbots are the perfect venue to test new promotional tactics and drive sales, revenue and engagement.”
Content creator & social media manager, Illumine8
“I run about 40 social media accounts across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. One of my predictions on social media trends for next year is video. The latter half of 2016 paved the way for video sharing, but the beginning of 2017 will be when it peaks.
Even though every platform has their form of video sharing, I think Facebook Live and their 360 capabilities will be the most successful next year. However, Instagram has a beta version of live video, too, so that will be an interesting dynamic. I think Instagram Stories will get bigger, too, as they continue to rival Snapchat.
Each social media platform is trying to differentiate their service, so 2017 will be an exciting time for all new features — not just video. For example, Instagram now lets verified users share links through their stories, and Twitter is allowing users to stitch together multiple tweets into a slideshow-like story with Moments. The innovation spurred by competition is exciting.
I also think augmented reality (AR) will be a huge social media trend in the New Year. Even though that’s Snapchat’s niche with filters and geo-targeting, Facebook is merging with Masquerade to create mobile virtual reality, and Pokemon Go took AR a whole step further this summer. Snapchat even released Spectacles, so you can snap in real time with sunglasses. It’ll definitely be a trend to watch.”
Head of SEO and Digital Marketing, Bowler Hat
“I believe there will be two big trends that will dominate digital marketing in 2017: Mobile and Multi-channel.
Mobile – In 2016 we have seen mobile surpass desktop as the primary source of traffic to websites and total searches conducted on mobile surpassed desktop early 2015. A businesses website is still the centre of all digital marketing activities yet most are still not truly mobile friendly.
For sure, most websites are responsive now and I wrote about responsive web design about this as early as 2012, however, responsive design is just one component of developing sites that provide a truly user optimised mobile experience. The other main components here are site speed and most importantly of all user experience. The businesses in 2017 that focus on user experience for mobile users will be able to develop a strategic advantage over their competitors.
Multi-channel – Digital marketing tends to be quite faddish and focus often ends up on either the latest fad (SEO, Social, Content etc) or on a single channel they have seen results in (often SEO or PPC).
In 2017 there is a lot of change on the horizon. Google is ever more eating into the value of organic search traffic with changes to the page layout. Local, single answerpanels, more screen space devoted to ads – there is a world of change. Customers are on multiple platforms as well. Search engines. Social networks. And there is a range of intent in the customer journey. To combat this we have to learn lessons from history. Classic marketing approaches always knew the benefit of the marketing mix. Now, we must think of the digital marketing mix.
How do you combine content marketing, social media, organic search, paid search, paid social and content amplification, lead generation & email to better effect and be first to embed yourself in the customers mind? The answer here is to focus on strategy and integration. Have users find you via informational articles on your blog, convert those users to follow you on social, acquire emails via premium content downloads, nurture those customers via remarketing and email campaigns. Build your brand, be first to entrench yourself in the mind of your customers and be highly visible across all relevant digital channels. Not easy and likely needs the help of an external marketing agency with expertise across all the tactical channels, but, as with mobile, the businesses that develop successful multi-channel campaigns will rule the digital roost in 2017.”
CEO, Jun Group
“Live Platforms – Live platforms like Periscope, Meerkat, and Facebook Live have quickly become a popular way to engage with customers and the technologies will encourage more brands to test out new ad products in the space.
Augmented Reality Apps – This summer, we witnessed an AR cultural phenomenon with Pokémon Go. In turn, it has excited a lot of other marketers, apps, and consumers about the future of AR. Get ready for more direct use of AR within apps, both immersive experiences and tangentially related ones. We’ve only seen one phenomenal story so far. This begs the question whether AR, in general, will go the way of the failed attempts of Google glass and 3D TV. It’s a complex technology, challenging to implement for brands, and is only now starting to be adopted by consumers en masse.
Chatbots – Expect chatbots to improve significantly and to be used in new ways and despite the many bot failures, chatbots could still dominate the future of messaging apps. Their future depends on the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Immersive Video – Videos are no longer just one dimensional, as shoppable films and 360° videos break the fourth wall and immerse viewers. Mass adoption of immersive video will depend on new technology that could be developed in 2017. At the moment, distribution of these video types is limited to a few platforms, such as YouTube 360° and shoppable video. For brands, pre-roll is still the largest source of inventory, and it has limited capabilities to implement immersive video. Brands need to understand that although immersive content can engage users in exciting ways, it is restricted to a few available platforms.
Beyond Viewability – Brands tend to use viewability to measure success. While it’s important to ensure that a brand’s video campaign attracts eyes, viewability is table stakes and doesn’t necessarily move the needle. It’s time for brands to move away from media-based outcomes, such as views or clicks, and shift towards tangible business objectives such as sign-ups, downloads, and purchases. To focus on business objectives, agencies must go beyond CPMs in favor of performance-based metrics. Additionally, the industry needs to develop reliable attribution models to help connect the dots for marketers. Attribution technology is improving, but it is not foolproof.”
There you have it! We are so delighted to see a vast variety of predictions for this year; this just goes to prove how quickly the realm of digital marketing is changing. It makes us curious to see where digital marketing will be in even 5 or 10 years from now. But for now, we’re ready to tackle what 2017 has in store for us.
Laura O’Donnell writes content on behalf of the digital marketers at The Marketing Zen Group. As an avid writer and learner, she loves to use her skills for engaging others in important topics in creative and effective ways. When she is not working, she loves meeting new people, traveling, and bringing her Pinterest dreams to life. Find her on LinkedIn.