There are lots of predictions for 2012, some more fantastic than others. Sure, there’s going to be change, but it needn’t be disastrous. Change, when you’re prepared for it, becomes opportunity.
So what kinds of changes in Online Marketing should you be preparing for?
Do a quick search for “online marketing trends in 2012″ and you’ll find plenty to read. Every marketer has their opinion, and they’re all offering prognostications in their particular areas of expertise: SEO, PPC, conversion, social media, or web analytics.
Those individual online marketing disciplines work best together: SEO and PPC put your message in front of searchers and motivated shoppers, conversion optimization turns those visitors into buyers, social media builds and maintains real relationships with those customers, and web analytics crunches the numbers and finds opportunities for data-driven improvement.
Where can you go for a qualified, single source presenting online marketing trends for 2012 from respected industry experts across all disciplines?
We brought our faculty together here at Market Motive for a brainstorming session to talk about the trends online marketers should watch for in 2012. We brewed a pot of coffee, gathered around the conference table, freed up the whiteboard, and each instructor offered up the top three trends they think you should know about during the coming year.
Todd Malicoat – SEO Faculty Chair
Over the last decade, Todd has consulted and created training documentation for the Public Broadcast System (PBS.org), Meredith Corporation, Thomas Industrial, Rasmussen College, Real Networks, and other large brands. Todd was named among the top 50 Most Influential Marketers Invesp.com, and Top 40 Most Influential in Search Marketing by GSInc.co.uk.
Increased use of social signals as quality validation
We’ve known this was coming for a while, and with the launch of Google+, it’s evident that Google is taking social media signals very seriously. We’ll see these become increasingly important, although they will still just play a role in overall search rankings. It’s important to note that social signals are used heavily for very fresh documents, and for validating things like backlink data as validation of the overall quality of the site.
More Competition and More Demand for Personnel, Services, and Tools
You thought it was competitive before? The result sets are shrinking, the brands are creeping in, and Google is pushing vertical results of their own. Everyone has a link development team, social media team, and paid search team working in harmony for higher rankings and revenue. The competition will continue to heat up, and the barrier to entry will continue to rise. The good news is that this creates a demand for quality people, services, and tools within our industry.
The Longtail Will Stay Dead
Google has made it essential for websites to score well on engagement metrics in the long tail of search results. You will no longer get a lot of search traffic for obscure terms that you don’t have good strong results for. The Panda update has increased the quality of relevance in the longtail, and don’t expect Google to just give this traffic back to the sites they don’t think deserved it in the first place. Make sure to learn from your bounce rate, and improve those engagement related metrics.
Brad Geddes – PPC Faculty Chair
Brad is the author of the well-respected book Advanced Google Adwords, and founder of CertifiedKnowledge.org, an online source where the Paid Search community comes together for PPC training, tools, and advice. Brad frequently writes columns for Search Engine Land, co-moderates the AdWords forum on Webmaster World, and has spoken at more than 35 conferences.
The thing to watch the most is mobile
Mobile commerce is heating up. The latest comScore numbers said 38% of people had bought something on their phone; which I find quite amazing. Right now, most sites are based on the desktop versions. As some users primarily use tablets and phones, how will that affect site design, conversions, and payments? I find Africa fascinating as many people there have only seen the web on their phones and not on a desktop. Will Africa find a better way to display info on phones than the rest of the world? Kenya has one of the best mobile payment systems in the world, the US lags far behind in mobile payment. Can Google Wallet or ISIS revolutionize credit card usage and mobile payments?
I’d like to see Todd write the Advanced SEO book
There are many books out there on SEO; but I think Todd could do one that goes beyond the basic and intermediate concepts that most books have covered. [Editor's note: Todd says the rough outline is in place... it's just a matter of time.]
Google+ will have to evolve
Google has a lot of correlative data; but not a lot of hard data given to them by their users. How will Google+ affect personalized search, paid search, and will it incorporate a new ad format for G+? And of course, the big question: Can Google+ have enough adoption, users, time on site, etc to be a player in the social game? It can force itself to matter via +1 in rankings, but that will only matter to marketers. Will it be adopted by the mass market?
Bryan Eisenberg – Conversion Faculty Chair
Bryan is a highly sought-after consultant and speaker, and the co-author of the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, USA Today and New York Times bestselling books Call to Action, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark? and Always Be Testing. He has been the keynote speaker for Search Engine Strategies, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, E-consultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway and the Canadian Marketing Association.
The next generation of tools will focus on Return on Time Spent
Marketing operations are more complex than ever before and the demands on our resources are constantly increasing. We need to identify solutions that help us get the most bang for the buck; because we aren’t about to get 25 hour days any time soon. Tools like BoostMedia, Runa, and InboundWriter will help us do just that. Read more about Return on Time Spent.
CEOs will be taking responsibility for conversion and customer experience (like Apple)
Nobody has been involved in e-business for two decades. There are too many not-quite experts, over-promising tool vendors, and self-proclaimed pundits demanding attention. It’s the responsibility of executive management to create an expansive environment where learning in ongoing silos is less important than customers, and optimization isn’t a project but rather a habit of great execution. Read more about building marketing teams.
More leadership will be put in place
The marketing optimization team leader should be comfortable working with a variety of methods of identifying insights and optimization techniques … These leaders are going to have to be trained and mentored … You can’t outsource this core competency or downplay it. It’s a serious commitment but one that has a high payout over the long term. Read more about building a marketing optimization team.
Jennifer Evans-Cario – Social Media Faculty Chair
Jennifer spent six years as Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Guide and is editor of Small Business Answers. She was also founder of the popular Small Business Marketing Unleashed conferences, and the author of two books, including the Small Business Guide to Search Engine Marketing and Zero Dollars, and A Little Talent and 30 Days. She is now President of SugarSpun Marketing.
Scheduling Posts for Highest Impact
I see this as one of the single most important things companies can do in 2012. Granted, everyone has been scheduling posts for convenience for a year or two now, but they’re not generally considering how to really time it for the best impact. There are quite a few tools out there that will help give you some really good information on how and when your audience is online and when they are most apt to interact with you. Companies are branching out and attempting to use more and more Social Media outlets. This makes judicious use of time more important than ever. This is especially true for small businesses.
EdgeRank Checker shared some Facebook engagement data by day just last month.
Mashable had a wonderful post on how to use Facebook Insight to time your posts for ongoing exposure to your followers in October.
Tools like When to Tweet and Tweriod are helping companies learn when their most active followers are on Twitter and a whole slew of others provide some valuable timing information.
Content is King, but Graphics are the King’s Cloak
We’ve been preaching about good content for years and years and in terms of SEO and engagement, it’s still incredibly important, probably the MOST important thing. However… as social media usage grows, the competition for attention keeps increasing. I’m seeing a dramatic uptick in the focus on images and graphics on Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest, a new site that’s basically visual shared bookmarking, is growing in leaps and bounds. Hobby bloggers are studying the art of photography to make sure the pictures they share are top notch… Infographics are amazing link bait. With all this content to digest, people are looking for an even faster way to scan for value. Delivering a compelling image is a great new way to pull them in. Invest in a better camera, hire a graphic designer, explore these new spaces… do what you have to do to be able to play on this level.
Tying Social Media Directly to Business Goals
Yes, you’re here, you have fans, you have followers… we get it. That’s nice. Now let’s all quit patting ourselves on the back and face reality. Social media has grown up and “we need to engage with our audience” is no longer enough to justify a social media budget. More and more companies (the smart ones) are going to start looking at their top level business goals and exploring how social media can help meet them. Need to reduce call volume to your call centers? Invest in a social listening and reputation management strategy to handle customer service issues online. Need to increase average order size? Explore targeted social media sharing for coupons. 2012 WILL bring about a new and increased focus on clearly defined metrics that social media marketers will be expected to deliver on.
Avinash Kaushik – Web Analytics Faculty Chair
Avinash Kaushik is the Analytics Evangelist at Google, and the author of Web Analytics 2.0 and the best-selling book Web Analytics: An Hour A Day. Avinash works with some of the largest companies in the world to help them evolve their online marketing strategies to become data-driven and customer-centric organizations.
SoMoLo will continue to rise in importance
Social. Mobile. Local. SoMoLo will drive a ton of disruption when it comes to finding the most relevant customers and offering them something of value.
Marketing as providing utility
Marketing models that provide constant value to the customer — regardless of whether they intend to buy anything or not — will accelerate when compared to Shouting (yelling at people hoping you catch them at the moment of purchase).
The downfall of dashboards
People in the Analytics world whose primary contribution is to puke data will find themselves with fewer and fewer contracts/jobs. People who provide a list of actions to take, rather than a puke of data in “dashboards,” will find they are richer than they anticipated.
Greg Jarboe – Online PR Faculty Chair
Greg is president of SEO-PR and author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day. He writes for Search Engine Watch and ReelSEO; speaks frequently at SES Events and PRSA International Conferences; contributed to Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions; and was interviewed in Michael Miller’s Online Marketing Heroes: Interviews with 25 Successful Online Marketing Gurus.
Changing media landscape will reshape online PR strategy
According to Compete PRO, unique visitors to news.yahoo.com increased more than 35% during the past year to more than 54.7 million, while unique visitors to news.google.com decreased almost 2% to less than 9.2 million. At the same time, unique visitors to huffingtonpost.com increased over 113% to close to 26.2 million, while unique visitors to nytimes.com increased just 5% to fewer than 17.4 million. In the coming year, other changes to the media landscape should prompt marketers to update their online PR strategies.
Online PR measurement will shift from outputs to outcomes
When Market Motive was launched in August 2007, our first Online PR 101 course explained the difference between measuring PR outputs (e.g. press release ranking, press mentions, and blog mentions), and tracking business outcomes (e.g. driving traffic to your website, generating leads, and selling products, services, or content directly online). In 2012, online PR measurement will shift away from outputs and focus increasingly on outcomes. And more and more marketers will demand that PR professionals know how to measure the return on marketing investment.
Online video marketing will become simply YouTube marketing
According to Experian Hitwise, YouTube.com ranks #1 in the United States with 86.9% share of visits to a custom category of 78 video sites. Hulu.com ranks #2 with 2.9%. In Canada, YouTube.com ranks #1 with 93.3% share of visits to a custom category of 70 video sites. Dailymotion.com ranks #2 with 1.8%. In 2012, even more talented creators and original entertainment will join YouTube’s existing channel lineup, including channels created by well-known personalities and content producers from the TV, film, music, news, and sports fields, as well as some of the most innovative up-and-coming media companies in the world and some of YouTube’s own existing partners. These channels will have something for everyone, whether you’re a mom, a comedy fan, a sports nut, a music lover, or a pop-culture maven. And marketers will stop talking about “online video marketing” and will start focusing on “YouTube marketing”.
Matt Bailey – Fundamentals Faculty Chair
Matt is the founder and president of SiteLogic, the author of Internet Marketing An Hour A Day (Sybex), and serves on the Advisory Board for Incisive Media’s Search Engine Strategies Conferences. A highly respected speaker, he presents at conferences around the world. With over a decade in the web marketing industry, Matt creates comprehensive strategies that improve internet presence and conversions.
Marketing will become marketing
Social, video, search, content, etc. They will all be drawn into the marketing mix rather than separate parts measured separately. It will all be considered as a full marketing campaign, rather than disparate parts that are run independently.
Reduce acquisition, increase loyalty
In order to survive, search marketing will have to move from acquisition metrics to loyalty-based metrics. As search referral data becomes more difficult to gather (Google), different metrics will need to be developed to determine the best value keywords.
Don’t socialize, personalize
Digital marketing will become more personalized, not socialized. As data mining and information becomes more granular, marketing will enable a closer relationship with the customer. Companies that develop personal marketing tools and relationships will win the customer over the long term. Companies that invest in Personalization will grow in profitability.
So what do you think? Is your online marketing plan ready for 2012? Be ready for change, embrace it when it comes, and build a cohesive plan that integrates multiple online marketing disciplines. That’s what will give you the advantage you need to see the growth you want in the coming year.
If you’d like to get an extra advantage, study with the experts cited here with Market Motive’s self-paced online marketing training plan, or our 12-week coached Digital Marketing Certified Associate course.