When I started my digital marketing career in 2006, I had a flip phone that couldn’t connect to the Internet. I was able to bid and pay only $0.10 per click on Google and Yahoo for a lot of high volume, core keywords. Facebook didn’t have an ad network. And retargeting advertising didn’t exist.
Now, fast forward to 2018, cue up Bob Dylan’s, The Times They are a Changin’, and let’s take a look at the top 5 trends that are a changin’ the rules of digital marketing…
Go Mobile or Go Home
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly yet, then it’s time to take your head out of the sand. Actually, the time was last year, but better late then never! Not only are more and more of your prospective customers using mobile devices to find your products and services, but Google is about to change the entire search landscape with a massive mobile update.
That update is called the Mobile-First Index.
Up until now, Google has been reading the computer version of your website to make decisions about how to rank your business in the search results. By “computer version” I mean the page you see when you visit your website on a desktop or laptop computer. In 2006, all we had to worry about was the computer version of your website because that’s all anyone was using to visit websites.
But the times they keep on a changin’ and now more people use their mobile phone than their computer to surf the internet and search in Google! In other words, Google’s users are mobile users and Google needs to adapt or risk losing their market share…
Google did adapt and instead of going to the computer version of your website, Google is going to first look at the mobile version of your website. Makes sense, right? If more people are searching on mobile devices in Google, then of course Google should make ranking decisions based on the mobile version of websites.
That’s what the Mobile-First Index is all about. Google will now make ranking decisions using your mobile website, not your computer website. Small change that could have a huge impact on your search engine rankings.
To see if you have any issues to fix, go test your website using Google’s free tool. For many websites, the best solution is to install a mobile responsive theme in a content management system like WordPress.
It’s Crowded On Page 1
Below is a screenshot of a search I just did for “physical therapist” and I highlighted in yellow what I see above the fold (without scrolling down).
This is a huge difference from what the first page of Google used to look like. There used to be 3 advertisers at the top, then the organic results, and ads all along the right column.
Now, there are no ads along the right column and only 2 ad spots at the top. That’s a big deal, and it doesn’t take a PhD in economics to figure out that fewer ad spots means more competition, and more competition means higher ad costs. We’ll talk more about this in a minute, but let’s talk about what else is now on the first page of Google.
How about that big map with 3 businesses listed underneath? That’s not very new, but with only 2 ads, the map has now moved up higher, and for this particular search, the organic (SEO) listings are no longer above the fold! That means if you’re ranking #1 organically for “physical therapist” (but not in the map results), then fewer people are clicking on your website because your link isn’t showing up until people scroll down.
Does that mean SEO is dead? Of course not, but it does highlight the need to diversify. You can’t rely on traditional organic SEO alone. To maximize your results from digital marketing you’ll need to also test ads and improve your local SEO rankings so your business shows in those coveted map results above the fold.
Advertising Costs Are Rising
The days of 10 cent clicks are long gone. Now it’s more like $10+ clicks in many markets and there’s no sign of these costs going down any time soon. Be prepared for costs to keep rising in 2018 as Google tries to squeeze as much money out of their search results as possible.
That just means the stakes are higher with AdWords, Facebook Ads, and any other ad network, and businesses can no longer afford to make rookie mistakes. In 2006, I learned on the job and made about every mistake possible before I figured out what worked with pay per click (PPC) ads. That wasn’t so bad since clicks were just pennies and dimes. Now, mistakes can cost thousands of dollars so it’s important to seek expert advice when you’re ready to test advertising online.
Voice Search Is On the Rise
Last year Alexa made her way into my apartment and my 4-year old daughter, Violet, can get her favorite song to play better than me or my wife can. I figure I’m one year away from Violet learning how to order food and new toys on her own just by talking to Alexa… That’s about 5 years before my wife and I learn how to do that! :)
But that’s another discussion… The important point here is that more and more people are learning how to use voice search on their mobile phones and smart speakers like Alexa. This is a big trend that is affecting search engine optimization (SEO).
As you can imagine, searches from voice tend to be much longer phrases so “long tail” keywords will play an even more important role in how businesses optimize their websites. Plus, voice search can pull answers from rich snippets. If you’re not familiar with Schema, then now is a good time to get up to speed so you can take advantage of all the rich snippet options available.
Last but not least, this is yet another reminder to make sure your website is mobile-friendly. When prospective customers talk into their phones to search, then guess what, they are going to be on their phone when they review your website.
It’s More Personal Than Ever
Personalization is nothing new, but we will see more of it in 2018. I mentioned how ad costs are rising and one way advertisers are able to maintain profitability is with hyper-targeted, more personalized ads. In other words, rather than displaying ads when anyone searches for dental implants, you can now limit your targeting to only women, ages 45-54, within 20 miles of your office, in the top 10% income bracket, on a mobile device, during regular office hours, and not a previous patient based on a list of patient emails and phone numbers. Similarly, you could use those targeting options on the Google Display network, along with contextual targeting and behavioral targeting to ensure your ads are in front of exactly the kind of prospect you want to target.
On Facebook, your targeting options are nearly endless and also include previous buying behavior. While a bit scary to think that that information is available on consumers, it’s also very exciting from the advertiser’s perspective! And when used correctly, it allows businesses to create hypertargeted, more personal ads that prospective customers actually want to engage with. That’s the secret to digital marketing success in 2018.