As we approach the end of 2013, I’ve been reflecting on how much online marketing has changed over the past few years, and where it’s headed in 2014.

In 2012, we saw Google move local business listings from Google Places over to Google’s social media platform, Google+. Then in 2013, Google AdWords advertising accounts were all transitioned to use Enhanced campaigns in response to the explosive growth of tablet and mobile device internet usage. Just about everyone (including my mom!) now owns at least one mobile device, and uses it to access the internet daily.  Plus, “wearables” like Google Glass and smart watches are making many sci-fi movie scenes a reality.

The countless Google algorithm updates like Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird continue to refine Google’s search results.  And I’m sure you heard all the news surrounding the Facebook and Twitter IPOs. That’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to highlight how far we’ve come in a very short time frame.

Online marketing has evolved so much that I recently wrote an article about how SEO Is No Longer Just Search Engine Optimization.  The lines between online marketing tactics are getting more blurry by the day.  And as those lines blur, the idea that you can use just one tactic like SEO, advertising, email, or social media, is no longer valid.

Source: New Blood


My Predictions

I predict in the very near future, there will be no such thing as an SEO campaign, or a social media campaign, or an online ad campaign. Instead of “siloed” tactics, successful online marketing will require many different intertwined disciplines.

As an example, let’s look at search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is no longer just about optimizing your website for Google.  It’s also about optimizing for mobile traffic since mobile internet usage is on pace to overtake desktop internet usage in about a year. Successful SEO also requires social media, publicity, website design and usability, and conversion rate optimization.  Ignore any of those and you’ll struggle to get and stay ranked in Google.

If online marketing tactics are quickly melding together, then what does that mean for your 2014 marketing plan?

In my view, the future of online marketing is all about engagement.  The businesses that engage with their target market online will come out on top in 2014.  The businesses that ignore engagement will continue to see traffic, leads, and sales drop off.


What Is Engagement?

Engagement is how you form relationships with your prospects and customers online.  Publishing high-quality informational and/or entertaining articles, webinars, videos, and podcasts is a form of engagement.  Starting and entering conversations online is another example.  Continuing conversations via email is yet another example.

Social media websites already measure engagement by the number of likes, shares, retweets, etc.  Google measures engagement in their search engine by a website’s click-through rate, time on site, and number of links from other websites.  Google AdWords measures and rewards advertisers with their quality score, which ensures that the most engaging ads are at the top of the first page.

And social media has been bringing this concept of engagement to the forefront of online marketing.


Why Is Engagement The Key To Your Success?

The short answer to this question is that your customer is now demanding it.  Because of social media, the era of purely transactional marketing is over.

If you have fantasies about building an e-commerce website, ranking it in Google, and then sitting on the beach while your bank account grows, then you’re in for a rude awakening.  It’s not happening.  Faceless businesses that churn through customers and do not contribute to the online community are not going to thrive.

Google has always been crystal clear about their mission, and they will remove businesses from their organic results and their ad results that do not provide a great experience for their users.  Facebook uses their EdgeRank to weed out business posts that their users don’t interact with.  In both cases, Google and Facebook are measuring how their users are engaging with businesses on their platform.  When you make their users happy, then they reward you with even more exposure.  If you don’t engage with their users, then they penalize you with lower search rankings, less ad exposure, and less distribution (reach) for your posts.


To Succeed, Enter the Conversation

One of the best pieces of marketing advice comes from advertising expert, Robert Collier, who said, “Always enter the conversation already taking place in the prospect’s mind.”  That’s the key to success with any marketing campaign.  By entering the conversation already taking place in your prospect’s mind, you are guaranteed to be engaging.

Unlike decades ago when Robert was advertising via direct mail and print ads, the conversations are now openly taking place online.  So the question is no longer “What is on your prospect’s mind?” The question is, “Are you going to enter the conversation, or is your competitor?”

In 2014, the most engaging businesses will get the most traffic, leads and sales from online marketing.  Keep this in mind as you create your marketing plan for next year.