by: Kaysha Kalkofen and JoAnna Dettmann (featured in chiefmarketer.com)
Trends come, trends go—such is the ebb and flow of the digital marketing world. That’s why when it comes to navigating the necessities of strategy and budget for the year ahead, business owners often feel they are in unchartered waters.
There are more media choices today than ever before, and companies are left competing for less attention on an endless number of platforms. Here’s five digital marketing movements that you should pay attention to in 2017:
- Native Ads (Advertorials). This genius blend of an advertisement and an editorial features sponsored content on a website that looks and feels like an editorial piece. Native ads fit the style of the website on which they are hosted, but typically include a call-to-action within the content that links you to the sponsor’s website. These covert ads are often seen on publishing websites—such as Forbes or BuzzFeed—and can come in many different forms. During the height of the 2016 presidential election, for example, news sites were filled with sponsored ad content posing as heated political commentary.
With ad blockers becoming more advanced, native advertising is designed to blend into the scenery of the content. We recommend our clients invest in native ads because they engage readers and aid in link building for search engine optimization (SEO). It’s important to remember, though, that to be effective, your advertorial must seamlessly tie into the content of the website on which it is hosted. For example, a native ad about a particular cheese platter you sell would be well received on a website that gives party planning advice. The same advertorial, however, would not lend itself to a fashion blog about shoes.
- Trusted Testimonials. Testimonials may not be a new concept, but in 2017 business owners must think outside of the “traditional testimonial” box. It is no longer adequate to simply gather reviews in local directories. Now, testimonials can be coded so that search engines recognize them as such, making them ever-more-valuable pieces of website content. The more reviews you have on your website, the more prominently placed your site is likely to be in search engine results. Testimonials should live in various places throughout your website including the home page, the contact page, and any page on which the quote is relevant to the rest of the content. It’s also beneficial to feature various types of demographics and different types of buyers to showcase a variety of products you sell or problems your company solves.
- Mobile Mainstay. Fifty percent of searches are now conducted on mobile devices. It should come as no surprise, then, that including a mobile strategy in your digital marketing plan is a must. For many of our clients, mobile website traffic is actually surpassing desktop traffic, and we expect this trend to continue. If you’re not sure if your website has mobile mojo, you can simply visit your website from your phone and observe how the site displays on the screen. The overall look and feel of the site should change on mobile devices. For example, call-to-action buttons may be larger and content may be formatted in a more simplistic manner. Ultimately, mobile optimization is vital to creating a seamless experience for a large portion of consumers, so take the time to develop a responsive design rather than a separate mobile site.
- Voyage into Video. Another area not likely to diminish any time soon, video is an essential tool in your digital marketing arsenal. YouTube is the second most used search engine (after Google) and offers vast opportunities to capture the attention of the viewer. Digital video provides an array of other formats as well, including webinars, videos made for Instagram, and 360-degree videos. Plus, live streaming is becoming more and more prevalent, so honing in on your video strategy is increasingly important. The recent launch of Facebook Live has further secured this medium’s place within any company’s marketing mix. We see companies utilizing live video in increasingly varied ways—new product launches, demos, guided tours, and addressing media crises, to name a few. Bonus: Through the use of live video chat interactions, companies can increase customer satisfaction by engaging with customers in real time.
- Virtual Reality (VR). Though still very new, and possibly a little early for adoption in some cases, virtual reality is more than a technology to watch—it’s a marketing opportunity that will soon be impossible to ignore. By creating virtual narratives that resonate with their target audiences, companies can leverage the mysticism of VR to drive sales and build customer relationships.
For example, hiking boot manufacturer Merrell created a campaign called Trailscape in which users could actually walk around with a VR headset. They sent users on an immersive, virtual journey in which they felt like they were hiking across a crumbling ledge and over a treacherous wooden bridge high in the mountains. This type of experience is inherently more engaging than other forms of digital marketing because users are completely absorbed in the content with fewer distractions. Plus, because the concept is novel, consumers are likely to remember the experience for much longer—as least for now. While it’s mostly larger companies who can afford the luxury of incorporating VR into their marketing budgets, medium-sized companies will gain access as it gains in popularity and pricing becomes more competitive.