If you’re ever tempted to grow weary of being told how much the digital marketing landscape has changed, is changing, and will change, we suggest accepting the fact that this particular broken record will never stop repeating. Complacency is common in marketing. As much as they’d hate to admit it, once a business finds a combination of marketing strategies that work, it’s tempting to let them run their course.
Sure, it might work for a time, but where they’re losing out is in the optimization that comes with an evolving technological world. Will the car you had when you were 20 still get you from point A to point B? It probably will. Are there better options now? There certainly are. We’re not here to speak in parables, so let’s jump into some ways the marketing forefront is becoming an intricate dance between long proven foundational strategies and new, burgeoning technological frontiers.
Surprise, Content Wins Again
Actually, not a surprise at all. Content has long been the foundation of digital marketing. If a business is selling a product in any industry, people want to see that a business knows what they’re talking about. They want subject matter expertise. Content is where this is proven, which Danny Star — namesake of SEO Expert Danny — echoes:
“Writing relevant and original content, optimizing it and using trusted links is the foundation of any successful strategy, especially in 2019. This is mainly due to the evolution of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Google’s goal is not just to bring answers anymore but to actually predict user intent. An advanced level of keyword research and choice is essential. So is focusing on UX, a practice based on getting user’s insights, understanding and even predicting their needs, values, skills, and limitations. So your content not only needs to be original but also useful.”
His last few sentiments are important to note. Just because there’s content on your website doesn’t mean it’s good content. Chris Simental from Ripe Media reflects on this:
“If you’re feeling like time spent writing, editing, and posting to your website is getting you nowhere, it could mean you need to focus more on a content marketing strategy. Consistently following through on a smart, calculated strategy can greatly improve SEO, develop thought leadership, and convert leads into sales.”
Content purely being there is no longer enough to fool the search engine gods into thinking that it’s worthy to rank highly on the SERPs.
“I realize this answer might sound a little old school at this point due to the speed of change in the marketing landscape, but content will still reign most important for your SEO efforts in 2019. With this being said, one big shift that has happened is the movement towards higher quality content versus higher frequency content. Of course, high quality and high quantity is optimal, but if you have to choose, go with quality,” says David Reimherr of Magnificent Marketing.
Merely inundating your site visitors with a constantly updated wall of text that isn’t necessarily your shiniest work is no longer a prudent or effective content strategy. Which leads us to honestly ask: What do we optimize for?
Are We Optimizing Our Content For The Right Things?
Metonymy Media’s Ryan Brock has an answer to this guiding question:
“2019 is the year of the Hero’s Journey. Brands who want to make a real impact with content as part of a digital strategy need to put some serious effort into mapping the stories of their customers to content. When it comes time for your customer to solve their problem, your content should be there to guide them to the tools they need—the tools your brand offers. That’s what makes conversions happen.”
Who would’ve thought that for a marketing strategy to turn human customers into sales you’d have to actually market with humans in mind? We covered the fact that content has to grab customers and not purely be speaking to the search engine, but there are certain technical aspects of user experience that will draw people in or turn them away.
“Link building and content generation are still important aspects of our SEO campaigns, but two things we see a lot of other SEO agencies overlooking that are just as important are technical SEO and user experience. If a website loads slowly or if pages aren’t constructed so that visitors turn into leads, what’s the point of driving traffic to the site?” remarks April Gilmore from ClickFirst Marketing.
She’s right, too. Your SEO can be on point, but if your website’s user experience is terrible, you’ll find people bouncing in the lagging seconds it takes your sluggish page to load. There are faster sites out there, guaranteed. It’ll only take them seconds to find them, too.
Fortunately, technical advancements are happening daily that are aimed at making UX better than ever.
“Tools are the new traffic magnet,” says Rosemary Brisco of ToTheWeb Marketing Agency. “Online tools that are highly useful to your target audience have the power to drive targeted traffic – for free – year over year.”
There are countless tools to take advantage of. With Google absorbing the bulk of online searches across the world, they’ve developed their own toolbox meant for helping businesses get to more customers. Adam Broetje of Odd Dog Media notes this:
“We are seeing a heavy investment and lots of new features continuing to come out for Google My Business, which shows Google’s continued focus on refining Local Search. We see this trend of Local Search evolution continuing well into at least 2020 as the major search engines refine and improve their offerings to engage businesses.”
Local Search is incredibly important because if people find a local business through Google search, they’re much more likely to buy from there. People inherently trust something closeby versus across the country or hundreds of miles away.
Carlton Smith of Flagstone Search Marketing even goes so far as to say it’s more important than more traditional marketing techniques:
“In my opinion, some marketers and businesses give too much weight and consideration to Organic SEO and PPC. If you are a local business, appearing in Google Maps Local 3-Pack is the most vital activity you can do to increase phone calls, leads, and customers,” he says. “Google Ads and first-page organic results both fall behind the 3-Pack because people don’t find paid ads to be as trustworthy or relevant in search engine results.”
The Google Maps 3-Pack, if you’re unfamiliar, is the map with three local business locations bundled together at the top of the SERPs. It’s a powerful place to be and wonderful tool that Google has there waiting for you to start utilizing.
Then, there’s the beyond.
Some Even Newer Territory
We’re certainly not abandoning the successfully long-established marketing strategies, but we can’t ignore that new tech is emerging that would’ve been thought science fiction not so long ago. Tina Arnoldi of 360 Internet Strategy agrees:
“Sales of smart speakers will grow by 50%, and the market will reach $2.7B this year. As more people use these devices to search by voice, consider converting existing content to a Q & A format. People are inviting you to speak to them in their home or office. There’s no better opportunity than that.”
When someone’s at home shouting at Alexa to look up different local plumbers for their sink faucet that won’t stop drip drip dripping, it’s your job to think about how your marketing strategy will take natural language into account. Massive Impressions’ Jason Pelish has similar thoughts:
“Engaging with traffic effectively in 2019 is about messaging that keeps peoples shrinking attention. However, driving traffic effectively now and in the future means getting AI to understand who your message has value to.”
Notice how both of these quotes spoke of advanced technology, but everything still boiled down to content. As technology changes, the way and style which content is delivered must evolve.
Natural language processing, smart speakers, AI, digital assistants, machine learning, bot powered chat, you name it. Tech is advancing so fast that classic content marketing has to adapt. Why? Marketing strategies are sentient yet and won’t notice that they’ve fallen behind, but your business certainly will. Don’t let that happen.
Keep your finger on the pulse, and move with the flow of marketing.