This article was updated on 5/6/2014.
2013 is the year of more comprehensive analytics, mobile marketing-galore, and a shift to high-ROI activities. It's never been more affordable to put together a highly effective online marketing campaign, given the tools that have been made available in the past two years.
Here are 13 online marketing trends that you should be ready to embrace in 2013:
1. User-Centric Analytics
In 2013, efforts to better track visitors across various devices and interactions will intensify, accelerated by an update to Google Analytics.
Photos courtesy of Jeff Sauer at Jeffalytics.com
- What is it? A way to track visitors more holistically, across devices and further through a sales funnel. Google Analytics just launched its beta version of what they’re calling Universal Analytics. It’s a much-needed and updated way to look at how we track Web users. It is expected to go live in early 2013.
- So what? Today’s Google Analytics gives us a narrow view of users: a cookie-based one. The big problem with cookies is that we lose them. We change from device to device, we go offline, we delete cookies, etc.
Instead of relying on cookies, the new Universal Analytics will assign a user ID to visitors, to which information can be appended.
What it will allow is for more comprehensive, user-centric data to be sent to Google Analytics servers from any environment. For example, imagine your website generates leads, which you then qualify and close over the phone. Until now, you’ve only been able to track those leads up to the point at which they become leads.
With Universal Analytics, you’ll be able to send data from your CRM back to Google Analytics with information about whether that visitor who then became a lead, in fact turned into a customer and how much revenue they generated. There are many more applications of it. E-commerce websites won’t be the only ones who’ll be able to attribute an ROI to their marketing channels! Currently it is in beta and we’ve got our hands on it at Blue Fountain Media, becoming familiar with the new protocol. As soon as it is available for public launch, we’ll be using it wherever applicable.
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2. Content Marketing
There’s never been a better time to be a content marketer than 2013. The value of content marketing has increased tremendously as search, social, email, and display channels are all beginning to rely on content as a marketing tool.
- What is it? There’s old school marketing, where you blast people with reasons why your company is great and then there’s content marketing. It’s where you demonstrate your expertise through the content you produce, whether that be articles on your website, industry publications, webinars, research papers, etc. It’s nothing new, though. It’s one of the ways David Ogilvy advertised for his ad agency in its early years. He’d write articles on what makes an effective advertisement, for example. The way to go about content marketing is to create a mission statement for your content and focus on quality over quantity.
- So what? In light of Google’s anti-spam, anti-thin content algorithm updates over the past 2 years, content marketing is by far the best long-term SEO strategy, and a great lead gen strategy for B2B companies. Rather than trying to get visitors to your website to get in touch with you immediately, have them download a whitepaper, sign-up for a webinar, or a newsletter instead. Your audience will be much more receptive to your message if they are getting real value from your content.
- To learn more
3. Integration of Social and Search
Social media is now a must-have for search marketers that would not typically be engaged in social.
- What is it? Social factors now influence both paid search advertising and search engine optimization. Marketers are now able to demonstrate their social influence on paid search ads and organic search results by linking either Google+ (on Google) or Facebook (on Bing) accounts with their website.
- So what? You’ll notice that AdWords paid search ads have Google+ 1 counts next to them. This affects click-through rates and a host of other factors such as AdWords Quality Score and cost per click. Google organic search listings include author information and you’ll see +1’s from people in your Google+ circles. Since search result click-through rates matter to Google, your Google+ 1’s will influence your rankings.
- Learn more:
4. Backlink Clean-up
Have you been naughty or nice? Santa (aka Google) is coming to town. If you’ve been using some less-than-ideal link building tactics, you’ll want to clean those up, or else...
- What is it? There was a time when low quality directory listings, reciprocal links, and paid links helped you rank better in organic search results. Those days are long gone. Both Google and Bing now pay attention to where your links are coming from. They’ve even provided a way in which website owners can “disavow” a link. Search engine optimizers are scrambling to review their website’s inbound links - links coming from other website to their website - with the goal of cleaning up unsavory links.
- So what? Google may penalize you for having links pointing to your website that clearly have no other purpose than to influence your organic rankings (that includes ones that you did not put there yourself). That means being vigilant about what sites are linking to you and being proactive in either getting the link removed or by using the disavow tool.
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As pressure increases to improve marketing ROI in 2013, remarketing is a clear winner.
- What is it? Remarketing is a way to show ads to visitors who visit your website in an effort to bring them back. You have the ability to choose what type of ads to serve these visitors of various pages of your website whether or not they leave without converting.
- So what? Remarketing is a great way to stretch marketing Dollars you are already spending on acquiring new traffic, thus improving overall return on investment. By spending just a small amount on remarketing, you can drastically reduce your overall cost-per-acquisition from whatever channel you may be bringing visitors in from to begin with - whether that be search engines, a display campaign, or email marketing.
- Learn more:
6. Responsive Design
You could drive yourself crazy by creating multiple websites for various types of devices, or you could create one to serve the needs of all device users, from desktops to small smartphones.
- What is it? It’s a type of website that can adapt to varying screen widths on-the-fly without needing the use of a separate mobile website design.
- So what? Not only is it a SEO best practice, a responsive website means that your website will be ready to handle nearly any new devices that come out on the market. For example, if you have a tablet version of your website that was built for the iPad, what do you do about the iPad mini and Nexus 7 tablets? Or if your mobile website was built for the iPhone 3G, you’re missing out on a lot of potential real estate offered by the Samsung GS III smartphone. You get the picture.
- Learn more:
- My article in Inc, "Say Hello to the One-Size-Fits-All Website"
- Google's recommendations for smartphone-optimized websites
- Some examples of responsive websites.
7. HTML5/CSS3 Usage
Increasing mobile Web usage and browser compatibility will make 2013 the breakout year for the widespread usage of HTML5 and CSS3 elements.
- So what? Some of the benefits of using HTML5 or CSS3 elements include faster page load times, better accessibility for mobile devices, and less time spent coding.
- Learn more:
8. Web Videos
As production and hosting costs are vanishing for Web video, it’s becoming a cost-effective solution for many business going into 2013.
- What is it? The usage of video for sales purposes on websites. It can be used in a variety of instances from explaining product benefits to taking website visitors behind the scenes at a company.
- So what? There are ways to embed lead generation forms into Web videos so as to get more results as well as track conversion rates for various videos. It’s important to not only have a well-planned video on your website, but to track it and use it to generate business.
- Learn more:
9. Mobile Advertising
Mobile advertising will go mainstream in 2013 as over 50% of the US adult population will own a smartphone or tablet.
- What is it? Just like you would show display or search ads to a desktop user, you can target mobile users while they browse the Web or from within some apps.
- So what? The market is still very unsaturated, meaning that there is a lot of potential eyeballs out there will little relative competition, when compared to other advertising channels. Smartphone users are also very action-oriented, meaning that if they are searching for something, it’s because they need it. Your ability to reach them at the right moment could mean major gains for your business. In all, the mobile advertising is going to be a cheap, high-potential arena for advertisers to explore in 2013.
- Learn more:
10. Better Display Targeting
With emerging ad targeting technology that provides pinpoint precision and the opening of the Facebook ad platform, advertisers will be exploring more effective methods of reaching the right audience in 2013.
- What is it? Today, it is possible to show ads to specific size companies, job functions, titles, locations, and more. A marketer can slice and dice all day long to come up with various industry segments and the type of ads to display.
- So what? Better display targeting means fewer Dollars wasted. It means a better marketing ROI and less time spent fielding unqualified leads. It gives smaller companies the capability to reach their target audience without spending a fortune.
- Learn more:
11. Email Remarketing Campaigns
Online retailers and lead gen marketers are coming around to the concept that abandons and bounces are part of the sales funnel. Email re-engagement has become easier than ever and represents a massive opportunity to take advantage of in 2013.
- What is it? When users abandon a shopping cart or a webform sign-up, an automated email is triggered to be sent 1 hr, 24 hrs, 3 days, and 7 days after abandonment with the objective of bringing that user back to the website.
- So what? Similar to display remarketing, email remarketing has a very low cost-per-acquisition (since the hard part of getting the user to the website in the first place has been done). According to SeeWhy, 8% of e-commerce shopping cart abandons will return to purchase if you do nothing, but up to 26% will return to purchase with email remarketing. Lead gen and e-commerce websites alike can use this technique to bring back potential sales. There are many reasons why users abandon your website. Most of them are still likely to want to do business with you. Email remarketing is the way to get them back!
- Learn more:
12. Search Retargeting
What has mostly been a niche marketing technique used by only some marketers will become semi-mainstream when Google brings search retargeting to AdWords in 2013.
- What is it? Search retargeting gives advertisers the ability to target ads at users with a specific search history. This means that you can decide to bid higher/lower, choose a specific ad or landing page for a particular keyword based on previous keywords that a user has searched for. Search retargeting can also be used in display advertising to show display ads to users who have a specific search history.
- So what? It’s just another way that ROI from online marketing can be optimized. Knowing a user’s search history means better understanding their intent and thus serving the right ads to the right users. It means fewer wasted Dollars on generic terms when there is not sufficient search history to justify the spend.
- Learn more:
13. Conversion Rate Optimization
Never have there been more online resources to learn about conversion rate optimization. It’s never been easier to run an A/B split test on your website. Earlier this year, Google made testing a feature in Google Analytics. In April, conversion rate optimization was explained on CNN - a big step forward for the industry.
- What is it? Rather than whimsically making changes to your website (changing content, design, etc) it is a much wiser approach to test each change you make with the goal of increasing the percentage of visitors who take a desired action such as fill out a Web form or purchase a product, etc. Conversion optimization is the process by which a Web page is optimized to increase the rate of conversions. That means taking a look at the where traffic is coming from, the messaging, imagery, and calls-to-action that all have role in whether or not a visitor will become your next customer. There is a science behind the methodology and can result in unbelievable gains in ROI.
- So what? Conversion rate optimization is the single most powerful way to increase your online marketing ROI. It astounds me to find out how few companies employ CRO as a regular practice when planning website changes. It’s become so easy these days to implement an A/B test that it’s silly to not do it. The hard part is knowing what to test. That’s why the average marketer should seek a consultant in the space. Otherwise, much time and money can be wasted waiting around for inconclusive test results.
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