14 Online Marketing Trends for 2014

14 Trends for 2014

If 2013 was the year of Panda updates, Instagram ads and Snapchat, 2014 will be the year of native advertising, content partnerships...and Snapchat.

Read on for the 14 trends that will have the largest impact in online marketing over the next year.

1. Native advertising

What is it?

High-quality content that appears within the context of a user's organic experience. If you have been on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at any point in the last few months, you have been surrounded by sponsored posts from brands that you may or may not follow. While they don't appear as blatant as banner ads, they are no less of an advertisement.

So what?

Native advertising, whether in the form of promoted social content, web films or interactive graphics, has the potential to subtly imbue brand messaging to the masses. While response rates for sales or leads may not match that of more direct advertising methods, the long term benefits of building brand equity cannot be overstated.

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2. Nofollow tag

What is it?

The rel="nofollow" link came into its own in 2013 as Google scrutinized link value with ever-increasing intensity. Originally created as an easy way to prevent robots from crawling all links on a page (i.e. blog comments), this snippet is now a hotly-debated method of playing defense in the SEO game.

So what?

As more and more ranking weight is being placed on the links coming into and going out of your website, it is crucial to understand how to treat links that exist both on your domain as well as offsite links you may be generating.

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User Level Email Marketing

3. User-level advertising

What is it?

If contextual, interest, demographic and placement-based targeting options just don't get your engine revving anymore, imagine a world where you can pinpoint specific people to display your messaging to. Facebook is already setting the bar high by allowing advertisers to upload customer email lists for direct targeting. A handful of other services (including Twitter and ReTargeter) are also making forays into this area.

So what?

Tying ads into a CRM or email database is the most targeted form of remarketing yet, and intelligent segmentation of customer data will present ample opportunity for targeted delivery of campaign messaging at specific points throughout the conversion cycle. While CPMs are expected to be higher using this methodology, ROI should be higher as well thanks to precise messaging opportunities. As more platforms opt-in to this form of tracking, advertiser exposure to individuals will continue to grow.

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Mobile First Design

4. Mobile-first Design

What is it?

No longer is it acceptable to launch a desktop website and figure out after the fact how to make the design crunch down to tablet and mobile sizes. Businesses launching or relaunching web sites today need to be designing mobile interfaces first, and then scaling up for desktop usage.

So what?

As of February 2013, a massive 37% of total time spent on the internet happens via a mobile device. Furthermore, 79% of people who don't like what they find on your mobile site will leave and search for another company. Companies with younger or more tech-savvy audiences can expect to see a majority of their visitors utilizing mobile and tablet devices, and offering optimized experiences for these users is paramount to ensuring brand engagement.

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5. Contextual Optimization

What is it?

Optimizing a product page vs. a content page vs. a location page should be very different processes. The "Mega-SERP" visualization from Moz is a great reference of the many different ways in which a page could appear in a Google search result page, underscoring the various page elements that could require optimization in any given circumstance.

So what?

SEOs too frequently treat the optimization process uniformly across a website, regardless of the type of content at hand. Attempting to prompt a Knowledge Graph entry for your company CEO is a vastly different undertaking than getting product reviews to appear in SERPs. Understanding from the outset what type of result your business will most benefit from can narrow the focus of search engine optimization campaigns and increase their effectiveness.

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6. Offline/Online Cohesion

What is it?

Syncing messaging, content and campaigns across multiple channels to ensure a cohesive audience experience no matter where or how they are encountering your brand. From social to email to remarketing ads, the tone of each platform may vary slightly, but the underlying messaging and value propositions of the brand should be steadfast.

So what?

If you've been paying attention to the "Assisted Conversions" report in Google Analytics, there's a good chance you've seen a distinct growth in the total number of conversions that have been influenced by two or more channels. As the web and user behavior on it continues to diversify, it becomes even more important to present a consistent story to your users.

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7. Network-Driven Engagement

What is it?

Who you know online dictates what you see and how likely you are to act upon that content. Case in point: Facebook's News Feed algorithm relies heavily on your network's level of interaction with a given status update in determining whether or not and how to display that update to you. The more your friends are interested in a link, photo or status, the more likely you are to see it.

So what?

It's already evident that who you connect with in social networking sites can dramatically impact the experience you have with both users and advertisers on that platform. Over the next year, we can expect this pattern to expand further into advertising methods and organic search results, where social signals are already playing a large role. Google's personalized results are currently based on the search history of a user, but could just as easily be impacted by the people and networks a user interacts with online.

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8. Redefining E-commerce Experience

What is it?

Selling a product online in 2014 will be less about the actual product and more about that product's associated lifestyle. While this is in no way a new concept, selling a lifestyle lends itself so much better to the content marketing and native advertising that will be leading the market in the next year.

So what?

There's only so much you can say about a product's specs, sizes and specials before customers get bored and move on. Expanding your product's application or usage to become a pivotal part of a desired lifestyle opens up many new channels for discussion while simultaneously granting your brand broader cultural significance.

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Fractured Social Audiences

9. Fractured Social Audiences

What is it?

Social behemoth Facebook continues growing, seeing a 25% increase in daily active users from last year, yet the network's fastest growing demographic is users age 45-54. On Twitter, the fastest growing age group is 55-64 year-olds, who have grown by 79% on the site since 2012. Despite the steady growth of social leaders Facebook and Twitter, the social space is becoming increasingly fragmented, especially amongst the highly targeted tween audience.

So what?

As older users adopt mainstream networks, younger users jump ship and look for the next It platform coming their way. Businesses incorporating younger audiences into their target market can no longer rely on Facebook and Twitter alone as a means of reaching teenagers. Developing a strategy to diversify social action into Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr (and even Snapchat--it's possible!) into 2014 marketing activities will be crucial.

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Brand Advocacy

10. Brand Advocacy

What is it?

Just as selling products online is increasingly less about the actual products (see "Redefining E-commerce" above), representing your brand online is increasing less about your brand and more about what your brand stands for.

So what?

In the past year, we saw a small but strong group of brands launch social advocacy campaigns aimed not at selling (not directly, anyway) but rather at building equity in the brand name. Chipotle followed up last year's Back to the Start video with another campaign The Scarecrow, again focusing on the theme of responsible farming practices. Oreo celebrated their 100 year anniversary with a 100 day campaign that included a Gay Pride day ad which went viral.

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11. Quantified Self

What is it?

Known as the "Quantified Self," the growth of self-analysis and measurement is stronger than ever and has given rise to an entire breed of products. Bands, clips, bits, ingestible pills and even smart refrigerators now exist specifically to measure your every movement and report back on the minutia of your daily life.

So what?

While this trend would appear at surface level to impact only product development, it has numerous implications for digital marketing. The Quantified Self movement is really all about an individuals desire to better know himself and measure his impact on the environment around him. Marketing campaigns designed around measurable, achievable outcomes tap into a similar vein. This phenomenon explains quite effectively the popularity of campaigns like Spotify's Year in Review and Foursquare's 4sq Day personalized infographics.

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12. Influencer Marketing

What is it?

Let's face it, consumers generally don't trust brands. While giant conglomerates have a difficult time appealing to individuals, friendly-faced bloggers can make a much easier sell. But getting influencers to feature your products these days goes far beyond offering free products in return for reviews and mentions.

So what?

When done right, influencer marketing benefits both parties involved and produces something that neither could achieve independently. Identifying audience influencers and seizing opportunities for unique content creation, event promotions or contest sponsorships is paramount in expanding brand reach. Simply relying on free product giveaways is as outdated as doing typical blogger outreach for linkbuilding purposes. Focus on each influencer partnership as a micro-campaign and seek out ways to blend your two brands in a complementary way.

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13. Data Security

What is it?

With all of 2013's hubub over the NSA's collection of online user information, there is an inevitable trend that will emerge demanding advanced security measures in all facets of online life.

So what?

While more and more user data is becoming available to advertisers online, maintaining a respectable distance (or appearance of such) from your users will keep you from being dubbed the "creepy advertiser." Onsite, having clearly published privacy and cookieing policies goes a long way towards encouraging broader transparency and earning user trust.

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Amazon Drone

14. On-Demand Everything

What is it?

Sometimes overnight shipping just isn't fast enough. Fortunately technology is close to a point where 2014 could see a drone-filled sky buzzing last-minute purchases to your doorstep on-demand. San Franciscans are already enjoying tacos on-demand thanks to Tacocopter, while Amazon says drone delivery is within reach.

So what?

Whether you are selling tacos, books or music downloads, instant gratification is key for a tide of impatient consumers. Already have fulfillment running at full steam? Providing consistent updates throughout the delivery process and enabling tracking mechanisms reduces purchaser anxiety while reinforcing your brand's commitment to customer service.

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How to Generate More Leads and Build Brand Recognition in 2014

These are the 14 trends that we see having the largest impact on digital marketing in 2014. Do you see other trends on the horizon? Share them in the comments below or tweet them to @theashleykemper!

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Comments

  1. Vanna said:

    This listing is very informative. I especially like the amazon drone part, I am wondering how many persons will be unemployed when this concept is up and running.

  2. Pragati said:

    Very informative and well written post, Ashley..I need to dive a bit deeper in contextual optimization.

    Thanks!

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