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2013: The Next Evolutionary Step For Online Marketing

Graeme Benge

by Graeme Benge on 17th December 2012

Has 2012 been a year of revolution or evolution? It’s tough to pick out any one event that has turned online marketing on its head, so I’m leaning toward evolution. Maybe you disagree, maybe Yelp publicly outing fake reviews was a tipping point, maybe the Google Penguin was akin to an algo-apocalypse…?

With that in mind, and having no soothsaying qualifications whatsoever, I’m looking forward to next year and picturing more concept developments taking place as opposed to the dawning of a new era.

Responsive Design

Responsive design emerged this year as the concept by which site owners could make a serious impact on the consumer experience they provide. Having your site automatically render for desktop, mobile and tablets (and remember mobile and tablets do stand apart) strips away a barrier, generates a trust signal and engages your site users from the nanosecond they arrive.

It’s reported that whilst mobile web consumption is on a massive increase and tablet sales are flying (what recession?), desktop sales have plateaued. It’s clear to see accessibility is an infinite truth. No matter who you’re trying to engage, take down barriers and you’ll surely find larger audiences.

HTML5

HTML5 will not disappear. As the “next major revision in HTML standard”, HTML5 will edge closer to its end goal as browser usage matures. Structured data will become as standard as an basic on-page optimisation.

Meanwhile I can’t see Adobe allowing market share to erode significantly. Could a cheaper and effective developer’s kit appear on the scene next year? I can’t see that happening.

Advertising Platforms Will Evolve

Real time bidding as a model started to show its head and whilst I don’t expect it to feature in every online marketing plan, the saturation of other advertising platforms as well as the instant gratification (if successful) could tempt more retailers into adopting the model.

In 2013 I suspect the main movement in this field will be the promotion of more real-time bidding by publishers and software companies more so than a massive increase in adoption by advertisers.

Audience Building
I’ve a feeling we may see more emphasis from SEOs on building responsive audiences. In the wake of the Panda-guin massacres of 2012, it is now more important than ever to have an insurance policy. Should your site be built on search engine results and for whatever reason you disappear from said search engine results, you will lose traffic. You will lose money. Lots of it. One because the site will stop paying its way and two because you’ll need to employ a strategy (and ahem, quite possibly an award winning Online Marketing Agency) to resuscitate the site. Even then I’m not convinced recovery can be achieved 100%. The trust is gone. You’ve changed.

In 2013 I can see Conversion Rate Optimisation become more of a required skill as opposed to a sought after, desirable one. Converting site traffic to engaged users that buy from you and interact with you via email or social platforms will be the insurance you’ll have against search engine penalisation. It could also become a welcome boost to takings.

Taking the doom on another step, 2013 could well be the year negative SEO becomes more prevalent. As PPC becomes even more saturated and average CPCs in the competitive markets soar to astronomical heights, some dastardly individuals will capitalise on this and tempt business owners into employing decidedly dubious tactics.

Whistle Blowing

I was full of admiration following Yelp’s decision to name and shame fake reviewers. As an advertising platform you’re in a bit of a tough spot balancing the needs of your users with retaining your immediate sponsors. But these platforms need credibility, which is the essence of their proposition – providing information so people can make informed choices. Better to take an active stance on gamers than to hold off until your credibility suffers a crippling blow.

In 2013 I think we’ll see even more of this. I don’t doubt that some publishers will tighten up the enforcement of their t’s and c’s and deal with transgressors behind closed doors. What Yelp did could have been viewed as publicity savvy, but fair play to them.

On a similar (name and shame) note, Google’s disavow tool looks to be fraught with unintended consequences. I think this may be re-thought (probably under the guise of an “update”).Using the tool to highlight links you’re concerned with may highlight that there are concerns Google should be having with your site. Bit like turkeys voting for Christmas.

Cashless Society

When all is said and done every endeavour carried out by readers and writers of this blog is essentially to make someone some money. It has amazed me that despite its dominance, Paypal is not as ubiquitous as you would think. It is seemingly the most secure way of moving money and yet is only now appearing as a payment method on eCommerce sites. I can see this developing in 2013 for a couple of reasons.

Firstly I think there is some momentum behind the adoption of Paypal , more and more sites are making more of Paypal as a means to complete online transactions with them. Also other names are beginning to come on the scene; not so much in direct competition with Paypal for online transactions, but for providing similar services that Paypal should have diversified into. Square for instance provide cash free payment solutions and digital vouchers redeemable at the point of sale via electronic readers.

Google
And what about the Big G? Not one for sitting on its laurels, Google will no doubt unleash further product enhancements next year.

Social: Will this be the year social becomes an ever more tangible ranking factor. Google+ now has a large membership, Facebook notwithstanding, however the bulk of the membership is either commercial or related to commercial ventures, not just regular people. I actually like the space, layout and mix of media that the desktop offers. Not so keen on the mobile offering however and as my Facebook usage is probably 95% through my smartphone; for me to increase my usage of Google+, the mobile experience needs to get better. I thought Pinterest achieved this recently after taking a while to release something.

PPC: AdWords spent a good portion of late 2012 really selling the Remarketing product and the low CPAs seen in the main should see the uptake increase. I wonder if there is a privacy issue that whilst covered in Google strict application of its Remarketing t’s and c’s, could blow up from a publicity point of view, should their policing fail and something like a class action hit them.

Analytics: 2012 heralded the concept of User Centric Analytics where data evolves from being analysed on an aggregate level and is based on actual users. At this point, identifying your customer profiles will become so much more important and also hugely beneficial. You’ll start to understand how the site achieves what it does!

I think we can also expect to see the development of cross device tracking become a feature of marketing analysis. With the adoption of smartphone technologies, the daily deluge of new apps on the market, the further roll out of 4g networks, will see us consuming content using multiple devices. It’s going to make sense to understand what part that plays in your business. It won’t be crucial for all businesses, but those that can leverage the data are going to be in the position to be seen at the point the decision is made to purchase.

Conclusion

I’m sure there are other developments I’ve missed worth including here so let me know what you think will rock 2013. I imagine though that the key themes of usability, access and “big/micro” data will produce the most significant areas of change in the industry and I don’t doubt there will be some controversy thrown in the mix too, as greater transparency is demanded of all online entities, be it advertisers, publishers or search engines.

Image Credits:

2013 image from Bigstock

Audience image from Bigstock

Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge

With five years background in Travel, Graeme has built up strong commercial experience alongside online and offline marketing skills working with a variety of Travel Agents and Cruise Specialists. A passionate advocate of SEO and Social Media, Graeme has a strong interest in ROI and analytics in order to deliver the best level of returns.

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