It’s a busy time of year here at Ontario SEO. Many of our clients view the new year as a great time to refresh their marketing strategy and re-evaluate how they can continue to grow their businesses in 2018. That means we are busy analyzing and reporting so we can provide our clients with data-driven recommendations to drive more leads and conversions online.
The beginning of a new year is also the time when all the major players in digital marketing put out their predictions for the following year. So, rather than read dozens of blogs on what you should be doing in 2018, we have summarized the digital marketing trends we think you should be thinking about when making your 2018 business plan.
2018 Trends to Watch
(the quick list, since you are not likely to read this whole thing)
- Site Speed
- Content, Context & Relevance
- Position Zero
- Voice Search
- Facebook Ads
- Amazon Ads
- Machine Learning & Automation
- Legal Stuff
- Nerdy Stuff
If you only do one thing this year, it should be to make sure your website is as fast as possible.
We have known for years that having a mobile-friendly website is critically important to your search rankings. In the fall of 2017 we started to suspect that page-load times (particularly on homepages) were significantly impacting organic traffic. In addition to these signals, our Google Partner communications regularly included discussions on improving mobile speed performance. Just last week, Google announced that starting in July 2018 page load speed will become a ranking factor in the search algorithm1.
So, what does this mean for your website? It means it better get quick, quick! According to Google, 40% of consumers will abandon a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. What constitutes an acceptable page load time is up for some debate, but most studies agree that page abandonment increases exponentially after about 5 seconds. 3 seconds may be unachievable for some websites, so aiming for under 5 seconds should be a realistic goal.
How do you improve your site speed? It’s time to run some checks using Google’s recommended tools Lighthouse or PageSpeed Insights and get in touch with your developer. There are a number of quick fixes (compressing images, leveraging browser caching), but significant speed changes may require more substantial development work. At Ontario SEO we are getting excited about things like critical rendering paths and AMP (accelerated mobile pages). Stay tuned to our blog for updates on these technical SEO developments.
A digital marketer’s favourite phrase is “Content is King”, but as we all know, mobile has dramatically changed how consumers interact with your business. We live in a world where we expect everything at our fingertips; with mobile devices in our pockets, voice-activated devices in our homes & cars, and smart appliances in our homes, marketing with context and relevance in mind will be what distinguishes your business in a competitive digital landscape.
In 2018, having a website that ranks well in search on a desktop is probably just not good enough anymore. You need to be found at any (and arguably every) touchpoint on your users’ path to purchase; flipping through Facebook at home, looking for something on search at work, or searching for your business in Google maps while driving. It’s time to think about (if you are not already) a holistic digital marketing strategy that includes SEO, Social Media Advertising and Paid Search Advertising.
To execute this, you will need great content that is targeted at each touchpoint in your customer journey. This can include blogs, videos, social media posts, email campaigns, paid search ads, remarketing and more.
Search Engine Optimization changes all the time and 2018 will be no exception. At Ontario SEO we are very interested in the changes happening with Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business), and the Knowledge and Answer Boxes. Some marketers have dubbed this “position zero”; because your business appears above all the other listings on the page. Achieving the coveted spot in the answer or knowledge box does not follow the “traditional” rules of SEO; it’s got little to do with your ranking position. Around here we are focused on finding ways to “win” position zero and leverage the new features available in Google Business Profile (they are making regular changes).
The good news is that if you have a sound technical SEO strategy with content that is informative & relevant to search queries, you have a good chance of winning position zero. We are experimenting with new ways to leverage schema, query-based content, and rich snippets to make sure our clients have the best chance of gaining this valuable position.
Every single marketer this year is talking about voice search. Many marketers think 2018 will be “the year of voice search”, while others think the technology is too new to see any sweeping changes to search algorithms. Either way, with millions of new search-enabled devices, sold this holiday season, voice search is going to be important in the coming years, so it’s probably best to start thinking about it now.
We think optimizing for voice search is going to be very similar to optimizing for “position zero”. A focus on solid technical SEO with effective use of schema will likely be critically important. A comprehensive content strategy that will answer any question your customers might have will also be important. Start building out your query-based content now, so your website will be ready to answer when the voice-query comes to call.
“Hey, Google. How do I get more leads for my business?”
“Okay I found this: Call Ontario SEO”
Okay so Facebook Ads have been around for a while, but at Ontario SEO we saw tremendous growth in the opportunities on Facebook in 2017. For many of our clients, we think Facebook is going to be a critical component of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for 2018 as well.
Facebook Ad costs are cheaper than Google**, and for many of our clients, we are seeing higher engagement and conversion when compared with Google Display. We are starting to recommend small Facebook ad campaigns to many of our clients, as Facebook has an incredibly detailed ability to target your potential customers, for a relatively low cost.
There are a couple of caveats here of course. Since Facebook is effective, it is growing fast! This means the competition for ad space is growing quickly. Facebook has indicated they are reaching a maximum to the ad load on the platform, so that also means clicks will be more and more expensive. It is really easy to waste money on Facebook (we have all seen and ignored those completely irrelevant ads in our newsfeeds). With rising costs and competition, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a solid strategy and a good understanding of how to measure the effectiveness of Facebook ads before you launch that campaign.
We don’t have a whole lot to say here yet, but Amazon has recently opened its advertising to businesses that are not selling on their platform. This represents new ad potential for local businesses. Add on top of their impressive technological developments in off-line retail (have you seen this video?!) and the huge number of Alexa-enabled devices now in your customer’s homes. We think Amazon ads will be a big growth segment in digital advertising this year. Stay tuned.
In 2017, Ontario SEO saw some impressive successes with video. Using video on social ads gained us consistently better engagement & more conversions for our clients who were brave enough to invest in it, plus the intended brand lift. Video advertising on YouTube also allowed us to reach much larger audiences, for a relatively low cost (relative to Google Display).
If you are not using video in your digital marketing, it’s time to consider it. Experts are extolling the success of Facebook Video and Facebook Live. While YouTube continues to be the second largest search engine in the world. Video is also a great opportunity to broaden your brand recognition and build your audiences for search, display & social ads. So, if you are trying to expand your customer base this year, video should play a part.
Machine learning and automation is having sweeping impacts on both SEO and Paid Digital Advertising. As the search engine algorithms (or the Google Brain) get better at predicting human behaviour, expect some aspects of SEO to get more difficult. The good news is that if you are already focused on optimizing for your customers (not the algorithms) this should work out in your favour.
As in many sectors, automation is having some pretty significant impacts in Pay Per Click management (both Social & Search). A number of tools are now allowing us to become incredibly sophisticated in targeting potential clients. Google is really pushing automated bidding strategies over manual bidding in AdWords. However, around here we are still wary of fully trusting automated campaigns & tools. We have seen CPCs and conversion costs skyrocket on automated campaigns. As average users continue to adopt these easy-to-use tools, even those of us who are running well-managed manual campaigns might start to see the cost of clicks rise. So, well we are keeping up to date and experimenting with these automation tools, we are only adopting them slowly and thoughtfully. We recommend you do the same.
There are several legislative changes going on in major world markets that may have some significant impacts on Facebook and Google, and therefore on how digital marketing is delivered. We are keeping on eye on the changes in net-neutrality in the US and the new “General Data Protection Regulation” in the EU, so we can respond appropriately for our clients in those markets.
As usual, this blog post has ended up longer than I intended, but here are a few more thoughts on the more “nitty gritty” things happening in digital marketing in 2018:
- Emotional analytics
As we expand our adoption of Facebook, YouTube and other social advertising mediums, we will be more focused on our ability to measure how engaged and satisfied people are with our ads.
- PhigitalDefinition: A digital strategy that blends seamlessly with the in-person experience with your business.While this term was probably coined by some millennial in a nap pod, we still think it’s going to be of growing importance. Amazon is at the forefront here with their new integrations between online shopping and in-store experiences (Amazon Go, Best Buy).
- Knowledge-Based TrustFake news was all the rage in 2017. We expect Google and Facebook to put a lot more development into identifying trusted sources for information. Google already has a patent on an algorithm that identifies information as factual. Since most of our clients are not propaganda machines, we look forward to seeing how we can leverage these updates for our clients.
- Emotional analytics
So, there you have it, our rather-long list of things to pay attention to in 2018. If your business is looking to grow in 2018 give us a call. Let’s talk more about how these trends are relevant to your digital marketing strategy.