Well, 2019 is off to a fast-paced start around the office, as we have been strategizing and positioning our clients to have exceptional success with digital marketing in 2019. We have been thinking about our 2019 predictions for a few weeks now but forgive us – we finally have just found the time to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard???)!
Before we jump into our ideas for 2019, let’s review what happened in digital marketing in 2018. If you missed that blog you can check out our 2018 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch
Digital Marketing Trends 2018 Recap
YOUR SITE IS TOO SLOW….no really, it is probably still too slow! Do a test and see how your website stacks up next to your customer expectations: Page Speed Insights
Content, Context & Relevance
We saw many significant Google algorithm updates in 2018 that make context and relevance in your content more important than ever.
As we predicted position zero has been taking up more and more space in the Google search results. We have achieved some wins for our clients, but we also have had some losses too as answer boxes usurp their long-held search positions.
We are keeping a watchful eye on Google’s continued attempts to keep users on their platforms, not our websites.
Every. Single. Marketer. Predicted voice search would be a game changer in 2018 (except us of course). While voice queries are certainly growing, we haven’t seen any significant impact in organic traffic from this shift yet.
The ups and downs of Facebook the company had little effect on the success we saw with Facebook ads this year (although we have lost some pretty nifty targeting options). We look forward to continuing to grow our success in the coming year.
Not much on our radar in 2018 (primarily because of our client base), but Amazon ads are definitely of growing importance in e-commerce segments, particularly in the US
As with video in 2017, in 2018 video worked.
Machine Learning & Automation
We were pretty bang-on with our predictions here. We saw many changes in automation in Google Ads last year, however, most of the experiments we have done with automated bidding have delivered results that still compare poorly to our manually run campaigns. If anything, Google’s PPC algorithms are making things harder, not easier.
With GDPR coming into force and the Cambridge Analytica scandal at Facebook, we have seen some significant changes in data policy at both platforms. Despite their efforts, both Facebook and Google are fighting significant legal battles in the realm of privacy protections….this saga will definitely continue in 2019
Other things of note in 2018
- Some aggressive algorithm updates (“Speed” and “Medic”) had some significant effects on some service-based clients, particularly in the legal and medical professions
- Google AdWords was rebranded ad Google Ads (and we are all struggling to reprogram our brains)
- Facebook updated their news feed algorithm, effectively killing organic Facebook traffic for the majority of local business
- Google+ finally died, replaced by its shiny cousin Google My Business
Digital Marketing Trends for 2019
Understand your Audience and target them where they are
Understanding who your audience is and how to reach them online is becoming more important than ever. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are exponentially expanding the possibilities for both understanding and reaching your target audience. But that also means that your digital marketing strategy has to be multi-channel and comprehensive to ensure you are not missing an audience your competitors are capturing.
Audience targeting capabilities in Google Ads and Facebook expanded significantly in 2018, and we expect to see this trend continue.
Data from mobile devices makes it possible to distinguish between active and passive search behaviour. An example of active search is someone looking to make a purchase right now, while an example of passive search would be someone doing research. As the search engines learn to distinguish between active and passive searchers, algorithms will be able to predict intent like never before. Voice search is also helping to clarify user intent, as people use longer more detailed queries (when compared to search).
As our ability to target specific audiences with specific intent increases, so will the importance of ensuring your local SEO and PPC efforts are targeted to the right locations. We predict continued growth of “near-me” queries and a growing dependence on Google My Business in 2019. And don’t forget to hedge your bets by claiming your spot in Bing Places, Apple Maps, and local directories.
SEO is not just about traffic anymore
In the last year, we have seen a tremendous expansion of what we call “position-zero” search results. Google answer boxes, Google My Business listings, the knowledge graph, recipes, reviews, and information carousels have pushed the organic search results further and further down the page.
This litany of options to click on is certainly having a negative impact on the amount of traffic driven to websites by users clicking on the organic search results, as more and more people find what they are looking for on the search results page. This is further exacerbated by those “view more”, “people also search for” and “check availability” options that will send your traffic straight to your competitors.
However, all of these new features also represent a tremendous opportunity to claim additional real estate on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). SEO is now more important than ever if you expect to be visible in the many places that Google can choose to display your business.
At Ontario SEO, have a competitive edge in that we have been deploying the schema and content structure required to achieve visibility in Position Zero for several years now.
We predict SEO success in 2019 will be all about using solid SEO tactics to ensure your website has as much visibility in the search results as possible.
EAT: Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness
In a world of “fake news”, election tampering and constant data breaches, trust is becoming an important component of both social and search ranking algorithms. With the growth in personalization capability, more than ever in 2019, users will have to decide between privacy and enhanced customer experiences.
For social media marketing, EAT takes the form of maintaining a consistent brand presence, avoiding misleading advertising, and having a strong website to compliment your social media efforts.
Google is expanding its efforts to protect your personal data online. Several Google algorithm updates in 2018 focused on intensifying its ability to evaluate the expertise and authority of content. While the focus on transitioning to HTTPS (a more secure protocol than HTTP) has been continually emphasized by Google through both changes in the SERP display and messaging in Google Ads.
The good news here is that old adage about content remains true; write long-form, authoritative and informative content and your website should be rewarded in the search results.
However, as people grow warier of giving up personal data online, we also expect to see an increase in gated content as companies put up more walls to protect their user data.
Websites that fail to “EAT” will almost certainly see negative effects in 2019.
Invest in Seamless
Online users have higher expectations than ever and will not tolerate loading delays (some studies suggest 3 seconds or less!) or frustrating website interfaces. In 2019, your focus should certainly be on creating a seamless online experience for your customers.
While we hope we have already convinced you to invest in website speed (this will be even more critical in 2019), also consider your website experience and ways you can shorten your conversion process.
Many companies are finding innovative ways to leverage Chatbots, Facebook Messenger and Google Actions to make customer experiences more seamless.
Google My Business is your best chance for local success
The functionality of Google My Business (GMB) expanded significantly in 2018. GMB listings now consume the majority of the first screen on mobile devices and are certainly syphoning traffic from the traditional organic search results.
In 2019 we will be working to leverage all the new features available in GMB; book & buy now buttons, posts, Q&A section, & direct messaging to the business. We will be carefully measuring which features are beneficial, and which features fail to drive additional leads.
As a result of the expansion of GMB functionality directly in Google, many websites will see decreased organic traffic to their websites, as more people find the information they need directly in Google. Our challenge as digital marketers is to find a reliable way to measure and report on this growing digital channel.
Expand your digital horizons with vertical search optimization
For many years now Google has been the most dominant search vertical in Canada and others, such as Bing, were just not profitable enough to spend much time on. However, with the growth of voice assistants, internet-enabled devices, e-commerce and digital tv there are many new verticals that will see significant growth in advertising in the coming years.
Focusing part of your digital marketing efforts on these emerging and/or growing verticals will be a key advantage. At Ontario SEO we are exploring many of the new advertising opportunities available for voice search and personal assistants (Siri, Alexa, Cortana & Google), digital tv, and app stores. While at the same time keeping up with the growing opportunities on Instagram (IGTV and Instagram Stories) and Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, as well as the continuing advances in image search.
Don’t Forget about PPC (Your Competitors Haven’t)
Google Ads (formerly AdWords)
Google Ads now dominate most of the first screen on mobile devices. On mobile and desktop, ads are much less conspicuous that they once were. All this means people are more likely to click on a paid ad than navigate to the organic search results.
To own your digital landscape in 2019, we recommend an integrated PPC and SEO approach to ensure you are not losing traffic to your competition before users even have a chance to find your business.
The team at Ontario SEO is experimenting with the many new Google Ads features that were released in 2018. We are excited about the growing effectiveness of audience targeting in Google (although Facebook still has a clear advantage here) and the promise of better cross-channel attribution (especially for YouTube).
Our early experiments with responsive ads have not proved very successful. And similar to last year, we still not impressed with the performance of automated campaigns. While we have been deploying 3-headline ads for months now, it is still unclear if the third headline helps or hinders click-through-rates.
In 2019 Google Ads will be marketed as a tool for everyone to use. But (because of the results above) we still are strongly cautioning the use of Google’s many automated campaign options – we just have not seen good performance from these. Your best opportunity for paid success on Google in 2019 is to have a strong PPC strategy and to work (or continue to work) with an experienced and skilled PPC team (like us!).
Facebook advertising continues to be an effective platform for driving leads and sales for business. If you are not engaged in Facebook advertising, we strongly recommend exploring this in 2019.
While costs on Facebook are significantly higher than a few years ago, cost-per-click in most verticals is still very competitive compared to the cost of Google Ads. Despite reductions in audience targeting capabilities in 2018, Facebook’s targeting is still far superior to the options available on YouTube or Google Ads.
At Ontario SEO we are exploring the many new ad formats now available including press & hold ads, and augmented reality & virtual reality ads (called Camera Effects & Facebook Spaces). There is also growing chatter about the use of Facebook Messenger and chatbots as well as shopping in Instagram Stories. We are excited to explore these expanding ad possibilities in 2019.
Well, there you have it! A not-so-short summary of the digital marketing trends we are watching this year. As you can see, the digital landscape is more diverse and complex than ever. If you need some help navigating this complex digital advertising landscape or are just not sure where to focus your efforts, give us a call.