Pace understands the crucial role digital strategy plays in sharing captivating stories and improving ROI; that’s why we support an in-house team of digital specialists, with Digital Strategy Directors Nicole Martin and Adam Braxton at the helm. Nicole and Adam share more than 27 years of experience navigating and advising on digital strategy for a variety of Fortune 500 brands. I spoke with them about the recent digital strategy and organic search (SEO) trends they’ve observed and what they expect to see in 2016. Here are some of the main points we discussed:
1. Can you share some noteworthy digital strategy trends you’ve seen in 2015?
There are several:
Smarter Digital Advertising
Digital advertising in areas like syndication, native advertising and advanced retargeting are evolving. With more ad blockers on websites, mobile devices and within search engines, the old tactics just won’t work anymore. Brands are searching for creative and effective ways to excel and advance their online exposure. The ultimate goal: activate their content to get the right message in front of the right consumers at the right time.
The mobile experience continues to grow and solidify its position as the first choice of the masses. Mobile search, optimization, user experience and advanced personalization have become more important than ever this year—a trend that will undoubtedly continue into 2016 and beyond.
The Segmented Millennial
This year was all about the millennials. The question on every marketer’s mind was, “How can we market to them better?” Not all brands could say they succeeded, because moving the needle in this demographic is a difficult task. Millennials spend time in contrasting online playgrounds; a 19-year-old has very different perspectives and drivers than a 33-year-old, yet they’re both millennials. As consumer audiences mature, brands often share their message by categorically lumping an entire generation together. To effectively market to this group, segmentation is key.
Lead Generation Through Content Data
In 2015, using tracking data within content as a preliminary lead-generation tool was a relatively new and lucrative endeavor. By including digital tags in online content, marketers can aggregate anonymous user data, as well as priceless subscriber insights. These tags from content engagement act as a digital “footprint” of the consumer’s likes and preferences. With enough information, marketers can customize content and engage the individual based on their site interaction. These interactions include metrics like time on site, topics of interest and length of engagement. Although advances in unstructured database environments are allowing better analysis of this data, the speed of analysis still needs to improve.
The Integrated Agile Content Machine
In the past year, more brands have begun to integrate their different marketing departments to better understand and impact how content affects both consumers and prospects. Coke Journey, for instance, has merged its PR reporting, social monitoring and content into an agile content machine. This integration model has shown strong promise for many other businesses.
Positioning Distributed Content
Brands searching for an alternative to paid advertising channels have found a solution in the positioning of distributed content. This new method delivers original brand content where consumers already engage (Facebook, Snapchat, Imgur). Rather than duplicating content that’s aimed at pushing consumers back to the brand website, the content is designed to live on that particular platform. For example, BuzzFeed is developing a new division to make original content solely for specified platforms. This new method can provide a more valuable experience to the customer and be more engaging, and its brand perception impact (when executed correctly) can be stronger than a five- to 15-second ad.
2. What digital strategy trends do you think we will see in 2016?
Six digital strategy trends are likely to emerge:
Finding the Real Content Marketing Agencies
Content has become so important in digital marketing, in 2016 we’re bound to see more companies calling themselves content marketing agencies. Many will attempt to create an influx of content, but be wary; without delivering a compelling story, and using the traffic to convert into strong engagement, many brands will experience a very low ROI on these efforts. To prevent this pitfall, brands should seek out the content marketing agencies with a proven track record of delivering engaging content and compelling ROI.
Big Data and Marketing Toolsets
Segmentation is vital for building a connection with consumers, so big data, the collection of data and incorporating robust eCRMs into your marketing toolset will become very important in 2016. The need to increase your marketing efforts will grow, because instead of sending out a single blanket email, you should be using three segmented versions. Although this is a bigger investment than brands may be used to, the rewards will far exceed the production costs from the increased relevancy you’re providing to your audience.
Implied Links for Relevancy and Brand Popularity
With Google Hummingbird updates, relevancy and brand popularity are more critical than ever. Now, mentions of your brand on other sites help your SEO just as much as if these sites actually linked over to yours. These ‘Implied Links’ will help Google build your brand’s credibility.
Deliberate and Natural Content Integration
In 2016, we expect to see a more deliberate and natural integration of content throughout the customer journey, not only at the beginning. This includes seeding of content throughout typical transactional cadences.
Tracking Interactions with Content Through Your CRM
Brands will also rely more on their CRM as a full customer experience database and response tool, which will include more tracked interaction with content. By understanding the entire customer journey, brands will be able to both test and optimize their marketing mix to impact lead velocity.
More Effective Lead Scoring
In the next year, brands new to lead scoring will begin to incorporate it into their marketing model, and brands already executing lead-scoring methods will start to tie scores to brand perception KPIs, and explore ways to use these metrics more effectively. Content interactions will have a profound and measurable impact upon these KPIs.
3. How will the role of organic search (SEO) in marketing evolve in 2016?
Organic search will continue to become more integral to a brand’s digital strategy. Here’s what we expect to see:
When optimizing online organic visibility, many brands focus only on Google’s search algorithm, but in the coming year, brands will begin following other search engines and social network practices and algorithms. These include Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, news and content aggregators, and even platforms like Roku. As brands accept the lifecycle of ever-changing algorithms and are prepared to shift direction when the algorithm update occurs, these brands will nimbly and successfully become more visible online.
Social Listening Tools
Search-related tools (Moz, KissMetrics, Raven, Google Trends, Search Console and Analytics) will continue to be relevant in 2016, but brands will also invest more heavily in social listening tools (like Nuvi) to understand terms, phrases and trends within specific channels and audience niches for proper content messaging and tone.
Marketers often forget that SEO starts with gaining visibility online to drive traffic to your site, but it doesn’t stop there. In 2016, brands will revisit and refocus on the value of on-page metrics. To constantly serve the best content to consumers, a brand’s website has to be top-notch. If the site isn’t responsive, designed well and easy to use, a brand is significantly hindering its customers’ overall user experience. SEO roles will evolve to review and enhance more on-site areas to help the entire search process, starting at the search results page and continuing through to checkout confirmation.
The digital environment is ever changing. Marketers who stay informed and are open to incorporating digital strategy trends like these into their marketing plan are primed for a boost in online engagement and brand ROI.