While not a dramatic shift, there has been a movement in how marketing messages are being digested. Several years ago, marketing messages were being PUSHED into marketplaces. Direct mail, email, general advertising stood on their own as tactics and strategies. Today with a networked Internet –social media gatherings and hubs – decisions are now more complex. Social networks are influencing corporate purchasing decisions from staplers to enterprise software or hardware. PULL marketing – providing information designed to move people through sales cycles (without being salesy) is and will continue to play a greater role in the purchasing decision. So how will you deliver this information and content? A social media network? A blog? By being visible on Google, Yahoo or Bing? It will depend on where your target audience is online and how they prefer to digest content; that’s the question.
SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING
Google will continue to make algorithm changes that center on ‘fresh’ content
Google made a number of changes this year that effected search results, including introducing Panda and a number of evolutions therein, and most recently Freshness. These change all involved content – or more directly the importance on creating and producing well-written, new, fresh content. Does your marketing plan contain a strategy for content creation and marketing? Do you have an active blog that is well-optimized? This will become more vital next year than it was this year!
Google+, and Pages for Google+, will emerge as important SEO tools for businesses.
Google owns search marketing – and certainly owns organic search traffic that converts. They are going to, and have begun to, place priority on content posted on their own properties – especially those that are fledgling. Establish a corporate Google+ Profile, and a Google+ Page for your company, and post your fresh, well-written content. Until someone overcomes Google in search dominance, you need to play their game. That game, right now, is Google+.
Microsoft will acquire Yahoo and make some inroads in search marketing share of business.
Okay, I wouldn’t go out and play the stock market on this insight, but there were many rumors in 2011 of a Yahoo acquisition and, even though the first attempt by Microsoft never developed, we can only see this building up steam again in 2012. A Bing-Yahoo merger, if you will, makes complete sense given their current search partnership, and we also think a combined organization is greater than its individual parts. If you’re focused solely on Google, are you ready for a larger search competitor? We’re paying close attention to this possibility.
Social media will continue to play a significant role in search visibility (SEO).
Social networks are growing. Conversations around brands, products, and services are multiplying. If search engines were to ignore these dialogues they would be eliminating the most relevant brand-centric conversations on the web. They won’t. We’ve seen social content grow in favor in the eyes of all search engines. So, if you’re not participating in these conversations, or at least posting your fresh content in social networks, then you’re not helping to tip the scales in one way or the other. Tip the scales in your favor by posting consistently to your brand’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus Pages. Don’t miss this marketing opportunity and don’t underestimate the ‘Like’.
CONTENT CREATION & BLOGGING
Content will be promoted from ‘King’ to ‘Emperor’ status.
As we mentioned in the first point in the Search Marketing section, Google’s continued push for well-written, relevant, and fresh content will drive budgets to content marketing in 2012. In fact, content marketing will likely take budget from traditional marketing channels such as email and direct mail. Web content will play a greater role in purchasing decisions. This reflects the shift in marketing, from a PUSH to a PULL, which we mentioned in our opening summary. Now that the Search Engines are indexing ‘fresh content’ the way they are, it is now one of the major drivers in ‘pull’ marketing efforts.
Active blogs will continue to boost online brand visibility.
Content creation in the form of corporate blogs will continue to play a major role in search engine optimization efforts. Fresh, new content, that’s well written and optimized will help drive improved search engine rankings and increased organic site traffic. The key here is that the blogs need to be well optimized – not over-optimized – around your selected keywords. Proper use of keywords in titles, Meta data, and copy, with smart hyperlinking, can make all the difference.
Content curation will continue to enjoy strong growth.
As the need for content in all forms intensifies, the ability to write original content, at increased quantities, will become difficult. As such, content curation – which is defined as the process of finding, organizing and sharing content – will continue to grow as a content marketing strategy. In other words, it will become more common to find content on the web that isn’t original (or yours), write and share your thoughts about it, and post and share it back to the world on your blog, social network pages, and website. This process of curating content grew tremendously in 2011 and will become more common, and necessary, in 2012.
More and more websites will adapt a blog format.
Most sites these days are full of static content and can be classified as online brochures – certainly not SEO friendly under the current search ranking requirements. We think there will be a greater blend – a merger if you will – between corporate sites and their respective blogs. You can already see many sites adopting some typical blog functionality, such as social media sharing. In 2012 we see more and more sites being smart about adopting more blog functionality, such as dynamic content creation, sharing, and commenting.
Facebook will continue to dominate the consumer social media networking landscape.
All the talk about Google+ becoming the dominant social media network, and overtaking Facebook, is over-hyped in our opinion. Facebook has an established, loyal, base of users and they continue to make improvements that will benefit that base. While Facebook’s growth has slowed – and how could it not – it will not be caught be Google+ anytime soon (or anytime). Google+ may end up being more of a business-to-business (B2B) network than a consumer focused social network like Facebook, and possibly even more of a threat to LinkedIn. Point here is that Facebook is dominant and will be for some time. Don’t ignore the need to be participating.
Facebook is becoming an ecommerce platform that brands shouldn’t ignore.
Do you sell products or services via an ecommerce shopping cart on your site? With Facebook’s massive size and their ability to associate a variety of products and attributes with your network friends, they are quickly making their mark as a platform for ecommerce transactions. Imagine running a Facebook ad that sends potential buyers to a Facebook landing page that highlights your product. Now imagine that they can go through the entire shopping cart to checkout process without ever leaving Facebook! It’s been studied that when people are ‘in’ Facebook they don’t want to be taken ‘out’ of the social network. So keep them in by using Facebook as an ecommerce platform. It’s worth noting, many ecommerce engines are beginning to make it very easy to integrate with Facebook pages.
Twitter will continue to evolve their advertising offering; creating opportunity.
Advertising on Twitter now is still a win-lose situation. There are some companies that are finding value, and yet others, by running ads, are losing the social media credibility that they’ve built. This ‘win-lose situation’ will likely change with their newly announced Brand Pages. While not available to all businesses yet, they should be available sometime in early 2012. In addition to potential advertising space, these Brand Pages will allow for a better user experience, and provide companies the ability to incorporate more of the profile capabilities that come with Google+ and Facebook.
Social media will chip away at traditional marketing budgets to play a greater role in lead generation.
Social media plays a role in today’s lead generation effort that’s greater than most companies give it credit for. Companies use traditional media channels, like direct mail, email, radio, and television, to send out their messages and special offers that tout how great their products and solutions are, and of course they should. However, social media networks use ‘crowd sourcing’ to serve up information on how well those products and solutions work from the voice of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’. Social networks are where people feel they can find the truth from those they trust. Capitalize on the social media opportunity to influence this conversation.