Investing in trends requires smart timing and consumer analysis. Since your trend-marketing returns are only as good as your ability to make educated guesses, here’s some advice to help you avoid turning educated guesses into marketing messes. The following list features the top 10 Internet marketing trends, in no particular order, and tells you whether to invest, test or let it rest.
1. Search Engine Optimisation
Sites with relevant content and credible links will continue to rule the search rankings. As the volume of Web content continues to grow, consumers will demand even more relevant and personalised search results. That means search engines will be looking for more relevant and personalised content from publishers and brands. In fact, the search engine algorithms are already beginning to pay more attention to date of publication, geo-location, mobile device browsers, past behaviour and social media content.
Don’t abandon your current SEO strategy in search of personalisation, but make sure you allocate a portion of your budget to testing content, keywords and links that are targeted toward niche audiences. Test keyword and link placement in social media, local content and mobile websites, and make an effort to more frequently refresh some of the content you devote to search engine rankings. Once the search engines have tested these new search targets and revealed some concrete standards, you should be prepared to invest accordingly.
2. Paid Search
Paid search hasn’t seen a revolutionary trend since the idea of the long tail was applied to keyword bidding. That’s OK, because consumers will still use search engines as a primary means of finding products and services to fulfil their needs, and they will still be clicking on relevant ads. Search advertising prices will remain reasonable, and average returns will remain comparably high as larger companies with decreased search marketing budgets continue to allocate resources to lower-cost SEO tactics in hope of attracting visitors at lower prices.
2010 has the potential for even more downward pressure on price-per-click if Bing can gain enough loyal searchers to attract business away from Google. You won’t exactly feel like you’re in the driver’s seat when your search marketing placement choices are limited to Google, Microsoft or both, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from investing in the highly qualified leads that paid search is capable of producing for your small business.
3. Email Marketing
It isn’t hard to justify an investment in email marketing when the cost of sending emails is so low. The low cost isn’t the only reason to send email, however. Most consumers still consider email to be their primary form of communication, even though there are several alternative ways for consumers to subscribe to periodic content from small businesses.
Email marketing will remain highly predictable and may even become more powerful as email service providers improve social media integration, search engine access to archived emails, auto-responders and new integrated applications. If you don’t already use an email service provider, invest in one. If you already use an email service, invest in your email list and in producing valuable content to nurture leads and attract repeat customers. Spend more time and money focused on keeping your email list current when those consumers return to work and change email addresses again.
4. Social Network Marketing
Social media has one redeeming quality for marketers – lots and lots of eyeballs. That’s attractive if you’re a major brand, but profitable interaction will continue to be the exception for small businesses rather than the rule. A good test of your social network marketing potential is to survey your current customers to see how many of them consider social networking to be a primary form of communication. You should probably experiment with a Facebook fan page and a Twitter page if you find that a meaningful percentage of your current customers indicate an interest in following your business.
Make 2010 your year to test content that attracts repeat and referral business. Your current customers are more likely than total strangers to respond to offers posted on social networks because they already know you and trust you based on their prior purchases.
Advice: Let it rest
If you’re writing a blog to help with search engine rankings or to inform existing customers, you should continue to test or invest. If you’re blogging in an attempt to attract new prospects and convert them to customers, however, bear in mind that converting prospects into customers depends on driving visitors to content that maximises conversions, and that means your conversion rate is only as good as the content on your landing page.
If that landing page is your blog and your blog changes frequently, your conversion rate is only as good as your latest blog post. Instead of blogging to convert your website visitors into customers, work hard to test and develop great landing page content. When you find something that works, don’t change it.
6. Web Presence
If you want people to see the content on your website, it might make sense to advertise the location of your website content by placing ads on other high-traffic websites. Driving visitor traffic to your website isn’t the way to go, however. Instead, you need to drive your website content to visitor traffic. The difference stems from the fact that content aggregation websites like YouTube are boosting consumer demand for instant gratification and what I call “content nesting.”
Content nesting allows consumers to browse through content fed to them through a single Web page, or nest, so that they don’t have to click on links to individual websites all over the World Wide Web, which takes time. To take advantage of content nesting, your website content needs to be nested in as many content aggregation sites as possible. For example, a lot of people search for videos on YouTube. If you have a video on your website and it’s not also on YouTube, people on YouTube won’t bother searching for your website. To them, YouTube represents the total number of videos available to them on their topic of interest.
7. Mobile Marketing
Demand is increasing for mobile applications and Web-browsing due to wider adoption of smartphones. As more people adopt them, look for small business marketing services to start providing lower-cost mobile marketing solutions like text messaging, mobile email marketing, mobile websites, mobile application development and location-based marketing.
Use tools like Google Analytics to see how many people are visiting your website on mobile Web browsers. Begin testing simple mobile marketing campaigns such as sending a few mobile coupons via text or building a mobile micro-site for one of your products.
8. Podcasting And Online Radio
Advice: Let it rest
Online broadcasters are struggling to find and attract audiences. They will need to make their media more shareable, more engaging, more trackable and more mobile to attract money from advertisers. If you’re looking to attract an audience by broadcasting or advertising on broadcast media, go with online video and wait for radio to finish reinventing itself.
9. Online Video
Countless buying emotions and memorable brand moments are possible with video. Watch for video to become more accessible to small businesses through online outlets. Online video is interactive, memorable, widely accessible, cheap to create and highly shareable.
Video presents a great opportunity for small-business marketing, but don’t think of video as a replacement for text. As powerful as video can be, it can be more cumbersome than text because you can’t scan a video as quickly as you can scan a page of headlines, links and text to quickly find the exact information you need. Use your investments to find the right balance for your customers.
10. Coupons, Discounts & Savings
This one isn’t entirely an Internet marketing trend, but it’s important enough to mention because of the economy. 2009 was another tough year for retailers, and consumers are so accustomed to shopping for deals that they might begin to expect the plethora of deep discounts currently available to continue forever. If you’re engaged in heavy discounting to attract sales and survive the economic downturn, you’ll need to slowly wean your customers off your lower prices, assuming that the economy recovers.
Internet marketing trends develop quickly. Don’t be too quick to jump on bandwagons because consumers move more slowly than marketers and technology. Stay focused on attracting repeat business, deepening your customer relationships and solving problems for people. Those are the trends that never fail small businesses.