Internet Marketing: What to Expect in 2014

Online Marketing for the New Year: What to Expect in 2014

The internet evolves at lightning-fast speeds – and online marketing changes with it.

The businesses that are most successful at using the internet to drive sales are forward-thinking, flexible, and ready to adapt to new strategies as the landscape of the Internet changes. As 2013 draws to an end, now seems like the perfect time to look at what we can expect in the coming year.

First, let’s briefly look at an overview of Internet marketing’s past to give ourselves some better context.

The Beginning of Internet Marketing: Keyword Cramming and Link Building

Those who were working in the industry during the early days of the Internet may remember that, when SEO marketing began, it wasn’t particularly refined. Before Google, the biggest names in search engines were Yahoo!, HotBot, and AltaVista—all of which determined ranking largely by the frequency of words that appeared on a web page.

This meant that anyone who understood SEO could easily cram a whole bunch of keywords onto their page without sharing any really valuable content and still rank in the first page of search results. It was an easy trick for marketers, but it wasn’t particularly helpful for anyone who actually wanted to use the Internet to find products and services.

When Google came onto the scene in 1998, they quickly began changing the way we think about SEO. They introduced the idea of using links from other websites as another important metric. Essentially, the idea was that if other websites are sharing links to your site, you must be a reputable source. Google’s new system led to the practice of link building and sharing guest posts on other sites, which we still see a lot of today.

This past year, Google introduced a new search algorithm called Hummingbird, and online marketers are being forced to revise the way they think about link building and other traditional SEO practices. Let’s look at how Hummingbird and other Internet tendencies are going to continue to shape internet marketing in 2014.

Hummingbird Will Change the Way We Think About SEO

There are whole companies that have been built around the idea of creating SEO links… and they’re either going to have to rethink their strategy or go the way of the dinosaurs now that Google has changed the way they evaluate links.

SEO marketers already had to reevaluate their strategies in 2011 when Google introduced Panda, an update that targeted sites using “shady” linking practices (such as posting links on low-quality sites with lots of ads) and punished offenders in the search engine rankings. Now, Hummingbird is even more refined and looks at things like the context of content, bounce rate, social sharing, and time spent on a site to determine whether you’re actually linking to quality content.

So how will these affect the strategy of internet marketing going forward?

1.    The Human Element Matters

Google’s goal has always been to deliver what web users are looking for, and web users want authoritative information and answers to their queries, not keyword-stuffed web pages and bad links. With that in mind, online marketers are going to be focusing much more on content marketing than traditional SEO practices in 2014.

Online marketers will need to produce content that informs and/or entertains their readers, and they’ll also need to engage with consumers through social media platforms in order to become a strong voice in their industry.

Google+ is also going to be an essential tool for online marketers. (If you haven’t created an account yet, you should.) Google Authorship allows you to become an authoritative voice by attaching your image and a link to your Google+ profile to the online content you create, and while we’re not quite sure what weight they carry yet, it’s reasonable to say that the +1’s you can gain will impact your site’s rankings.

2.    Web Design Matters

You probably already know that if you have a website that looks like it hasn’t been updated since the late ‘90s, web users are quickly going to bounce away. However, what you may not have known is that Google pays attention to your website’s appearance, as well.

The Panda update actually allowed Google to check sites for quality and the kind of “user experience” they offered, with high-quality sites being rewarded in the rankings.

In 2014, good web design is going to be even more important. Now is the time to update your website’s design (with a focus on generating sales – not just an attractive aesthetic) if you haven’t already.

3.    Mobile Is the Reigning King

Speaking of web designers, you’ll want to work with someone who has experience with mobile platforms, because mobile marketing is going to be an even bigger deal this upcoming year.
In 2012, 46% of Americans owned a smartphone, and that number rose to 56% in 2013. As smartphones get cheaper and more accessible, that number is going to rise even higher, which means that a lot of people are going to be accessing the Internet on their phones.

If your website is not optimized for viewing on a mobile screen, your audience will quickly find another site from a mobile-friendly competitor that can meet their needs. Not only that, Google is now generating different search results depending on if you’re using a computer or a phone, and sites that aren’t optimized for mobile are going to sink below those that are.

4.    If You’re Not Active on Social Media Yet…You Should Be

Although Google won’t say exactly how social engagement affects your SEO rankings, it certainly seems that the sites doing a good job of maintaining a social media presence are faring well.  

Think about it: if you’re engaging with followers across multiple platforms, you’re increasing awareness of your brand and encouraging others to talk about you. When you start building up buzz, you drive traffic back to your site. Staying active on social media has been a good practice for businesses ever since websites like Facebook and Twitter became such integral parts of the way we communicate online, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

Will Your Business Harness the Power of Internet Marketing in 2014?

It’s always been the job of the marketer to pay attention to trends in communication, and now that smartphones and the Internet are a part of everyday life, we need to pay even closer attention.
The businesses that fare best in 2014 (and the long-term) will be the ones who can adapt to new practices and communicate effectively with the modern consumer.

Posted: 1/6/2014 10:50:06 AM by Shep Morrow