As 2014 draws to a close, the digital strategists and web technology experts at 4mation have put together their list of the top four online trends that business owners and digital marketing professionals need to plan for in the year ahead.
Throughout 2014, Google made a number of updates to its search results algorithm (most notably “Panda” 4.0 and 4.1) to improve the ranking of websites with good quality, engaging content – and reduce the ranking of those websites aiming to game the system with keyword-heavy, low-relevancy content. The updates are said to have affected around 7.5% of all English language websites, with some seeing as much as 90% of their organic search results drop after the updates were implemented.
Google provides some guidance on the criteria it uses to judge website quality, but the overwhelming takeaway from their advice is to update your website regularly with original, informative and trustworthy content. No longer can you expect to build a new website, fill it with content and then leave it to do the work for you. To rank well in search results and ensure you continue to gain new visitors (and customers), you need to be adding new content all the time. One of the best ways to do this is to write a blog on your business’s area of expertise. The greater the breadth of information you can provide on that topic, the more suitable your content will be deemed for people searching Google for your product or service. It’s all fairly straightforward when you think about it. If you don’t yet have a blog or your website doesn’t support the functionality, there are a number of great Content Management Systems (CMS) out there for blogging – many of them requiring no coding skills at all to be able to distribute your content.
As mobile device ownership and usage continues to increase the world over, so too does mobile internet use. A report released earlier this year by internet analytics firm comScore indicates that in the US, total time spent accessing the internet via mobile devices surged ahead of time spent “surfing the ‘net” via desktop computers. With Australia having one of the highest per-capita rates of mobile device ownership in the world, it’s likely that this trend will be mirrored here at home as well.
And if your website isn’t mobile optimised, Google is going to let its users know. If you hadn’t already noticed yourself, changes announced only just last month reveal that Google is now identifying whether a website is “mobile friendly” in its search results displayed on mobile devices. So if your website isn’t “mobile friendly” and your competitor’s website is, you’re at an immediate disadvantage – and you can expect to lose customers as a result.
Creating a great experience for your visitors, no matter what screen size they’re using, should be one of your biggest priorities for 2015. Whether you choose to implement a responsive website that adapts in real-time to the device of each user, or you direct your mobile visitors to a separate mobile-specific site, one thing is clear: you can’t afford not to optimise your website for mobile.
Continuing on from the previous point – the realm of mobile internet usage isn’t as black and white as desktop computers versus mobile phones. Indeed, there’s a whole spectrum of web-enabled devices emerging in addition to smartphones including tablet computers of various sizes, laptop-tablet hybrids, phablets (devices that combine the functionality and physical characteristics of phones and tablets), smart-TVs with web access and even wearable devices such as touchscreen “smart watches” and internet-enabled glasses (ala Google Glass).
As more and more of these devices become commonplace in the lives of your consumers, you’ll need to carefully consider and manage your marketing efforts across the entire multi-screen customer journey. This may all sound a bit like science-fiction at the moment, so let’s focus on a fairly common current-day example: email marketing. In a report released by email marketing software provider Campaign Monitor, the trend towards opening emails on mobile devices continues to rise – while clicks on email links via mobile devices decreased when compared with clicks on desktop devices. One interesting behaviour observed, however, was that recipients who first opened an email on their mobile and then subsequently on a different device, were more likely to click on a link within the email on that secondary device. This suggests that marketing email recipients may be using their smaller-screen devices to screen or triage their emails, later coming back to the ones that grabbed their interest once they’re in front of a larger screen device. Ensuring that your marketing email templates and the content within them are responsive to the type of device and its screen size ensures that your customers have a great experience no matter what device they’re using. It can also help with improving click-through on mobiles – and when paired with a mobile responsive website, results in fewer barriers between your customers and their mobile device conversions.
Social media is a great platform to find and connect with potential customers interested in your company’s products and services – and many social networks now offer businesses a shortcut to cut through all of the chatter: paid promotion of your social updates. This year, Twitter Australia opened up its self-service advertising platform to businesses of all sizes, allowing messages of 140 characters or less to be amplified and targeted towards specific audiences of Twitter users – regardless of the size or makeup of your follower-base. Facebook offers a similar advertising solution, known as “promoted” or “boosted” updates, as does LinkedIn – and businesses of all sizes are taking advantage of these new social media promotion tools in increasing numbers.
The same rules apply to both paid social advertising and unpaid “organic” updates: if your content isn’t interesting, it won’t engage users – no matter how much you spend to promote it. So, we come full-circle back to our first point, which is to share fresh, informative and relevant content. Paid Social can help you get the message out there, but in the end it’s the message that needs to do the work.
If you need help with setting up a blogging platform, a mobile optimised website or mobile app, or a responsive email template, we can help. Contact the expert digital strategists at 4mation Technologies for an obligation-free consultation today.