It isn’t easy making accurate predictions. I can vouch for this, simply by looking back at the predictions I posted at the start of 2015. Betting on trends in the world of digital marketing is every bit as risky as betting on the horse races, with new technology and media options sprouting up all the time. Even so, we need to take stock every now and then, to avoid getting left behind. With that as my disclaimer, here goes with my list of trends to watch in 2016.

  • More websites will offer a logged-in experience, to personalize the user experience. This will be done not only for actual clients, but also for people who’ve opted-in as being interested in the content. Companies will concentrate on making their site content more relevant to these subscribed users, increasing their chances of converting them to paid users.
  • In Paid Search marketing, audience targeting (uses uploaded customer lists and behavioural targeting) will become the main trigger for display ads. Qualitative analytics are not only going to be more used, they are going to start being used to personalize advertising. The exodus from CPM/CPC bidding will continue. Costs per click won’t fall any more, Google and Bing have probably managed to flatten them out. Besides, there are always niches where competition for keywords will remain high enough to be lucrative for them.
  • In Social Media, marketer’s reliance on Twitter as a channel will flatten, and it might degrade. Digital agency head Chris Goward recently claimed that Twitter has become a landfill. LinkedIn will strengthen the grip of its publishing platform, by starting to allow video content to be posted. The rise of ephemeral social media, such as Snapchat and Periscope (whose videos disappear after 24 hours) is causing marketing content to become more ‘candid.’ The other reason is that internet users too savvy to sit through creative that is crass, over-polished or that looks like it played well in front of a focus-group.
  • In the realm of User Experience (UX), audio, still imagery and video will unseat plain text as the favourite type of content that search engines reward with rankings. This is because quantitative metrics are now able to gauge how well a user is engaged by content. Statistically, rich media is the hands-down winner.
  • The war on how to best reach buyers (organic content vs search & social advertising) will become more polarized, with companies declaring themselves on one side or the other. This is because the metrics for each program work so differently, most marketing teams that try to do both won’t be able to show KPIs that justify continued spending. Therefore marketers will pick one method and try to make it sustainable for as long as possible. This may be the year marketers meet their audience half-way. Here is what I mean by this. Audiences have clearly said that they see too many ads. Marketers have the option of showing them content instead of ads, but content takes so much work, they resort to showing ads. This year, more marketers will lead with content. It may be placed as native advertising, but nevertheless it’s in the form of content because that’s the audience’s wish.
  • In Search, Google continues to use rich answers more (where people are shown information boxes right in search results, without needing to click through to a site). Instead of complaining about plagiarism, website owners and marketers will start to strategically markup information on their sites, to be scraped by Google and others for their rich answer algorithm. Even though they will not see click traffic to their site they will have made a brand impression and increased their chance of being visited in the future by the searcher. Marketers will be redeploying some of their money into developing better content in hopes that it gets picked up this way.

So there are the trends I am going to keep an eye on. We will see in a year whether I missed the big changes in digital marketing, or whether any of them hit the mark. If you are in this challenging field, you may be bugged by its constant changes. Remember that every one of them is an opportunity, so be ever-watchful, if you ‘hit’ on one of them, you could be a big winner.