2018 is the year for marketers to get serious about personalization, chatbots, topic clustering, and video. And making all that work depends on finding the resources and developing a sound marketing strategy.
We scanned the “top trends of 2018” posts from a bunch of top digital marketing experts and boiled everything down to five essential insights. Here’s a look at them:
1. Personalization gets more targeted
Segmenting your email list, retargeting your Facebook ads, and other techniques for zeroing in on your most likely customers will pick up speed — and require more exacting precision in 2018.
“Becoming hyper-targeted and focusing on personalizing every interaction is becoming increasingly important,” Twila Grissom of Acorn Digital Strategy said in an article for Forbes.com. “Personalized landing pages should be connected to every one of your advertising campaigns. Attention is a currency, and building a personalized connection with prospects will be critical for digital marketing in 2018.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will help marketers improve personalization in 2018, says Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He says AI will drive personalization in five ways:
- Push notifications: sending a message customized to a consumer’s recent online activity.
- Collaborative filtering: people who do the same things on a website get links to similar content.
- Image recognition: software helps marketers glean insights from images posted to social media.
- Multi-sensory conversations: messaging can use sight, sound, touch, and more to engage consumers.
- Sophisticated email segmentation: AI helps target tone, time of day, and other subtle tactics for making content more personal.
2. Chatbots change the customer-service equation
Chatbots give brands the opportunity to accelerate their customer service. Though today’s chatbots are nowhere near replacing human service representatives, they can be a vital filtering tool — helping resolve simple customer-service requests and connecting users to human reps for more sophisticated challenges.
The folks at HubSpot have taken a novel turn with chatbots — a subscription option that blends email and Facebook Messenger.
“If people choose Facebook Messenger, our chatbot automatically delivers the requested content to them in their Messenger app instead of their inbox,” Jon Dick wrote in a blog post for HubSpot. “We’ve seen offers delivered via Facebook Messenger result in 2.5x lifts in open rates and 6x lifts in click rates vs. email.”
Need more on chatbots? Check out HubSpot’s deep dive.
3. SEO turns to topic clusters
Search engine optimization is evolving beyond keyword-driven search rankings. According to research from HubSpot experts, Google now awards higher page rank to publishers that provide clusters of content focusing on well-defined topics.
“The extensive findings from their initial topic cluster experiments showed that the more interlinking they did, the better the placement in search engine results pages (SERPs),” HubSpot reported in an in-depth report on topic clusters for SEO. “Impressions (or views) also increased with the number of links they created.”
Google’s algorithm engineers zealously search for signals of consumer intent and content quality. Consumers ask increasingly in-depth questions in their Google search fields, and Google, in turn, guides them to sites that seem to have the richest, most authoritative content that’s relevant to their searches.
In Google’s eyes, publishers that post multiple articles on similar topics — and link to them to help visitors learn more — serve web surfers better than publishers that have a more scattershot approach. Thus, a butcher shop with 14 interlinked, high-quality articles on pastrami would rank higher than sites with fewer articles and less interlinking on the same topic.
4. Video’s dominance strengthens
With YouTube challenging Google for search dominance, digital marketers will have an even stronger incentive to embrace video this year. That could be less-than-welcome news to marketers because video usually is more complicated and costly to produce than text.
Admittedly, video can get extremely spendy if you’re trying to match the work of a global advertising agency placing 30-second spots in the Super Bowl, but most videos don’t need that level of sophistication. You may be able to use Facebook Live or take the equivalent of smartphone selfies to produce quick, informative videos at a low cost.
The SmartInsights blog notes that Google offers 10 video options — and that’s just one platform. For a raft of savvy tips on combining video and social media, check out this blog from Bill Carmody on Inc.com.
5. Winning with digital marketing doesn’t get easier
Marketing Profs notes that small-business owners in particular face fundamental challenges in marketing their goods and services in 2018:
- 46% don’t know if their marketing strategy is working.
- 28% won’t increase their digital marketing budget this year.
- 21% say their greatest challenge is finding enough time to execute a digital strategy.
Thus, the forces outlined in the first four trends underscore the pressure on marketers to succeed this year. The companies that succeed with personalization, chatbots, SEO clusters, and video marketing will squeeze competitors that try to get by with outmoded techniques and technologies.
How will you master marketing in 2018?
Making your marketing work in 2018 requires a deft combination of resources, strategy, and insight. A large part of that is making the numbers work:
- Should you outsource or keep your marketing in-house?
- How do you determine the return on investment in marketing?
- What’s the best way to develop a marketing budget?
Download The Math of Marketing, our free eBook, for answers to these questions and many more.