It's that time of year again. Client account reviews have us looking at every industry—from every angle—to gauge where to focus our digital marketing efforts in the coming year. As part of these discussions, we have come up with a list of trends to look for in 2013 in the digital marketing space. The following are what we think will dominate digital headlines and resources in 2013
1. Hello, Yahoo!
According to multiple sources, Yahoo's new CEO, Marissa Mayer, is literally rebuilding the company by modeling it on her former employer, Google. This includes making Yahoo! search more functional, bettering Yahoo!'s mail services, and improving Flickr. There have also been discussions about how Yahoo! can become more competitive in the search engine market. We predict that Yahoo! may revisit its relationship with Bing!, especially in the paid search realm. Right now, Yahoo!'s search results are simply a mirror image of Bing!'s, because they share the same algorithm. Keep your eye on this. We think this will change soon and, as a result, open up the paid search market a bit more.
2. Goodbye, Facebook?
Organizations have come into their own on social media networks in 2012. They've created social media internal positions, hired outside consultants, created a pipeline of engaging content, and more. We'll continue to see advances on this front in 2013, and, as the Facebook generation continues to enter and advance in the workforce, the creation of internal social networks might start to replace internal corporate email. However, the social media king might be dethroned. As was illustrated with Facebook's disappointing stock prices, the giant is not too big to fail. Its failure to diversify, forced formatting, and surprise privacy setting changes continue to frustrate users. The time is ripe for a novel social network—and we predict 2013 will be the year it emerges.
3. Content and Links, Penguin and Panda
Google changes its search algorithm around 500 times a year. The two most recent algorithm changes have online marketers and SEO consultants taking notice. Named after black-and-white animals, the two most significant algorithm changes have been dubbed "Panda" and "Penguin." Panda was officially released in February 2011, but there have been many updates since its release. This algorithm adjustment focused on high-quality content sites. It punished sites with thin, duplicate, or stolen content, proving once again that content is king, especially in the SEO world. Penguin was released in April 2012 and addressed back linking strategies. This update affects the way that Google evaluates links in the ranking process. Before, you could have several links to the same page on your site from other Web sites. Now, the links must not only come from a reputable site (as determined by Panda), but they also must be coded differently and point to different pages within your Web site. We predict that algorithm updates will continue to crack down on linking and back linking strategies because it is one of the few remaining areas that produce results through a black hat methodology. Google, through these updates, will continue to encourage and reward white hat SEO strategies through rankings.
4. QR Codes
Last year, we predicted the growing popularity of QR, or Quick Response, Codes—and we were right. Consumers are seeing these codes everywhere—from playbills to ketchup bottles. This will be the year of almost universal adoption of these—both by organizations and consumers. Not only will they become an important part of every company's mobile marketing strategy, but they will also become an important tool for engagement marketing. In addition, URLs will be created with the same QR content to attract customers who haven't yet adopted this scanning technology. Look for content to change from recipes and self-promotion to brand-based games, feel-good stories, and coupons. In fact, services will continue to emerge that will enable customers to send QR code-based discounts and messages to friends via text messages and social networks.
5. Location, Location, Location
Your location, to be more specific. Google Places has started to integrate with Google+, making claiming your local business page listing even more important to your search engine results page ranking. Google is striving to connect local search results with the geographic location and interest level of the user (based on previous searches). Since most of these searches will be conducted on a mobile device, mobile search is also going to become extremely important in 2013. In addition, expect to see an increase in the sophistication of location-based services (the ability to target highly relevant ads to customers who are physically close to the retailer). They've got your information…and are going to integrate it more comprehensively in 2013.
6. Google+ (Minus?) and Other Social Networking Popularity Predictions
Let's face it. Google+ is not what we thought it would be. However, that doesn't change the fact that we all need to be on it. Participation on Google+ is still important for search engine optimization, so we will continue to see new account creation. However, the window for heavy adoption (and usage) by consumers and laypeople has passed…people are on it because they have to be, but people aren't using it. Pinterest received lots of publicity in 2012; this won't be the case in 2013. Pinterest's adoption rate has leveled off (the people who are going to use it are on there already). It is great for visual businesses and image searches (in fact, Google often ranks images from Pinterest above Google images), but it is no longer the sexy new network on the block. We believe that social networking will morph into social searching as more and more social media platforms create enhanced search options. It will be interesting to see how this will manifest itself in rankings.
A Changing World
One of the most exciting aspects of working in the digital marketing industry is that it is always changing. There is no template, no formula. Search engine strategies for clients can change with one swift Google algorithm release. This will be proved again and again this year as established giants retool, new competitors emerge, and organizations compete to enhance brand engagement and spark online dialogues. Stay tuned.
Kaysha Kalkofen and JoAnna Dettmann are cofounders of tSunela (www.tSunela.com), a digital marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization, mobile search marketing, paid search marketing, local search optimization, Web analytics, and social media marketing.