With the ever changing and evolving digital landscape it’s hard to predict what will happen in the future of web development, search, marketing and PR. Based on observations and tactics witnessed in 2012, here are some concepts and strategies that should be more apparent throughout the digital world in 2013.
Responsive Design Kills the Mobile Domain
Responsive design blossomed in 2012 and will continue to emerge as the main technology used for mobile friendly websites in 2013. A sited developed with responsive techniques will react to it’s digital environment so the same site viewed on a desktop computer will deliver a user friendly experience on a phone or tablet. With this “one website for all devices” concept, the need for specific “mobile only” .mobi or m. domains will subside. Not only is responsive design favorable when device accessibility is a concern but a responsive website is also ideal from a SEO and content management standpoint. With only one website to manage, you no longer need to update a desktop and mobile version of your site. A responsive site will also eliminate the worry of how Google ranks and indexes and ranks your mobile domain. One website that works on all devices will eliminate these woe’s and is truly the only type of website needed for multi-device success.
Focus on Conversions Lighten Up
The most common goals for paid search revolve around lead generation and the sale of a product or service. However, according to a recent SEMPO report, those objectives are on the decline. When marketers were surveyed about paid search objectives, brand awareness and web traffic are on the rise and sales and conversion are on the decline. With bids and competition in AdWords continuing to rise, it’s interesting that marketers are using such a high ROI and precise tactic for very loose, hard to calculate, brand awareness objectives.
The main goal of paid search campaigns in 2013 will still be lead gen and sales but why are marketers going spend money on these more ambiguous overarching objectives? My speculation is that when economic times are bountiful, money is spent more freely with less concentration on return. As the recession begins to lift, the focus on conversions and sales will lighten up. With these core business objectives moving to the back burner, more budget can be allocated to brand awareness, reputation and web traffic.
Rise of the Semantic Web
This subject can get pretty technical rather quickly but as you begin to think through digital strategies in 2013 I strongly encourage integrating rich snippets and microformats into your website’s content. At it’s very basic level, a microformat is a standardized way to represent data to users and search engines. As of now microformats exist for calendar events, news, media, recipes, reviews and handful of other pieces of content that can follow a set archetype across all websites. As Google tightens the reins on how they rank pages, the use of microformats (when appropriate) could help provide stronger signals to Google and it’s users. This type of semantic mark up is only found on about 1.5% of websites across the entire web so their is a clear opportunity here. With relevancy being a huge part of your ranking factor, participating in the semantic web is a must for 2013.
Forget Contests and Sweepstakes. It’s Time to Gamify.
As user engagement grows as an important tactic, marketers will look for new ways to connect with their audience. The integration of game-like characteristics into websites and apps relies on rewarding users with points, incentives and rewards to have them engage with your site and content. Gamification caters to the competiive nature in humans and provides a totally different approach to engagement and return visits. A simple contest or sweepstakes might provide a lot of inital interest but it’s rare that participants will come back and engage with your site beyond that first form entry. By gamifying a website you could reward users with points based on social shares, comments, etc. At the end of the month, the top 5 users with the most points could be placed into a drawing for a prize. This type of incentive based marketing has worked for some very large brands and should be found throughtout more campaigns in 2013. Be on the lookout, we just might gamify the buzz bin… If you have an hour to kill and you’re really interested in gamification I highly recommend the Google Talk video.
Ads Will Continue to Follow You Around the Internet in 2013
One of the biggest updates to paid search in 2012 was a feature called retargeting. For example, if you are the owner of an online shoe store and a potential customer browses your site and clicks on a blue tennis show, but doesn’t decide to purchase it that day. You can now target that potential customer with ad’s relevant to blue tennis shoes as they browse other parts of the Internet not related to your site. Utilizing this tactic has been shown to have a really high conversion rate. With the success that display ad retargeting has shown, rumors have it that search based retargeting might be in the future. This would enable advertisers to target display advertisements at users based on the queries they entered on search engines. This tactic would utilize the targeting of search with the reach of display taking online advertising to a new level in 2013.