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Dan Smith

The Future Of Digital Marketing: Can We Really Predict It?

Dan Smith
The Future Of Digital Marketing: Can We Really Predict It?

As a standard rule, I’m not someone who generally worries over the future. There are so many variables and affecting factors, be it on a broad, personal level or a specific one as part of a professional aspect that I genuinely think it’s best to focus your time and attention on excelling in the moment.

However, as with everything, there are exceptions, and it’s at this time of year where we see people attempting to work out what’s going to be "hot" or "key" in the next 12 months.

Now there’s nothing wrong with these posts or discussions — they usually offer up some great guesstimations and food for thought over the holiday period.

But they can also be so off the mark it makes you wonder where some people’s minds are heading.

When it comes to digital marketing, such discussions are always interesting for these exact reasons. Obviously no one knows for certain what’s going to be happening with the future of the industry, but I’ve already seen some interesting posts around what’s going to be necessary for actioning in 2015 for SEO, and also took part in a Twitter chat that asked a couple of questions around SEO in 2015.

Reading through them and being involved, it’s made me question a number of things myself, such as how accurate these predictions can be and ultimately, whether we can actually predict the future of digital marketing.

And my answer to the latter is ... Yes.

I’m Not Psychic

First of all, it needs to be understood that I don’t have a crystal ball, can’t read tarot cards or haven’t come up with some ridiculously complex formula that’s resulted in me having the ability to know exactly what’s going to happen moving forward.

Instead, I’ve just used two things — past experiences and common sense.

The SEO Industry Can Tell You All You Need to Know About the Future

Having been involved in SEO for a decade, I’ve seen it change and develop considerably. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s the part of the digital marketing industry that in many respects, has seen the most change.

But although things do seem to change frequently, and many are left wondering just what they need to do to adjust to or action the changes, I’m usually left questioning whether we’re all missing a trick — primarily for the fact that every single change that has happened in the SEO industry has been to ensure you’re offering the best experience you possibly can to your audience.

  • Stop filling your content with keywords? It makes it more readable, natural, and engaging.
  • No longer link out to just anyone who requests a link? You begin to show to your audience you’re an authority in your industry, someone who can be trusted and aren’t causing confusion by appearing to be associated with websites completely irrelevant to anything you’re doing.
  • Ensure your mobile experience is as good as your desktop one? With smartphones being a key resource for the majority of us today, to ensure the ultimate in customer experience and satisfaction, your audience must be able to engage with you positively — and have their goals met — regardless of the device they’re engaging with you on.

Now of course, the likes of Google don’t just come out one day and say, “From today, you need to remove all keywords from your content” or “if you don’t have a mobile responsive website, we’re going to de-index you.” It’s a much more gradual and incremental process; one where you’re advised and essentially encouraged to implement changes.

But all of these changes, no matter how big or small they are, can be traced back to delivering a first-class user experience. It’s irrelevant of the time the change was first ‘requested’, too — going right back to the early 2000s, they still had the ultimate end goal of providing the best experience to your audience that you could.

What’s also important to highlight here is the development of SEO and the way it now incorporates a range of different tools, techniques and resources. No longer is it just one person or a small team implementing some link building tactics and instead, you can very easily find yourself drawing on the knowledge and experience of people in your sales, marketing and customer service teams, too.

An ideal example of the need for unified working, it’s the way to ensure your customer’s changing demands and expectations are met — which leads me on perfectly to my point around common sense.

Common Sense = Looking at What Your Audience Wants, Needs and Expects

It’s basic business principles. Supply what your audience is demanding. The people who do this best and stand out from the competition are the ones who’ll see the most success.

As a business, irrelevant of your size, your target demographic or the products/services you’re offering, you need to truly understand your audience. You need to have the best idea you can of what it is they’re looking for, how they want it to be delivered and how you can do so in a way that separates you from your competitors.

And as long as this is the focus of your business in general, it simply needs to be transitioned into your digital activities both now and continually moving forward.

There’s no need to guess what you should be doing when it comes to digital marketing, because as long as you’re listening, your audience will be telling you what they want.

For example, they’ll be active on certain channels. Therefore, you should have an active presence on them, too. Similarly, they’ll be engaging with certain content over others, so you just need to replicate the content that’s being most engaged with.

It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? If there’s one thing I’ve found over the last decade, however, it’s that we all too regularly over-complicate things in the digital world, completely unnecessarily. Digital marketing is just an extension of your offline, traditional activities.

Sure, you have a whole host of new resources that are continually being added to, but there’s no need to utilize them all — simply the ones that impact on your audience.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, no one knows what’s going to happen for certain next week, next month or next year when it comes to digital marketing or anything else — but that doesn’t mean we can’t very accurately predict on a high level the approach that all organizations need to take to see success.

And in my eyes, it simply comes back to your audience — always understand, or remember, that your audience is the group of people who you’re in business for and who will ultimately see your continued success. As long as they’re happy, that’s a great indication your plans are turning out perfectly.

So, does this mean we can predict the future of digital marketing? Perhaps. According to Merriam-Webster, a prediction is “a statement about what will happen or might happen in the future.” Therefore, If we know what our audience is going to want — a great customer experience — that means we can predict the future, right?

Or does it just mean we’re not actually predicting anything, but instead simply doing the one thing we’ve always striven to do, and put a smile on our customers’ faces?

Image credit: igor / Dollar Photo Club

Dan Smith is the SEO Specialist at Leighton. Responsible for the development, implementation and ultimate success of client strategies, Dan brings a decade’s worth of digital and communication experience to the table and firmly believes quality, audience-relevant content delivered effectively across all channels is the key to success. His last article for SEMrush was "5 Simple Ways I Got 100+ Genuine Twitter Followers a Week Organically and Easily."

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