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The Top 5 Online Marketing Trends to Pay Attention to in 2014

The digital landscape for marketers is in a constant state of flux, which requires a keen eye to identify what trends are appearing every week, but most importantly, which of these important industry updates will impact the way businesses communicate for the long-term.

QR codes, MySpace, Groupon and other innovations to hit mainstream culture as a marketing platform failed overtime after many marketers wasted their time, money and resources on trying to reach their customers on these channels. To avoid following in their footsteps, it’s important to strategize and execute against industry trends that have long-term value for your business. It’s always a highly educated guess in terms of what marketing channels to apply spend to, but there are certain factors that help back up any guess work.
A new report from eMarketer, says that the US retail industry will spend $9.42 billion this year on paid digital media alone. By 2017, that number is expected to grow to $13.5 billion, representing a 10.5 percent compound annual growth rate. The question is, what marketing channels and campaigns should your business be spending on to ensure a measurable impact on your bottom line?
Here are some of the most important online marketing trends to date that will have long-term impact on the growth of businesses for the future.
Monitor the developments in these key areas throughout 2014:

1. Connected Devices create an ecosystem of devices, also known as the Internet of Things.

It’s quite obvious that mobile devices have heavily impacted the way the world communicates and uses the web in their day-to-day activities. This impact will continue to be seen in how our ecosystem of devices interacts with one another, providing utility to consumers and offering businesses a whole new way to reach those users.
There is expected to be 24 billion connected devices across the world by 2020 in every market and consumer category. For instance, Fitbit and Nike+ are some of the front runners devices for this generation of connected devices since they tie together your fitness through wrist band devices that then communicate with your smartphones on the results your body has seen.
These devices represent an opportunity for marketers to better tie in their brand’s products and services with relevant moments a consumer is experiencing throughout their day with their devices. The relevancy to what actions or feelings a person is experiencing at a given moment using these devices can better inform the messaging a person receives from business, making it more aligned with their interests and therefore, more likely to incite action.
Everything from two-screen experiences, mobile payments, digital educational programs, the ecosystem of healthcare devices, the connected car and more represent an ongoing opportunity for businesses to provide more memorable and engaging moments to their customers.

2. Content marketing will continue to remain supreme, even as a buzzword.

Content marketing is nothing new, but in recent years has jumped to the forefront of the minds of marketers and business owners alike looking to create real connections with relevant people. Storytelling has always been a part of a marketer’s role, but never before has it been so crucial to the ongoing success of a company. The web has become social based, which changed the entire marketing industry dramatically, which now requires a two-way dialogue with consumers across every touch point of their experience with your business. It is not enough anymore to write press releases and buy billboards to sell your products to stand out among the right audience, you have to talk to your customers, cater to your shared interests and most importantly, listen.
According to a study by Eloqua and Kapost, content marketing produces three times more leads than traditional marketing per dollar and has both soft and hard benefits further illustrating its effectiveness for your business. In an age of open dialogue between consumers and businesses, building public trust, engaging prospects and generating happy customers is how content can drive a measurable impact for the long-term. The same study further illustrates that content converts to long-term leads that cost 31% less than paid search for mid-sized companies and 41% less for large companies.
You’re probably already using content to market your business through the use of blog posts, eBooks, e-mails, newsletters, videos, podcasts, social media and more. However, to continue to stay relevant your business must take a strategic approach to what type of content is being produced, how it is being produced and why you’re creating this material in the first place. It’s all about increasing your investment in content overtime to help ensure you’re reaching the right audience with the right message and seeing a return from your efforts.

3. Sponsored Content will grow in importance for brands to reach fans and publications to drive revenue.

Like discussed above, content marketing is a critical focus for your business in the coming year. There are many ways to creating and distribute compelling content to your audience, one of which is by creating sponsored content or sponsoring existing content. There are a few different variations of sponsored content available, but overall, sponsoring content on a publication can help give your messaging reach it may never achieved on its own.
Sponsored content comes in many forms to fit the needs of many businesses with many different goals. For example, SAP’s column in Business Insider on the future of business, GUESS’s campaign with Refinery29 celebrating 30 years of style with 30 feature stories or Ruffles column on BuzzFeed covering everything from dipping chips to reasons why dogs are a man’s best friend.
Consider the investment in sponsored content to drive greater visibility to your business among interested audiences that may or may not be familiar with your company’s offerings to date. If you look at many key searches in the search engines, you’ll begin to notice that many of the first page results are from articles from industry publications.
This is because Google often recognizes articles from editorial sources as more accurate sources of information than a company’s content is on a certain subject area, which is why those results are often found below a news source’s results. This is all the more reason why many businesses have been sponsoring content in these publications to get featured in those top results organically driving greater visibility in the search engines and on social media from relevant audiences.

4. Simple mobile apps will continue to captivate like Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and WeChat

Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most utilized apps for businesses to communicate with their audience of over 150 millions users sharing 16 billion photos a day, while Chinese mobile social network WeChat has grown to 400 million users to date. With the continued growth ofInstagramWeChat and other mobile apps with a specific purpose like Snapchat and WhatsApp, it’s extremely apparent that there is a continuing trend in the usage of apps on mobile devices across many demographics, especially the younger generation of users.
These apps succeed because they allow people to communicate at scale with one another on the go in a simple and unique format, specific to each individual social app. There’s an opportunity for businesses to begin integrating with these ecosystems and become an early mover since these platforms are still new and not yet saturated with businesses trying to reach their customers.
Before taking the dive into one of these mobile platforms, make sure your target audience is active on the network and that it make sense for your brand to be present on this channel. Once you’ve considered the audience and fit for your business, then begin to formulate a strategy as to how you’ll interact with your audience on these networks or future mobile platforms that will continue to arise and affect the way consumers communicate.

5. A blur of social signals in search: AuthorRank and Google Authorship.

Google Authorship will continue to have importance for businesses, as AuthorRank becomes a stronger part of the algorithm matching keyword searches to relevant quality content. Authorship allows any content creator to connect their published articles and other content online with their Google+ profile, which also will appear in the search engines listed with the result. The writer’s photo, name and Google+ profile URL are all present in the search result to help drive more credibility to the piece of content by highlighting its author and how you can continue to follow their work in the future.
AuthorRank is Google’s latest approach to ensuring that all search engine results are credible as possible, in this case, with help of what author wrote an article, eBook or something similar. Google will continue to take who the author is as an indicator of the content’s quality in the future, especially if this person continues to gain traction on social media from their own content.
As a business this is important to focus on for the future because all of your contributors to your blog, eBooks and other content efforts can help add yet another indication of quality to your content in the search engines by properly attributed their work with Google Authorship. Beginsetting up Google Authorship for your contributors today to ensure that your content is reaping the full benefits of AuthorRank in the coming months.

Bones. Spend on paid social advertising will rise; spend on display ads will fall.

Marketers continue to apply their spend online to where their audience is most active and where they can see the most return on investment. According to a recent study by retargeting giant AdRoll, Facebook news feed ads have a 21 times higher click thru rate than standard web retargeting ads and an 49 times stronger click through rate as compared to Facebook’s right-hand side ads. This study curated data from 547 advertisers and 1 billion ad impressions.
This prediction is based off a strong intuition that this data is a sign of what’s going to continue to work for businesses trying to reach their customers online for the future. Display advertising today places relevant ads from the websites you’ve recently visited across the web to gain your attention once again. Banner ads are often littered across your favorite websites not driving any actual value for your business, since they often get lost amongst the noise of many other ads appearing on the same web page.
Paid social advertising on Facebook place an ad in front of the platform’s audience in the news feed where users are actively looking to interact with friends and get updates about the things they care about. It’s far less difficult for your business’s ad to stand out amongst your audience in a feed of limited content, then it is for an ad to stand out on another website’s sidebar or wherever else the ad might be present.
Paid social advertising puts your business’s content directly in front of a targeted audience more likely to be interested in your ad, while this isn’t always the case when using display advertising across the web. Be sure to monitor how other businesses use paid social and display advertising to reach their audiences, while experimenting to see what form of advertising works best with your audience overtime.
What trends do you see developing in 2014 in online marketing? Which of the above do you see having the most impact? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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