Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Search advertising vs. display advertising: Which delivers the best returns?

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned vet, determining if you should use search advertising or display advertising for your marketing campaign is tough.

Use the wrong channel and you potentially ruin the maximum success of your whole campaign.

Thankfully, there are ways to decide which is the best for your business and which will generate the most conversions.

Display advertising

Display advertising is everywhere online. Every website you visit has ads that showcase products for sale. But have you ever noticed you keep seeing the same ads on your social media feeds and the like?

That’s because display advertising tracks a user’s behavior in order to put the right ads in front of the right customers. Display ads are also sometimes known as banner ads, like this one:

Major advantages

Brand awareness

In order to properly utilize display advertising, you need to understand its purpose. In short, display ads are great for driving brand awareness because, generally, these types of ads are found in a place a potential customer may be found.

For example, if a customer is on a website for vegetarian recipes, a display ad that may show up would be an advertisement for a health food store. The customer may not be aware of this type of store, but the ad would drive awareness. Marketers generally gather this information by studying customer behaviors, demographics, and previous search histories.

Retargeting

Let’s say a user has visited your website but hasn’t converted. Display ads give you the opportunity to pull those users back in with retargeting. Your display ad reminds the user about your brand; thus improving the chance of them converting. Check out our ‘5 remarketing strategies to prep for Q4‘ to learn more about retargeting as a whole.

High volume

Display ads may promote your brand to the right people, but they also have high visibility. When you use display ads, they’re also being shown to customers who may not have thought to look for your products or services (even if they’re not part of your demographic).

Even if you’re not targeting an audience, they’ll still see your business in front of them.

Search advertising

Search advertising, or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, is an easy, low-budget way to reach the right audience. You’re able to control who sees the ads with nearly instant results. The PPC ads are shown directly on search engine websites after a keyword or phrase has been searched.

For example, here’s two PPC ads that might show up at the top of a Google search:

Major advantages

Qualified leads

A PPC campaign, done effectively, boosts traffic to your website and drives higher conversions. This is because customers are actively searching for keywords that result in seeing your PPC ads, so long as their keywords match your product or service. PPC ad campaigns generally drive higher click-through rates than display ads because of qualified leads.

Measurable data

Google AdWords is not only the place to setup your search advertising campaign, but it makes it easy to track how well your PPC campaign is doing. Simply pull up your AdWords account, choose the Campaigns tab, and choose “Keywords.” This shows you exactly how well customers are responding to your keywords and phrases.

Budget-friendly

If you’re just starting out or starting your campaign on a lower budget, PPC may be the best bang for your buck. With a PPC campaign, you’re not paying for the ads unless a user has clicked on them—hence their name.

This means, if you’re choosing and bidding on keywords that are relevant to your product or service, the users are most likely qualified leads, resulting in higher conversion rates.

It’s a great way to test what works before moving on to more time-intensive marketing strategies like SEO and content.

Determining factors

Now that you’re aware of the major differences between search and display advertising, consider some of the factors that you should take into account before making a decision.

Search volume

What are your potential customers searching for? Are they already actively looking for the products you’re selling? Here’s where Google AdWords helps yet again. Use this tool to determine if the keywords you’re using are high volume.

If relevant keywords for your business are showing as high competition keywords, your best bet is to start with a PPC campaign. Here’s an example using the keywords “health foods.”

Awareness

Brand awareness is another determining factor when deciding. The first question you should be asking: How many people are aware of your brand already? If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, display ads are your best bet. However, a search campaign can also benefit from brand awareness, especially if your campaign focuses on brand-specific keywords.

Type of services or products

Certain ads may not bring you the highest ROI right away depending on the type of product or service you’re offering.

For example, services like towing, locksmiths, and doctors (also known as “urgent” services) are all services that users will specifically look for, and need, quickly. Using a display ad to advertise may not be the most beneficial if your service is something potential customers may need immediately.

However, this doesn’t mean your services wouldn’t benefit from a display ad—it just won’t be as beneficial to the customer in their time of need.

Mobile first

Did you know that almost 60% of searches are done on a mobile device? Typically, search ad campaigns are better equipped at handling mobile searches.

For example, a user may search for a service on their mobile device, which means they won’t be scrolling through a website. They’ll choose the first ad that comes up, and that’s generally going to be a PPC ad.

The takeaway

When you’re starting a new campaign, it’s not always easy to identify which type of advertising to use. Factors such as your budget, your search volume, and your main goal are only some of the things you should consider before choosing one.

Sometimes, it’s in your best interest to utilize both platforms to maximize your ROI. Using both at the same time means you’re reaching customers at different points in the customer journey, which may be a huge payoff for you in the end.

What has worked for you when it comes to search versus display advertising? Let us know your thoughts and your story in the comment section below!

 

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for No Risk SEO, an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.

Facebook kills off news: Publishers panic, try to remember how to do SEO

By now you’ve no doubt heard the news that’s been shaking up the internet since late last week.

But in case you just came back online after a week-long internet blackout, here’s what’s happening: on Thursday 11th January, Facebook announced a major change to the way posts are ranked in News Feed.

In order to promote more “meaningful” interaction with friends and family, Facebook said that it would “prioritize posts from friends and family over public content … including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses”.

In general, brands have not tended to rely on Facebook for traffic since it dramatically reduced the organic reach of branded content a little over three years ago, forcing brands to pay for reach or go elsewhere for traffic. However, publishers have long been the exception to that rule, with Facebook acting as a huge – and vital – source of referral traffic to publishers’ websites.

This has led many publishers to plan their strategy and output directly around Facebook (see: the much-derided media “pivot to video”, which was driven in large part by Facebook). But Facebook’s announcement of Thursday has put paid to all of that – or at least, put a big dent in the potential traffic that publishers can earn from its platform.

Deprived of referral traffic from Facebook, will publishers be turning en masse back to SEO to restore their fortunes? Let’s look at some of the broader industry shifts underpinning this change, and what it means for the importance of search for publishers.

Trading places: Google is back on top for referral traffic

The truth is that Facebook’s referral traffic to publishers has been in decline for some time now. According to data from digital analytics company Parse.ly, the percentage of external traffic that Facebook provides to publishers decreased from 40% to 26% between January 2017 and January 2018, while Google’s rose from 34% to 44% over the same period.

This means that in a direct reversal of 2015, when Facebook rocked the industry by overtaking Google as a source of referral traffic for publishers, Google is now back in the number one spot. And this all happened before Facebook’s News Feed announcement even took place.

Publishers have also been seeing more traffic from Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) than Facebook equivalent Instant Articles, another situation that reversed itself over the last year. According to Parse.ly, publisher traffic from AMP increased from 4.72% in January 2017 to 11.78% in November 2017, while Instant Articles declined from 10.31% of publisher traffic in January down to 8.54% in November.

When Facebook overtook Google for referral traffic back in 2015, this seemed to herald the dawn – or perhaps the zenith – of a new age of social sharing and publishing, in which social media was the new search.

At a Content Marketing Association Digital Breakfast in June 2016, veteran digital journalist Adam Tinworth remarked that social networks had taken over the search engine’s traditional role of “finding something to read” online. As a result, Google and other search engines moved into more of an “answer engine” role, moving away from search towards a single, definitive answer to users’ queries.

So with Google back on top for referral traffic, are we seeing a return to the status quo?

The Google-Facebook merry-go-round

In fact, Google and Facebook’s continual back-and-forth is the status quo. They have been chasing each other around in circles for years now, each taking it in turns to try their hand at the other’s specialist area.

Google experimented with social networking; Facebook became the go-to place to find content. Both launched lightning-fast takes on the mobile web – Accelerated Mobile Pages and Instant Articles – in 2015 with a global roll-out in 2016. Now, Facebook is returning to its “roots” of showing you what your family and friends are up to, while the latest updates to Google’s smart assistant indicate that Google is moving back into surfacing content.

Google and Facebook: Destined to chase each other in circles for eternity
(Image by monstreh, available via CC0)

In other words, this is just the most recent step in a dance that has been going on for more than 10 years. Facebook might have ceded some ground to Google in the realm of referral traffic to publishers, partly in a bid to rid itself of the fake news scandal that has dogged it since mid to late 2016.

However, the two continue to vie for dominance in countless other areas, such as artificial intelligence, smart home hubs, digital assistants, and advertising. Facebook continues to drive its investment in online video, encroaching on Google-owned YouTube’s territory, while Google recently announced a new foray into social publishing with Google Stamp.

At the height of the fake news controversy, Google and Facebook’s names frequently appeared side-by-side, with both companies accused of peddling false information to their users and perpetrating the “filter bubble” that allows fake news to thrive.

As a result, some have speculated that Google might now follow in Facebook’s footsteps and take steps to distance itself from publishers.

However, Google is already taking action – or at least appearing to take action – against fake news on its search engine by implementing ‘fact-checking’ labels, partnering with the International Fact-Checking Network to combat misinformation, and purging questionable overseas websites that mask their country of origin from Google News.

Unless there is another significant wave of backlash over fake news to force Google’s hand, it seems likely that Google will take the “win” over Facebook and avoid jeopardizing its relationship with publishers – particularly given its recent moves to become more publisher-friendly by supporting paywalled content.

Meanwhile, publishers need to work out how to reconfigure their online strategy with Facebook much less in the picture. Will we be seeing a newfound reliance on SEO and search marketing?

Publishers: time to learn from SEO

Publishers are about to find themselves in the very same position that brand marketers found themselves at the end of 2014, when Facebook announced that it was killing off organic reach for brand Pages. Just like publisher referral traffic now, brand Page reach had been in steady decline for some time, and the Facebook announcement only confirmed what many already suspected was coming.

At the time, brands were forced to abandon a marketing model that relied on free promotion from Facebook pages with hundreds of thousands of Likes, and instead pay for advertising or go elsewhere for their traffic. Sound familiar?

The situation with publishers is therefore nothing new, but is still a huge blow for media organizations who have developed a “social-first” strategy over the years and rely on Facebook as a primary source of traffic.

Following the news that Google had overtaken Facebook as a source of referral traffic, Adam Tinworth blogged: “Business models dependent on Facebook growth are dead in the water, unless you can afford to buy that growth.

“Publishers will need a renewed focus on SEO — especially those that have been social-first.”

Writing for The Drum, founder and managing director of 93digital, Alex Price, observed that Facebook was following Google in “placing its long-term bet on quality [content]”, singling out Facebook-driven publications like 9GAG, Unilad and The Lad Bible as most likely to suffer from the change.

“If I were them, I would be thinking hard about the teams of people I employ to churn out social media content and how sustainable that now is.”

He added that publishers would need to focus on retention and repeat visits to drive long-term value, and optimize the experience of their website, particularly on mobile, in order to build a sustainable source of revenue in the post-Facebook age.

Publish quality content, increase engagement, optimize for mobile… if you’re in SEO, this list will be starting to sound very familiar. It’s a mantra that the search industry has been repeating for years.

High-quality publishers are likely doing most of these things already, so their task will be to ramp up those efforts while diversifying their sources of traffic beyond Facebook. This will stand them in good stead on the search engine results page and beyond.

For lower-quality social publishers, things might not be so easy. After all, these publications evolved specifically to cater to a social sharing environment, which will soon no longer exist.

Much like the brand Pages of yore with hugely inflated Like counts, publishers will need to figure out how to deliver a message of real value to consumers, or risk disappearing altogether.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Good SEO habits: Turning over a new leaf in 2018

Join a gym, start that diet, call your parents more and turn over a new leaf for your SEO strategy.

Whether you’re a stickler for New Year’s resolutions, or the very thought makes you roll your eyes, reviewing your SEO habits for 2018 should be a priority for every business and digital marketer.

You don’t need me to tell you how fast-paced the digital world can be, with the pressures of keeping on top of the latest Google updates and SEO tactics.

Yet it’s all too easy to become stuck in the same routine, mindlessly implementing the same strategy over and over.

Well, it’s time for a change. That new diet can wait another month, but refreshing your SEO strategy can’t. Not if you want to be dominating the SERPs in 2018.

It’s time to sit back and take a long hard look at your SEO habits. In this post, we consider the latest trends and predictions for the year, explain how to review your current strategy, and the SEO habits you should be practising.

Revisit keyword research

You’ve got to start somewhere and what better place than at the beginning. Before you go tweaking your onsite or mixing up your content strategy, you need to make sure the keywords are updated.

Revisit your keyword research and update the data on which you initially based your decisions. People change, habits change, technology changes. The chance that what people are searching for has changed too is also pretty high.

Depending on how long ago you last reviewed your keywords, you may find that there are more tools at your disposal this time around. Bolster your keyword sheet with data from different sources (please do not just rely on Keyword Planner). A personal favorite is SEMRush, particularly the Keyword Magic Tool and Keyword Difficulty Score.

More importantly, when deciding which keywords to allocate to which pages, remember the game has changed. There’s no longer a need to create separate pages for each keyword variation. There’s a little thing called Latent Semantic Indexing and it does most of the hard work for you!

Focus instead on topics and the context of a page, rather than specific keywords. The search engines are smarter than ever; as long as you’re providing value, you can trust Google to figure out the rest without having to shove five variations of the same keyword onto a page.

Onsite audit

You could have the best content and link-building strategies in the world, but if the foundations of your website are not up to scratch, then it will never reach its full potential. On-site optimization is the foundation of any SEO campaign.

Even if you carried out a fully comprehensive, kick-ass audit to start with, things inevitably break and new issues occur. So do it again.

There are too many factors to cover here but just to mention a few of the fundamentals. A good place to start is with the website speed, especially in an age where heavily image-led sites are popular. Ensure you have done everything in your power to send that Google Page Insights score as high as possible.

As an extension of page speed, pay close to attention to the general user experience of the site. This is becoming ever more important and it’s worth getting an expert in UX/UI to review your website. Perhaps it’s time for a website refresh?

If you are launching a new website, don’t forget to implement a checklist of SEO checks before going live (such as removing robots no index!).

Be sure to fix broken links, address duplicate content issues, optimize your images and update your metadata. Since the maximum length for meta descriptions increased even further at the end of last year, it’s probably about time you rewrote them.

Have you implemented schema markup on your site? Now’s the time – don’t put it off.

Mobile

If you haven’t already switched your focus to mobile, don’t wait a moment longer. There are numerous factors to consider when optimizing for mobile and it is therefore a good idea to carry out a separate mobile SEO audit of your site.

Factor in the rise of voice search and how this will impact on keyword formats. Pay close attention to mobile-specific crawl errors via Google Search Console. Ensure your site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test and that mobile load speeds are up to scratch.

Finally, revisit the design and overall user experience of your site on mobile; given that mobile constitutes over 50% of website traffic, it’s time to start prioritizing mobile over desktop.

Content

Take a step back from your content strategy, review what is and isn’t working, and gain a fresh perspective. It can be all too easy to get into the habit of churning out content for the sake of it, without any really solid strategy. Rope in some unsuspecting colleagues and hold a brainstorm. Even people who are not directly involved with the content creation can provide some helpful insight into the mind of an average internet user.

Ultimately, you should be focused on writing content that provides so much value that people want to share it. Think about what makes someone share a piece of content and implement that thinking into your posts.

Be sure to also review and update any old content. Outdated information can be harmful to organic rankings, so take the time to do a refresh. Is there any content that’s been lingering close to the top of the SERPs for some time but hasn’t quite made the final jump to the top spot? Look at the content which is beating you and figure how to make yours even better than theirs.

Don’t forget that it’s not all about the written word. Integrate more visual content into your strategy too, such as infographics and videos. Video in particular is great for keeping people on a page for longer. Given that time spent on page is considered a ranking factor, it’s an opportunity not to be missed!

Link-building strategy refresh

We’ve all been there. Sometimes it feels like you’re putting a lot of time into your link-building efforts but not really getting anywhere. Time to have a strategy refresh! It can be easy to become too focused on only one type of link-building, such as guest posting. Yet there are a whole variety of link-building techniques waiting to be deployed.

Start by ditching any unhealthy linking habits. Use a tool like SEMRush to identify any potentially harmful links and disavow them. Begin the new year with a clean slate and focus on building high-value links.

Perhaps it’s time to start thinking beyond link-building and concentrate on relationship building. Work on building a solid partnership with some of the top publications in your industry. If you’re providing exceptional content for them, then it’s a win-win situation for both of you.

Local search

As more and more web traffic comes from mobile, local search will only become more prominent. Carry out a review of your local search marketing – think Google My Business profile, local directory listings, NAP consistency, schema markup and healthy location pages.

Appearing in the top spot for local searches is absolutely key to skyrocketing your conversions. If searchers see you’re business first, they’re more like to tap that ‘call’ button, visit your business, or browse your website. Fail to nail your local search strategy and you’ll be missing out on some serious opportunities.

Reporting

It’s time to get out the habit of relying solely on keyword rankings as an indicator of success. Clients often get hung up about the rankings but it’s important to stress that these are vanity metrics. The real juicy stuff is conversions and this must be factored into your tracking and reporting methods.

Sure, it’s very satisfying to see those rankings improve. But these are only a tiny snippet of the bigger picture. With 2018, take a step back and review your reporting output. How can it be improved? What other data should you be considering? Can you set up event tracking or more comprehensive goals in your Google Analytics?

You’ve put all the hard work into the campaign, so it’s time you demonstrate the value that work has brought.

Switch from HTTP to HTTPS

We know, switching from HTTP to HTTPS can seem like a lot of effort and potentially risky in the short term. However, as long as you’re careful and follow an HTTPS migration checklist, then you’ll be just fine and can start to reap the benefits in the long-term.

The need for extra security is never going away; it will just become more and more important. We know that Google considers site security a ranking factor, so why would you not do it? Stop procrastinating and get to it!

Final words

As a final point, be sure to keep updated with the latest news and trends in the SEO world. This is more important than ever, with the rise of machine learning and the RankBrain algorithm. We should expect to see further changes related to these as the technology is developed further. So stay tuned and stay agile.

In short, the best SEO habit is ultimately providing value and relevance. Forget about manipulating the search engine (you won’t win). Do everything with the user at the forefront of your mind, follow best practices, and your 2018 search strategy will be golden.

Monday, January 15, 2018

High-level search marketing: How to keep your momentum from the holiday season going

Businesses tend to have a huge marketing push right before, and often during, the holidays, but often times these marketing campaigns fizzle out after the new year.

It’s easy to dial back your marketing efforts and budget after a busy season, but if you’re smart you’ll keep that momentum up well into the first months of the new year.

Here’s how you can keep up your push in marketing efforts in 2018.

Start email marketing campaigns early and target right

If you played smart during the holidays, your email leads should’ve increased significantly. The best practice is to act fast. Your new leads may have purchased their holiday gifts already, but that doesn’t mean they’re done shopping. Understand that your customers want to hear from you, so it’s best to act fast.

This starts with targeted email campaigns. Instead of doing the hard work yourself, use the help of marketing automation software to determine which content fits each audience. For example, automation software looks at the previous purchases of customers and prompts emails for similar products.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo it with the emails. This will turn your customers away quicker than they came. Offer valuable content in your emails early on and you’ll keep your customers coming back.

Some ways to add value to your email marketing campaign:

  • Reach out to customers who purchased their products as a gift. Use similar product suggestions for future gift purchases
  • Contact customers who left an abandoned cart. Customers often use their shopping carts as a “wish list” of sorts. Reach out to those customers to see if they plan to complete their purchase
  • Offer a discount to entice customers to purchase. Free shipping adds tons of value. Make your discount exclusive to email subscribers to further add value.

Continue to use paid ads

You already have your paid ad campaign underway from the holidays. Don’t let those ads go stagnant as you start the new year.

Leading up to (and during) the holidays, ads from all over are competing. That energy slows down as the holidays end. Take advantage of both lower competition and less expensive ads during the aftermath of the holidays.

This is a new year, which means it’s the right time to switch up your strategy. You’re no longer in holiday mode, but laying out the foundation for the rest of the year.

Do you normally bid second position keywords throughout the year? Change your strategy and look for keywords that are first position. The holiday campaign may have busted your budget, but that doesn’t mean you should pull back on your paid ads. You’ll actually spend more money in the long run, and completely kill your momentum from the holidays.

Keep your paid ads running throughout the year, so you’re not halting traffic and trying to build it back up after you run your ads again.

Take advantage of keywords around new year’s resolutions

“New year, new me” is the mantra for most people after the holidays are finished. A new year means a fresh start, and regardless of your market, customers focus on improving their health and well-being. Use these trends to benefit your business. This means creating impactful content that’s valuable to customers and their goals for the new year.

Use your content to promote your products and services in a way that appear useful to your customers. How can you portray your products as a tool for achieving customer goals? This tactic is possible to spin no matter what industry you’re in.

For example, let’s say you’re a company that specializes in green cleaning products. Cater your content towards improving health and keeping chemicals out of the home.

You know keyword choice is imperative when working on your search marketing campaign. Take advantage of new year resolutions by choosing keywords that match. For instance, words like “get healthy” and “get organized” are keyword phrases that tend to pop up as the new year approaches.

Look at last year’s organic keywords. Which were the best performing, and which could you stand to ditch?

Take a peek at your competitors’ keywords, too, to see what they’re ranking highly for. Incorporate these keywords into your blog posts and social posts to drive traffic to your company’s website.

Review your data and strategize for the upcoming year

No doubt about it, the months of January and February are slow months for everyone, no matter your industry. The best way to push forward is to take a look at what worked and didn’t work during the holiday season.

It’s also a great time to learn more about your new customers. This gives you great leverage to start working on your campaigns throughout the new year.

Look at things like your timing and segments. Who responded well to specific emails? Which groups brought you the most ROI? How was the timing of your campaign? When looking at your new customers, figure out which of these groups fit well for your business.

As far as your website goes, A/B testing will tell you which pages of your website responded well with your customers. Test your non-holiday specific landing pages and compare them to your holiday pages.

Notice the shift between the two and apply those shifts to your new year campaign. Take this information and tweak the things that didn’t work and apply those changes to your upcoming campaigns.

The takeaway

After the surge of the holidays, most SEOs and marketers feel they’ve exhausted their resources and budget. This doesn’t have to be the case. The success of a holiday campaign should continue well into the new year. Keep these things in mind during your slow months and you’ll keep the momentum up to prepare you for spring and busier selling seasons.

How do you keep your momentum going into the new year? Let us know what has worked for you in the comment section below.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for No Risk SEO, an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.

Friday, January 12, 2018

How to make sure your social media marketing is on track for 2018

A new year brings new challenges in social media marketing. Luckily, this is the best time of the year to review your social strategy.

2018 is officially here and this means that we need to plan our social media strategy for the year ahead. Every new year requires the necessary adjustments to ensure that we’re still using every social platform effectively.

If your social media marketing didn’t go as planned in 2017, this is the perfect opportunity to analyse what went wrong.

If you had a successful year with your social strategy last year, then you can still explore new ideas and achieve further success in 2018.

We’ve created a checklist to help you review your social media marketing and keep on top of the latest trends.

1. Analyze audience

Are you reaching the right audience? A closer look at Audience Insights on each platform can help you understand if you need to expand or narrow down your reach.

2. Analyze the platforms that you’re using

Use your insights from the past year to assess the effectiveness of each platform in reaching your goals. You don’t have to be active on every social network if it isn’t working for you – now is a good time to assess if you want to dial it back on certain platforms, or even stop using them altogether.

3. Measure your existing ROI

What’s your current social media ROI? Is it where you need it to be? Analyse your return on investment and get ready to set your expectations for 2018.

4. Review KPIs

Do your KPIs fit your goals for 2018? Now is a good time to update your KPIs if you want to change your social media marketing and strategy. Use your last year as a benchmark and aim for more ambitious, yet still realistic, targets.

5. Organize your new social calendar

It’s the right time to plan ahead and update your social calendar with the upcoming campaigns. Save time during the year by keeping an overview of what’s coming up.

6. Review the frequency of your social posting

Are you creating enough content? Do you create too much? Explore whether you need to focus on quality rather than quantity.

For example, Twitter may need more content than Facebook or Instagram, but you should still test whether your posts lead to the desired level of engagement. If not, reducing their frequency might lead to more people interacting with the posts you do make.

7. Mix up your content

Are you creating different content types? Maybe you can make 2018 the year that you invest in video, or experiment with GIFs in your brand marketing. Mixing up your content types can liven up your social presence, as well as taking advantage of the trend towards more visual content on the web.

It doesn’t have to create more work for you – some smart repurposing of your existing content can convert it into different formats without much additional effort.

8. Align social media with UX

As social media marketing becomes more complicated, a good user experience to the pages that you’re promoting becomes more important. If you want to bring new people to your landing pages you need to make it as easy as possible for them to navigate and proceed to the next steps.

9. Optimize your social content for SEO

Social media may not be an official ranking factor for SEO, but it can still contribute to your authority. Build your social presence, aim for engagement and add genuine value to your content.

10. Involve social media in your marketing funnel

As social reporting becomes more advanced, it’s easier to analyse whether social media brings you any conversions. Add to your new year’s resolutions to improve your ROI and improve the number of conversions that come from social media. A closer look at the leads’ journey will help analyse how social media contribute to your marketing goals.

11. Align social media with your business goals

Is your social presence reflecting your goals? If your marketing strategy is focusing this year more on engagement rather than awareness, how can you use social media towards this goal?

Also, if your business needs to improve sales, how can you use social media to make it the first point of contact for potential leads? If you start aligning your social media marketing with your business goals, you can reduce the likelihood of wasting your time with your social posts.

The major social media trends of 2018

If we had to predict the biggest trends in social media for 2018, then we’d focus on these:

The (continuing) rise of Instagram Stories

 Instagram has seen great growth in 2017, and all the latest features indicate that it’s gearing towards an even more successful year. As it’s already one of the most popular platforms for users, brands are flocking there to make the most of its engagement.

Appealing visual content will be crucial, especially after Instagram’s decision to get rid of the chronological news feed. This means that brands need to try harder to show up in users’ newsfeeds.

The biggest bet of the year for Instagram is Stories and their impressive growth over the past year. There have been more than 300 million daily active Stories users and many brands have already experimenting with campaign promotion through Stories.

What makes this feature even more interesting now is the fact that Instagram has recently introduced “Highlights”, which allows users to retain their Stories for more than 24 hours. For marketers, this means that if you feel that a particular story could be used for a longer period, whether it’s for engagement, product promotion, or a live coverage, then you can highlight it to showcase it on your profile.

As Stories were designed as an ephemeral feature, it will be interesting to see if their popularity remains now that is no longer the case. However, for brands, Highlights provide a great opportunity to benefit from this engaging feature over a longer period of time.

Video marketing

Video content has been used quite extensively on social platforms during 2017. As more tools show up to simplify the creation of video content, 2018 is a great year to be investing in video.

The best videos combine eye-catching visuals and an engaging narrative to grab the user’s attention and keep it for a longer period than text and even images can achieve. However, just because you’ve produced a video doesn’t necessarily mean you can achieve this.

It’s important to keep in mind that most successful videos are:

  • Short
  • Use captions
  • Capture the audience’s attention from the first seconds
  • Tell a story to keep the audience interested

Moreover, it might be a good idea to experiment with videos of different lengths to test what works better for each platform. Different social audiences respond to different types of content, and you don’t have to post the same video on every single network.

How about creating a full-length video and splitting it accordingly for every social platform?

Augmented reality as part of social media

During 2017, we’ve seen the rise of Augmented Reality in social media, with Snapchat and Instagram investing in filters and fun yet engaging features. Snapchat is already monetizing its AR Lenses by making them available to brands, and Instagram is sure to quickly follow suit.

Moreover, we predict that 2018 will be the year that it becomes much easier to create AR content. Facebook has already introduced AR Studio, and Snapchat has launched their own Lens Studio, in a bid to facilitate the creation of AR content on their platforms.

Both are aiming to make AR content accessible to a wider audience, increasing the opportunities for engaging content. As with Pokemon Go, more brands are ready to explore how AR can improve their digital strategy and we’re expecting more successful use cases during 2018.

Chatbots for customer service

Facebook’s chatbots have also seen growth in 2017, with more than 100,000 monthly active bots now in use across the site.

Despite some initial concerns by marketers as to whether a bot can be used as part of a social strategy, more brands have quickly realised that a successful bot can improve customer service. Whether it be to provide information, answer questions, or allow customers to more easily place an order, there are several ways to involve a bot in your digital strategy.

However, while bots can save you time and be helpful, it’s equally important to maintain a human element in your interactions. Many brands have seen success with a hybrid strategy of letting bots deal with straightforward queries, and passing the interaction on to a human agent if it requires more intricate handling.

Overview

All in all, social media marketing in 2018 is a much more complicated beast, a far cry from the days when we would count likes as an indication of success.

From social video to ephemeral content, augmented reality to intelligent chatbots, the components of social media marketing are unlike any other marketing channel, and as such they require a thorough knowledge of the overarching trends and how to apply them, an understanding of the different platforms, specific goals and dedicated tracking of the important metrics.

A closer look at the latest trends now will save you time spent trying to decide where to focus your efforts further down the line. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pivot and readjust your priorities at a later stage. Take advantage of the start of the year to get ready for another successful year in your social media marketing efforts.