If you feel a bit behind the times when it comes to SEO and social media, I can’t blame you. I read the news every day, adjust my company’s and clients’ strategies regularly and still feel behind. That’s because trends never stay the same for very long, and there are always new ones emerging to challenge the status quo. If you haven’t taken a scrutinizing look at your SEO and social media strategies lately, now’s a good time to take inventory and see where you fall, in relation to the latest trends and tactics in the industry. These eight trends are some of the most important to know about this year.
1. Live video and real-time engagement.
There’s no question that video content is on the rise, in popularity and significance. Users have faster, more mobile internet connections, and the flood of written content on the web has left users hungry for something more visually engaging. Beyond that, live, in-the-moment content is becoming more important in the social realm thanks to mobile experiences and constant communication. These two trends together are facilitating the rise of live-streaming video, which is being promoted by most major social media profiles, and you can expect it to grow in both streaming and viewing figures.
2. Digital assistants and voice search.
Digital assistants like Siri and Cortana have been steadily growing in sophistication and user adoption for the past several years, and now a new kind of digital assistant is emerging -- the home unit. Amazon Alexa and Google Home are just two examples of how voice search is gradually gaining significance in our daily lives. What does this mean for search? It means an even lower focus on short, core keywords, and a higher focus on long-tail keywords and on conversational, colloquial types of searches. You will have to adapt your content accordingly.
3. The rise of social content.
There’s no shortage of content on social media, from brands and users alike, but now that features like Facebook’s Instant Articles are emerging, we may see a new kind of social content develop. Users are already starting to warm to the idea that videos automatically play in their newsfeeds, and full-fledged articles are available without users ever having to leave a social app. This puts an increased demand on brands to provide content through social channels first, which as you might imagine, also has implications for traditional on-site SEO.
4. Increased priorities on apps.
Adding to the complexity of these in-app experiences, both social media platforms and search engines like Google are favoring apps more and more in their new features. Google, for example, is developing features like app streaming to prioritize the visibility and usage of apps for mobile users. As this trend develops, apps will take on an even more important role in users’ online experiences, possibly pushing us ever closer to an eventual “death” of traditional websites.
5. Social commerce
Buyable pins by Pinterest were one of the first “true” social commerce hybrid features, crossing a boundary beyond simple social media advertising to create a new kind of online experience.
6. Rich answers Google’s rich answers -- those helpful snippets of information you get for certain answerable queries -- are rising in prevalence. On one hand, this is threatening, because users are getting highly visible, immediate answers for questions that previously might have led them to your site. But, don’t forget that Google still relies on websites for this information: You can use structured markup and content-targeting on your own site to exploit this and gain more visibility for queries related to your brand.
7. Machine learning.
Machine learning in the context of SEO and social media marketing is still in its infancy, but it’s already starting to make an impact. Google’s RankBrain has already had a significant impact, and it may be serving as a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of a machine-learning algorithm left on its own. Soon, things like search engine updates, social newsfeed algorithm changes and even some forms of marketing automation will be left to artificial intelligence.
The run-of-the-mill general content won’t be enough for most users -- at least not for much longer. Today’s average user is spoiled, with controllable newsfeeds on social media and search results that vary based on location, search history and other factors specific to individual users. The public is gradually demanding content and advertising that’s more individualized and more relevant than ever. Niche-targeting and more individual experiences, especially on social media, are going to become more necessary for success.