Marketing Predictions and Digital Trends for 2018

Ten years into the great social media experiment and 2017 was the year we saw Facebook hit the 2 billion user mark, the proliferation of real-time video across social platforms and the continuing email renaissance. With 2018 coming up fast upon us what better time to reflect on the past year, to dust off the crystal ball and to predict what 2018 will bring for marketers.

This post is divided into five sections to mirror the disciplines Out-Smarts focuses on websites trends, SEO – getting found when people search online, email marketing, social media and overall marketing strategy.

Website Design Trends

We know that Google is going to continue to emphasize the importance of mobile in 2018 so expect to see function taking precedence over form with a focus on usability and minimalist site navigation and content proliferating. It’s going to be interesting to see how the content is king crusaders balance their obsession with publishing content with minimalism and mobile. Expect to see more valuable content related to buyer intent rather than simply content for the sake of putting something out there.

Will 2018 be the year when small businesses finally catch up? 50% of small businesses still don’t have a website; we’re hoping this new year will be the one the laggards finally catch up. It is interesting that social media adoption for small business is much higher than website adoption. The popularity of social media is likely because of a low barrier to entry of social platforms. However, it is important to consider that you don’t own your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter pages (or any other social media presence you might have) the social media company owns it. What happens if they switch directions or go out of business? A website belongs to your business, not to a third party.

Watch out for more animation (logos in particular) and websites that incorporate GIFs in 2018 too – hopefully, they’re less cheesy than their Flash predecessors. Artificial Intelligence is going to be everywhere in 2018 too as enhancements make Chatbots get better and better at answering questions and simulating conversations with website visitors.

Search Engine Optimisation

Don’t let anyone tell you that keyword research is no longer important. It is and will continue to be, but there will be a shift in 2018 to focus more on semantic search, buyer intent and topics rather than specific keywords. SEOs will focus more on having their site show up at the right time when people are actually considering a purchase, rather than having the site show up to attract particular personas.

Another aspect that should be on your SEO radar in 2018 is voice search which means you need to hone your long tail keywords, i.e. keyword phrases that are hyper-specific to what you are selling.

Image search will continue to grow in 2018 so now might be the time to make sure all the images on your website have well thought out and optimized alt tags.

Email Campaigns

The email renaissance will continue in 2018. Get ready to watch videos embedded directly in email campaigns. Technological enhancements in email clients will continue to lead to more and more email apps that support embedded video. Right now less than half of all email clients can play embedded videos but thanks to Apple mail, iOS and Samsung this is changing. Up until now, most senders have opted to embed a fake play button in the email with a link to the video on a separate site or by GIF.

Including video in emails can lead to big increases in open rates – Campaign Monitor

Watch for more sophistication in list segmentation too. Segmenting campaigns so that specific audiences receive emails that contain content tailored to their unique perspective.

Social Media

2017 was the year of streaming video in social media; LinkedIn In and Twitter followed Facebook Live’s lead and began supporting live streaming video content. In 2018 watch out for growing adoption of these technologies and more creative live streams.

Over 8 billion videos or 100 million hours of videos are watched on Facebook every day (TechCrunch, 2016). – via Buffer

Not doing short video is not an option – Kat Hahn

In 2018 we will also see the increased adoption of short-lived content, content that’s only available for a short period of time before it disappears, – like Instagram stories and Snapchat. Marketers must start developing strategies to maximize the reach and impact of ephemeral content as well as considering tactics to get this content noticed.

On platforms like Instagram and Facebook, only a tiny percentage of followers actually see the content you share on your page. To get noticed in 2018, you will need to invest in ads on these platforms. Consider video ads to spice things up a little.

Social media analytics, measuring tools and management solutions will become more sophisticated in 2018 with an emphasis on enterprise social marketing integrating all platforms.

How Marketing Strategies will Evolve in 2018

2018

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that 2018 will be the year that our obsession with all things digital and only digital will end. It’s also going to be the year we’re going to start calling our discipline marketing again (rather than digital). Marketing in 2018 will encompass all aspects of the marketing mix, both online and off and marketers will use the means most likely to help them attract their target audience.

Consider this, there are 65 million business pages on Facebook, 90% of businesses use social media. These are substantial numbers, but for marketers this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult, not to mention more expensive, to get noticed. If you want to attract your target audience’s attention in 2018, then widen your horizons and consider sending them a direct mail piece (depending on the audience) in a nice coloured envelope with handwritten wording. It will likely be the only physical mail the recipient gets that day (or maybe that week or month!), they’re going to open it, and if your copy is effective they will act on it!

Conclusion

2018 is going to be an interesting year; technological advancements will continue to speed up. To be effective as marketers, it’s going to be important not simply to jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing but to consider options strategically and with your target audience in mind (rather than from a product or service-centric perspective). That said, video popularity has been growing year over year and won’t stop. Cisco predicted that video would account for 80% of internet traffic by 2020. So if you do nothing else, consider how you might incorporate video into your digital approach in 2018.

E Marketing – Add It To Your Marketing Mix Right Now

Did you know that email is the most popular activity on smartphones or that 53% of people open email on their mobile phones?

Over the past few years, email marketing has seen a huge renaissance. E marketing isn’t as sexy as social media but it is a workhorse and when it comes to conversions it blows social media out of the water.

If you craft your email strategy and build your campaigns the right way, then they can offer a return on your investment (in both time and money) of up top 44% for every dollar spent – according to Campaign Monitor.

Hands Up, Who Has an Email Account?

The answer is everyone. Email is effective because of it’s wide reach – 2.3 billion people have email addresses and many (like me) have more than one (there are over 4 billion email accounts).

For most people email is the thing they check in bed before they go to sleep, and first thing in the morning when they’re having their coffee (or on the loo!). It is versatile for all business types and it has a low barrier to entry since it is so easy to set up. Even better – when it comes to your campaigns and lists you are in full control (as long as you stay CASL compliant).

You Need An Email Marketing Plan

Crafting an email marketing plan that takes into consideration your target customers and resources is key. It should set out your business goals, map your email goals to your business goals, and outline the steps you will take to achieve them. Doing so makes it easier for you to stay on track and makes a successful campaign much more achievable.

Here’s What to Include in your E Marketing Plan:

  • Goals (Strategic, Campaign and Overall Email Marketing) – make them quantifiable i.e. $ sales, % increase in website traffic, number of leads of hope will result.
  • Audience – identify who will receive your campaign (more on defining your audience below).
  • Research – sign up for third-party newsletters to get ideas.
  • Tools – determine which email marketing tool is best given what you want to achieve.
  • Design – what will your email template(s) look like? Note that it should be about 500-600 pixels wide and vertical in design.
  • An outline of content: topics, subject, images and links.
  • Lists – identify where your lists reside i.e. in Excel, your CRM or….). First name and email addresses of subscribers in CSAV format will help you upload them to your email marketing tool.
  • Timelines / Responsibilities and Schedule – who is responsible for what and when (this includes writing content, sourcing images, laying out the campaign, proofreading, approval, send and monitoring).
  • Compliance – are you following the rule of law when it comes to sending email? Learn more about the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation in our blog post
  • Testing – determine how you will test your campaigns before they go out to make sure they work on all devices
  • Tracking – outline the tools you will use and how you will monitor the effectiveness of your campaign

Check out these email marketing plan examples from Constant Contact (this one is more of a content calendar than a plan) and Hubspot.

Four Tips for Email Campaign Success

1. Define your audience – determine whether you will you send it to current customers, past customers, new projects, suppliers and partners, or by geographic area, age, gender or job role. Hint – segmentation will increase your conversion rate.

2. Create great content starting with a content list:

  • Determine what content will be included  and outline general content types
  • Identify who is going to write it
  • Determine whether to recycle content you’ve already created or create new content (bear in mind that content should be useful and add value)
  • Get creative – if you have a popular Tweet – expand on that
  • Add great images to the mix 

3. Outline Timing – the frequency of your email blasts will depend on your target audience, products/services and the resources you have. It’s better to send fewer higher quality email campaigns than try to send too many. If you get a great response and have the time resources to do so, then increase frequency

4. Scheduling – Work back at least a month from your intended send date to give you enough time to get this right.

Week 1 – Editorial basics – develop content topics, graphics, ideas, and define your audience then start tracking down your lists. If you don’t have an email tool set up this is the time to do so then create your template (most email marketing tools have templates you can adapt or you can have your developer custom code one for you).

Week 2 – Write, refine and expand on what you want to say, source images and/or photos, and define subject lines (here’s a handy tool to test their effectiveness).

Week 3 – Log in to your email marketing tool, create your campaign and add your content. Send a test campaign.

Week 4 – Get feedback, refine and improve your campaign. Send your campaign (Wednesday or Thursday morning is a good time if your audience is corporate, if it’s consumer then evenings, weekends or earlier in the morning will be best).

Week 5 – Track responses and measure success based on the goals you set at the start.

Week 6 – Start over!

If you need help or support with your email campaigns, please reach out. We’d love to work with you!

SSL and Browser Security Warnings – How To Make Your Website Secure

If your website has a contact form and it isn’t securely set up with an SSL certificate, security warnings are going to start showing up on Chrome when visitors visit your site using that browser. If your site is set up with Google Search Console (and your site should be!) you probably got an email about this.

Chrome Will Show Security Warning

Chrome is one of the most widely used browsers and there’s a good chance the bulk of your site’s visitors use it so if your business relies on people filling out forms on your website to fill your lead funnels then you are going to want to fix this ASAP. Doing so gives visitors the comfort factor that the details they submit on the form are encrypted and secure.

SSL – How To Make Your Site Secure

First things first, pages or sites that are secure have HTTPS rather than HTTP as their URL. I don’t want to get too technical in this article but if you want visit this to find out more about HTTP and HTTPS . The extra S simply denotes a site that is Secure.

In order to set your site up as secure you have to purchase an SSL  Certificate. There are two options.

  1. Free Options  – Free certificates are fairly new (see https://letsencrypt.org/), but just as valid as paid certificates; they take a bit of configuring with the hosting company.
  2. The traditional method is to pay for a HTTPS certificate for the domain name. HTTPS certificates expire after a certain amount of time; generally you purchase for one or more years. When the certificate expires, it will no longer work and users will see a “This site is insecure” message when they try to visit the website. A new one has to be purchased and configured.

It’s often easiest to purchase it through your domain provider or hosting firm so you have less to worry about but be careful not to get gouged – some SSL Certifcates cost as little at $11 all the way up to $200 for basically the same thing.

Once you’ve bought the SSL Certificate then you can install it on the server and make the switch. Get your website developer or someone who know what they are doing to do this to be on the safe side and  ensure that nothing breaks in the process.

Before you start any of this though it is important to know that the change can impact your SEO and any URLS you have out there and that there will be a bunch of work after the fact to complete the process. You should also be aware that it can take up to 24 hours before everything propogates and your site is back to normal (so do this at a low traffic time to avoid too much disruption).

AdWords and HTTPS

If you are running AdWords campaigns, pause your campaigns prior to making the switch. Once the changes have propogated you will have to change all of your Final Destination URLS and any URLs in your extension links over to HTTPS. Unfortunately this means all the data on your current ads will be lost.

To change the Final Destination URLs, select all the ads you want to change and use the bulk editor in AdWords to replace the http with https.

For extensions this is slightly trickier, select all your extensions and download these. Edit the spreadsheet you have downloaded by doing a search and replace on http and replace it with https then upload the file.

Your ad will then go through the approval process which can take a few hours.

Google Analytics and HTTPS

If your HTTPS is set up as a redirect (which it probably is), then the simplest way to do this is through changing your analytics property settings to https rather than http. To do this, head over to the admin setting in your Google Analytics account, click on property settings then change the efault URL to htttps from the dropdown.

Search Console and HTTPS

Search console is a little different in that you should have a separate instance for the HTTPS. Google recommends that you add a new instance of your site in Search Console. Technically you should have 4 instances of Analytics (www, without www, http and https).  Add a property from your search console dashboard using https as the URL. You should be able to verify this from your Analytics or Google Tag Manager in the Alternative Methods tab of the verification section. Once you are done, submit your new sitemap. Revisit this in a couple of days to make sure the sitemaps is indexed and to check your crawl errors and fix any broken links. You should also check your robots.txt while you are in there.

Social Media and HTTPS

If you have a social media presence (who doesn’t?), it is a good idea to go through the deep links in your bios to make sure that the URL is listed as https instead of http.

SEO and HTTPS

Finally, you should run an SEO audit of your site to identify any http / https conflicts or mixed content issues (for example in image URLS and third part external links). There are WordPress plugins that can help you to easily fix these in bulk. If you don’t, pages that have old http links may show up as insecure in Chrome.

And finally, it is important to remember that when you upload images from now on the URL should use https too.

HTTPS and SSL In Conclusion

Making the switch to https is worth it and shouldn’t take more than a few hours to do. It’s important to understand the impact that your changes might make in other places too and to limit any negative impact by coordinating updates to your AdWords, Analytics and Search Console as soon after the site propagates as possible.

Need help with that making the switch to SSL or with switching over your AdWords and Analytics once the change is made, contact us – we’d love to help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images and How to Use Them Without Getting in Trouble

Images are an excellent addition to your website, blog post or social media and can help you get more shares and interactions. However, not all images on the internet are okay to use since there are laws that allow people to have rights to those images. Using just any image you find on the internet can get you in big trouble and leave you with a hefty fine!

Image Copyright Laws in Canada

We live in a world where images are so easy to find with just a click of a button but we can’t use any image we find since there is a cost for ownership of most images. It’s important to be aware of copyright laws in Canada to ensure you don’t get fined for using content you find online. Under the law, any image taken by any device (camera, smartphone, etc.) is subject to copyright. This means that if someone takes a photo, it is their photo and anyone else that would like to use it has to seek permission from the photographer. The photographer is not required to register their work to have it copyrighted since when the photo is saved (onto a smartphone or camera roll) it automatically is subject to copyright and is protected under copyright laws. Therefore, it is essential that we learn to keep these laws in mind because if you get caught using an image that belongs to someone else- you could be fined!

How To Find Great Free Images

There are many ways to find images that are free and can enhance your content.

1. Create your own images: Grab your camera or even your smartphone to capture some images! This allows you to be in full control of what the image will love like and leaves tons of room for customization. Also, having your own images ensures that the content is original and authentic.

2. Find royalty-free images on Google: When you search on Google, make sure you’ve clicked the “labeled for reuse” button! This allows you to reuse the image. See below:
How To Find Great Free Images on Google

3. Use Creative Commons to search multiple platforms to find free images: This site allows you to search for images easily and helps you find free images from various platforms. Check out our blog post on Creative Commons for more information.

4. Find free images online: Using sites such as allthefreestock.com allows you to search for various free images, videos, music and icons that are royalty-free.

5. Tools such as Canva: Canva allows you to edit your images and it basically works as an easy-to-use graphic design platform. It also has a massive repository of free images along with fairly inexpensive images (approximately $1 for a high-quality image).

6. Buy images: There are sites that allow you to purchase high-quality images. Sites such as iStock allows you to buy images for as little as $12 per image. You can also get a subscription for $40 per month that gets you 10 images per month.

If you’re ever in doubt, you can always check where that image appears online through TinEye. You simply upload your image or paste a URL of the image and this tool does a reverse search to find out where that image appears online.

Keep these tips in mind next time you add images to your content!

Tumblr: Still the Easiest Way to Blog

It’s been four years since Yahoo bought Tumblr and in that time, blogging platforms have grown tremendously.

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a microblogging platform that allows users to share just about anything via their personal Tumblelog. You can quickly and easily post whatever you want – text, photos, videos, music, quotes, and links, from wherever you want – your web browser, phone, desktop computer, or email. The service prides itself on its ease of use, as well as the ability to customize everything including the colors of your Tumblelog and the HTML code of your Tumblr theme.

Who uses Tumblr?

Tumblr people are categorized by their retro-hipster vibes and their ability to showcase blog content through images, videos and words. Content on Tumblr is quirky and strange and heavily embodies the persona of an out-of-the-ordinary millennial. Due to its individualistic nature, Tumblr people are also categorized as ‘regular individuals’ and rarely as companies or businesses. An individual that owns a company may have a Tumblr page but it is highly unlikely that the company would have a Tumblr page.

In total, there are around 357 million registered blogs on Tumblr and users spend a whopping 3 hours per day on the site. This is exponentially higher than various other social media platforms including Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Tumblr or WordPress?

Some businesses choose to use Tumblr over WordPress to appeal to their young and fun audience. Take Denny’s for example – they’re famous for their American, greasy, feel-good, late-night, partially hungover food. Here’s an example of their Tumblr post that works well in line with their business and aims to target their audience.

If your audience is under thirty and your service or product is very visual and you’re strapped for time then Tumblr is the way to go, if your audience is older and you want to do more than blog (and more with your blog) then use WordPress.

Benefits of Tumblr

Since Tumblr is a form of a micro-blog, most content is easy to share and visually appealing. These aspects have made Tumblr more of a social platform that incorporates bltumblr post typesogging. Also, Tumbelogs are likely to appeal to a wider audience, as some will prefer the assortment of photos, video files, and links that a traditional blog may be lacking. Tumblr’s API allows Tumblelogs to be extensively modified; users can delete all the basic formatting and start from scratch to design the look, feel and layout. If you can imagine it, chances are you can do it with Tumblr. The outcome for bloggers is huge; connect more deeply with your readers, in less time, and on your customized, easy to use microblog.

Tumblr Photos and Videos

Since 2013, photos and videos on Tumblr have become a huge success due to their fairly visually appealing nature. Many Tumblr users are attracted to the shareable photography and videos found on Tumblr. Even design projects and ideas for tattoos are popular on Tumblr due to the professional photos and visual content found on Tumblr. Some examples of Tumblr posts that include excellent imagery include motivational quotes, images of scenery and animal videos in the form of gifs.

Cabana: The New App by Tumblr

This year, Tumblr announced they will be launching a new app called Cabana. This app allows users to watch videos with their friends simultaneously. After downloading the app, users can add their friends to an existing “room” or create a new one and add up to six friends. Then, they are able to watch any video on YouTube while on a video chat in the same room. This app is great for group entertainment! However, there are many ways to group video call already including through Messenger on Facebook. Cabana will have some tough competition!

This is an updated post from the original post about Tumblr from 2013. To view the original post click here.