In Web marketing, those who fail to adapt fail to prosper. Entrepreneurs who have only been in the game a few years often opine about the recent, monumental changes that have shaped the Internet and SEO. The truth, however, is that the industry has always been shifting and transforming itself, and it isn’t likely to stop soon. These are the top 10 long-term trends in SEO and website design to begin preparing for today.
Site crawlers are more intelligent than ever before and no longer depend on blatant SEO tactics to index a page. The days of accruing thousands of back-links and tossing up keyword-stuffed posts are long gone and fading rapidly, replaced by an emphasis on insightful content and authority. The numbers on an analytics report are still vital in Web marketing, but the percentages and fractions on the designing side are becoming less important.
Social Media as a Source of Traffic
Before social media brought hundreds of millions of people together on a single domain, search engines were the only way for Internet marketers to reach potential customers. Because of this, SEO was the single most important aspect of running an online business. Social networking has puzzled webmasters when it comes to monetizing, but its value as a way to both connect with and draw in readers will become even more apparent in coming years.
Another less obvious side-effect of social media is the increasing demand for openness and transparency. With Facebook and similar sites integrated into many hosting systems, it’s now much easier to attach a name and picture to a brand. Readers no longer tolerate hiding behind a pseudonym. They expect accountability, and that means being unafraid to share your real identity.
Anyone who has not optimized his or her website for mobile devices is already behind on the times, but the divide will become even more pronounced in 2013 and beyond. Tablets and smartphones are now almost as capable as a full-sized laptop, and they provide access from anywhere. This should come as no surprise to the attuned marketer.
Focus on the Consumer
In earlier days, Web marketing was designed to attract the largest number of people possible and hope that a sufficient number would convert into profit. The best businesses were the ones that required almost no daily effort. The new model is to devote yourself to a single enterprise and provide the best service possible. It requires more work and is less exciting, but building a business that lasts is the future of Internet marketing.
Contests and Giveaways
Contests and giveaways may attract groans as antiquated and somewhat corny strategies, but they are immensely popular on social networks and therefore an excellent way to grab followers. Offering an incentive to stick around is the first step toward making consistent conversions, and nothing inspires loyalty like initial generosity.
Videos and Interactive Media
The rise of YouTube marked the first time in Internet history that videos were not only common and widely available, but also within the reach of any would-be producer. The concept became so popular that video marketing is now a career in its own right. Website owners should begin incorporating brief, informative videos on their pages, as well as interactive media designed to engage readers and keep them interested.
The modern Web browser expects the refined layouts of professional sites. Simply put, screaming .GIFs, basic tables and clashing colors will no longer cut it in Web marketing. Investing in a user-friendly layout with custom graphics and powerful features is one of the wisest decisions a webmaster can make. Expect to refresh the site once every year or two to keep up with changing tastes and performance.
Targeting specific areas ties into greater customer service and more organic SEO. It improves trust and allows greater context in Web marketing, increasing the odds of making conversions. Readers are more likely to work with someone they feel they could grab lunch with, even if they never actually meet you face-to-face. If done well, this choice can be just as lucrative as pitching to a global audience.
Finally, one of the most important steps to take in 2013 is to develop a reputation as a content authority. Google seems to be moving toward noting names as well as words, evaluating writers based on their value to readers. That means that the same author appearing on another site will be weighed based on his or her rank across multiple domains. Blog posts can no longer be thought of as a weekly obligation to keep keywords fresh; the future of Web marketing lies in well-written and insightful content that gains recognition for its author.