Daniel Burstein

Digital Marketing: Content marketing, social media and SEO predictions for 2015

February 20th, 2015

Every year at Email Summit, we ask marketers for their predictions.

Before MarketingSherpa reporter Courtney Eckerle interviews you about your marketing predictions in the Email Summit Media Center, I figured it was only fair to put a stake in the ground and make some predictions you could hold me to as well.



Prediction #1: Convergence is the watchword for digital marketing this year

You’ve already seen (and will continue to see) convergence among marketing and business software platforms, and this trend will continue to grow as the line blurs between publishers, brands and marketing agencies.

Curve by Getty Images. Verizon’s experiment with Sugarstring. And, of course, The Red Bulletin. More and more brands are learning the power of building this kind of one-to-one connection with their audiences, building an owned audienc, and not having to borrow interest from television or other content creators.

At the same time, publishers are creating content for brands with their own agency arms, as well (a bit of a blast from the past when newspapers used to help create ads to sell media space).

Tribune Publishing (which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other dailies) bought a stake in Contend, a content agency that creates branded campaigns. Onion Labs, The Onion’s in-house ad agency, has made some seriously cool campaigns. Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and GQ recently hired a director of branded content and launched a branded content shop which blurs the line between editorial and promotion.

Advertising and marketing agencies, more threatened than ever by brands and publishers, will try to get an ownership stake in the ideas they help create, like Anomaly did with EOS cosmetics or how 37signals went from being a website redesign shop to a software company selling Basecamp.

Data, will of course, be huge. This will be of benefit to content creators of all stripes listed above. Since they have the traffic and relationship with the audience, they have the ability to learn the audience’s preferences based on their behavior, and then engage in A/B testing with these audiences to build a strong understanding of the products, services and offers that these customers will most respond to.

But behind it all, let’s not overlook the people with the knowhow to make it happen, which can be a scarce resource — brilliant, brilliant marketers, writers, designers and data scientists.

Being able to navigate this land of data and convergence, networking and real relationships will be critical for the marketer to build cross-functional teams that understand all the elements it will take to be successful — content, technology, data and strategy. That’s one reason we pay so much attention to the audience experience and foster interactions and networking at Email Summit.


Prediction #2: What’s old is new again in content marketing and social media

Sure, the elephant in the room is mobile. Everybody is going to be focused on that in the coming year, and the new, bigger phablet sizes will help more visually oriented content and social media.

But I would also say what’s old is new again, repurposed mostly for a focus on niche audiences, so-called narrowcasting. Take podcasts. They’ve been around since 2000 or so and are probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about mobile. But they’re a great way for content marketers to reach a small but passionate audience on the go and really build a relationship with them.

For those who can’t create their own content on podcasts, you can find podcasts that serve your niches and potential audiences and advertise on them. Often, the hosts will read the ads themselves (just like old-fashioned radio broadcasts), adding credibility.

I wouldn’t overlook print either. As content gets exponentially bigger online, there is more and more content online. It gets harder and harder for content marketers to build credibility with an audience and stick out and for potential customers to find reliable sources of information.

Print offers instant credibility, that chance to rub shoulders with true, independent editorial content, the chance to reach readers who are obviously interested in consuming content and the permanency to easily begin a content conversation and then provide a URL for deeper content (these URLs are much more fleeting in other offline media, like TV and radio).

And then lastly, integration. Much like the convergence I mentioned in Prediction #1, customers don’t see channels like marketers do. They just want information in the mediums they are already used to using, so you have to serve them wherever they are — on a mobile device or in a newspaper, through email or on a social network. Even this is an example of “what’s old is new.” We were talking about testing social media integration way back in an Email Trends 2010 article.


Prediction #3: SEO keeps getting harder but with (hopefully) less chicanery

I certainly wouldn’t say SEO is dying, but it is increasingly challenged. For one, the search engines have done a better and better job with their algorithms, which encourages marketers to focus more on valuable content, which search engines will find and rank, and less on technological tricks.

However, because of these constant changes, marketers are becoming more hesitant and skeptical of relying on SEO too much, knowing that the rug could get pulled out from under them at any time.

One marketer said it to me best when he lost key rankings on the first search engine results page (SERP) and was thrown onto the third page — “It’s like if I had a store on Main Street, and overnight the city came in, ripped it out and put my store on Third Street. My traffic plummeted.”

Of course, concerns about the machinations behind the secret algorithm curtains aren’t necessarily new, — I found this article talking about a concern that long-tail keywords were dead way back in 2008 — but I think many marketers have hit a breaking point with all of these algorithm changes and will continue to do a better job of diversifying their traffic sources.

Lastly, with SEO, more content is closed off from the search engines than ever before and its growing. Here, I’m talking specifically about the growth of mobile and the app economy. Apps are creating all of these disjointed content planets that are in many ways separate from the greater Web universe. If the spider can’t get in, it won’t be indexed and it won’t show up in search results.


What are your predictions for the coming year? I’d love to hear them in the comments section of the blog post, or swing by the Media Center for an interview while you’re at Email Summit.

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa on Twitter at @DanielBurstein.


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Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

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  1. February 22nd, 2015 at 12:04 | #1

    We’ve been preaching this for the last year now. Our competitors laughed that we invested in dedicated content writers (thanks Patch.com for letting them go). We’ve integrated content and SEO teams in 2015 and as your article predicts, we’ve had great success. Those hanging on to building links as your only strategy, are in for a rude awakening. Very soon. Thanks for the great article. I truly enjoyed.

  2. March 5th, 2015 at 19:46 | #2

    You are spot on in your predictions, especially with SEO becoming more difficult
    as search engines continue to update their algorithms to make sure that no
    manipulations are being done in the SERP.

  3. May 13th, 2015 at 17:09 | #3

    I found this post really helpful. It will be interesting to see if what was once old will become new again. I agree that people should focus more on niche audiences. That is why digital marketing is so important. I want to start a business but, I felt like digital marketing is something I needed to understand first.

  4. May 19th, 2015 at 04:42 | #4

    Your post is really nice. It is really true as you describe above What’s old is new again in content marketing and social media.

  5. September 21st, 2015 at 02:51 | #5

    It is good to know everything explained here. I will keep in mind next time!

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