Our 2018 marketing predictions

Our 2018 marketing predictions

The 5 Fold team looks into our crystal ball and makes predictions about digital marketing in the year ahead.

The end of the year is fast approaching. We’ve already shared some of the things we’ve been working on in the present, and looked back at our blogs from this year. Now, it’s time to look forward.

As we turn the corner into what promises to be a busy 2018, here are the nine marketing trends we’ll be keeping our eyes on.

Prediction #1: Google will start to give reviews a shelf life

Our prediction: Local listing platforms, like Google, will give reviews a shelf life. People want to see your most recent reviews, not reviews from two years ago.

After all, older reviews might not be an indicator of current quality. For example, a highly reviewed restaurant in 2013 may have been sold and put under new management; now, the food is terrible. The opposite is true: a business that once struggled should be rewarded for turning things around.

The most significant factor driving this potential change is consumer demand. Recent research from Search Engine Land shows that nearly 3/4 of those surveyed don’t see reviews older than three months as relevant. There’s no way platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Yelp are going to ignore that kind of feedback for very much longer.

This will put greater emphasis on getting fresh reviews frequently, instead of resting on one’s laurels.

Prediction #2: Local listings will become more connected to voice search and natural language

If you’ve been following this blog and our ongoing articles on voice search, this insight probably isn’t too surprising. With more and more smart speakers in American homes, cars, and businesses, search is adjusting to the human voice.

Part of this fits with an ongoing trend in search (something we mentioned in this article) that is moving away from keyword stuffing and keyword-based search terms (“pest control phoenix az”) to natural language search (“Ok, Google. What is the top-rated pest control company near me?”).

Your local listings will need to be built in such a way that information about your business is easily accessible to all types of users, including those on desktop, mobile devices, and using voice search.

Prediction #3: Google will use their Q&A feature as part of their voice filtering algorithm

We discussed Google’s new Q&A feature earlier this year. If Google is looking for natural language search to better pair with voice search, the Questions & Answers feature is a good place to start, since they can connect quick responses with frequently asked questions from real customers.

Prediction #4: Facebook begins favoring “advocacy” content

Facebook has been making a big move toward creating a more “community-based” platform. Through this, they are encouraging “word of mouth” types of content. Things like reviews, employee involvement and engagement, collaboration with partners, and even support from family and friends will be highly useful moving forward in 2018.

Prediction #5: Downfall of organic reach on Facebook

Since this is already happening to an extent, this prediction isn’t incredibly bold. However, we’ll go a step farther: in 2018, we at least need to prepare for the end of organic reach on Facebook altogether. The pay-to-play future we wrote about recently will arrive sooner than we think.

Twitter and Instagram may be somewhat more immune to this than Facebook, since users use things like hashtags to search outside of their “bubble” on those platforms. But, on Facebook, there needs to be a complete change in perspective.

For more than a decade, companies have seen social media as a golden ticket to cheap advertising and customer connection. Now, brands will have to rely more on thought-out strategies and large, comprehensive budgets to drive social campaigns forward.

Prediction #6: Chatbots may turn out to be a short-lived trend

This one is a bit out there. Chatbots on websites are experiencing a renaissance of sorts at the moment. It makes sense: they’re a good convenience for businesses to offer, as instant replies / info are beneficial to customers.

However, it’s possible that people will eventually tire of them, the same way consumers have tired of recorded voice / robot answering systems over the years. After a while, customers are catching on that chatbots are really just an easy way to send an email to the company; whether or not they get a quick response is hit-or-miss, which in turn lowers their trust in other chatbot systems.

People still want an actual person to take care of their needs somehow. To bridge this gap, Facebook will likely implement ways to make instant replies sound more original and organic. Right now, companies have the ability to create their own instant reply messages, but we’d expect it to go beyond that in the future.

Prediction #7: More machine learning and automation

“Automation” might just be the buzzword of the year, but it’s more than just cars and future dystopian work environments where these blogs write themselves.

Google is getting better and better at figuring out how to manage ads, well, like a human. That means smart bidding technology and ads that write themselves and adapt to new contexts and situations automatically.

Much like a self-driving car, it’s probably too early to take our hands off the wheel and let the machine take a roadtrip. But, in 2018, machine learning promises to help PPC marketing become that much more effective and efficient.

We’ll certainly be keeping our eyes on what’s coming down the turnpike from Google.

Prediction #8: More SERP features, lower emphasis on organic search

Sounds familiar, right? Much like Facebook, Google has been making moves that lower the importance of organic content in favor of paid content. This includes everything from Google Posts to extended ad copy.

Of course, Google is nowhere near (nor would they be interested in) completely phasing out organic content. Instead, what they’re attempting to do is siphon off more and more search into their ecosystem through SERP features.

Google Posts. Google Maps. Featured Snippets. These are all tools to not only give users the information they’re seeking, but to keep them searching. We’ll likely see more of these debut in the coming year.

Prediction #9: It’s going to be a great year

There are a lot of challenges and changes ahead, sure. Our team is ready to meet them. Not only that, but we’re excited for what lies ahead!

Thanks for following our blog in 2017, and we look forward to bringing you more posts and insights in the year ahead.

Happy new year!