Digital Marketing Outlook For Small Businesses in 2018

The digital marketing outlook in 2018 is going to be very similar to how it has been for the last few years.

This means most of the trends that you saw in 2017 are going to continue into the new year.

For example:

Both local SEO and mainstream SEO will still be as important for small businesses to carry out since this gives you the best return on investment than any other marketing effort.

If you have the ability, the funds, the time and the know how to write great content for your company blog, then you should see your company do really well in the search engines for the keywords you are targeting.

Video marketing was huge in 2017, specifically streaming services. In 2018 expect this to be even more popular with evermore companies using live streaming and video marketing to publicise their business and get their brand name out there.

Both inbound and outbound marketing efforts will increase dramatically as marketers begin to understand just how important AI and machine learning are in the search engine world. Those that produce the most quality content at scale will win! Those that ignore this relatively new phenomenon will most likely lose.

Arguably, you may think this is obvious but so many small businesses still don’t taking this seriously.

Content marketing

The key, as it has been for several years and going forward, will be the same in 2018 is a full marketing strategy built around content marketing.  If a small business does not have a content marketing strategy in place in 2018 and isn’t producing content to show them as the leader in the marketplace, they will almost certainly get left behind.

I find it strange that vast majority of companies and small businesses don’t take content marketing seriously since it’s relatively inexpensive to embark on a content strategy for your business.

I think the main problem is, they concentrate on working in their business instead of on their business.

I can understand a one-man band type business doing this since a business owner has so many different hats to wear and countless decisions to make on a daily basis,  but where you have a small business with at least 10 to 15 employees working for the greater good.

I simply don’t understand why they don’t invest in producing content of all sorts into the marketing strategy.

Long tail strategy

For several years now most experienced marketers have been pursuing a single keyword strategy.

Most have known for a while now that the best way to get any traction within the search engines is to have a long tail strategy.

You need to be using keywords in the region of four to five words or even whole sentences.

What I do expect though, is for more companies to adopt this in 2018 as they see traffic fall. This is because their single keyword strategy either stopped working or is pretty much non-existent.

Influencer marketing will increase

Even with the emergence of voice-operated speakers and the huge drop off of brands via this medium, influencer marketing is likely to increase in 2018 due to the fact that most businesses want to get their name and their brand out there at scale.

One of the best ways of doing this is getting in front of the traffic stream that already exists.

If you have an influencer in the marketplace that receives a lot of traffic then it will make sense for most brands in 2018 to get in front of it. The only way to do this is to be involved with influencers within the marketplace.

In 2017 influencer marketing got quite a bad reputation and a lot of money was spent where there was very little return.  However,  I foresee this to be still one of the most popular methods for companies to get their message out there relatively cheaply.

Negative SEO

Most small businesses probably don’t realise there is such a term called negative SEO and the most likely never heard of it at all.

But, some rogue marketers have been using the negative SEO tactic to try and get ahead.

So what is this and why should you care?

This is the process of building bad links to a competitor’s page or website so they get downgraded in the search results page.

With AI and machine learning technology you’ll most likely see a massive decrease with this sort of activity since they now have the ability to calculate and sort through the good links from the bad links.

With algorithm changes happening almost by the second, it’s very hard for these rogue marketers to try and game the system as they did in 2015 2016 and this year 2017.

How to Prevent Negative SEO Attacks

  1. Set up Google webmaster tools
  2. Register your website
  3. Sign up for alerts if your site has been attacked by malware, connection problems, or any penalties enforced by Google
  4. Keep track of your backlinks profile by registering with monitorbacklinks.com. Unfortunately, it’s not free, but they do offer a free trial. This site basically sends you email alerts when your website gains or loses important backlinks.

There are a few more ways (too many to mention for this article), but these are the basics in prevention.

Mobile Marketing

It kind of feels like I talk about mobile marketing on the daily basis and keep banging the drum about getting your house in order with regards to mobile marketing.

In my world, the vast majority of companies I work with have made provisions for mobile.  However, there’s still a lot of work to do with other small businesses as they still haven’t turned their static desktop website into either a mobile-specific or mobile responsive website.

Even though there’s been quite a bit of progress in this field, I still feel a little frustrated that there are still so many small businesses that haven’t made both the effort and the initiative to either upgrade their existing website or have a new one built.

What will make them change, will probably be something like internet security, since websites that are not frequently updated or belong to a platform that automatically updates the backend code will most likely get hacked quite a lot in 2018.

For this reason and this reason alone, there will be an increase in a number of mobile responsive websites being built for small businesses since their website is quite a big part of their sales income.

Now, I’m not saying this to get more work (though it would be nice). I really don’t care who they use to build their website or even edit their existing one, but I do encourage small business owners and small businesses to make the move today and get their affairs in order with regards to mobile marketing.

Social Media Marketing

It’s quite funny for me to talk about social media marketing since it was only a year ago near enough to the day where I embarked on my social media marketing journey.

You see, I’ve always concentrated on paid media and very rarely looked at social media, even in my personal life (to be fair, I still don’t in my personal life, but that’s another debate for another day).

I believe AI and machine learning will increasingly be used by most social media platforms. More and more of them will start using AI and machine learning to help them fight terrorism, fight spam and to curb rogue marketers.

What you’ll also find is their algorithm will get better and better and better as 2018 goes on since the very nature of machine learning is learning from your mistakes and trying to make things better.

Twitter

Even though there’s been a lot of negative reports and discussions on Twitter as a social media platform, I still see this as being one of the main areas to concentrate on to both market your small business and jump in and out of conversations with potential joint venture partners and even clients. I can only see this increasing in 2018.

Yes, there are new players on the scene with quite a few fancy bells and whistles, but I think the cleanness and the ease of use of Twitter will still make it a dominating force as a platform for small businesses.

Facebook

It seems there’s a new story every day about the changes Facebook is making to its algorithm and the vast majority of these changes aren’t great for organic reach.

So, where you used to post something before and the vast majority of the people that follow you or have liked one of your posts would see that content. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

This will be continuing trend into 2018 as more and more social media platforms reduce your organic reach and try to encourage marketers to use their paid platform.

I’m not particularly upset with them for doing this, in fact, it’s a complete a no-brainer. It’s what anyone would do in their position and I don’t see the point of crying about it.

I just encourage our clients to learn to adapt and change with the algorithms.

With regards to paid advertising on Facebook, it’s still one of the best places to really target specific demographics for the best return on investment.

Instagram

One of the new kids on the block. Instagram will still be the most popular social media platform for engagement and very popular amongst advertisers because of that engagement.

I don’t foresee another social media platform knocking Instagram off its perch anytime soon since it has a driving force of the largest social network in the world “Facebook” backing it up every step of the way.

The fact that it uses the same demographic targeting as Facebook means Instagram will only pick up speed as more marketers, large businesses and small businesses start adopting its advertising platform.

Pinterest

Probably one of the forgotten heroes of the social media era is Pinterest. But, this social network isn’t done just yet! Still very popular with women and with very high engagement levels, this is one social media platforms that will still perform really well in 2018.

Working quietly in the background, Pinterest continues to add more useful tools for marketers in the shadow of the other social networks.

I think out of all of the platforms you will probably see quite a few changes to the user interface of Pinterest. Again, like the others, it will use a lot of AI and machine learning for its algorithm.

They introduced buyable pins in 2017 and I can see them increasing this type of innovation in 2018.

It’s no longer seen as a social network but more of an e-commerce platform. This will continue in 2018.

The main take away from this is Pinterest wants to increase both engagement and conversion for these buyable pins.

Snapchat

Wow! Where do we start? It has taken quite battering from its nemesis “Facebook”. Probably because they didn’t sell to Mark Zuckerberg.

What they didn’t realise was just how upset he was that they squashed his advances.  Never upset a Zuckerberg!

He made his mission to try and kill Snapchat and put them out of business by copying, mimicking and outdoing them at every step in 2017.

I can see this continuing in 2018.

The funny thing about this social media platform is their ability to innovate. In fact, I would probably say it’s one of the best innovators we’ve seen for quite a while in this space.

Not only do they come out with new and interesting products and features, they’re also loved by the people who use this platform. So, there’s no fear that they’ll be put out of business anytime soon.

In 2017 they brought out Spectacles which by any stretch of the imagination wasn’t the best innovation in the world and from many reports wasn’t really that popular.  I haven’t seen exact numbers of the amount of units that they sold but it’s my understanding that it wasn’t very many.

Many in the industry think that augmented reality linked with spectacles is too far in the future to become a habit in 2018 and I must admit I tend to agree with them.

Anything worn on your being has to look cool and I don’t know what you think? but I’m not a massive fan of the spectacles and probably wouldn’t be seen dead wearing them.

However, I’m not their target market and not one of the biggest users in the world of Snapchat. So, we’ll just have to wait and see if this materialises.  For the record, I’m not convinced!

in 2018 I see Snapchat betting huge on augmented reality (similar to Instagram and Facebook). It’s hard to predict this one, so again, it will just be a wait and see.

It all depends whether they can encourage their uses to use this almost daily and that’s why this is the big unknown.

Expect Snapchat to come out with more and more features and that Facebook will copy their features within a second.

Youtube

Still the largest social network for videos and the second largest search engine, expect them to increase market share for users to post more video and companies to advertise on those videos.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed more ads on the videos I view.

Yes, that’s right, I’m not on their red subscription because I’m a cheapo (not currently available in the UK anyway) and proud of it. But, expect more ads in your YouTube views and more ads getting on your nerves.

It’s going to be a trend of poor people see ads, rich people don’t. Tongue-in-cheek 🙂

I see a lot more controversy in 2018 regarding rogue advertisers and it playing a large role in politics. This was big in 2017 and expect more of the same in 2018.

Like the other social networks, I can foresee YouTube using their AI and machine learning to the max! In fact, they’ll probably use it more than the other social networks put together!

Similar to Google Search, the sheer amount of content being added to these networks can only be analysed and sorted by a computer. There aren’t enough human beings in the world that know what they doing to be able to keep up with this level content.

There’s going to be a lot more tears as the algorithm starts sorting different videos, different channels, different playlists and popular users on YouTube won’t understand why the viewers or viewership has decreased by so much.

I can even forsee YouTube struggling to understand why certain things are happening and why the algorithm has chosen to do certain things.

This is going to be a big worry for them, but I don’t see them going back to a basic algorithm. Instead, I see them marching further forward in this space.

Linkedin

I can see this becoming ever more popular in 2018 especially since Microsoft purchased it in 2017.  Now, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that this was purely a strategic move by Microsoft and one that will reward them for years to come.

This was a major coup since there’s no other social networking platform in this space that targets both corporate and small business in this way.

Expect usage to increase dramatically in 2018 and for this to be a fundamental platform for users to find jobs, advertise jobs, get their message seen, grow their brand and publicise their content.

I’m a little biased about this network because I see the return on investment to be higher than any other social networking platform for small businesses.

Those that aren’t on this platform in 2018 again will see a dramatic fall in sales and turnover. Linkedin is the new black for business.

In my opinion, you simply have to be on LinkedIn if you are a small business in 2018. Only those that still have a rotary phone won’t be using LinkedIn.

I think what they will do is cherry-pick all of the great ideas from both Snapchat and Instagram and integrate this into their platform. However, I think they’ll roll this out to a few users first before a major rollout (beta test).

Pound for pound, this is the most impressive social media platform for small businesses that exist today and I can’t see that changing in 2018.

Google+

I’ve left Google Plus till last because, well because…..

Does anyone actually know what’s happening with this social media platform? Because I surely don’t.

Answers on a postcard, please?

Final Thoughts

There are several social media platforms that I haven’t mentioned that are quite popular such as WhatsApp, Badu etc that I could have talked about in this article, but I wanted to dedicate most of my time and knowledge talking about the prominent social networks for your small business in 2018.

The outlook for 2018 will be great if you are forward-looking and are willing to adapt to the very many changes. If you just don’t have the time, then it’s time to hire an agency.

If you would like to discuss your options with our team, please feel free to get in touch.

We’d love to hear from you!

About the author

Des Dreckett is the Marketing Director of XenMediamarketing.co.uk: a writer, blogger and a paid media specialist. Writing content to help you grow and build your business.

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