2019 Digital Marketing Trends and Predictions

As a good digital marketer, I spend a lot of time reading about trends and new services available. For SEO it has always been about mobile and voice search.

On Reddit there was a discussion about when voice search will truly take over traditional search. My view is voice search will dominate the moment it enables me to go down a rabbit hole. Sure, I may have been searching about the side effects of using Alka Seltzer, but that search led me to articles about sodium bicarbonates and that led me to videos about sodium bicarbonate powered rockets.  I would not trade those moments of kismet for anything in the world.

I’ve yet to do a transactional search via Google or Alexa. Voice search is an important thing to think about, but I just don’t see a lot of business being done via voice search in the near future beyond ordering pizza. There isn’t enough trust in these services at this point to turn over the ability to have options.  Even giving me the top 5 choices, I know there are more and I want to know what they are. I am a unique snowflake when it comes to consumerism and maybe that sixth option is more to my liking.

My 2019 digital marketing predictions actually are very dark and pessimistic. I am not saying 2019 is peak digital marketing, I am saying 2019 is going to be a year of weeding, a year of clearing out the clutter.  2019 is going to be a year of a few big winners and lots of losers.

What are Digital Marketing Experts Saying Is Trending for 2019?

Bear with me for a moment while I go through a full data dump, but I want to share trends as reported by several different sources so we can get a sense of what professionals working in digital marketing are saying.

From Digital Marketing Institute:

Author: Clodagh O’Brien cites 8 trends for 2019.

  1. Facebook is peaking as a social media platform.
  2. Instagram is a Hit with the Kids
  3. Chatbot Use Will Increase
  4. Video Is a Must
  5. Live Video Is a Separate Yet Important Thing
  6. Good Content Still Matters
  7. Email Is Getting More Personalized
  8. Voice Interaction Is Going Up

From Adstriangle.com:

Author: Dinesh Thakur cites 5 trends for 2019

  1. Search Intent And Code Optimization
  2. Video Content Optimization Will Rule Latest SEO Trends In 2019
  3. Voice Search Will Make Almost 50% Of All Online Searches In 2019
  4. Increased Social Media Indexing Will Boost Organic SEO
  5. Optimizing CTR For Google Rankbrain
  6. Think Mobile First For Google’s Mobile-First Index
  7. Long Form Content To Produce Higher Search Rankings

From Forbes.com CommunityVoice:

Author: Michael Tasner cites 5 trends for 2019

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Chatbots
  3. Smart Speakers And Audio
  4. Local Influencer Marketing
  5. Live Video

From Growthbusiness.co.uk:

Author: Michael Somerville cites 7 trends for 2019

  1. Voice search
  2. Progressive web apps (PWA)
  3. Personalization
  4. Social Media
  5. Transparency
  6. Chatbots
  7. Visual recognition

There are dozens upon dozens of other trend articles and each are kind of similar to this one. I can imagine a small business owner who has a website and sees some value in using digital marketing to help grow her business reading these trends and thinking one thing: I’m screwed.

Business owners who have turned to digital marketing to help grow their business and service their customers are savvy people. They built their websites, set up their social media profiles, and have set aside time to make sure both channels remain active and up-to-date. They have learned SEO, invested in PPC, and built their email lists. They have faced the challenges of digital marketing on shoestring budgets with aplomb.

Now they are reading about advanced technology, voice search, chatbots, video, web apps, and artificial intelligence.

None of these trend articles make a business case for implementing the trends. They don’t have to. These are the subjects of talks being given at marketing conferences. The speaker can blather on about futurist stuff that sounds interesting and dramatic without worrying how an HVAC company, a florist, a yoga instructor, or a soap maker will implement any of these technology (or admit that these trends are not universal and may not be a factor for these businesses).

Digital Marketing Winners and Losers

From my reading and analysis, I see three barriers to success based on the trends being discussed.

The Tech Barrier

This is one of the most obvious barriers. When talking about implementing chatbots, artificial intelligence/machine learning, web apps, and video it is easy to see how this technology isn’t readily available to everyone.

I’ve tried setting up chatbots using free services and it is not easy and it is not a pretty integration. I’ve attempted to set up a machine learning thing so I could create funny titles of books and that was a complete failure. Video is a bit easier to implement but it still isn’t something you can just do without some equipment.

Smartphones have made making video easier, but it isn’t always professional and polished. There is something to be said about using the right equipment and the right software to make a solid, good looking video for your business.

The Skill Barrier

This barrier is easier to overcome. If you don’t have the skills to implement the technology, you can learn them or hire someone with them.

Business owners are always required to overcome skill barriers, whether it is learning new accounting processes, implementing new POS systems, or figuring out how to use the web to sell more, get more clients, and run their businesses more efficiently.

I point this barrier out because it annoys me when I see trend articles and it is just assumed that everyone reading will be able to take action on the trends immediately. I mean these are called trends for 2019, which strongly implies these are the things businesses using digital marketing will be doing in 2019.

The Cost Barrier

Everyone knows about this barrier. Implementing new technology, acquiring new skills, all takes money. When the digital marketing budget is already pretty slim for most small and medium businesses, the thought of either shifting it to other channels or stretching it over more services is nightmarish.

Not one of these trends speaks about what the return on investment will be. In many ways, I feel like these articles are like a gun to the head of a small business owner, “do this or fail, it is just the price of doing business now”.

A business owner cannot be blamed for looking with extreme skepticism at all of these. It feels like a cash grab hiding behind a bunch of technobabble and fearmongering.

WarGame Scenario

Do you remember the movie WarGames? If not, here is a very quick synopsis. A young hacker stumbles across an Artificial Intelligence that has access to launch nuclear missiles. The hacker thinks he is playing a game, the computer isn’t. This leads to a climactic showdown where the hacker has to teach the AI why it can’t launch a nuclear war. After forcing the machine to play tic-tac-toe against itself, and then to simulate the nuclear war controlling both sides of the conflict, it comes to a simple conclusion.

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

This is why I think the digital marketing trend articles create what I call the WarGames scenario. Business owners see the barriers and determine, the best move is not to play.

I’ve seen this before in terms of businesses not setting up websites, not using Google My Business, and not responding to reviews on Facebook and other places. I’ve seen businesses say their Facebook page is enough of a web presence for them and allowed Facebook to control their access to their customers.

I’ve seen this mindset in businesses refusing to use social media or implementing an SEO strategy after they’ve set up a website. The barriers become too much. They become concerned they’ve taken one step too far in a strange new world and they do not want to get in over their heads with technology and services they don’t understand and struggle to see value in.

2019, in my opinion, is going to be a year where more businesses ‘drop out’ of digital marketing because the barriers have gotten too high and the results are too abstract. SMBs are going to be inundated with agencies and gurus trying to convince them to invest in the latest marketing technology. “You need to see what our AI assisted block-chain demand generation system can do for your… used bookstore, pet supply shop, restaurant, etc.” Without a clear business case, knowing exactly what problem is being solved and what the end result is, these agencies might as well be selling snake oil.

Those businesses investing in digital marketing in strategic ways will end up winning and those who find themselves scared off by the barriers of these ‘trends’ will end up losing ground. The key is the strategic investment in digital marketing and not chasing trends.

No one has the Right Answers

Go back to 2017, 2016 and see what people were saying about digital marketing trends.

https://www.smartinsights.com/internet-marketing-statistics/2015-vs-2016-the-digital-marketing-trends/

Big Data, Wearables, Internet of Things… we keep confusing initiatives with trends. We keep thinking innovations are trends. Machine learning and AI are big topics since there has been significant advancement in this realm, but to think it is going to be a trend for any business besides the largest corporations with the budgets to experiment with it is a bit laughable. There might be AI driven marketing products trickling down to the SMBs out there, but that will be the extent of it.

Too often trend articles are an attempt to make the author or the company the author is writing for sound ‘up-to-date’ on the ‘latest marketing tech’. I have written and contribute to a few of these types of articles myself and I am not saying there is anything wrong with these articles when taken with a grain of salt.

When determining what your digital marketing strategy is going to be in 2019, I encourage business owners to avoid the trend articles, focus on their needs, and be open to technology and processes that will deliver results in line with business goals.

What Aspects of Digital Marketing Should you Focus on in 2019?

Oh my god! This was a trend article in disguise!

It isn’t, I promise. What this is instead is an anti-trend article.

Update Your Website
How long have you had your website? Does the website meet modern guidelines of design? When was the last time the site had its content rewritten? Taking time to rewrite your key pages on your website could go a long way in improving user experience.

Do an SEO Audit of Your Website
When was the last time you had a full audit of your site? Analyze the titles of each of your pages, make sure all your images have alt tags, check for broken links, and redirects. There is a lot of value in doing the basics for your website. Cyrus Shepard agrees.

Refresh Your Social Media Channels
Did you set up social media channels and then abandoned them because you didn’t have time to keep them up to date? Now is a time to cycle through all your social media accounts and refresh them or pin a message on them letting people who discover you there where you actually post your social media content.

Optimize Your Pages for Speed
This could be done with your SEO audit, but run each page of your main site through GTMetrix and see if there is anything you can do to make the page load faster. Optimizing images can be a quick and easy way to make your page load faster. GTMetrix will actually give you optimized versions of the images.

Commit to the Basics
Grow your relevant traffic by expanding your search funnel. You can run each page through a tool like SEMRush and see what keywords they are ranking for. Take a look at the keywords in positions 11 through 20 and see if you can make changes to those pages to move those keywords to the first search engine results page.

Committing to digital marketing basics means keeping your eye on all your digital assets and taking action to improve them whenever you can.

Photo by Stephan Henning on Unsplash