Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To complement the brand new content marketing classes in our updated catalog, he joins us to discuss 5 trends that are changing the Digital Marketing industry, and how you can make the most of them.
Perhaps the best definition of digital marketing is that it’s always changing.
The industry’s constant and rapid state of flux is why so many field guides on SEO and content marketing have emerged over the last decade, only to be rendered obsolete by changing practices the very next year.
This is what makes digital marketing difficult to define at any one point in time: it behaves more like a moving target than an established industry.
As a result, to fully comprehend what defines digital marketing (and therefore, what’s redefining it) we must look at the rise and fall of some of the biggest trends that have defined online marketing since 2004.
We say 2004 because that was the year Google started keeping track of interest in the search terms that define our current moment in digital marketing history—a moment dominated by 5 big trends that have emerged over the past fourteen years
The Big Trends
Using what we know about topics in digital marketing that capture marketers’ imaginations, our current moment in digital marketing history is being redefined by conversations about topics that fall within the following 5 trends:
- Digital advertising
- Content marketing
- AdTech & MarTech
- Mobile SEO
Thanks in large part to Google Trends, we know that some very specific changes have occurred to these 5 big trends over the past fourteen years: changes that have already redefined digital marketing as we know it and will continue to do so.
Digital Advertising Is Outstripping TV Advertising
According to one source, digital ad spending surpassed TV ad spending around March of 2017. Although some of us are still waiting for confirmation from other sources on this tectonic shift in spending practices, the trajectory of the market appears clear.
The waning of TV ad spend ultimately signals a changing of the guard, a marked shift from one marketing industry dominated by television, to another marketing industry which is increasingly dominated by digital.
We can see this shift reflected in the slow and steady rise of Google search interest in "digital advertising," and the more precipitous fall of Google search interest in "TV advertising" between 2004 and the present.
That rise and fall suggests that both interest and investment in digital advertising are redefining digital marketing, as digital advertising emerges not merely as one small part of the future of modern marketing, but as one of its most valued players.
Content Marketing is Reaching Untold Heights of Popularity and Making Waves
It’s no secret that content is the most valued player of the digital marketing industry. One study even projects that if investment continues at current global levels, content marketing will be a $300 billion industry by 2019.
But the fact that content marketing continues to rise in practice and popularity despite having been around since before 2004 may surprise some of its practitioners.
Over the last six years, content marketing has undoubtedly shattered expectations with its ability to touch almost every industry in the world and reach record heights of cultural interest and financial investment. This trend is mirrored in Google Trends’ tracking of interest over time for the search term "content marketing," which reflects a steady, sometimes explosive intensification of search interest in content marketing, especially as its influence has expanded over the past 3 years in particular.
What appears to be creating this change may occur on a slightly smaller scale. Social messaging has become more ambitious, clickbait has become more aggressive, and content marketing has almost become something more like "contentious marketing," or messaging that is designed to generate controversy rather than make a point.
Whether or not this newfound propensity for wave-making explains the intensification of interest in content marketing since 2011 remains to be seen.
But one thing is certain: content marketing has redefined and continues to redefine digital marketing on a yearly if not daily basis.
AdTech & MarTech are Converging
Advertising technology has seen a lot of hype over the years.
But ad blockers and the growing popularity of AdTech’s cousin marketing technology have taken a toll, while interest in advertising technology has waxed and waned considerably over the years.
Looking at Google Trends' search interest index, marketing technology also appears to have followed this downward trajectory on a somewhat smaller scale. On the other hand, MarTech recently experienced an uptick in search interest, which for the first time in digital marketing history, placed ahead of AdTech on Google Trends’ search interest scale this year.
The optics of this suggest that, perhaps like digital advertising is overtaking TV advertising, MarTech is overtaking AdTech with respect to cultural capital and financial relevance—in other words, the age of MarTech has arrived.
It's likely that the two practices are reaching a natural state of equilibrium, as they converge, and both advertising and marketing become even more technologically intwined.
Mobile SEO is Exploding on the Scene After a Steady Hike in Interest
With more mobile connections on the planet than people, mobile marketing is the fastest growing media channel by digital consumption.
Following that trend, mobile content is fast becoming more popular among users and content creators than desktop content.
Much of mobile content’s popularity can be traced to the mobile optimization boom that occurred in 2015, the moment when Google informed the Internet that any websites which weren’t mobile-friendly would be see their content drop in the rankings.
We can see the results of Google’s heads up in the exponential uptick in search interest for the term “mobile SEO” in April of 2015, the same month Google released its mobile-friendly ranking algorithm. After the initial hype, interest mobile search engine optimization died down for a while, only to explode back on the scene in early 2016, since which time it has sustained peak interest.
What this means is that mobile content for the mobile web is here to stay and should not be ignored. It also means that mobile SEO should be at the top of content developers’ lists for trends not only to follow, but to participate in through 2017 and beyond.
Blockchain is Entering Conversations about Marketing Automation
Since it entered the popular consciousness in 2013, blockchain has captured the imagination of workers in every industry, from government agents to marketers and salespeople.
Aside from blockchain’s long-term potential to revamp how global markets operate and interact with each other, one of the main reasons blockchain has become important to marketers and salespeople is that it has the potential to safely and securely automate digital transactions in marketing and sales, as well as authenticate the origins of products for sale.
This automation potential has vast implications that could affect all of the trends discussed above, especially AdTech and MarTech. However, that potential may not come into play until 5 years from now. In the meantime, the fact of whether or not blockchain will affect all these trends is anyone’s guess.
Despite that, there is no doubt that every trend discussed above is working, in big and small ways, to redefine how we think about digital marketing, both today and tomorrow.
Wondering where you fit in with these trends? Take a class in digital advertising, content marketing, AdTech & MarTech, mobile marketing, and digital marketing automation today to find out what you can do to redefine digital marketing.