Web publishing trends every marketer should know

Marketers are facing an increasingly complex set of challenges, from media fragmentation to a sharp upturn in CEO turnover, to ongoing pressure to prove their return on investment and contribution to the bottom line.

Added to this is the rise of broadband connectivity and community-based platforms which are significant forces changing the web sphere. Here are 6 trends (and a host of opportunities) that are likely to change the landscape of online marketing.

1. Marketing on the move

We predicted it years ago and it’s finally here – mobile marketing and advertising spending is definitely on the rise. Armed with BlackBerries, mobile phones, Iphones, tablets, iPods and other mobile devices, consumers are increasingly taking their content wherever they go.

2. Responsive web design

Because of the mobile device revolution, just when we’ve undertaken the massive website redesign and rebuild, research comes out that even the most conservative executive has now become addicted to his IPhone and expects to be able to view content across multiple platforms.  Because mobile marketing is no longer a sub-culture for the young and trendy, we will necessarily need to shift to fixed width and fluid designs that can be viewed on virtually any device. This format will enable users to access a single source of content with easier reading and navigation with minimum resizing, panning and scrolling, even on a mobile device.

3. Content is king

As we know, a primary branding driver is word-of-mouth which accounts for 30-50% of all brand switching. Many companies which used blogs, podcasts and RSS in their marketing programs in the past are now shifting their focus to video, corporate magazines and blogs/news articles. Because these channels can be easily shared, they are become more and more popular on social media sites, and fuelling word-of-mouth (which can be either positive or negative!).  But the benefit of quality content  over quantity is that it’s usually authored by real people responding to real stakeholder information needs, as opposed to content farms that focus churning content simply to appease google robots.

4. Search marketing

There’s been a lot of talk in the past about the rise of the vertical search engine, yet many failed to really take off (mostly because Google has advanced its search capabilities enabling users to refine their searches better than before).  For marketers, however, marketing on niche websites does provide opportunities to reach segmented audiences. There are a growing number of niche sites that target specific markets – job seekers, house hunters, recruiters and travellers for example.  These sites cater to a narrow and focused audience which makes a lot of sense for marketers. After all, they have a captive audience to target their online advertising.

5. Permission based marketing

Software applications have make it even easier for annoyed consumers to skip, delete or bypass unwanted ads such as spam and pop-ups. By going out of your way to obtain permission to deliver the right messages to the right people at the desired time and place, you will increase the success of reaching your customers. While this is somewhat ‘old’ practice in the fast-paced online marketing world, it’s worth reminding marketers to be cognisant of the spam legislation, as well as online ‘netiquette’, which, if not followed, does nothing to promote you except perhaps damage your company or brand reputation.

6. Video over the internet

Broadband now enables us to reach consumers with TV-like messages, product demos and case studies and according to Forrester Consulting research commissioned by SpotXchange, online video spend is set to soar.  For traditional advertisers this is good news; and for retailers this provides an even greater opportunity to enhance the customer experience. While the entire online advertising market is likely to increase, rich media advertising will also be significant. B2B marketers are embracing online video as the technology improves and formats become standardised. Add to this some ingenuity and if the video is a hit and goes viral (in a good way!) then the return on investment has been well worth it.

7. Measuring New Media

Along with new media opportunities comes the need to measure the return on investment new media is creating – that is, a better understanding of digital attitudes, behaviours and content or product consumption. Some marketers have developed in-house systems to track performance of new media such as blogs, podcasts and search, while others are turning to third-party vendors to provide measurement.  A study by the Columbia Business School found that the key challenge in measuring ROI is largely due to the various channel-specific metrics involved.

For example, Oracle developed its own system to measure ROI for blogs, podcasts and RSS, using metrics such as page views, frequency and user interactions. Other third party vendors that measure online brand performance include Nielsen Online BuzzMetrics. Google has Google Analytics, a free search analytics service, and there are a host of other companies including CoreMetrics, SiteAnalytics, WebTrends and Unica have search analytic products as well.

What we’re seeing is a shift to a more diverse set of media choices for marketers. A few years ago rich media B2B advertising was still somewhat a novelty. Marketers used it as a visual disturbance-something different than the static e-mails and banner ads that populated their world. Today, rich media, and other methods of reaching the web savvy customer has become the norm.

Each of these trends is already here in one form or another, and while some may not be fully developed, they are here and they are going to change the way in which we manage our brands and engage with our partners, stakeholders and customers.