Throughout 2015 digital marketers experienced rapid changes to the industry and were forced to rethink their strategy based on evolutions in mobile optimization, advertising localization, and content marketing. Now that we’re heading into 2016, it’s time to start adapting digital strategies in higher education to anticipate the upcoming trends to stay on the cutting edge, and there is no sign that digital marketing will slow down. For instance, digital marketing budgets increased by ten percent in 2015, and two-thirds of marketers expect a continued growth in 2016. So how can you stay ahead in 2016? Here are five marketing trends in 2016 to boost your digital strategy.
Growth hacking is usually referenced alongside Internet startups, but this concept can be used in higher education, too. When a university’s main objective is to grow its online program and list of prospective students, it’s absolutely necessary to dedicate a team of digital marketers to focus on discovering new innovative avenues that push the boundaries of traditional marketing to increase organic growth. While most marketers know innovation is necessary, the Gartner CMO Spend Survey mentioned that only ten percent of marketing budgets are dedicated to innovation. If you want your business to stay ahead in this evolving industry, then this number will have to increase.
The key to success in growth hacking is looking at old marketing practices with a fresh perspective and then testing their viability through experiments. It’s a lot like being a visitor at an art gallery, gazing at paintings that have stood the test of time, yet you see something that 99 percent of the other viewers never saw: a new story–a new path. For instance, many marketers see influencers, forums, and guest posts useless in their marketing plans, but this perspective is flawed because they are looking through the same black-and-white lens like the marketers before them. By understanding the dynamics and structures of search engine algorithms, growth hackers can innovate and find untapped resources that bring in high quality prospects.
Creative Link-Building Strategies
During the last few years, I’ve heard “Content is King!” used over and over again. To an extent, this is a valuable and true expression for digital marketers, because high quality content that turns viral and produces an abundant source of traffic is fantastic, but understanding how to create content that naturally builds links comes as a challenge. When an original source of content is referenced and backlinked, the site’s SEO value will significantly increase over time. Many link-builders are still resorting to massive, non-engaging email blast hoping to convert a mere two percent of their outreaches leaving the remaining 98 percent out for the wolves and creative go-getters. One question remains: How do I reach the remaining 98 percent of unresponsive outreaches? I consider Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, to be one of the web’s best backlinking experts. His diversified link-building strategy revolves around utilizing guest posts, link roundups, helpful resources, and high quality keyword-based content. In order to stand out in front of the competition in 2016, marketers will have to find a way to use their pre-existing content to build backlinks along with creating new content around high traffic keywords that customers are actively searching.
Backlinko:Upside Down Guest Post
Moz: Link Building Category
Video Ads – Everyone says it, but it’s TRUE!
Video advertisements grew substantially in 2015. AOL’s sixth annual State of the Video Industry report mentioned that US digital video ads grew by 42% to $7.46 billion in 2015, and by 2019 this number will reach $13 billion. Even though Facebook’s autoplay feature came into the market during 2014, I believe 2015 was a major year for video testing in most digital marketing and SEO agencies. With traditional advertising falling by the wayside, now half of all marketers are reallocating their advertising budgets from television to branded digital videos. Google’s TrueView video ads have changed the advertising landscape with over 65 percent of Trueview campaign contributing to a significant lift in brand interest. This trend will only continue as Google and Bing adapt by bringing video advertisement into your search engine results. Industry sources have reported that Google and Bing are already testing these ads in their search engine results.
Facebook advertising recently introduced Flex-And/Or-Exclusion targeting that will become one of the greatest advertising tools for marketers in 2016. You could say that Facebook knows more about their users than they know about themselves, and advertisers can reach their target audiences like never before. Now you’ll be able to target or exclude individuals who match up in one interest, demographic or behavior group at a particular time instead of a catch-all group.
By using the detail targeting parameters, a marketer is able to target any person who is labeled as a college graduate, but they must have an interest in both advertising and management and not one or the other. In order to ensure the highest quality prospects in a recent campaign, I decided to target students who are prepared and interested in receiving their MBA by excluding any individuals who are graduating from 2017-2020.
This year will be all about specific hyper-targeting, and with a rise in ad personalization, an increase in conversion rates should result in an overall lower cost-per-acquisition.
Facebook Detailed Targeting
7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Performance
Keywords Optimized for Voice Based Search
The biggest change over the course of this year will be keyword and content optimization for voice recognition commands. As Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now and Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistants merge into the search engine process, marketers will have to shift their thinking to match how people are searching for answers verbally compared to text-based search. There is a fine line with how people search verbally and physically. SearchEngineWatch.com examined the number of question keywords that appeared in search queries like “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how.” Their study found a 61 percent growth in these phrases year-over-year with “who” phrases with the largest increase at 134 percent and “how” phrases up 81 percent respectively.
When developing future content, marketers need to be specifically structuring topics around (who, what, when, where, why and how) based questions in order to properly connect with the searcher’s request. Optimized voice-based content will focus on being the top indexed question by Google with the main objective of creating ease-of-use in the user’s experience. Let us know what trends you’ll be watching in 2016.
Austin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated marketing specialist. Before Circa, Austin ran an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in digital marketing, and he is a member of the Entrepreneur Society, Junto Global, and has won two business research awards while attending SDSU.