2016 Digital Marketing Prediction

When we examine “The Year in Search,” we saw Google crack down on non-mobile-friendly sites, lean harder on social signals for ranking and reward sites that produce high-quality content. Content marketing strategies grew even more dependent on calculating and interpreting user search intent than on utilizing keywords for SEO.

Looking back

Last year I made 8 predictions for search, many of which were correct, (high-five self). If you’d like to read the full summary check out my post on Brafton.com.

Now for this year’s predictions…


We’ll see a Google update that helps the mobile search experience.

Marketers need to make sure they are optimized for local “in the moment” searches. Google search trends clearly show adoption rates of localized searches.

The graph below illustrates how the “in-the-moment” location-based coffee near me search has been increasing drastically, while the more general, non-location-specific or time-sensitive find coffee has leveled off since the mid-2000s.

The chart below shows the increase in popularity of relative, local, time- and geo-sensitive search terms, which began its climb primarily in 2013.


Less “click-bait” content in search results.

Marketers have started to produce “shock value” content in hopes of getting better click-through rates through content discovery networks like Taboola and Outbrain.

These slideshow-style articles often force users to click multiple times on a page to view all of the content and are built to maximize the number of ads a user sees. In general, these types of articles do not keep the user’s intent as the first priority, which leads me to my next prediction…


User intent becomes king.

Content quality is very important, and making sure you’re keeping your users’ intent is in mind will help your content show up in search for the right queries.

This sounds tricky, but let me show you what I mean:

Pretend you run a fashion blog that targets men. The search query “tie and shirt combinations” is valuable to your blog and you desperately want to rank No. 1 for it. Your page on tie and shirt combinations is very detailed; you give a brief background on the history of ties, you list all the types of shirts designed for ties, and you provide several suggestions of shirt-tie combinations toward the end of the page. Your competitor has a much shorter post but is ranking No. 1 for that query. Why? Their content addresses the user’s question right off the bat by just showing shirt and tie combinations. The user’s intent was to get ideas on what to wear — it was not to learn about ties and shirts.


Podcasts will become a popular avenue for brands to build thought leadership. (Not a marketing trend prediction but I believe this search trend will continue.)

It may sound odd, but hear me out…

  • In 2015, we saw an uptick in the number of Americans searching for the term “podcasts.”
  • Car manufacturers continuously make it easier to sync smartphones into on-board entertain
  • Top podcasts on iTunes (photo from cnet.com)
  • ment systems.
  • Streaming data is cheaper and easier than ever before so consumers don’t mind streaming audio podcast content.
  • The barriers to entry for making a quality podcast are lowering significantly. The main thing stopping brands from creating podcasts is lack of creativity and time. With about 46 million Americans listening to podcasts, it’s time that brands took a closer look at this form of content. If brands are able to create unbiased, educational podcasts, they will be able to capture audiences for long periods of time and build consumer confidence. Not all brands will be able to do this properly and I’m sure we’ll see many failures, but the types of brands that have the biggest potential to capitalize are:
  • Media — topics might include: recaps on top events, stories, interviews
  • Venture capital — topics might include: best practices in business
  • Sports apparel or sports supplement companies — topics might include: interviews with sponsored athletes
  • Health food companies — topics might include: healthy living, cooking, equipment

Overall, I believe that we’ll see a shift toward creating content that addresses user’s intent — not just their specific search terms. Good quality content that addresses the user’s intended question directly, clearly and quickly will perform better than content that provides an answer buried in context and extra material not directly related to the search intent. In 2015, mobile search overtook desktop search for the first time ever — additional emphasis will be put on mobile content, which includes mobile-optimized UX and local, in-the-moment information. Check back in with me in 365 days and we’ll see how I did this year.

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