Even though it’s June, the past couple of weeks would have been a horrible time to take a vacation if you’re involved in online marketing. You’d have come back to the office to find:
- Google Place pages morphed into Google+ Local pages, an effort to build familiarity with the Google+ social brand so that it might one day expand its user base beyond what seems to just be a group of search bloggers
- Google Shopping/Base abandoning its free submission model in favor of a paid inclusion model
- Facebook engagement declining, according to research by Reuters (34% of users say they’re spending less time on site than 6 months ago)
And that’s not even venturing into the wild world of Google algorithm changes from the past couple of months. At the risk of sounding cliché, the only constant in this space is change, and that’s an understanding you must factor into your strategy going forward.
If your online programs aren’t diversified and integrated, they’d better get that way and fast. Putting all your eggs in one basket was never advised, but it was a necessity for some advertisers because of a lack of budget. But imagine the basket you’re relying on was SEO, and then your ratings tanked because of the Venice or Penguin updates. Or you may currently be generating tons of revenue without expense through Google Shopping’s free listings. With this switch to paid inclusion, you’re going to need to start accounting for expenses on this front. And if that Facebook number is to be believed and you’ve been building word of mouth as an inexpensive marketing tactic, you’ve got to worry your gains could erode.
Honestly, the idea that you need to always be ready to adapt and evolve in the online space isn’t new, but I think it’s hitting home for marketers more directly because of these changes. The revenue source you’re counting on right now has a very real chance of showing up in a different form tomorrow or even disappearing altogether. Online marketing offers us many opportunities to control variables, but at the end of the day, we can’t control how Google decides to present or monetize their products, nor can we control consumer behavior or preferences (as in the Facebook example).
The best advice for being ready for the shifts coming next are to study recent history and emerging trends both inside and outside your organization. For example, Google’s been emphasizing local in its SERPs for a while, so it’s no surprise to see them considering local content an important relevancy factor now (and even more going forward) on your site. Look inward at your Analytics data – are there new traffic sources or keywords emerging that offer a chance to be exploited and multiplied? And look at emerging technologies too – nothing’s been adopted faster than mobile, yet a staggering amount of companies are behind the curve.
Adapting to all the ongoing changes seems intimidating, but it is not impossible with the right strategy in place. That strategy begins with an understanding of the temporal nature of the digital ecosphere and a desire to diversify tactics to hedge your bets and maximize your returns.