If you’re still using last year’s strategies for inbound marketing, you’re probably doing okay – but you could be doing better. Inbound marketing is an ever-evolving game where the rules change constantly. Marketing superstars shift strategies frequently to stay on top.
A handful of emerging trends may make you rethink your inbound strategy. Let’s look at 5 secret trends that will keep you at the top of your game in 2018 and beyond.
Secret Trend #1: A New Sweet Spot for Blogging
That’s right – the ideal length and frequency of blog posts have changed yet again. You’ll hear all kinds of opinions on this topic, but the trend-watchers who dig deep into the data are finding the following facts:
- A new minimum word length of 1,000 keeps you among the best-ranked search results.
- If you can do 1,200- to 2,000-word posts of excellent quality, they’ll rank higher. But if they’re poorly-written, they’ll demolish your Google ranking.
- Research shows that 2,250 to 2,500 words is a sweet spot for organic traffic, but few businesses can reach this utopia without investing in professional writing services.
- “Quality” in blog posts means perfect spelling, perfect grammar, unique phrasing, and meaningful content for your target audience.
- Keywords are still important, especially long-tail keywords.
- Frequency depends on your goals. Post at least once a day for steady growth, multiple times a day for fast growth, and 2 or 3 times a week if you’re okay with slow growth.
Secret Trend #2: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen
If your inbound marketing plan is struggling, it’s time to screech to a halt and consider whether you’re truly listening to your audience in terms of content development and social sharing. Or, to put it another way, when’s the last time you asked your audience what they want instead of assuming that you already know?
It sounds so simple, but it’s something inbound marketers often forget to do in the whirlwind of the day-to-day: Ask about the audience’s needs. Here are a few simple ways you can solicit feedback from your audience and use it in more effective content development:
In customer service situations— like phone calls or chatbots— include one question that informs content development, like: “We’re curious: What almost held you back from trying our grill?”
On social media, outright ask for content they’d like to see: “Would you watch a behind-the-scenes video with people testing our makeup? What else do you want to see?”
Within posts, use a feedback box to ask if the info is helpful and if not, what they’d prefer to see instead. “Was this helpful? If not, what would have been better?”
And when you take their advice, remember to give credit to your fans individually for making the suggestions. This creates a full conversational loop that invites everyone into the discussion, including potential new followers.
Airbnb is great at this. They develop new content based on topics that are trending on their social channels, and highlight fans, including travelers and lodging hosts, who share tips for making everyone’s travel experience better. The result is a rich, content-filled experience for all their social followers.
Secret Trend #3: Faking it Won’t Make it
We can’t stress this enough: Google knows when you’re faking it with tricky time-saving tactics.
How? Why? We wish we could answer these questions, but let’s just chalk it up to Google’s massive database of information and secret algorithm. Like it or not, it’s a dominant force and writes the rules of the internet— although some experts say this may be changing. (Don’t worry, we’ll explain in #4, below.)
Here are some tricks you may be using that no longer fly:
Cobbling together new content. Sorry, friends, but search engines are great at noticing obviously rehashed content. Don’t waste your time changing out a few words on an old ebook or blog post and reposting it as new. You’d do better to write a 100% new post and refer to the previous post as further reading.
Robotic posting. If you’re using a service to trigger your marketing messages, we totally understand why— but be advised that Google sees you doing it, and they might penalize you if they think it seems spammy. The same goes for non-mobile optimized messages, unnatural links, duplications, and content flagged as questionable by users.
Too-regular intervals. When blog and social posts are routinely blasted out at the same time on the same day of the week, search engines catch on quickly. As much as possible, use humans to create and trigger your messages at various times. It’s the best way to maintain the kind of natural variability that ranks highest in search results.
Secret Trend #4: Google Might Be Losing its Throne. Maybe.
There’s compelling evidence that Google is finally losing some footing. A smattering of popular new search-enabled devices is diluting its ad and search dominance.
Search assistants like Alexa and Siri are now guiding the research and buying process for many consumers. Sites like Yelp and LinkedIn have figured out how to make serious inroads into search. The Wall Street Journal points to Amazon and Snapchat as Google’s most serious threats by 2020.
For inbound marketers, all this is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it means exciting new messaging opportunities are on the horizon. On the other hand, it brings a diverse new set of rules to learn plus additional expense, as inbound budgets are divided among channels.
The key here is to track your metrics carefully and know which platforms convert the most effective leads for your business— not “the most” leads, but “the most effective” leads. Google might drive the most organic traffic to your site, but what if Yelp yields far more converted leads? That’s a critical fact to know.
Secret Trend #5: Who Knew Auditing Could Be So Fun?
If the word “audit” makes you think of the IRS and shudder, you’re not alone. Auditing isn’t part of the lingo for many inbound marketers, but it should be.
For inbound marketing, an audit is about going back through your messaging history carefully and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Rather than just glancing and your metrics and moving on, an audit is more formal and methodical.
- Audit every inbound channel, in as much detail as you can.
- Look at stats like page views, clicks, and click-through rates.
- Track your content topics by viewership and converted leads.
- Determine which keywords and calls-to-action have been most effective.
Schedule audits at regular intervals—monthly, bi-monthly, every 6 months— and you’ll actually start to look forward to them. They provide the juicy bits of information every inbound strategizer craves.