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Digital Marketing Trends for 2011

Posted on 06 Jan 2011 in Digital Strategy | 12 comments

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Co-Founder & Digital Strategist at Acquisition Engine. Nomadic Soul. Sagan Fanboy. Follow @seanmccolgan !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="//";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Happy New Year All! We’ve decided to kick off 2011 with some insights from our favourite peers and digital marketers on the trends to watch out for in the year ahead. Insights are based on anything from content development, to web analytics, to the increasingly relevant subject of mobile marketing. Remember to bookmark and share this page with your peers if you find it useful, and let us know your thoughtson what digital marketing trends to watch out for this year in the comments below.

We asked: What do you see as being the most important digital marketing trend in 2011, and why?

Avinash KaushikAvinash Kaushik | Author, Analytics Evangelist & Co-Founder

Market Motive: Internet marketing training courses & certification

“I hope it will be the return of common sense”.

There is far too much hype and FUD and “you must do this or die” out there when it comes to digital marketing. Common sense dictates that a responsible Marketer not fall for either of those three horrible techniques Rather he or she must: 1. focus on the core that works 2. experiment with *relevant* emerging options 3. let data dictate where to increase investment (time or money) and where to kill 4. rinse and repeat”

Dave AllenDave Allen | Director, Insights & Digital Media

North: Brand engagement for the digital and natural worlds “The question you pose presents a challenge for marketers. It suggests that something new and shiny might be around the corner but if there is, it would be just a mess of tactical devices rather like the social media frothing that still continues. I say that because there’s nothing new in digital marketing. It’s still all about narrative arcs, great stories around great product etc. Technology just shortens the distance between brands and their customers. The Internet permanently changed the relationship between the brand and its customer. We don’t need to learn a new way of marketing in digital; we do need a new way of seeing the market.”

Linda BustosLinda Bustos | Director of Ecommerce Research

Get Elastic: Ecommerce Blog “I believe A/B and multivariate testing should be the biggest digital marketing trend – whether it will be or whether it gets as much buzz as mobile and social, I don’t know. But it’s the trend that’s slowly building momentum over the last 3 years, and with Google Website Optimizer being free and available to all, online marketers should either A) get started or B) continually test and improve in 2011. Especially considering your competitors are testing more and more.”

Neil PatelNeil Patel | Guerrilla Marketer & Serial Entrepreneur

QuickSprout: Entrepreneurship Blog “The biggest trend that I am seeing is that everyone is starting to focus on collecting emails again. Facebook and Twitter are great for driving traffic, but you need to collect email addresses so you can continually market to those people.”

Oli GardnerOli Gardner | Co-Founder & Director of Marketing

Unbounce: Landing Pages

Interstitial Mobile Marketing Experiences (IMME) “Most free game mobile game apps are now monetized by showing interstitial ads between each turn of the game. In 2011 these ads will see enhanced and optimized smartphone interaction matched to the behavioural characteristics of phone consumers. Ads for high priced items will be filtered out and replaced with experiences focused on selling things that can be bought and experienced immediately without breaking a user’s flow. I see this being achieved by following four principles: Targeted: Amazon style recommendation engine to intelligently cross-sell apps Integrated: One-click purchasing through gateways such as iTunes or PayPal will be integrated seamlessly via phone OS – and open to all. Price-Point Relevant: Focus will be on $5 and down – targeted at the teen and young adult sectors who have recurring digital pocket money (RDPM) to play with. Optimized: Mobile platforms will facilitate transfer between “ad landing pages” and the “origin app” without losing game state.”

Antonio Garcia-MartinezAntonio Garcia-Martinez | CEO/Founder at AdGrok

AdGrok: the best way to manage search campaigns

“Self checking-in location apps, i.e., FourSquare without the hassle. As a follow-on, mobile ads will come of age and suddenly become far more relevant. The big winners will (obviously) be FourSquare or Facebook, or whoever gets there the fastest with the mostest (i.e. owns the leading location graph). And of course, the local business who will advertise on them.”

Peter SwainPeter Swain | MD, Specialist Smartphone App Creator

AlwaysOnMessage: iPhone App Development Agency

The realisation that there is no, and will be no, “year of mobile.” “There is no such thing as the year of mobile – it’s firmly implanted itself into the fabric of commerce and our daily lives. The phenomenal growth of mobile will continue to progress and evolve, and dictate to a degree the way information is consumed and disseminated. The realisation that this is now the medium through which we operate as a de facto, rather than waiting for a revolution that has utterly snuck-up and already consumed us, will lead to new ideas and mechanisms from the people operating in this space, rather than the devices themselves.”

Mark ThompsonMark Thompson | Internet & Social Media Marketer

Stay On Search: Search & Social Media Marketing Tips

“I believe that content development will become the biggest trend of 2011. I think that more and more companies and organizations are beginning to realize that content is what sells. Content is what drives traffic, builds authority/credibility, and provides the level of education a customer needs to make a buying decision. With consumers turning to the internet for information, it is important for businesses to position themselves as the thought-leader in the industry and make sure their website is found when someone is searching for something relevant to their industry. Since more budget is shifting to content creation, it will take away from more traditional advertising outlets like the YellowPages, Radio/TV, and Print.”

Alexei LeeAlexei Lee | Social Media and Digital PR consultant

React Adapt: Social Media & Digital PR

“The penetration of smart-phones in the West and market growth in Asia will lead to the positioning of mobile apps as a core channel for digital marketing strategies. Some social apps will become more popular than browsers as the way to access the web leading to a massive increase in ad spend on social platforms. The proliferation of geo-location will radically change the way brands identify, target and tailor messaging to suit a new breed of hyper-local, spontaneous community.”

Justin RachwalskiJustin Rachwalski | Director of Marketing

Performable: Web analytics and marketing CMS

“I see the shift towards customer lifecycle marketing and away from the traditional marketing funnel as the most important trend. The traditional funnel makes marketing seem like a one way track that funnels customers into the business. Customer lifecycle marketing places the customer at the center of marketing and describes the ongoing relationship with the customer which never really ends.”

Alex GrechanowskiAlex Grechanowski | Internet Marketing Consultant

MarketingSutra: eCommerce Optimization and SEO

Marketers will increasingly embrace web analytics to sync their SEO, Social Media, and Email Marketing efforts. Driving conversion to eCommerce sites will require ingenious strategies. Quality lead generation, including with the help of group-buying and geo-specific deals, will bring new opportunities to marketers.

Trevor StaffordTrevor Stafford | Content Strategist and Online Communities Manager

CDMN: Canada Digital Media Network

“I see two related developments. One will be the (ersatz) application of social content engagement by the late majority (see Moore’s Crossing the Chasm). If 2010 was about putting up a Facebook page, whoring ‘likes’ and moaning about metrics, 2011 will be about broader acceptance by the marketing community that social media is less of a destination and more of a thread or channel that ties variegated content together — or tries to. Content itself will be further archipelago’d. Old marketing hands won’t like it, but successful brands will have numerous small ‘islands’ of content, including video (personalized a la Old Spice perhaps?), Facebook, email (which I think will become more the messenger than message), and socialized lead gen (think Groupon), bespoke SEO, and mobile, which means lousy apps and lousy mobile coupons/check-ins. Seriously, will we ever get mobile right? Notably, most of this content will live ‘off the .com reserve’, meaning less control, diluted messaging and more work. Part II is a trend towards Content Strategy, which is a fancy new term/discipline for tying all this madness together. If content is archipelago’d, and social media is the speedboat that ferries eyeballs to and fro, then content strategy is the savvy captain who knows where the reefs are. (Anyone else get a pastel-plastered 1983 Don Johnson cigarette boat visual?) Content strategists will likely be the new marketing darlings in 2011, just before they become the douchebags of 2012. : ) Oh and the skeptic in me will say that 2011 will see ‘authenticity’ become the year’s buzzword. Everyone will talk about how marketing is the new customer service. Most companies will only pay lip service to the idea, however.”

Andrew NattanAndrew Nattan | SEO Copywriter & Consultant

FirstFound: SEO Consultants

It has to be localisation. People are going to start paying more attention to the people right outside their front doors. We’ve seen the beginnings of this with Google Places, FourSquare and Facebook Places – and in 2011, I think we’ll see many more people looking for local clients.

Jason LankowJason Lankow | CEO/Co-Founder

Column Five Media: Infographic Design & Social Media Strategy

“We (Column Five Media) see a bigger emphasis on company blogs functioning more as robust publications full of rich visual content rather than news about companies themselves. This serves as an opportunity for some to use their massive amounts of aggregated customer/industry data to tell unique visual stories to build a reputation for their brands as being creative and interesting. This can be done through infographics, complex interactive data visualizations, animation/video or even comics and other forms of illustration, but anyone who can capture the short attention spans we all are prone to on the web will make a name for themselves.”

Dennis R. MortensenDennis R. Mortensen | CEO and Founder

Visual Revenue: Increasing Front Page Performance for Online Media

“My world revolves around online publishers; in particular news media. With that in mind the most important 2011 trend, as I see it, will be greater DATA FOCUS and the desire and willingness to be more data driven. Editors will be looking to use decision support systems and will be moving towards an environment where machine learned and predicted content recommendations are a daily norm. Gut feeling will be a thing of 2010!”

Nicola EllisionNicola Ellison | Partner, Digital Marketing Specialist

DigiRank: SEO & PPC Services for SMEs

“As a digital marketer I’m very excited about 2011. We saw many new developments in PPC in 2010, with Google launching new functionality and services, like Adwords Site links, Product Extensions, and Remarketing. This year we’ll also be able to understand more about the real impact of Google Instant and Google Instant Previews on SEO and PPC. For 2011, there will be many new opportunities for PPC spend. Facebook has overtaken Google as the most visited website on the web, according to a recent Experian report, so no doubt marketers and clients will want a piece of this. Facebook have made great strides the development of their advertising platform, offering highly targeted advertising opportunities, and are set to launch its own search listings as it tries to position itself as the “local search engine”. Google Shopping and Google Local are set to become paid mediums. Twitter and LinkedIn will be launching their own PPC products. So it doesn’t look like developments are slowing down in 2011, which in turn means great opportunities for us to generate great results for our clients.”

Jon SamselJon Samsel | CEO & Branding Consultant

Heardable: Brand measurement & optimization platform

“I see five preeminent marketing shifts in 2011: In 2011, thousands of start-up brands will be built 100% online, using nothing but video, mobile, or social advertising. Traditional marketers will scratch their heads and continue to deny this is possible (at their own peril). In 2011, the chasm between IT and marketing departments will grow even larger, as savvy marketers embrace external support solutions in droves — experimenting with faster, more robust, and more empowering tools/services than most IT teams could ever hope to deliver or support (they can’t, of course, because their dev queues are too long and they don’t have the budget, talent, nor strategic vision to match what the ‘IT department of the web’ can offer). In 2011, the most effective and successful businesses will be those who’ve made the transition into web publishers (licensing, producing & syndicating branded content, as well as embedding user generated content, in multiple formats). In 2011, contrary to what Internet doomsday prophets have forewarned, corporate websites are not dead. However, more and more customers choose to congregate, and trust, external sites more than officially branded company sites. Smart brand marketers realize that web destinations such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Groupon are alternative homepages for brands and should be treated as such (resource allocation, staff expertise, corporate governance, customer service, performance measurement, etc). In 2011, holistic brand measurement will become more of a reality due to the proliferation of new tools and platforms that make integrated, brand performance evaluation possible. Silo’ed metrics and lagging indicators will be replaced by 360 degree views into real-time actions/reactions that can be benchmarked, graphed, and consumed by management in ways that can will influence the critical business decisions of the day.”

Tom LayfieldTom Layfield | Co-Founder & Director of Product Development

Acquisition Engine: Boutique Digital Marketing Agency

“In terms of Search, 2011 will inevitably follow in the footsteps of previous years with the reduction of ‘blackhat’, which in turn should emphasise the importance ethical, informative and awesome content, which after all is the backbone of the internet. This is something we should see as more of an opportunity than a threat to the digital marketer – we get the chance to become experts at making the web a better place through improving user experience, rather than feeding users with information they don’t want. Is this the year where SEM dies and get replaced by content development? Probably not, but that year is getting ever closer.”

Sean McColganSean McColgan | Co-Founder & Director of Digital Strategy

Acquisition EngineBoutique Digital Marketing Agency

“Paid premium content. With the rise of content farms churning out low-level information – flooding search results and social channels for Ad-clicks and eyeballs for CPM $$$ – more and more people will consider paid content channels to reduce the noise and receive exclusive content earlier. Services like Tinyletter,, SEOmoz Pro, and Mixergy will see even greater success this year. Investing in quality content (for search, social, branding and engagement) will be one of the main keys to growth online in 2011 for your business.” You can follow all the great digital marketers above via our Digital Marketing Twitter List. May 2011 bring you unbound health, wealth and happiness!

  • Andy @ FirstFound

    Sean, thanks for featuring us along side these other luminaries!

  • App Developer

    Thanks for the mention Sean – lets see what the year ahead brings!

  • Roy Christopher

    We need less marketing and more collaboration.

  • Oli Gardner

    Great collection of wisdom here Sean – it’s awesome to see this many experts come together to discuss a single topic. My second prediction for 2011 is that people will learn a lot from this post :)

    And thanks for including me.


  • Alex Grechanowski

    Many thanks, AE, I’m honored to be a part of this great crew.

  • Robert Owens

    keep it simple – know the wants of the people which are literally the simplistic things in life. we have 2 forms of people – the social and antisocial – but they want the same things – love, attention and knowledge in the things that they do. Money means nothing to the primal animal but it seems to cap the cake lately with all the acquisitions. But ask yourself what are we really trying to do and what is it that we really want. maslow’s hierarchy – lets start there and build off of that model and we will have the answers. people want to feel needed and cherished for what they do…ignoring this will only occur negativity towards trying to be positive in any deployment.

  • Jose

    I find sort of funny this obsession with “trends” and predicting which the next new buzzword, tool or cool tactic of the year will be.

    I have to agree with Avinash on this. You have to focus on what works and what is at reach and build things from there. Profit? Scientific method anyone?

    It is good to keep an eye on what is out there and the shiny new tools and technologies and what other organizations are doing, but this does not mean you have to blindly follow the crowd or apply XYZ best practice because is “trendy”, without testing or further evaluating it.

    Even more, if you are at the point where you can really innovate and make the difference (most organizations aren’t), this years “trends” are most probably what you have been doing for the past few years (or maybe something you already discarded as useless).

  • Cherry Rahtu

    This is absolutely cool, the best I learnt is to be a responsible marketer in 2011.

  • Ram

    This year online brand of the new firm become awesome visibility rest of them old are getting back and back due to quality. Also the Chinese items maintain the highest standard for the quality and price. think on the way to import and retributed the molecules.

  • IntegratedS

    Thanks for sharing this post. I have been working in digital marketing for over 2 years. As like what you said, it is not easy to define exactly the meaning of Digital Marketing. We can say it in simple way: Digital marketing is marketing with Digital equipment’s.

  • Xavier Vanek

    Hey thanks for the info. Digital marketing is the up and coming thing, I really enjoy it.

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