I was caught completely off guard when reminded to write my digital marketing predictions for 2018. Let’s take a close look at trends in the digital marketing space and highlight those that will most impact audiology practices over the course of the year.
Revisiting 2017 Digital Marketing Predictions
Last year we were mostly concerned about the emphasis Google was making on mobile, voice-search technology, as well as the pay-to-play model. For the most part, all of these areas increased in usage and impact on our digital marketing.
- The Importance of Mobile-Friendly Sites Will Grow — There’s a great article that highlights the growth of smartphone web traffic. “Since January 2015, there has been a 68 percent increase in smartphone web traffic in the U.S., while desktop and tablet both saw declines.”
- Voice Search Will Change the Way We Search — Voice search has increased significantly, leaving some organizations like comScore to predict that voice search will make up 50 percent of all searches by 2020.
- Pay-to-Play in Search and Social — Google did not change their ad options significantly but expanded options for advertisers. However, Facebook shifted organic business page content to a separate section to give preference to paid content. It appears that social is seeing the biggest increase in paid-advertising options as Google seems to be refining their advertising services.
- Social Media Becomes More Customizable for Users — My failed prediction was around social media. Instead of becoming more customizable for users, social media has become more customizable for advertisers. Many new options have been rolled out to make Facebook advertising more targeted and to track user actions and conversions across the web.
Now, let’s dive into predictions for 2018 digital marketing trends.
Prediction #1: The Dominance of Video
Video will become the dominant form of digital content. Social media channels have made this a priority — even to the point of Facebook launching their own “Watch” tab to engage users with original and repurposed content.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been on social media. Who hasn’t spent hours scrolling through Facebook watching recipe videos for delicious food?
WordStream shared some amazing video statistics in a recent article:
- 45 percent of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week
- One-third of online activity is spent watching video
- 92 percent of mobile-video viewers share videos with others
Video has even adapted for social media. One common trend is to add captions to the bottom of video content so that users who have video muted can still understand the video.
What does this mean for audiology practices? We frequently remind our members that YouTube is the second-largest search engine. Creating video content doesn’t have to be expensive. iPhones, with the proper lighting and setting, can perform well and make it easy to upload simple videos. We recommend focusing on brief videos that answer frequently asked questions, demonstrate services/actions that take place in the practice, provide education, or highlight your staff engaged in a local event.
Prediction #2: Expansion of Google My Business
Google My Business will continue to expand its reach and functionality for both users and practice owners. The years 2016 and 2017 led to some exciting changes in the Google My Business platform. Google My Business now allows practice owners to post about upcoming events occurring at the practice. It’s an incredible way to engage existing and prospective patients in practice events.
Another change has been Google’s renewed effort to engage users with writing reviews. The Google Local Guides initiative shows how eager Google is to encourage users to write more reviews about local businesses, incentivizing them with gift cards, discounted services, and products.
The long game for this is to eclipse Yelp and similar websites by becoming the preferred and primary source for information about business quality and service levels.
We encourage our members to use systems like our online-reviews program to increase their number of positive reviews and SEO services to claim and optimize Google My Business and other local listings.
Prediction #3: Lead Generation & Content Competitors
Audiology-focused lead-generation websites and audiology content-driven websites will continue to multiply and take search engine results-page share. This prediction is entirely specific to our industry. It is notable that this is not a new thing to the world of digital marketers at large, but it has recently reached a new intensity with the audiology industry.
Lead-generation websites aim to capture users and then resell the leads to practices. Lead-generation sites can be developed and managed by manufacturers, management groups, third parties looking to make money, and broader audiology networks. These sites get a lot of traction because of the sheer volume of visitors that they receive and the dedicated staff they have to grow that presence. Often, they channel their focus into forums, frequently asked questions, and high-level information for which users are searching.
The result is that they often will begin to creep into search engine result territory and push local practices farther down the page. In the last three years, this competition has increased dramatically with new players entering the scene almost monthly.
How can local audiologists compete with manufacturer-owned websites and sites dedicated to dominating these search results? There are two primary areas in which to focus your efforts.
These websites are focused on very specific parts of the marketing funnel, typically the top of the funnel. Users who end up on these kinds of websites are usually in the early stages of their research and are looking for broad information related to hearing loss, hearing aids, and audiology. Keywords in this phase are broad, like “hearing aid prices” and “hearing aid models,” where lead-generation and content-driven websites may have greater authority.
Local practices, however, can have an incredibly strong showing in search engine results when users are toward the bottom of the marketing funnel. Keywords in this phase shift to specific services in a location nearby like “hearing aids vancouver wa” or “hearing test near me.” These lead-generation and content websites do not have much opportunity once users are searching to make a purchase or take actual action.
Second, local pack results will give preference to local audiology practices. These websites do not have a physical address tied to them, so the likelihood that they will appear in the local pack is minimal. By focusing on strong positive reviews and optimizing Google My Business listings, local audiology practices will be given priority.
By creating strong, local content, local audiology practices can compete with established and newly developed competitors.
Prediction #4: Automation & Artificial Intelligence
Automation and artificial intelligence will continue to affect how digital marketing efforts are evaluated but will become more accessible to be leveraged by marketers. Everything we work for — whether paid or organic — in digital marketing is already driven and influenced by algorithms. The systems observe the actions of users on social media websites and serve them ads that seem to be relevant to their queries or habits. As these companies gather more data about users, they are able to provide more niche targeting and services to target users’ important decision points.
Already, our organic and paid digital teams use many of the automation tools available to us to highlight specific insights, to find performance gaps, or to generate new ideas for ad copy, content, or growth. Our sophistication with these tactics will only grow as automation improves.
Along with that, the expansion of digital marketing automation is making connecting with new and existing patients much easier. Our online-reviews program is a great example of how automation can improve results in previously manual tasks. Audigy members who connect their OMS to our platform are able to send out appointment satisfaction requests automatically after appointments, with no involvement from the practice. We are excited to continue to find areas to automate our services!
At a recent digital marketing conference I attended, the speaker from Google spent the bulk of his presentation talking about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). While these could both be dismissed quickly as buzzwords, he shared specific ways that companies are leveraging these tools to improve their digital marketing results. It gave our team many ideas, and we are excited to leverage every new service and resource that Google shares with our teams.
Time Will Tell
It’s time for me to put away my crystal ball. I’ll be watching to see if all these things come to pass, but the important thing is to focus on what audiology practices can do today to prepare for the future. I’ll close with a quick action-item list from my predictions:
- Create brief, useful video content
- Share video content on social media frequently
- Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing (completed if you are participating in Audigy’s SEO services)
- Post about upcoming events on your Google My Business page
- Increase your positive online reviews on your Google My Business page
- Talk to an Audigy marketing manager about ways to automate your marketing through online reviews, twice-monthly blogging, and paid search