New year, new internet? Well, the internet’s changes may not be quite that dramatic. However, as we always say at the beginning of a new year, it’s smart to look ahead and see what you need to watch out for. The surest way to succeed is to prepare, after all. From far-reaching Google updates to online behavioral trends, 2018 will see some major shifts that business owners will want to be aware of. While Prospect Genius doesn’t have a crystal ball and can’t make any guarantees, we’re pretty confident in our predictions for online marketing changes you can expect in the coming months. So, ready to dive in? Read on for our list of the top three online marketing changes coming in 2018!
1. Google Launches Its Own Lead Generator for Local Services
Google has launched its own version of pay-per-lead directories like HomeAdvisor, Thumbtack, and Angie’s List. It’s called Local Services. When a service provider signs up for Local Services, their listing is displayed at the top of search results pages. A user clicks on the service provider’s name, and they see a profile page complete with contact details, customer reviews, and other pertinent details. Then, when a user decides to call or message the service provider, the service provider is charged for the lead. If you’ve ever used a platform like Thumbtack or HomeAdvisor, then you can probably visualize how Local Services works. But how do budgeting and ranking work on Local Services? According to Ginny Marvin’s article on Search Engine Land:
Advertisers set a weekly budget determined by the number of leads they want to receive. Google won’t say specifically what factors go into the rankings in the ad unit, but [Product Director for Small and Medium Business Ads Kim Spalding] said there’s a focus on quality (ratings and reviews), the ability to connect right away, location and a number of other factors.
Currently, there are 17 confirmed cities with access to Local Services. Google announced plans to expand that number to 30 by 2018. The current 17 cities are:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Riverside, CA
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- Washington, D.C.
And the service categories that have access to Local Services right now are:
- Garage door services
- Handyman services
- House cleaning services
Why you need to know about Local Services:
If you’re in any one of these service categories, your competitors might take advantage of Local Services and get more visibility on Google’s search results pages. Moreover, pay-per-lead services like Thumbtack and HomeAdvisor are about to take a huge hit as Local Services siphons off their user bases. Therefore, if you rely heavily on one of these services for the majority of your leads, you’ll need to diversify your marketing approach. Focusing on Facebook and SEO will be crucial.
2. Google’s Mobile-First Index Means Mobile Optimization Is a MUST
True, we’ve been saying “mobile optimization is a must” for years now. However, that’s because it’s been true for years, and the urgency just got a lot more real. You see, Google has been slowly working on what it calls a “mobile-first index,” wherein Google ranks webpages based on the mobile version of their content, even when searches are performed on desktops. As Barry Schwartz, a renowned web consultant, explains, this is due to the majority of searches happening on mobile devices these days:
As more and more searches happen on mobile, Google wants its index and results to represent the majority of their users — who are mobile searchers.
Furthermore, Google won’t add pages to the index until its mobile and desktop versions are a 100% match in terms of content, links, schema, etc.
Why you need to know about Google’s mobile-first index:
This all means you not only need a mobile version of your website, but you need one that doesn’t lose any of your site’s content or usability. While the roll-out of the mobile-first index is expected to go “very slowly,” you’re better off optimizing your mobile site sooner than later. After all, Google is known to implement sweeping updates seemingly overnight, so Google’s idea of “very slowly” could mean anything. Your best bet is to make your mobile site a major focal point in 2018.
3. Live Chat and IM Will Be Everywhere (Thanks to Millennials)
You might have already noticed platforms like Facebook and Google My Business placing a larger emphasis on instant messaging. For example, Facebook’s business pages allow “Send Message” as a call-to-action option. In fact, it will even add a badge to your page if you have a fast response rate to messages. You can expect instant messaging and live chats to gain even more prominence in the coming year. Why? Because this is how millennials prefer to communicate, and millennials are gaining more and more purchasing power. You may still think of millennials as a bunch of young, broke college kids, but the truth is, the oldest of them are actually in their early 30s now. This means they’re established in their careers and starting to own homes. As they gain more influence as consumers, businesses must adapt to their preferred methods of communication. And, considering they grew up with the immediacy and convenience of email, AOL Instant Messenger, and texting, these are the types of communication methods they prefer.
Why you need to know about live chat and instant messaging:
Millennials are currently the largest living generation. You can’t neglect or ignore them. Therefore, make it a priority this year to reassess the media you’re using for communication. Have some sort of instant alternative to the phone available for convenience. Whether it’s an active Facebook page that you use for direct messaging or a live chat plug-in on your own website, it will greatly improve your appeal to millennials. Plus—let’s be frank here—millennials aren’t the only ones who appreciate convenience! Interested in adding a live chat tool on your website? Let us know! Lots of small business owners and service providers enjoy how easy these tools are to use. Prospect Genius can install and implement a live chat plug-in on your site for only a small setup fee (with zero charges after setup). Our clients may also like to know we’re currently developing texting capabilities via CallTrax™ lines. Stay tuned! So, be on the lookout for these major online marketing changes coming your way in 2018! If you have any questions or concerns whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Happy New Year!