Digital marketing trends shaping the future

By Sherry Bonelli / Guest Column

The digital marketing industry changes minute-by-minute. It’s important that your business stays current on what trends are working and which ones to anticipate so you can be ahead of your competition.

Here are five digital marketing trends that you should pay attention to:

Local search is maturing

Businesses are finally realizing that they must use local search strategies to show up higher in the search engines. At the same time, Google is making it more difficult to rank in the local ‘three-pack’ of businesses that are shown on the first page of search results. Here are some tips to help you rank locally for keywords that you’re targeting:

  • Claim and optimize free Google My Business and Bing Places for Business listings.
  • Build quality backlinks to your site from complementary, authoritative local organizations (such as the Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, etc.).
  • Create authority by writing quality local content that includes the city names you’re trying to rank.
  • Build a website that your customers love.


Location counts

In the retail space you always hear “location, location, location.” The same is true in the digital marketing space. More people who search for businesses are looking for local places.

Because Google (and the other search engines) know where the searcher is physically located, it’s getting more difficult to rank for larger geographic locations like Cedar Rapids or Iowa City. Why? Google wants to show the closest, quality business to the searcher. That means that Google is more likely to show hyperlocal search results/business.  For instance, if the searcher is on the border of Cedar Rapids and Marion, the search results will most likely be a combination of results for businesses bordering Cedar Rapids and Marion, not Cedar Rapids as a whole. So what should you do?

  • Include your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP) on the pages that you’re trying to rank
  • Get listed on quality online directory listings, like Yelp, Merchantcircle, Citysearch, etc.
  • Get links from complementary local businesses – and give links to other businesses, too.
  • Include the city/town you’re trying to rank in anchor text.


Pay to play is essential

In the good old days, you could rank organically for local search terms. Due to more local competition, you must pay for advertising – whether that’s Google AdWords, Facebook ads, retargeting, display ads and others. How do you do that?

  • Turn your social media cover images into free ads by adding a call to action, showing off your reputation, listing specials, etc.
  • Create a Facebook ad campaign which is a more affordable ad platform than Google AdWords and has targeting capabilities.


Think mobile

More people are searching on mobile devices than desktop computers. Google has a “mobile first” mentality when it comes to search results. You must have a mobile-friendly site – one that answers the questions customers on-the-go want to know. Your site also must load fast on a mobile device. According to Google, 40 percent of people will abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load. What should you do?

  • Check your site’s mobile speed by using Google’s Mobile Speed Test tool and have your website developer fix any issues with load time.
  • Optimize the content of your site for potential customers who are searching on a mobile device.


Reputation and online reviews matter

If your business isn’t proactively asking for customer reviews and monitoring and responding to reviews that are left about your business online, you’re missing out. According to BrightLocal, 91 percent of consumers read local online reviews. And 74 percent say that positive reviews make people trust a business more. Additionally, positive online reviews can help you rank higher on the search engines. So what should you do?

  • Monitor and respond to reviews about your business on the main review sites (like Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, etc.).
  • Proactively ask happy customers to leave reviews .
  • Work with a digital marketing agency that specializes in online reputation marketing to help you improve your positive reviews.

Sherry Bonelli, digital marketer and presenter/speaker, is the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency in Cedar Rapids. Reach her at