30+ Web Trends that Will Impact Social Media, Blogging, Content, Google, SEO, CRO & UX in 2014
This is the 6th edition of my legendary web trends post, the 2012 version got 800+ tweets, the 2013 one got translated into Russian despite being published on a fairly unknown blog.
I can’t predict the future as usually but I am pretty good at spotting trends and extrapolating their impact.
These are the things that will make 2014 interesting when it comes to
- social media
- The Facebook audience dwindles. It becomes the new MySpace step by step. Brands need to pay for ads to reach their audience they could reach for free in the past so businesses won’t be sad about that lost importance.
- A stratification takes place. People join and engage on social sites based on age, gender, nationality, status, employment. Also people use several sites depending on use cases. The era of one size fits all on Facebook nears its end.
- Sheer size doesn’t matter anymore. Active users don’t mean traffic anymore as Google+ shows. The allegedly second largest social network based on “active users” is responsible only for 0,04% of social media traffic it seems.
- Q&A sites rejoice as Google favors questions in conversational search. Answers.com, Quora, Stack Exchange, the Moz Community Q&A and even old school forums get an advantage now.
- There is a return of the dead. Early social sites like Digg and Delicious fare better than just a few years ago. Will they reach their old popularity levels again?
- The artist formerly unknown as RSS is back but called feed now. With the demise of Google Reader a new wave of feed readers and their innovations have brought feeds back to life. Feedly, The Old Reader, Pulse, AOL Reader, Digg Reader, Feedspot allow bloggers to tap their audiences directly again. There is even a new Feedburner alternative to consider: FeedPress.
- Businesses prefer blogs again. Now that Facebook requires brands to buy back their friends, social media outlets get more varied and “target audience” specific it is easier to simply attract audiences on your own turf instead investing everywhere else.
- With Ghost there is fresh competition in the microblogging arena. The new self-hosted microblog platform is like Tumblr for DIY publishers. At the same time WordPress.com still tries to popularize Tumblr community features.
- Brands invest in blogging again. In 2013 huge brands invested in blogging again. AOL, Yahoo, Facebook did. In 2014 smaller brands will have to follow too unless they haven’t yet.
- Infographics return to normal. Now that Google dislikes infographics the era of their overblown prominence is already over. Genuine texts, images, audio from real people not teams of marketers become more viable again.
- Size matters, that is small is beautiful. In 2013 many people in the marketing industry assumed that “long-form” content is the way to go because their larger post tended to get more shares on social media than their shorter posts. At the same time the rest of the Web has dwarfed Web content and created a gigantic number of hugely popular memes. Animated gifs, text images or even good old images went viral a million times.
- Grumpy Cat rules. Did I just day memes? Grumpy Cat is the king of memes as you probably know by now. “Cat content” has always been the bane, errr, I mean the best of the Web. Now pets can become superstars. They get their own commercials too! Do you really expect to get fewer of them in 2014? Did you know Tret the parkour dog btw.?
- Some people will finally realize that the Web is not a monarchy. I have been explaining for years where the “content is king” meme stems from (from the British monarchy) and that content is king for media corporations like ViaCom, Microsoft and News Corp whose bosses argued that “content is king”. So don’t just repeat what others say without thinking about the reasons they said it.
- Content farms die in slow agony. Do you remember content farms? Google didn’t kill them all at once by they die in a slow and painful way. Is this a win for journalism? I doubt that. Other publications depending too much on Google will follow.
- Google joins the military industrial complex. Now that Google acquired the company that builds scary military robots for the Pentagon it’s clear that it’s not your cool geek from around the corner anymore. Some people call it Skynet now. I wonder why? Do you get the reference?
- Google will do anything to make you join Google+. Don’t believe me? No, they won’t sent over the scary robots or use your Wi-Fi password they obtained via Google StreetView to sign up for you. It’s almost as bad as you think though!
- Google will display search results again. This is pure speculation. We’re by now used to see only ads, local directory results, scraped content from Wikipedia etc. (aka knowledge graph) and paid Google services above the fold. There will be a backlash and users will demand search results again so that Google will have to backtrack in 2014.
- Google may get rid of links as ranking factor like Yandex did but also they are on their way to replace hypertext with their proprietary Google Web too. Google offers domains registrationsand web hosting too btw.
- Google will rear up our children. When parents turn to technology for work and leisure alike nobody takes care of parenting anymore it seems. So toddlers will have to rely on Google too.
- Keyword domains lose against branding – Now that Google doesn’t favor exact match domains (eg. seo.com for the term seo) and the emergence of numerous new top level domains, Google itself offers more than a dozen (even strange ones like .dad .foo or .here) brand building is the more important thing again.
- The “SEO is dead” meme dies – The “SEO is dead” meme has been particularly overused in 2013. It happened so often that people stopped to care and the attention baiting headline stopped working finally. In 2014 people will not even yawn anymore when you try to kill SEO.
- Optimization for people wins finally. Now that keywords are invisible (because Google hides them) the user takes center stage again. People analytics tools like Woopra or Mixpanel allow to watch your visitors and make them happy.
- SEO for direct traffic – most website owners neglect direct traffic, the best and most important part of your visitors: those who like and remember you enough to type in your URL for example.
- Googlers join the rebellion. I have predicted it a year or two ago and now it seems the movement gains momentum. Google employees change sides. They don’t move to the next huge corporation but work as independent SEO consultants instead. We’re see more of them!
- Conversion (Rate) Optimization finally reaches the masses. You still don’t know what SEO means but here comes CRO and requires even more tools and techniques to master. Luckily from now on there are tools and resources everybody can use like Good UI or Site Apps.
- Website speed improves conversion rates. So you didn’t fix your load times for the sake of usability, you didn’t do it for the sake of SEO. Will you do it for the sake of more conversions? I expect it to happen.
- Privacy increases conversions. That’s no joke. People more confident that their data won’t get misused are more likely to trust online vendors and buy. So finally businesses will adopt measures to protect user privacy not because they care for it but because they care for their bottom line.
- Everything has to be responsive now. It’s not just about Web layouts or images anymore. Navigation, SEO and content has to be optimized for different devices and use cases as well depending on whether the audience views sites on the go or from home.
- Uncle Sam wants you to be usable. Usability.gov is not the first government site to push user experience improvements but the most dedicated to the cause as of now it seems.
- Professionals are creating findable websites without saying SEO. While online marketers still prefer to use the somewhat cryptic SEO acronym educators, librarians, information architects embrace and popularize the lost art of findability be it on- or offsite.
- Sensationalistic “journalism” discovers UX as the new victim. For years major publications celebrated SEO hashing rituals with at least bi-monthly “SEO is dead” feasts. Now they discovered user experience. The difference? The bash individual sites now.
Did I overlook some important trends that will matter in 2014? Please add them in the comment section so I know about them next year.
* Creative commons image by Romain Bihore.