Photo courtesy of Eli Christman on Flickr

By Serhat Pala

With every new year comes a landslide of predictions about the year ahead (after all the ‘best of’ lists from the outgoing year have been taken care of).

We here at RhinoForce like a little bit of tradition, so with that in mind, here are six predictions for the world of online marketing in 2014.

1. Facebook will continue its downward slide in popularity.

True, this one seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s worth noting that people aren’t just jumping ship on Facebook, they’re now actively lobbying others to quit the social networking site.

It’s not just the fact that Facebook long ago lost its novelty for people. The reason it’s going to continue to decline, especially among teens, is that the new up and coming generation of teens aren’t going to want to be on the same social network their parents are on. Think about it. The one thing teenagers are renowned for is rebelling against their parents. To the next generation of teens, Facebook isn’t going to be the least bit novel. In fact, chances are they’ve already had their entire childhood plastered all over the site while growing up. Their parents are on it, their aunts and uncles are on it, their grandparents are on it. Guess where the next generation of teens aren’t going to be.

One thing that never goes out of style is teen angst. There’s going to come a tipping point with kids when having a Facebook account puts you squarely (generation-identifying pun intended) in with the uncool kids. That tipping point won’t come in 2014, and, in fact, Facebook will likely still be huge this year, but the inevitable tipping point is on its way and it will continue to creep closer in 2014.

2. Google Glass will open a new chapter in the online marketing playbook.

Let’s face it; Google Glass looks ridiculous at the moment. But that doesn’t mean it won’t take off in a huge way when it’s publicly released (expected to be some time in the spring of 2014). This will be the year when we find out if the world really wants Google Glass and wearable computing or if it will be relegated to the realm of the Bluetooth headset. But even without great popularity, this at-the-moment-novelty gadget will bring new opportunities to online marketing for advertisers, as this is one more step in people being more connected than ever. Google will be sure to add on features to its advertising platform. You can bet that if Google is behind something, there’s going to be a way to put ads on it eventually. If Google Glass really takes off, video advertising like the ones that annoy the hell out of everyone when they’re trying to watch YouTube videos will increase in importance.

The real prediction is whether Google Glass will fly or flop. And I say the technology will (eventually) fly, but not in 2014. Like all new technology, it will take a several years for it to be adopted as part of regular life. That should give us internet marketers plenty of time to dream up new ways of reaching consumers.

3. Google Hummingbird effects will become more evident.

The effects of the Google Hummingbird algorithm will continue to be felt in 2014 and in a positive way at that. Although the changes that most people saw from Hummingbird were small, the accumulative changes will add up and we will see larger changes throughout 2014. One of the ways I see Hummingbird changing the internet landscape is by rewarding websites that feature useful content rather than merely unique content, which is good. It’s not difficult to simply have content that is different from other websites, but what makes one website better than another is whether that content is useful to searchers.

4. New, niche-oriented social networking sites will emerge, become more useful, and change the landscape further, particularly micro video.

Micro video sharing is the next step in our continually shrinking attention spans. As soon as Twitter introduced Vine, thousands of creatively done videos starting popping up, showing that you can say quite a lot in six seconds. Instagram has gotten in on the act now with their video sharing capabilities that run from three to 15 seconds. Of course it didn’t take long for brands to start playing Tarzan and hopping on Vine and we’ll likely see more of that in 2014, with more Vine-made videos popping up both on TV as commercials and elsewhere. If brands want to connect with rather than annoy their target audience, they’ll do well to learn how to say what they have to say in a six second video rather than raising the ire of people who just want to watch a video on YouTube by trying to get them to sit through a minute plus of advertising.

And in sticking with the images theme, social networks that are image-centric will continue to come to the fore. As the old adage goes, a picture is worth — well, you know. Instagram competitor Mobli just got a cash injection of $60 million from América Móvil, which includes distribution to its mobile users. It will be interesting to see what this self-proclaimed “visual search engine” does with the new investment.

Impossible, although not dependent on images, allows users to ask for and receive help for free. If you want something or have something you can offer, you can put your request or offer on Impossible and connect with people. For example, a user named MRSBLAKEY posted a message saying “I can teach someone to knit.” If you want to knit, get in touch with Mrs. Blakey. It also has a lot of requests, with people asking for everything from personal trainers to golf partners for their grandpas to washing machines for their mothers. There have been many communities based on altruistic intentions like this pop up and fade quickly, but being backed by a celebrity (at least in England, anyway) might just help this one stick around.

And while Facebook seems to have finally run out of at least a bit of steam, LinkedIn, Yelp and Twitter should still remain strong throughout 2014.

5. Social media advertising will start to show results not just for national brand advertisers, but smaller advertisers, as well.

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how this will be the year that businesses will really have to accept social media and start incorporating it into their communications etc. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen this exact same thing expressed year after year for the probably close to a decade now. Every year is touted as the year businesses will finally have no choice but to get on board with social media (and next year will be the same, too).

Companies have had to embrace social media for years to be considered relevant. What is special about this year is that it will be the year that smaller companies will figure out not only the power of social media, but how to use it like the big brands do. I’m reminded of the story of an Australian tourism business that, after spending years and thousands of dollars on what I will affectionately call “old-fashioned” advertising, was on the brink of shutting down just before some people posted about it on TripAdvisor and opened the floodgates for the business owner.

I think 2014 will be the year that the little guys really start using social media to their full advantage. And using social media to your advantage is all about engaging the users and, if possible, getting them to generate content for you, like submitting photos of themselves using your product etc. Expect to see more small businesses getting savvier with their use of social media, likely by targeting some of the aforementioned social media newcomers popping up, which will be less crowded as far as advertisers and marketers go.

6. SEO will increasingly be absorbed into other optimization techniques but people will continue to debate its health.

Let’s set the record straight once and for all about SEO. It faked its own death to get out of paying back debt it owed to the mob. It tried living a quiet life growing organic corn in Nebraska, but quickly grew tired of that and has now teamed up with a couple of buddies to make a valiant attempt at getting back to its glory days, mob debts be damned.

Organic SEO alone will continue to lose relevance throughout 2014, as significance continues to shift toward having a more comprehensive overall web presence, including social media and, particularly, Google Authorship. Google is determined to make Google+ matter (and it’s succeeding) and although the company can’t completely abandon its core business of providing search results, you know it’s going to continue to insinuate itself into the mix. (It is a for-profit company with competition, after all.)

So, SEO isn’t dead, it’s just been absorbed into Web Presence Optimization (WPO), which will be the new buzzword for 2014 (or some variation of it). If WPO manages to take off as the new acronym du jour, expect to see all the former “SEO experts” and “social media gurus” switch to “WPO experts.”

And Word of Mouth Optimization will continue to grow, connecting the on and offline worlds primarily using social media like Yelp to help companies get ranked (thanks to Google Hummingbird’s penchant for giving high ranking to national directory pages like Yelp, TripAdvisor or FindLaw).

The only prediction that is sure to come true for 2014 (or any other year) is that the internet marketing landscape will continue to fluctuate and nobody will have steady footing for long unless they are prepared to change with it.

Do you agree with these predictions? Do you have your own? What do you think lies ahead for the internet marketing industry in 2014? Let us know in the comments.

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About Serhat Pala

Serhat Pala is the President and founder of RhinoForce and 3DPrinterStore.com. Prior to that, he ran several online retail businesses including TestCountry.com, which, under his management, was recognized as one of the Inc. 500 fastest growing privately held companies.

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