by NEIL PATEL 

2015 is going to be an interesting year for marketers. Based on what I’ve seen over the years and my decade-long experience, I think there are going to be a lot of changes.

Before you start planning how you are going to market your business, read the 10 predictions below. If you follow them, you’ll have a leg up on your competition.

Here are 10 marketing predictions for 2015:

Prediction #1: Guest post links won’t be as effective

If you are an SEO, you’ve probably been using guest posts to build links.Why? Because they work extremely well.

Sure, search engines have given warnings that you shouldn’t do this, but many of you ignore these warnings because you still see the tactic working. You have to keep in mind that it takes large companies like Google a while to adapt their algorithms.

Over the next 12 months, I see Google updating its algorithm to devalue a lot of these links. You won’t necessarily get penalized, assuming you are avoiding rich anchor, but those links won’t help boost your rankings either.

Prediction #2: SEO will become harder

Remember how the Panda and Penguin updates shook up the SEO industry years ago? I see Google making more of these updates. As for what names they will call these algorithm updates… who knows?

But what I can tell you is that as they make these updates, it will become harder to manipulate search listings. This means you will have to focus on creating a better product or service. And you’ll have to keep improving the content on your website.

Should this stop you from doing any SEO? Of course, not. Instead, it should make you want to focus on it more because you’ll see a lot of your competitors shifting their budgets from SEO to PPC.

Prediction #3: Old school link building will be more popular than ever

From manually hitting up thousands of sites to leveraging broken link building, these old school methods will be used often.

They have worked over the years and will continue to. Why? Because you have to earn them, and it’s hard to manipulate them.

I’ve seen a few large companies during 2014 build internal teams that focus on these old school link building tactics. I see many other companies doing the same during 2015.

Prediction #4: Social Media will become the cornerstone of blogging

Can you guess why certain blogs are more popular than others? Sure, content has a bit to do with it, but a lot comes down to the social media accounts.

For example, my personal blog is already getting 25,000 plus visitors a month. It’s not because my content is better than everyone else’s, but it’s because I have a large social following.

With that social following, I can make almost any new blog, within my niche, popular.

Companies will start seeing more value in social media, and they’ll spend thousands of dollars a month on building up their social media accounts.

Prediction #5: Marketing budgets will be shifted towards creative approaches

The use of traditional advertising channels such as PPC, SEO, and social media marketing will continually rise. For that reason, companies will start exploring new avenues.

For example, Gary Vaynerchuk plastered New York City with ads for his new book, and he even included his phone number.

The campaign was so effective that it not only caused his cell phone to blow up, but it helped him sell more books at the same time.

Some of these creative marketing campaigns will yield an ROI, while others won’t. It is all about testing, and you’ll see companies doing more of this in 2015.

Prediction #6: Newspapers will be leveraged more

Newspapers are a dying business. Some people still like reading them, but most people read their news on the web these days.

But the one thing these newspapers have is extremely popular websites. From national ones like The New York Times to regional papers, these companies are looking for new opportunities to make more money.

What they are doing is partnering up with businesses to increase their value. For example, the Union Tribune acquired Discover SD, which was a Groupon-type of site for San Diego.

But before the newspaper purchased the site, it was running deals for Discover SD on its online news site. This created a win/win situation: Discover SD generated more income, and the Union Tribune created a new monetization channel.

Over the next 12 months, I see more companies partnering up with regional newspapers as they already have a large audience and are looking for new ways to make more money.

Prediction #7: Companies will create software to generate demand

Free tools are becoming a really popular form of marketing. FromHubSpot’s Grader tool to Moz’s Open Site Explorer, companies are creating free tools in order to generate traffic.

I’ve done this with Quick Sprout, and it works extremely well.

I know I’m going to leverage this tactic a lot more in the future, and I already see other companies jumping on the bandwagon.

It can work for almost any industry. For example, if you are in the mortgage space, you can always create a mortgage calculatorThe possibilities are endless.

The best part about creating free tools is that it is very cost effective. It has a better ROI than any other marketing method I’ve tested.

Prediction #8: We’ll see a demand in conversion optimization

I am not talking about conversion optimization only from a service perspective. I believe corporations will start hiring individuals who specialize in conversion optimization.

It’s a unique skill set, but you’ll see a lot more people learning it over the next few years. Why? Because companies are willing to pay a lot of money to boost their conversion rates.

It’s how they are going to combat the increases in advertising costs. Everyone knows they are going up, and the only solution is to increase your conversion rate.

Prediction #9: Marketing tools will become free

Google Analytics is free; Optimizely released a free plan; and even products like Hellobar are available for free.

The number of marketing products that are free will drastically increase over the next 12 months. It’s because small and medium businesses can’t afford to pay for them.

Companies are willing to give you their products, albeit on a limited usage base, free because they know you’ll eventually grow in size. And when you do, they’ll end up charging you.

Marketing tool providers are now basing their decisions on life time value metrics versus going for the short term income. This should benefit a lot of small and medium businesses.

Prediction #10: People will start building their personal brands

It’s very rare for individuals to focus on their personal brands. But it’s proven to generate a positive ROI for businesses.

Just look at my name. My Neil Patel brand is actually larger than some of the businesses I own according to Google Trends. And I’m able to leverage it to drive more signups to my business.

Why can’t you market both your business and yourself? I’ve been doing it for years, and it has done wonders for me.

You’ll see more people hopping on the personal branding bandwagon because it will eventually cause their businesses to generate more income. Plus, companies like hiring people with strong personal brands as it helps create solid brand evangelists.

Just look at Guy Kawasaki and AppleThey both benefited from each other.

Conclusion

2015 is going to be an interesting year. With the search engines making things a bit more difficult and the business world becoming more transparent, you’ll see new opportunities open up.

Don’t ever be afraid of change. Instead, learn to adapt. And if you can adapt before your competition, you can win.

So, what marketing predictions should you prepare for in 2015?

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