Digital marketing is a dynamic industry. New concepts and terms are always being born, and others are always dying. Ad technologies, companies, social platforms -- you name it. The constant births and deaths in digital marketing are the most interesting, exciting, and terrifying part of this profession, and they keep us on our toes.
That said, the language of marketing tends to evolve at a much slower pace than the industry itself. Sure, we like to make up new words and concepts at a regular interval, but we have a much harder time doing away with outdated and irrelevant marketing terms. We keep certain concepts around well past their expiration date, sometimes out of habit, but oftentimes out of fear of what comes next.
In this article, I present five marketing terms that will have become wholly irrelevant in five years -- and arguably have already started their decline in usefulness. Do you have other death-bed terms to add to this list? Please do so in the comments below. Think I'm wrong on any of these? Please set a calendar reminder for 2019 and get back to me to discuss.
Put this concept to the "should be gone already but strangely isn't" bucket. Black-hat SEO tactics -- shady tactics that marketers employ in efforts to game the search engines -- have long been frowned upon by much of the industry. (At least outwardly. I've certainly known marketers who publicly decried black-hat SEO but secretly gave some pretty questionable advice to clients when the microphones were turned off.) The tactics have persisted for years because, well, they worked pretty well, at least for a time. Keyword stuffing, selling and farming links -- people did in fact manage to get a boost from these tactics, so there was always plenty of people willing to provide such services. Sure, it was risky. But the potential reward, especially in the short term, was big enough to merit it.
As we knew it would be, the party is over. Google and the other engines weren't born yesterday, and they've decided that marketers need to knock that shit off. With its 2012 Penguin update, Google doled out the granddaddy of all spankings to sites making use of aggressive black-hat tactics. Some of these sites are still trying to undo the damage.
Of course, for a time, we're still going to see plenty of black-hat SEOs trying to crack the code and find another easy win in the search game. Old habits die hard. But if they haven't already, most are going to realize very soon that good things don't come easy in the search world -- not anymore. Time to bleach that hat -- or take it off altogether.
This ties into the previous point regarding undesirable SEO strategies, but it doesn't necessarily cross the line into black-hat waters. Rather, "link bait" conjures mixed reactions among the marketing crowd. Some see it as a goal in creating content -- the idea that others would see a piece of content and deem it worthy of a link. Others see it as a scandal involving low-quality content and manipulative headlines. It can be both. But it is usually the latter.
The fact of the matter is that link volume and nothing else shouldn't be the end goal. To continue mindlessly creating "link bait" content is a fool's errand. Stop. Step back. Think about quality. Think about relevance. Yes, getting quality and relevant links back to your content over time can help your SEO efforts immensely. But amassing a ton of low-quality back links with trite, rehashed, or needlessly inflammatory content won't do you much good in the long run and can even damage your site's search engine reputation. So knock it off. And if you want to refine your thinking on the subject, I'd recommend checking out this article from Moz that distinguishes link bait from linkable assets.
Don't misread here. "Mobile" isn't going anywhere. Quite the opposite, in fact. My assertion here is that mobile will become (and arguably already is) so ubiquitous that the idea of separating "mobile" out as a strategy on its own will become simply ridiculous -- if not impossible. Mobile shouldn't be an add-on or silo -- not today, and certainly not in five years.
People do not and will not remember where they first (or last) engaged with your brand. They simply remember the experience and how they felt about it. If that experience sucks, then your brand sucks -- remember that. More and more of those experiences will happen on mobile devices in the future, and so that needs to be the experience you're thinking about when you think "strategy" at all. Mobile site? Website? It's just your site. And it -- and everything else -- damn well better work well on a mobile device.
TV. Magazines. Newspapers. Direct mail. Billboards. Today we all accept that these represent "traditional media" buys. On the digital side, we covet the "old school" dollars and have been chipping away at those budgets for years.
Now, mind you -- these media are not going away. Some -- in certain cases, many -- of the outlets and incarnations of these media will. But the notion of TV, magazines, etc., will persist. However, in the very near future, there will be nothing "traditional" about these media buys. Any newspaper or magazine buy will be intricately and essentially tied to digital media as well, be it within an app or web/mobile site environment. Many of these "traditional" buys will, in fact, be only digital opportunities in the future. (Some have already made this transition.) And while TV certainly isn't going anywhere in the next five years, the notion of buying a simple 30-second spot in primetime will. The processes of buying online video and TV are necessarily converging, and the measurement of these integrated buys is scurrying quickly to keep up. It's not there yet, but it will be.
Let's put this one in the "hopeful" bucket. Like "mobile," the relevance and usefulness of distinguishing certain media as "social" is fading fast. If you find yourself evaluating a media opportunity that has absolutely no social properties to it whatsoever, you probably shouldn't be evaluating it at all. And increasingly, that applies to "traditional" media as well (see my previous point). TV, billboards, even print media -- these media plays have to be made with an eye toward the digital realm, and that digital realm is inherently and inextricably social.
Hopefully in the near future, we won't see a need to make the "social" distinction. It unwisely buckets media opportunities that should ever-more be viewed in an integrated, holistic fashion.
"Scary background for Halloween," image via Shutterstock.