Another year is coming to a close, and it's time to look ahead to the next 12 months. 2016 will be known as the year of Brexit, of Clinton v. Trump, and the year Pokémon Go took over our office for a few months (Rob's Snorlax remains the most powerful of the Splitpixel Pokémon) – but what will 2017 bring?
Digital rarely sits still, and there's always new developments around the corner. Here are our picks for a few things we think will become more important than ever in 2017, and a few things we hope will be left behind.
On the way in
Mobile and AMP
We've talked about AMP at length already this year. At the moment, the Accelerated Mobile Pages that serve up fresh, fast-loading results at the top of mobile searches are dominated by major news sources and brands, but this could change as SEO strategists begin to take advantage of the platform.
AMP is particularly important in the coming year as it's tied in with Google's updated mobile-friendly algorithms that appeared back in May. The importance of mobile is becoming increasingly clear – and the usage figures back it up.
It might seem like a scary, Big Brother-ish concept, but eye tracking will eventually become one of the essential ways of carrying out usability testing for websites. By tracking where people are looking on a page, you can exactly how a site is being used and experienced.
Kissmetrics have a great blog on what marketers can learn from eye tracking studies, and we really recommend giving it a read. Eye tracking can inform site design, layouts and content in a totally different way to previous metrics, such as bounce and conversion rates. Real human behaviour informing user journeys – it's the future!
Of course, this means it's now a tried and tested option, which could see brands not having Snapchat in 2017 as ridiculous a prospect as brands not having Twitter in 2016. Unfortunately, it's relative newness means the ads API (which only launched in June), isn't actually very practical as yet. Users have called it "unstable" and "clunky" – but as Snapchat becomes a bigger and bigger player in digital marketing, it's sure to see improvements over the coming year.
Virtual and augmented reality
Pokémon Go, PlayStation VR, Google Cardboard, the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and loads more have all seen augmented and virtual reality come to the masses. Just like video with the rise of YouTube, AR and VR are sure to be the next big media formats for digital marketers to target.
In fact, many have already begun – you can take a virtual reality test drive, follow product journeys and travel around the world in some pretty cool VR marketing campaigns – so we're sure there'll be many more brands following suit until this sort of thing becomes the norm. The challenge, of course, will be to create something truly engaging, rather than another 360° video you watch on a headset.
The rise of social media has led many to believe that email marketing is pointless – but email really does refuse to die. With increasingly crowded social media feeds getting cluttered with ads, it does seem like people really do prefer email marketing – where they can choose which messages they engage with, rather than being bombarded with videos every time they open an app.
Email is far more customisable than social media marketing – you know who you're talking to, you can decide what they're seeing, and you can tell if they've seen it. It's measurable, and provides a very solid ROI if you're prepared to put in the effort to following an email campaign through. We think 2017 will definitely see people coming back round to email.
On the way out
Bad SEO practices
At least, we hope! Old, outdated SEO practices – keyword stuffing, paid links, hidden keyword content, link farming from rubbish sites, spam blog comments, etc. – have been slowly on the way out for a while now, but let's make 2017 the year that they're done away with for good.
A focus on long tail keywords, the technical fundamentals of how your site is read by search engines, quality content that can earn quality links, a good user experience, and active engagements with users are key to excellent SEO. Of course, we never know when a new Google update will change the game again – but these good practices are likely to always be a safe bet.
If there's one term we'd like to banish from digital vocabularies in 2017, it's definitely "the fold". The phrase "above the fold" or "below the fold" is left over from the days of print media – literally what was printed above or below the point you'd fold a broadsheet newspaper in half – and was a fairly useful consideration for web design when everyone used either 800x600 or 1024x768 monitor resolutions. Now, it's more or less useless.
Mobile, tablets, responsive design and much wider array of ways to set up a desktop monitor pretty much guarantees there's no universal cut-off point for what's visible on any webpage because it'll vary so much for each user. Instead, the focus needs to be on how you guide users down each page, and around your site.
If 2016 has shown one thing, it's how unreliablepolls can be. Research surveys have long been a key part of marketing – the classic X% of people think Y about Z headline – and they are effective for creating shareable content that allows brands to talk about issues important to them. But will people start to turn away from trusting survey results and percentages after yet another surprise election result? It's possible.