News and insights • Posted on 23 December 2021

What's on the horizon? Digital marketing predictions for 2022

This year, we saw user-generated content take centre stage, several new Google updates (some more well-received than others), and the rising popularity of innovative headless architectures. 

Through it all, we’ve diligently worked on existing and new projects, while keeping a weather eye on the horizon for any pitfalls or opportunities for our clients. 

Here, the crew turns its attention to our own industry and looks forward to 2022, offering our predictions for how digital marketing might look in the coming year.

The ongoing rise of machine-learning

This is a topic that probably gets a mention each year, but machine learning is getting better. We’re arriving at the point where there is some element of AI and automation everywhere – even my vacuum cleaner is capable of learning our cleaning pattern and optimising the battery life as a result. In marketing, there’s plenty of places where you can see the effects too. Google has used machine learning for a long time to refine organic ranking and deploys automated strategies within Google Ads to make optimisation better. Sites like Facebook and YouTube are founded on algorithms, which also use AI to refine themselves. At TBB, we’ve started using Algolia – an AI-based platform that uses natural language processing to deliver better search results. It’s a fantastic solution for sites with a lot of content and ecommerce. Wherever a lot of data needs to be processed quickly to make rapid decisions, you can almost guarantee that AI is a more effective way of handling it. Expect more of the same through 2022 and beyond.

Andy McCaul, co-founder and managing director

Google moves towards responsive ads

Google Ads is phasing out expanded text ads by 30th June 2022. While you won’t be able to create new ads in this format after that date, any existing ads will continue to run. We’ve been transitioning to responsive ads for a while now, testing both formats across various accounts to ensure the best ROI for our PPC clients. A responsive ad is a series of headlines and descriptions Google tests to determine the best combination. It’s another move towards machine-learning optimisation, as opposed to manual, or human, decision-making. It is definitely the direction Google is heading in for more and more ad settings, with automated bid strategies and smart-shopping campaigns previously paving the way. Our advice is always to test new features and settings so you can learn what automated strategies work for you.  

Mark Jenkins, paid search manager

Reaching new audiences on social

For brands that prioritise social media, smashing engagement metrics and building their presence, the next steps in 2022 will be trying to tap into new audiences and grow that reach. But it’s no easy feat. We’ll see brands putting in the time and effort to build meaningful relationships and attempt to increase brand loyalty. But what might this look like? We predict a rise in Instagram reels, as they far exceed the reach of a standard post, engaging with other accounts (whether that’s competitors, influencers or customers) and building relationships, mastering the complexities of hashtags and, of course, creating content that’s so great users are falling over themselves to share it.

Grace Lenihan, senior account manager and social strategist

Ensuring accessibility will be more crucial than ever

Accessibility has always been a requirement for web design and development, but it will certainly play a more central role next year. With the booming popularity of Google’s Core Web Vitals, everyone is striving to get a higher score of performance, SEO and accessibility. After all, with higher scores comes better rankings. We predict many sites complying with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards and paying more attention to accessibility, including supporting features such as dark mode, font scaling and colour contrast adjustments. If you’re looking to improve the way users interact with your brand, take a look at our UX web design services.

Charlotte Allen, senior UI/UX web designer

More conversations will bring more customers

In the coming year, customers can expect an increased use of tools like Chatbots and WhatsApp. With direct communication around their busy schedules, customers’ experience will be improved and tailored to leave a long-lasting impression of great service. The days of only being able to phone a helpline are long gone; customers expect 24/7 advice, even if they’re mobile shopping at 2am. This personal approach provides a unique opportunity for digital marketing, as if we’re going back to the times of local shopping, which offered a completely different level of service. Conversational marketing allows businesses of all sizes (and locations) to really get to know their customers and their preferences, their needs and what they are looking for.

Izzy Massey, account manager

Stories will captivate customers and set your brand apart

Storytelling has persisted ceaselessly through time, captivating and influencing audiences from all walks of life. Stripped to its bones, a story bears a striking resemblance to a customer journey: a protagonist (customer) overcomes a struggle (pain point) and finds a resolution (product or service). However, it’s not enough to simply tell your customers about your brand; you have to show them. In 2022, we predict content writers will be asking as many questions as they answer: What problem is the reader facing? How do they feel about the problem? How can I empathise with their emotions to build trust? Does my brand genuinely cure their pain points? If you can address your customers’ wants and needs, and help them imagine themselves with your product and service, you won’t need to sell your brand – customers will seek it out. Does your brand have a story to tell? Learn how a dedicated content marketing agency can bring it to life.

Michael Hargreaves, content writer

A continued shift towards decoupled development

The past few years have seen the emergence and popularity of a decoupled web development approach, where microservices handle one specific area or solve a particular issue. For example, a headless CMS could offer all your content through an API, while a static-site generator like Gatsby or Next physically creates your pages, and Algolia indexes your content for a full-text search. With Google’s ever-changing search algorithm and performance audits continually throwing curveballs to web developers, we predict 2022 will see more collaboration between these services as the market defines the preferred combination. The real question will be how they can work together to overcome the barriers created from using so many different services together at the same time. To learn more about how this approach can benefit the performance, usability and ranking of your website, discover our headless web development services.

John Bell, senior web developer

Google’s metadata automation might affect your rankings

If Google continues to automate page titles and meta descriptions, we could see a significant regression in how SEOs produce content. For a while now, Google has advised page titles should be written with natural language, as opposed to the keyword-pipe-keyword-pipe format we so often see. Page titles are carefully considered as they not only send relevancy signals, but also appear in the SERPs, meaning they can affect click-through rates. This means SEOs and content writers frequently walk a tightrope of readability and relevancy. However, in 2021 Google started to write its own page titles and meta descriptions from content on the page. In some instances, we’ve even seen Google simply list the page’s headers where the meta description would usually sit. While best practice has always dictated optimising a site for the user, this update means SEOs will write page titles purely with Google in mind, using only target keywords. Whether or not we see a disparity between parts of a site optimised solely for Google and others optimised for the user remains to be seen. If you’re wondering how these changes might affect your brand’s rankings, get in touch and speak to an SEO crewmate.

Ewan Burkinshaw, SEO manager

Don’t lose sight of what consumers need

We’re talking real back-to-basics stuff here. Your content can adhere to all the latest trends tipped to get your brand more visibility and leads (and of course, it should) – but don’t lose sight of why you’re carefully crafting the content in the first place. All too often, brands publish content that, throughout its journey, has moved far away from its initial purpose: breaking through customers’ pain points and supporting them with instant and relevant quality content. And as if we needed any more of a reason to quite literally put our customers first, Google isn’t about to stall in its quest for high quality, relevance and trustworthiness in content. Core updates and Core Web Vitals, along with the constantly updating E-A-T guidelines, will serve as a stark reminder of the role of the content marketer.

Carrie Webb, head of content

Experiences continue to make products more valuable 

According to Forbes, experiences are the new social currency, and we’re inclined to agree. In the current climate, people are more interested in experiences than products. Having endured long bouts of isolation from friends and family, people have been keen to share experiences rather than products in 2021. We can see this trend only getting stronger in the coming year. Creating experiences out of products or services makes consumers feel like they are getting more value for money. They’re not just buying a product; they’re buying a memory. Not only this, but experiences make for engaging (and highly shareable) social media content, which can attract the attention of potential customers from various channels. If your brand offers any kind of experience with its services or products, 2022 might be the perfect time to emphasise this and entice those looking for an opportunity to spend time with their loved ones. If you need help communicating your brand’s experience on social media, discover our social media services.

Izzy Massey, account manager

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Written by Alison Croston

Partnerships and growth director Ali ensures potential clients are paired with the right services and solutions to propel their business to the next level.

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