2017 was filled with exciting developments in the digital marketing space. The lines got blurred between editorial content and paid advertising and brands considered alternative ways to communicate brand messages beyond standard ad executions and paid placements. Taking this into account, below are the trends that we predict will define 2018 within paid, earned and owned content.



This year, search has continued to move away from a focus on last click, especially as Google encourages advertisers to assign more value to PPC. We expect more advances in audience targeting in 2018, with in-market segments coming to AdWords and income targeting coming to the UK, its likely Google will build on Customer Match targeting as well. Additionally, PPC accounts are likely to be structured differently, by demographic and audience rather than the conventional product/theme based structure, leading to greater personalisation (and therefore ad relevancy and positive impact to quality score – so if this happens, and marketers capitalise on this new structure, they could benefit from lower CPCs and better ROI from PPC spend).

Attribution as a key theme will undoubtedly continue to be around in 2018 as new and exciting tools launch to market, in particular, Google’s new attribution tool. We also expect to see additional advances in visual ads such as sitelinks and images.

As mobile continues to take the lead, we predict there will be more mobile-specific extensions and ad formats in 2018, maybe even one line ads. It is likely that Google will look to monetise the shift in devices further and may introduce smaller mobile ads which will allow them to show more creative above the fold which will make the mobile SERP more competitive. So expect to see mobile CPCs rise, across all sectors.

Cross-Media, planning, and measurement

In 2018, digital will continue to transform the media landscape. It will enhance use of traditional offline channels such as TV and OOH and marketers will consider digital as no longer a channel but a tool that links all marketing initiatives together. Tactics shouldn’t be siloed and marketers will become more focused on measuring online and offline advertising as a whole to understand how digital is contributing to overall measurement. This will come with challenges but marketers are more likely to increase investment if they can better measure cross-channel ROI.

Tighter restrictions on content

In light of the YouTube scandal and top brands pulling their investment, limitations within the industry were exposed. Since then major strides have been made with content monitoring and ad fraud detection which has allowed us to deliver ads in a safe and more contextually relevant environment, but not without the reassurance of having a third party verification partner like Double Verify or Integral Ad Science in place. Having these partners in place will become common practice.

Transparency in the programmatic advertising space will also increase due to initiatives such as the ads.txt project which gives publishers a way to tell buyers who is authorised to sell their inventory – as a result, brands will have more confidence in what they are buying.



Understanding the audience is the key to any successful campaign. In 2018 we expect to see an equal amount of time spent planning on keywords and audience. We’ve already seen this happen in PPC and programmatic and we’re expecting to see the same in SEO and content.

We spoke about PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) in last year’s predictions and through 2017 we have seen big brands like Tui, Expedia, The Independent and The Guardian have all embraced PWAs, but we can expect to see further app-like functions and features integrated into websites. As a result jargon such as service worker and app manifest will also become part of SEO’s vocabularies in 2018.

The awareness and usage of personal assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home has exploded in 2017. In 2018 we expect to see more developments in conversational search. This is a significant shift in how we use search engines. To capitalise on the use of Schema is also likely to increase, as it helps search engines to return more informative results. Already we are seeing websites use question and answer scheme on FAQ pages.

Visual search is set to change consumer behaviour, and we expect it to become a staple for retailers and shopping apps. We’re anticipating a feature like search within an image to become a reality on a platform like Pinterest. We’re also expecting to see more image-based add formats.

Data visualisation is a key trend and Data Studio has been a very welcome gift from Google. In 2018 we can’t wait for even more features and connections on Google Data Studio.  We’re also expecting to see more users on Microsoft’s Power BI as it integrates nicely with existing databases.


When consumers prepare to make purchase decisions, stories can deliver important information shaping both the decision and the overall brand experience. Brand stories will have a bigger role to play within content to create more of an engaging experience for consumers. With more than 200 million people currently using Instagram stories, we expect to see more brands adopting this feature in 2018 marketing campaigns to create synchronized, sequenced, snackable and shareable content.

Live videos

Live videos have gained even more popularity this year as they are a great tool to engage with audiences better than any other content on social media. Thanks to Facebook Live and Instagram Live, brands are working harder than ever to bring valuable, interesting live videos to their customers. We predict that these are going to become even more frequent and grow in popularity, likely leading to live video subsites (similar to Facebook marketplace) which would act as TV providers where viewers could see a large array of live content available to watch across the world such as global Facebook live videos.

Brands and social media

Messaging channels will be key in 2018 for brands wanting to interact with consumers, especially with social media becoming more prevalent as people want to communicate with brands anytime and anywhere they want. Brands will start to see the value in using these platforms for re-targeting, to prompt a conversation that might lead to a sale or to simply build up connections for comms purposes. For example, earlier this year, Facebook announced the launch of Messenger Ads where users see ads in the home tab of their Messenger mobile app which can link to either a website or Messenger conversation. Also, WhatsApp is preparing to finally monetise itself by testing a chat button on Facebook ads that directly opens a conversation with a business in its platform.

The demise of Twitter

Twitter has lost more than $2 billion in total since launching a decade ago, exhibiting the slowest growth in comparison with other social media platforms, since losing rights to live streaming NFL games to Amazon. Twitter needs to adapt and do so quickly to stand the test of time against other platforms such as Instagram, so it’s likely that the platform will be making some changes next year.


We discussed the use of Chatbots in our 2017 blog post and it seems we got it right. A Salesforce survey reported that the use of Artificial Intelligence among marketers will grow more than 50% in the next two years. We have seen large brands such as Facebook jump on this already, opening its Messenger Platform API for the development of Chatbots for brands to interact with customers on a one-to-one basis in real time, we expect this to continue to grow in the next year. And with wider uptake of smart speakers such as the likes of Alexa, Siri and Google will open up more advertising opportunities and brand partnerships



The tide has started to slowly turn on influencers. With the public more aware of how they are paid to promote and review products, consumers are more cautious about bloggers and vloggers, no matter how many times they insist that “we only promote products we believe in”. Authenticity is important as consumers will be seeking influencers that have a genuine connection with their brand and audience.

Fake news

Similar to the above, people are more suspicious of social media and online in general. Fake news has hit our headlines hard this year. In response to this, online news publications have put up paywalls on their content with Twitter and Facebook developing fake news software. However, with content readily available on social media, there is scope for social to play an even larger role in sharing news and being an alternative to traditional news outlets.


Brands have faced tighter crackdowns on gender stereotyping this year with companies pulling advertising due to the portrayal of harmful stereotypes. This raises the issue of the gender targeting as last year campaigners for Let Toys Be Toys found 50% of toy stores had “Boys” and “Girls” signage above their toys, whereas this year they had none. Last year, John Lewis also released a range of gender-free children’s clothing to allow children to choose based on what they liked. Additionally, the UK Advertising Codes review on gender stereotyping found more needed to be done to tackle ads featuring stereotypical gender roles and characteristics. We predict that this trend will also influence the use of social media with targeted posts, with less focus being placed on gender targeting and more on interest-based targeting. Facebook will need to improve its intelligence to adapt, but this will allow brands to target customers more efficiently because they won’t be assuming interests, based simply on gender.

2017 has been a great year for the world of digital media and marketing so there is no doubt that this year will bring a whole host of exciting new platforms and different ways to truly connect with customers today.

If you’re interested in any of the topics put forward and would like to find out more, check out our services or get in touch with a member of our new business team on 01793 715440.


Kathryn Jefferies

Kathryn Jefferies


Kathryn Jefferies, Digital Operations Director, equimedia