Microsoft Says SEO and Interactive Ads Will Rule Online Marketing In The 2020s

Microsoft predicts the future of online marketing

A recent report from Microsoft predicts the future of online marketing throughout the next decade using a combination of data, surveys, and insights from some of the leading advertising experts at the company.

The report “2020 Vision: Trends to define the next decade” covers a wide range of issues, including the most important online marketing skills professionals will need in the 2020s, new approaches to search engine marketing and advertising, and increasing interactivity.

With how quickly online marketing changes, it can be hard to imagine where we will be in ten years, though Microsoft believes it may look a little like this:

Advertising Without Webpages

Online advertising has long been built on the structure where advertisers show ads on a site which lead to a specific landing page with more information when clicked. Gradually, that is changing as new platforms and apps are providing new opportunities for a more streamlined, interactive ad:

“Think of an interactive ad asking you to “Choose Your Own Adventure” then responding with additional interaction or next step based on your choice. In search, this type of interaction could begin to replace the practice of clicking through to a web page or content download.”

Streaming Brings Back TV Advertising With a Twist

The biggest flaw with traditional television advertising has been an inability to precisely target who the ad is being shown to, let alone exactly how many people will see the ad. The rise of digital streaming platforms will help solve this issue by delivering opportunities to deliver targeted ads to viewers:

“More relevant and targeted advertising will be possible on streaming TV because data on the backend will enable high-performing ads to be delivered to extremely targeted audiences. A mashup of search, audience-based buying and news content will fuel many of the evolving platforms to watch.”

Cameras Change How We Search

Visual search has existed in relatively primitive forms for a few years without ever truly catching on. This is largely because they have largely been unreliable for getting precise search results. Thanks to the power of machine-learning, Microsoft believes that will change in the 2020s:

“We’re addicted to screens and our eyeballs are looking for a new thrill factor — one that takes us beyond links and text, and is powered by images… How easy would it be if you take a picture of something you want rather than trying to search for it using words?“

SEO Remains an Essential Skill For Online Marketing

For the most part, the predictions in the report focus on large-scale shifts the company expects to see in the coming years. In one area, however, the experts see things remaining relatively consistent.

Based on a poll of more than 600 global senior marketer participants, SEO is going to remain the most important “hard skill” for marketers to have. The list is as follows:

Hard skills:

  • SEO
  • Data analysis
  • Copywriting
  • Behavioral analysis
  • Automation

Soft skills:

  • Creativity
  • Humility
  • Empathy
  • Adaptability
  • Transparency

The full report delves deeper into exactly why Microsoft’s experts expect to see the changes in the online marketing world in the coming decade. You can download it here.


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