Here at SEMPO we’ve been thinking a lot this month about how digital has evolved so far this year and how we expect it to continue to evolve over the second half of 2014. There are many angles from which we could write about the topic—from Matt Cutts’ statements on the changing nature of guest posting, to Google’s de-emphasis of Google +, to the penalization of content networks and more.

With this article I want to focus on one specific way in which digital is changing, specifically, how we target and address our audiences.

The graphic below is from SEMPO’s State of Search research study. The ‘peaks’ in each section represent where marketers are developing a keyword strategy based on the position in the buying cycle of their audience. Although the degrees to which this is occurring vary widely based on the activity, the presence of the peaks—and the inclusion of the question in SEMPO’s annual report for the first time—reflect a mindset shift for marketers towards a more targeted approach in addressing their audience.SEMPO_Future of Digital


In 2014, what we are witnessing is the next step in the maturation of digital marketing. Carried by the renewed focus on content marketing, digital is evolving from the old ‘cast one wide net and see what lands’ to the new ‘cast multiple focused nets’ with a clearer expectation of not only what will land, but what will drive the prospect to the next step in the buying cycle, culminating in a conversion event.

The ‘multiple nets’ approach applies not only to content focused on speaking to your audience based on their specific needs based on their position in the buying cycle, but it applies to evolving from speaking to a broad ‘audience,’ to speaking to individual personas who each have their own unique pain points, desires, and motivations for evaluating your product or service.

Oracle Study Foreshadows the Future

In the same way the ‘peaks’ in the graphic above portend the writing on the wall when it comes to a shift from ‘broad’ targeting to ‘specific’ targeting, the chart below from an Oracle/Eloqua study foreshadows a coming shift to specific targeting.

Nearly half of marketers surveyed say they are in the process of learning to align content with strategy and better map it to the buyer’s journey. The fact that this group–those ‘learning to align content’–is the largest group of all respondents shows that change is one that is occurring now. Yes, respondents to an Oracle survey likely skew to the enterprise, but changes in the enterprise often foreshadow coming to mid-market and SMB’s and this is a case where all digital marketers should be aware of what’s coming.

SEMPO_Future of Digital 2

What Does it Mean for You?

Certainly there’s no expectation that you transition overnight from broad to targeted digital marketing. But you can start thinking about who the personas are that you are addressing, what their pain points are, and how you might better map your content and SEO efforts to target them. If you do so, you are likely to find that better targeted content results in higher click-through, consumption, and conversions.

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