Marketing predictions for 2018 might be a dime a dozen, but we have something a little better than a crystal ball backing up our look into the future. Let’s face it, if you’re going to take anyone’s advice, it might as well be the marketing experts and thought leaders who are helping to write the 2018 story right now.

Conductor co-founder & CEO Seth Besmertnik and Seer Interactive founder Wil Reynolds have quite a few decades of combined marketing experience, and a shared passion for predicting the future of the industry. They sat down with Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Rose to discuss what’s on the horizon (listen to the full conversation here). All that’s left for you to do is to take their marketing predictions and run with them for a successful 2018.

Marketing predictions don't require a crystal ball.

Feather headdress optional.

Prediction #1: SEOs & Content Marketers Will Report Straight to the C-Suite

The long-term value that comes from well-optimized content – in terms of engagement, brand awareness, and, of course, revenue – should be an easy sell. Unfortunately, words like “ranking” and “crawlability” have been tougher to translate into eye-catching, CEO-friendly reports. No longer.

Robert Rose’s first prediction for 2018 is that executives will start taking an increased, direct interest in SEO and content marketing.

As reporting gets easier, long-term efforts bear fruit, and proving ROI simplifies, there are fewer and fewer barriers to executive buy-in for SEO & content. Besmertnik has seen this firsthand – he’s had more meetings with Fortune 500 CEOs curious about SEO in the last nine months than in the first ten years of Conductor’s existence. And that’s not just anecdotal – according to Conductor’s recent survey, a majority of execs say they’ll increase their focus on SEO and content in 2018:

Marketing Prediction for 2018: Anxiety about AI

This presents a serious opportunity for SEOs and content marketers, as increased interest means increased investment. The money brought in by content and SEO practices will start being reinvested in those departments, which means content marketing efforts will scale up. What will your team do with that extra budget?

Marketing Prediction for 2018: More money

What every marketer longs to hear from their CEO.

That’s an exciting question, but it also presents a newfound responsibility.Use executive interest in content marketing and SEO as an opportunity to educate execs about SEO, keywords, and what resources you need, but keep in mind that reporting to a CEO is different from reporting to an SEO director. Will Reynolds points out that SEOs and content marketers will have to translate the metrics of SEO into the metrics of the c-suite; that is, dollars and cents – literally.

“How do we better translate down to dollars and cents?” Reynolds asks. “Because if you don’t… someone’s going to look over at the PPC team and say, ‘they told me if I spent 10 grand they’d bring in a hundred. I think I’m just gonna go there, because that’s an easier thing for me to get my hands around.'” Reynolds will even compare the number of dollar signs in his PPC team’s reports to those from his SEO team. Currently, it’s an 8:1 ratio – something that SEOs will have to change if they want to convince CEOs.

Prediction #2: “SEO” Will Just Become “Marketing”

The second marketing prediction for 2018 comes from Seth Besmertnik: SEO will become more integrated into the mainstream marketing team, Besmertnik will sometimes tell customers, “There’s no more SEO you need to do. Go make your site better instead.” Google’s determination of whether or not a page actually provides value to customers has gotten so advanced that it’s not just about keywords anymore – if your site has a bad experience, or your content is poorly written, Google can tell.

Marketing prediction for 2018: cheaters never win

No cheating on this test.

As more and more content jobs require SEO skills, search marketing will cease to be relegated to the technical corner of the team. While doing SEO, Will Reynolds will often recruit volunteer customers to search for a product on Google, and ask what would make their experience better. That’s SEO now, too. That’s because SEO is a strong indicator of what customers actually want, and whether or not your brand is providing them with content, products, and services that align with that.

Marketing predictions for 2018: More and more content jobs require SEO skills

This isn’t necessarily an easy thing to accomplish inside an organization. SEOs need to evangelize their process within the company. But SEO success is like a snowball rolling down a hill, gaining weight over time. Those results are hard to ignore – especially as SEO becomes more diffused into the rest of the org’s actions.

And what’s precipitated this shift? The fact that…

Prediction #3: Your Customer is the Only Algorithm That Matters

Will Reynolds’ final marketing prediction for 2018 brings all of this together: Customers must come first, both in business and in SEO. That means a customer-driven, quality-over-quantity approach is crucial for any search marketer looking to make a dent in the market. You should be writing and creating content for people, not machines.

Robert Rose points out the primary question we should be asking as marketers, at all times: How do we provide value to our customers? You’re not writing it for Google, because Google is really just trying to provide the best solution to questions people ask online. Answer questions people are asking. Add value and be helpful.

Conductor customer Madison Reed sells at-home hair color products. As a smaller company with a small marketing team, you might think they’d be hopelessly outmatched against the Revlons of the world. And yet when you search for “hair color,” one of the top keywords for that industry, they outrank Garnier and L’Oréal.

It’s nice to win.

This is what great content looks like.

Why? Because their content, a quiz to find your perfect hair color, is more useful to customers than the product pages of their competitors, which are the only other pages that rank. This is customer-first marketing at its finest: help the most people, and you will rank the highest.

Reynolds drives this point home: “every query someone types in isn’t search volume,” he says. “It’s a person trying to solve a problem.” While observing a user searching for “rent-to-own laptops,” his team met an elderly woman who, rather than having bad credit (the presumed user profile for rent-to-own searches) said she was on a fixed income and needed to budget carefully. That made his team more empathetic for everyone they could serve on that project – and empathy is what great marketing requires.

There are plenty of marketing predictions for 2018 out there, but the most important thing to keep in mind is this: as long as you’re putting customers first, you’re on the right track. Let that be your north star in all your marketing endeavors.

Want to hear from these thought leaders up close? Join us for C3 2018, this March 7-8 in New York City.