My 10 Predictions for Digital Marketing in 2017

Bruce Clay's 2017 digital marketing predictions

It was hard to miss the “good riddance to 2016” trumpet blasts just two weeks ago.

So 2017 starts off in a pretty good position with small shoes to fill.

However, the expectations we as individuals have for our own achievements have not waned. Redo everything and improve it all. “Nothing is sacred” has been my mantra lately. Up takes effort.

For you, let 2017 be the year you say you got better every day. The year you surrounded yourself with smart people. The year you got a hold of better data. The year you made more informed decisions.

In that spirit, I perform my annual exercise of crystal ball gazing, offering predictions for the search marketing and affiliated digital marketing spaces for the year to come.

Why have I done this every year for the last 12 years?

A few reasons:

  1. Everything we do is done in service of this primary goal: Get more traffic to websites.
  2. To get more web traffic, we have to know what works and what will change — and the sooner the better.
  3. With a digital marketing road map clearly drawn, we can gain a competitive edge by innovating strategies around upcoming opportunities.

So the predictions below are the starting point for a conversation about how search marketing is evolving to be smarter over the next few months.

Give them a read and let me know what you think.

My Predictions

1. The SEO world will be shocked to see that organic listings will shrink as PPC and Local Paid Inclusion takes hold. Google will become a pay-to-play space with only the top few organic rankings getting continual search traffic, usually for information-centric sites.

2. Mobile will significantly dominate the traffic on the web. In the early part of the year, desktop search will fall as a percentage of total queries. Later in 2017, desktop search will gain search traffic share as an information portal as mobile search tests a totally paid model.

3. Voice search will exceed half of all searches, and find increasingly common use for desktop search. This will totally flip the concept of keywords as people speak what they want instead of typing it.

4. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is here and will likely remain, but it will not be a very successful project. There are several other and more attractive solutions that will gain a foothold … Your website as an app? Yes, definitely.

5. PPC will grow exponentially. When the entire first screen is paid ads you become a believer. We advise ourselves and clients that they need to follow the money … How does Google make money? Certainly not from organic listings.

6. Shopping on Instagram, Instagram storefronts and affiliate programs take hold. The online fashion industry is many billions of dollars, and visuals rule. Look for massive growth in the area of Instagram shopping.

7. Ads on social media continue to grow, not without challenges. Social is rejected by users as an inappropriate channel for ads. While highly targeted social ads are great for the success of advertisers, users will have the final say.

8. We will see new forms of behavior around virtual social rooms. Social media users and platforms innovate new means of social engagement instead of meeting people in person. Virtual reality (VR) chat rooms become a new social experience.

9. Content is going to be a significant SEO focus, driving most projects throughout the year. This is an easy prediction to make. The key is that the quality of the content will be judged by RankBrain, and so content for content’s sake will not prevail.

10. New tools will help content marketers produce targeted, high-quality content at the time of publishing. Content writers demand more data and become more technically bold as easy-to-use tools provide traffic and competitor SEO stats, ushering in a new generation of targeted high-quality content.

What’s Next? Serving Up Strategy

blog post updates from bruce

How should these changes affect your digital strategy this year? That’s where my 2017 resolution kicks in.

I’ve committed to blogging every week, and you can bet these predictions will be a catalyst for many posts to come.

Follow along with me by signing up for free email updates for the blog.

It’s always an honor to answer your toughest digital marketing and SEO questions. Let me know of any topics you’d like me to cover here.

Fun fact: 2012 was the one time I took a formal poll to rate how I did on my predictions one year out. I scored a 58%.

As for these predictions, how do you think I did? Let me know in the comments.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (31)
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31 Replies to “My 10 Predictions for Digital Marketing in 2017”

great post nice to read.

What are your thoughts about Digital Marketing Trends in 2022

Robert Stefanski

Hi Amazon,

Check out this Live Q&A video to hear some of Bruce’s thoughts on the biggest SEO changes in 2022:

Thanks for your question!

Great Blog, I enjoyed reading predictions for my marketing strategies.

You have given the real prediction of Digital Marketing in Future. Currently, Digital Marketing has been boosted as you explained in this article. Thanks for this prediction.

Hi Bruce, excellent list of predictions especially in Digital Marketing. I think you have narrated this very well. I am using this prediction in my marketing strategies. You have given an excellent article for us. Thanks a lot keep posting such an informative article.

Great List, I hope so much, that VR gets more support!

You’re very right. The predictions came true.

Thanks Bruce.
Your predictions are 100% genuine.
Do you have any predictions for 2021??

Do you have any predictions for 2021? I have a feeling that Google does what it can to stop any SEO activities. Take a look at the new Google Ads AI. Soon there will be no sense to hire SEO agency. Or not?

Paula Allen

Jack: Bruce addressed this very subject in another post: How to Adapt SEO in a Zero-Click World (

Great List, I hope so much, that VR gets more support in 2020!

Thanks Bruce. I can see those predictions coming true, especially the continued growth of mobile and the voice search surge. Wish I knew what AMP means :)

Great Prediction Bruceclay, whatever you said about social media users will increase and mobile technology trends will be exceeded. so here we are. Please add more latest predictions about AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Hi Bruce, Your predictions are 100% genuine and I totally agree with you. I am applying these marketing predictions for my marketing strategies.

Hi Bruce, your 5th reason should make so many of us reconsider our strategy as you are correct Google makes money from paid listings not organic listings. thanks for the continual reminders for our business.

Hi Bruce, excellent list of prediction especially the virtual reality concept growing vastly and certainly will play a major role in digital marketing. I am applying these prediction on my marketing strategies, awesome information sharing thank you so much.


Excellent post. There’s quite a lot going on in the marketing world and it sometimes hard to keep up. I think that another interesting trend is marketing automation. A lot of small businesses start using it because some service providers, like GetResponse, make it more affordable.

Hey Bruce,

thank you for sharing your predictions. I have one question thoug; you wrote:

“Google will become a pay-to-play space with only the top few organic rankings getting continual search traffic, usually for information-centric sites.”

if it happens, what will do all SEO experts? are there still space to play with Google? does it mean, that all content marketing will have to be informative?

Awesome information sharing thank you so much. Since the mobile is now the primary device to browse the web, we should all focus on Mobile Marketing. We have also stated working on our mobile apps to give personalized experience & improving our Mobile Websites.

Great Blog Share, I am applying these predictions for my marketing strategies.

I have a locksmith company and I can’t wait for google to push their local ads nation wide. Also, getting listed on google’s map has become much more difficult. Which I’m pretty happy about because true business will be able to truly shine. I also predict many lead generation sites like home advisor will be taking a hit since local service industries will slowly migrate to google ads over as third parties as their lead share shrinks…

Thanks Bruce, insightful as usual. Not sure how big G’s rank brain will factor in a “page 1 PPC” world with CTR as a voting system, while maintaining quality. It sure sounds like a doomed approach as users vote with their clicks while advertisers bid with $$’s not quality. What is your thoughts on the ‘baking into core algorithm’ approach from big G? Sure wish Matt was still there! The SEO world made so much more sense with the “cookie guy”.

I will be interested to see if prediction #1 becomes true.

Reputation as a quality search engine is what makes Google a virtual monopoly in many countries. I wonder if they would risk harming that reputation by becoming a paid ads engine – with “deserving” organic websites requiring extra effort to reach.

There must be a balance between greed and killing the golden goose. If Bing did the same thing at the same time that would be interesting too. Do you think that will happen?

Cheers & HNY.

Great List, I hope so much, that VR gets more support in 2017!

All those above predictions are awesome & perfect, Which is I thought too. Especially point five, It says the exact thing that SEM will raise than the organic results on 1st page of google. Mostly it will ride on mobile searches, And my question is, Do SEO will survive in 2017?

Thanks Bruce. I can see those predictions coming true, especially the continued growth of mobile and the voice search surge. Wish I knew what AMP means :)

Happy New Year

I believe your paid search predictions are spot on.Money has to be a factor in the Google business model and they are an advertising agency so all these pages in search littered with paid ads make perfect sense from both financial and search point of view what does the customer searching care if it’s organic or paid as long as the result is good.

That’s my take on it

Tom Kucharski

I like your prediction for VR chat rooms. I can imagine my son’s sneaking upon me during our paintball game set in an ancient jungle with dinosaurs ;-) That will become the ultimate social experience.

This is an excellent list of predictions Bruce! I appreciate your insights. I think you’re bang on with Instagram for 2017 (I work with a fashion brand). I was surprised you didn’t mention anything about live streaming video in this list. I wanted to add that I listened to a Social Media Examiner podcast interview with Michael Stelzner & Brian Fanzo about live video in social media – Brian said live video is the gateway or stepping stone to virtual reality for brand marketing, and that brands that get good at live video will have an advantage when it comes to VR in the future. Do you have any thoughts about video in general or live video for 2017?

One more question – I have wondered about optimizing for Google AMP vs. Facebook Instant Articles – and I read the article you have linked to here regarding your website as an app. The article didn’t mention how this compares to responsive websites – are you saying responsive sites won’t cut it any longer? And what do you think of Facebook Instant Articles? Can you optimize for both?

Virginia Nussey

To your question about the various high-speed solutions (AMP, Instant Articles and the like), JUHLi, it’s a great question and Bruce plans to cover it in an upcoming post. Thanks for adding the point about live streaming video. I’m sure Stelzner and Fanzo are right about it being a crucial brand marketing play in the upcoming months. I’m tuning into live streamed videos more, and it’s interesting to see where brands fit on each live streaming platform, some more naturally in an organic content way than others, some allowing for ads more elegantly.


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