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2017 was the year of digital marketing. Brands of every size depended on digital to raise awareness and win over their customers. As the year ended, digital marketers turned toward the future to strategize new plans and techniques.

Related: How to boost your brand identity with influencer marketing

Digital marketing is big, volatile and constantly evolving. While some experts believe this will be the year of AR and IoT, others see the market's future as more complex. Let's look at the top 10 trends currently dominating digital marketing in 2018.

Top digital marketing trends in 2018

1. AI might be the performer of the year

Yes, it's true that AI is being adopted in nearly every consumer-facing industry today. But have you considered how AI could help your business on the backend? You know about chatbots and Siri, but what about using AI for trend analysis and customer profiling? This year, AI will help brands dig into the data, then reach their target audiences with more precision and effectiveness.

2. 2018 is seeing more video ads

According to recent reports, video marketing is set to capture about 82% of the internet's traffic by the end of 2019. You can expect to see more video ads on all web platforms, especially social media. What may change is the duration and content of the videos as brands compete to hold viewers' attention.

3. IoT is being used like never before

2017 saw the emergence of numerous products and applications for IoT, and its scale continues to grow. Together, IoT and data are expected to revolutionize industries like healthcare, education and manufacturing. They're not only improving the efficiency of these sectors-they're changing the very way these businesses perform their work.

4. Mobile marketing won't flinch

After several delays, Google is soon expected to release its mobile-first algorithm. What remains to be seen is how this mobile index will impact the search results. It'll no longer be enough to have an SEO-optimized site—or even just a "mobile-friendly" site. Google will examine the mobile performance of your website (and all of your competitors') and rank you accordingly. Regardless of the devices your customers use, mobile compatibility is going to take precedence if you want to retain your search rankings.

5. AR could take the lead over VR

Despite the grand predictions, VR and AR haven't impressed the general public much in the last two years. However, analysts predict that 2018 will bring major changes to the field of augmented reality. Since Apple has released its ARKit for app development, developers have been testing the limits and publishing some incredible new apps. It's anyone's guess as to which ones will catapult AR to the top.

6. Content marketing is going visual

The basis of any form of digital marketing is, essentially, content. However, the nature of content marketing is shifting based on the expectation that content is going mobile. There's also a trend towards visual content as people have started engaging more with videos, images, data visualization, and infographics.

7. SEO is going mobile

As we already pointed out, simply having an SEO-optimized website might not work wonders for you this year. With Google shifting to the mobile-first algorithm, your SEO's website auditing checklist is going through a revamp. On top of all the other signals Google likes to see, brands should re-examine their websites and get them optimized for mobile viewing now—rather than waiting to take a hit later.

8. Dark social offers new opportunities

It's estimated that about 70% of social sharing is classified as "dark social." This includes links shared on native mobile apps, via email messages, and in chat conversations (like WhatsApp or Slack). Though marketers don't have perfect visibility into this data, it's becoming easier to track. Brands are taking advantage of this by targeting audiences with ads, 1:1 messages, and chatbot experiences.

9. Advertising is exploring the blockchain

It's not just for Bitcoin anymore. Today, the blockchain is offering new ways to track and verify online advertising. Imagine being able to verify each time an ad is consumed and for what duration—and then compensate the consumer for their time and attention. The blockchain can prevent ads from being over-served, ensure that influencers have real followers instead of bots, and verify voting for sponsored contests. Expect blockchain to take on more roles as the technology is adopted.

10. Dedicated apps are on the rise

Dedicated apps offer the benefits of a mobile-optimized website in a more convenient, accessible format. With Google's app-indexing, brands are investing more in app development and discoverability. Often, these apps provide a better brand experience. Though apps have a long way to go before replacing websites, the love for apps is driving their growth and adoption.

These are some of the top trends driving digital marketing in 2018. As the year unfolds, we'll see which ones rise to the top… and which ones fall to the wayside.

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Author Bio

Abhishek Mohanty is a marketing specialist at ReportGarden, a marketing agency software for management and reporting. Follow him on Twitter: @abhishek_mohnty