The New Year always brings a sense of motivation to businesses. After all, it’s around this time that many are re-shaping their marketing plans and budgets for the year to come. With an opportunity to try new things and make this year better than the last, it’s time to take a look at the changing trends in online marketing and where your opportunities lie in 2014.

SEO is Changing… to Something Else

Everyone’s throwing around terms for the “new SEO” in hopes that they’ll be credited with the next big thing in online marketing. The fact is that SEO is changing. Whether you want to call it social media optimization, audience optimization, content marketing optimization, or something else, the focus is shifting from keywords and rankings to resonating with and engaging your audience.

With every Google algorithm update, it becomes more difficult to apply a standard equation across the board. It’s every marketer for himself as he must research his audience, test different tactics and figure out what works.

Social Media is Critical

Social media isn’t just for kids, and it’s not just for businesses who run contests. Social media platforms are playing an increasingly important role in the success of businesses online, from organic search visibility to providing another platform for driving leads and conversions. If you haven’t spent much time getting into social media marketing and growing your audience, 2014 is the year to do so.

There are many more social networks now than there were just a few years ago, however. That means having a plan is absolutely essential for maintaining your sanity. Your audience probably isn’t using every social network out there, but you should investigate where they’re spending the most time and honing in your efforts on a few key platforms.

Mobile Apps Continue to Explode

We haven’t yet reached the plateau where it’s unheard of for any company not to have a mobile application, but we’re getting there. If you’ve considered the value of a mobile app, now’s the time to start digging further into the idea and investigating your options. The cost of developing a mobile app isn’t as prohibitive as it once was, and there are some emerging tools and resources to make the process even simpler.

You should already have a mobile-friendly website, since mobile usage is growing at an astonishing rate. Nearly half (45 percent) of users between the ages of 18 and 29 use mobile search daily, and mobile traffic as a whole is growing by 3.5 percent every month. If your site isn’t yet mobile-friendly, get on the ball – and put a mobile app next on your to-do list.

More Opportunities to Diversify Your Marketing Efforts

With an ever-increasing number of technological tools and the ability to segment your audience into tightly defined groups, businesses now have more opportunities to create highly-targeted marketing messages that are more in tune with consumers’ needs and interests. That means you can run completely different advertising campaigns on different platforms based on the portion of your audience that uses that platform. Even on a single platform, like Google AdWords or Facebook, you can run simultaneous and drastically different ad campaigns to target specific users.

The benefit to this is that you can touch on the key selling points most relevant to different age groups, interests and other demographic data to craft compelling marketing messages that drive more leads and conversions. It doesn’t just apply to ad campaigns, but to email marketing and most other digital marketing strategies as well. With the many tools available to marketers for both research and segmentation, there’s no excuse for misaligned marketing messages.

Content Marketing Continues to Rule

Despite the many changes taking place in online marketing, content marketing will continue to be the ruler of the roost in 2014. That’s because most other digital marketing tactics rely on content as the foundation – whether you’re talking about social media marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, or something else, you still need carefully-crafted content to drive all those efforts.

So make refining your content a priority for 2014. Take a content writing course, hire an expert content writer, or inquire about a marketing agency’s internal content capabilities before you make a hiring decision. You don’t have to write your content yourself, but you do need access to a skilled content writer on a consistent basis to make it all work.

The Lines Defining Marketing Tactics Blur

One of the most important trends that will continue and strengthen in 2014 is that the lines dividing and defining marketing tactics will continue to blur. As noted in the point above, content marketing drives your other marketing efforts – just one example of how online marketing strategies don’t really function as a stand-alone tactic, but work cohesively and are co-dependent on one another to generate leads and work prospects through your sales funnel.

Heading into 2014, an editorial calendar is an excellent idea to keep track of the new multi-channel marketing approach. This lets you plan your content efforts and define how each content asset will be promoted and distributed across your social networks, distribution channels, reformatted and repurposed, what ad campaigns are tied into specific events and channels… you get the idea. An editorial calendar, for many businesses, functions as an overall online marketing plan.

Beyond these six predictions, one other thing is certain: The landscape of digital marketing will continue to evolve and become increasingly complex as the year goes on. Whatever plans you put in place to kick off 2014 as your best year yet, make sure they’re flexible. And above all, focus on what works for your business – not what’s trending at the moment.