The business world shifts quickly, but it can't hold a candle to the online one. Influencers rise and fall. Social sites that seemed promising months ago sputter out.

Digital trends don't happen in a vacuum. Although marketing speakers are great sources of trend insights, it's important to focus on industry-specific changes. Companies that ignore what's happening online are destined to be disrupted, undercut, or otherwise made irrelevant. Software startups have to keep the sharpest eye out, but even brick-and-mortar businesses are at risk.

What are the latest trends shaping life online? So far this year, the following stand out:

1. Social moderation is improving.

Social media users might not know it, but the people moderating their content are struggling. Tens of thousands of human moderators are trying to manually overcome the negative content that social networks are swamped with.

Due to the hate, bullying, and shaming they see every day, many content moderators suffer from mental disorders. Not only are moderators being abused, but they're simply unequipped to sort through such an enormous volume of content.

Fortunately, AI solutions are popping up to automate this tedious process. "Technology lets us monitor toxicity with near-perfect accuracy and at scale," Zohar Levkovitz, CEO of anti-toxicity startup L1ght, recently told me. "Using deep learning, we can monitor and predict suspicious behavior --  whether communicated through text, audio, image, or video -- and provide a contextual analysis that older solutions can't provide."

2. Search engines are getting smarter.

As more brands invest in search engine optimization, Google is refining how its algorithm reviews and ranks sites. This past August, the search giant put out a blog post explaining what webmasters should know about its latest changes. Content factors like engaging titles, clean copy, external sources, and original analysis are more important than ever.

Then, in September, Google made headlines again by updating its link attributes. Not only will it treat nofollow tags as suggestions moving forward, but it also introduced two new types: sponsored and ugc, which signals user-generated content.

Although search experts are cautiously optimistic about the changes, they worry about what it means for the sites actually hosting the content. "I think this is good news for link builders, and the link graph overall, but a potential headache for publishers," Zyppy SEO founder Cyrus Shepherd suggests.

3. Wellness tools are exploding.

Americans are more stressed, less rested and spending less time with family and friends than in past years, according to Cigna's 2019 Well and Beyond survey. To make the tough days more bearable, consumers are turning to digital health tools.

Nearly nine in 10 Americans are using wearables, telemedicine, or online health guides. Whether due to convenience or the cost of healthcare, consumers have embraced digital health tools faster than expected.

Healthcare companies still looking to enter the space should do so before it fills up. Don't neglect prototyping and research, but do accelerate launches and marketing when possible. Invest in content to ensure consumers know how these tools fit into their health and fitness plans. 

4. Job sites are embracing new media.

Although video sites like YouTube have been around for years, recruiters and jobseekers have held firm to text resumes. Updates from major recruiting platforms indicate that may finally be changing. This past May, Monster rolled out Monster Studios, making it easier for both sides to assess cultural fit.

"Video job descriptions bring the workplace cultural to life," Monster CEO Scott Gutz explains. "We know that candidates, especially on their mobile phones, don't want to consume information by reading large blocks of text that make up a traditional job description."

Expect job applications, like everything else online, to become increasingly bite-sized. Neither recruiters nor jobseekers have time to read pages' worth of information about the other. And thanks to improvements in recording technology, video applications don't take a camera crew to produce.

5. Streaming video is reaching market saturation.

Netflix may be the behemoth of the streaming video market, but dozens of other companies have rolled out offerings of their own. The trouble is, three-quarters of streamers don't plan to subscribe to new services.

"There are too many video streaming services," says Raymond Wong, Mashable's senior tech correspondent. "It's too confusing to compare each service, and the cost of subscribing to multiple services is becoming too expensive."

Consolidation in the streaming video market is coming. Players like Netflix and Hulu are likely to snap up smaller ones, though legacy video companies like Disney may continue to operate their own platforms. Wait to let this trend shake out before building a new streaming service.

The digital world is dynamic. These trends may hold through the 2020s, or they may be over by the time the decade begins. Pay attention, or pay the price of falling behind. 

Published on: Oct 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.