The big shift to digital defined the past year for many business owners and marketers. Of course, we can argue we were headed in that direction anyway. But the COVID-19 crisis drove the majority of consumers to flock to online channels, accelerating the adoption of technology-driven marketing by several years.
Most notable among the digital marketing trends 2020 brought about were the dramatic changes in our consumption patterns of everything from products to media. Online shopping reached new heights, TikTok became the lockdown’s social media sensation (The Guardian, 2020), brands realized their role in social issues and people turned to video calls and other virtual interactions.
Consumers shaped the digital landscape, while industry leaders and business owners scrambled to meet their demand – led by healthcare, finance and professional services, according to McKinsey & Company.
Entering 2021 with a new digital marketing strategy is the way to go if you want to leverage growth opportunities lurking on the horizon. There are lots of lessons to unpack from the updates that occurred in the past year, so why don’t we start there?
This is not a comprehensive list of digital marketing ideas, but we hope you find something solid to build on.
Here are the major trends across digital marketing channels to consider as you plan and prepare for what is to come in 2021.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Superior Digital Marketing Ideas
Chances are you’ve heard about or come up with your own search engine optimization or SEO strategy. SEO lets you target leads by bolstering your search engine presence. It is a vital part of any digital marketing strategy because it drives visitors to sites, blogs or online stores.
Whether or not you’ve developed an optimization strategy in 2020, this year offers a new opportunity to embrace it as a crucial part of digital marketing trends 2021 edition. And what is an SEO strategy reset without these top SEO ideas?
SEO Ideas: Search Intent
In the good old days, Google checked keyword and link quality to match your content with a query. But as search engines became smarter, they got better at understanding the intent behind what users type in the search bar. In 2020, search intent could no longer be ignored by businesses whose customers went online and turned to Google for answers.
What does this change mean for your optimization strategy for 2021? For starters, you have to focus on the following:
• Craft content that answers people’s needs, questions or problems immediately.
• Know your types of intent and employ keywords around them: informational intent (e.g., “What is SEO strategy?”), navigational intent (e.g., “Thrive PPC marketing”) and transactional intent (e.g., “best sourdough bread NYC”).
• Consider using multimedia content to provide value based on how your target audience consumes information.
If you want to delve deeper into the topic, read our comprehensive guide on How to Optimize Content for Search Intent.
Exciting Updates: Passage-Based Ranking
Imagine searching for the definition of “coronavirus” or “vaccines,” and Google pulls up the most relevant page and highlights the passage that answers your question. In October 2020, the search giant said it will show more passage-based content, improving seven percent of Google Search queries.
Thrive’s director of SEO services, Shannon Thammasiene, said, “This could impact click-through rates (CTRs) because users get their answers right away. It also weeds out filler content, which is a voice search goal – more on this later.”
In the same announcement, Google also said it will improve its understanding of misspelled words.
Optimization Strategy: Core Web Vitals and Page Experience
A Google algorithm update is underway and it’s not going to be kind to websites with poor user experience (UX). By May 2021, the search giant will add new ranking signals, the Core Web Vitals, to existing Search signals. Together, these metrics determine how user-centric your overall page performance is.
If you’re encountering the following technical terms for the first time, don’t get intimidated. Here, we link them to site functionality you’re likely familiar with:
• Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) / Loading speed: The main element of your content must load within 2.5 seconds or less to signal to users that the URL is loading.
• First Input Delay (FID) / Interactivity: Your site should respond fast to actions initiated by users, such as clicking a button.
• Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) / Visual Stability: Page elements should move around minimally while loading to prevent mistakes, such as when users accidentally confirm a purchase when they intend to cancel it.
This is just a sneak peek, but you can study these metrics further in Thrive’s Core Web Vitals primer.
Talk of the Town: AI Search
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been one of the most interesting advances in tech. In SEO, AI is used to interpret search intent efficiently. Google’s natural language processing (NLP) pre-training tech, BERT, is applied to almost 100 percent of queries in English. BERT is designed to improve the quality of search results, which should affect site ranking once again.
The Future: Voice Search
Last but not least of the SEO ideas we want you to mull over is voice search, which is one of the digital marketing trends 2021 that is bound to be huge. This update melds with humans’ adoption of voice assistants, a natural way of asking questions – “What is SEO strategy?” for voice vs. “SEO strategy” for text – and increasing desire to be hands-free because of the busy demands of a post-pandemic world.
Watch out for a steady rise in voice search popularity among teenagers and adults.
Your Google My Business listing is also a good starting point for voice search optimization, what with local SEO gaining traction as people continue to stay home.
Things We Look Forward To: Google 3D and Beyond
Thammasiene also shared what she thought would be game-changers in the near future. She said, “Google already allows you to see pretty cool sharks and giant pandas through the 3D feature. So here are cool theories on what’s to come (from me just being a nerd).”
If you can put a shark in your living room, eventually 3D modeling can lead to things like furniture stores showing a consumer what their living room could look like with their furniture in it. Thinking probably about five years ahead, it could also mean providing estimates to consumers based on 3D images of their homes.”
Web Design Strategy
We continue the human-centered theme of digital marketing 2020 trends as we explore web design strategy ideas for 2021. Here are a couple of highlights to activate your website design marketing prowess post-holiday season.
Relevant Marketing: Personalized User Interface (UI)
The UX Magazine explained that personalization involves putting relevant content and functionality in front of users, without any action required from them, to match their needs or interests.
Think about how Netflix suggests titles according to your genre preferences. No action required from users means you don’t have to click on any page element to see the recommendations. (Note: Personalization is different from customization because the latter works when users interact with the elements, such as when you choose the “Hide ad” option on Facebook.) Instead, behind the scenes, Netflix’s algorithm has picked the ideal artwork to use for an unfamiliar title, leveraging the specific visual to pique your interest.
In their TechBlog, Netflix said:
The artwork may highlight an actor that you recognize, capture an exciting moment like a car chase or contain a dramatic scene that conveys the essence of a movie or TV show. If we present that perfect image on your homepage (and as they say: an image is worth a thousand words), then maybe, just maybe, you will give it a try.”
The website design marketing genius of personalized UI is that it lets you connect with your target audience through great design and relevant UX. You can make users feel someone knows and understands them in a visceral way.
This update applies to web design and SEO, both of which are inextricably linked in our predominantly digital world.
Thammasiene said that businesses “need to be prepared for full mobile indexing in March 2021. Desktop-only sites will be completely dropped from Google’s index. Also, any images or other assets that are desktop-only versions will be [dropped] as well.”
Timely Web Design Strategy: Accessibility and Inclusivity
Technology has made life easier for many people, but expect it to be more accessible and inclusive this year. For one, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires site compatibility with assistive technology like screen readers. So a person with a disability must be able to browse your website and interact with its elements without access barriers.
Some initial steps you can take to ensure you have an ADA compliant website:
• Increase the color contrast.
• Use software that is compatible with screen readers like JAWS, VoiceOVer, NVDA and TalkBack.
• Let visitors have the option to hide images, mute sound, choose text sizes and use a virtual keyboard.
Social Media Marketing Strategy
Social media marketing ideas dominated digital marketing 2020. As we adjusted to doing everything at home because of extended quarantines, many people took to social media to connect, work, shop, learn and be entertained. This channel is massive and not peaking anytime soon. So the question is: Is your social media strategy in 2021 shaping up in light of this event?
If you’re in the process of putting it together, you might want to include the following
Social Media Ideas: Getting to Know Gen Z Through TikTok
Between June and August 2020, TikTok’s monthly active users in the United States grew from 91 million to more than 100 million. But why was it so popular? The app’s content, dubbed the antidote to boredom (Hootsuite, 2020), proved entertaining and digestible to a lot of people. And there was plenty of boredom to counter amid the pandemic.
It’s also important to note that TikTok has attracted a fairly young audience, mostly 16 to 24 years old. Thus, a brand targeting Generation Z (Gen Z), the individuals born between 1996 and 2010, can glean significant demographic data from the platform. Aside from consumer insights, you can also take your cue from the most followed TikTok users regarding how to make viral social media marketing ideas.
Social Media Strategy Essentials: Social Listening
A social media marketing strategy usually includes this activity. Social listening is one of the proactive social media marketing ideas you can consider as it involves monitoring mentions and conversations that go beyond your brand to include important topics, keywords and even competitors.
Coming from digital marketing trends 2020 edition, this social media strategy also spotlights social issues, which brands are expected to address. Alyssa Tear, Thrive’s organic social media senior manager, said, “Be ready to pivot content and strategy depending on topics trending on social media.”
But it’s also vital to “build a strong core value that resonates with your target market,” Tear added. “Broaden your targeting to be more inclusive” and don’t limit yourself to social media ideas catering to millennials and Gen Z. For instance, you should include the baby boomer market in your digital marketing strategy if that’s what the data is telling you.
Link Building Strategy
With every Google algorithm update, developing a solid link building strategy remains relevant. Hear the latest digital marketing ideas related to link building strategies straight from one of Thrive’s experts, link building manager Claudia Cruz.
Link Building Campaign Level-Up: Backlinks
[This year] brings new and exciting things to the table – video marketing and social media play (and will continue to play) a huge role in link acquisition,” said Cruz. “Highly impactful visual content for YouTube channels, for example, are making waves driving traffic, which is one of the most critical indicators of Trust for Google. Now, combine that with a strong influencer strategy, your content can go viral, creating many backlinks.”
“Fantastic” Link Building Strategy: Competitive Link Acquisition
Another fantastic strategy is competitive link acquisition,” added Cruz. This entails “analyzing your competitors’ backlinks, acquiring some of those links and uncovering opportunities your competitors are not capitalizing on.”
Thrive has developed a link building campaign of this sort for a client in the mobile gaming app development industry. For this company, Cruz said we created content that generated thousands of views and organic social shares.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Strategy
Whether or not your digital marketing 2020 included a paid search strategy, 2021 is your chance to roll out a strong(er) pay-per-click or PPC search marketing game plan. Check out these PPC campaign ideas that can boost your paid media strategy this year:
Paid Search Strategy: PPC Marketing Automation
Our PPC search marketing experts anticipate more pay per click campaign automation. Freeing PPC campaign specialists from labor-intensive tasks through automation is not exactly new. But as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning enhance the optimization of your campaigns and, thus, your paid search strategy, more benefits ensue:
• Save time in choosing a bidding strategy for each objective in your PPC strategy.
• Maximize the conversion you generate at your target Cost Per Action (CPA).
• Automate auditing and reporting on your PPC campaign.
• Refine your overall PPC marketing strategy.
Note: Pay per click campaign automation may also affect your social media marketing strategy if you’re planning to start or continue your paid social efforts in 2021.
Paid Media Strategy Ideas: Smart Segmentation
This paid media strategy applies to advertising on mobile apps, also known as Google AdMob. Let’s say your business built an app for users or customers – you can deploy a PPC strategy on the app that targets non-purchasers with relevant ads. This is smart segmentation. AdMob’s algorithm determines those who are unlikely to purchase in-app and generates revenue for you in another way: a full-on pay per click campaign.
eCommerce Marketing Strategy
A recap of digital marketing trends 2020 won’t be complete without eCommerce marketing ideas. And you shouldn’t take your eCommerce marketing strategy for granted if you have an online store or selling platform.
Interactive eCommerce Marketing: Shoppable Video Ads
This trend, which can also be filed under social media ideas, will ride the success of channels that took off last year. All eyes are on TikTok, which has struck a partnership with top eCommerce platform Shopify. We know TikTok videos are a hit, so it won’t really be a stretch for brands to place more clickable ads in their content on the platform. Instagram Stories are also a likely venue for “Buy this product” links in videos.
Here to Stay: Omnichannel
In a 2017 study, about 70 percent of consumers said they made a purchase across multiple channels. Dishing out a unified approach to sales has been used by brands before to strengthen their eCommerce marketing strategy and even SEO, website design marketing, social and link building strategies. But omnichannel’s importance has only been reinforced by the rise in online shopping demand during the pandemic.
Both digital marketing trends 2021 and 2020 editions share the understanding that user experience is king. Delightful, satisfying UX is at the core of the SEO, web design, social media, PPC, eCommerce and link building strategies we’ve just discussed.
It has also been the goal of each Google algorithm update. So focus up and continue to create content for humans because that will give search engines a hint of your priorities and get you rewarded in the long run.
Tying everything together, however, could be challenging if you’re also busy managing business operations. But while PPC search marketing seems totally separate from your link building strategy, the right digital marketing agency can help you connect the dots. In 2021, bringing in the experts can be the first best thing you can do not only for your online marketing efforts but also for your bottom line.
Thrive is a digital marketing firm that offers holistic, data-driven solutions to small and mid-sized enterprises. We have experts across all internet marketing service areas, from SEO and link building to PPC and social media. Our mission is to elevate brands online through integrated strategies, and we have proof that they work.
Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you in putting together a game plan for your growth in 2021.