No other industry accelerates, evolves, and transforms faster than digital marketing does. As new technologies arrive and others retire, the marketing industry is the first to see, feel and ultimately, A/B test these changes.
But even with digital marketing’s versatility, after such a tumultuous year as 2020, what are the marketing trends to watch in 2021?
2020 may have produced a year full of change, but digital marketing was the one industry that remained resilient. Products and services may have moved online, and offices and social gatherings may have gone virtual, but digital marketing remained steadfast and adaptable, continuing to engage audiences and connect consumers even as we isolated ourselves in global lockdowns.
From such significant changes came opportunities and emerging new trends that are set to continue to change things into 2021 and beyond. Below we’ve rounded up the top 6 that your business needs to be aware of as it looks to engage and retain customers, drive traffic, and get results.
1. Higher quality SEO
SEO is always an omnipresent and recurring marketing trend because it is essential to any digital marketing strategy. However in 2021, SEO is levelling up.
John Mueller, Senior Webmaster at Google suggested that marketers should prioritise high quality content, site speed and useful links going forward.
His emphasis on high quality content is what’s most intriguing. With so much content now readily available on the web, marketers are faced with more of a challenge to differentiate themselves from competitors, and this is where high quality SEO is expected to come in.
Brooklin Nash, Head of Content for Sales Hacker, expects high quality SEO to dominate in 2021 as small businesses look to capture niche and long-tail keywords through creating higher quality content than their competitors.
It’s potentially bad news for Ultimate Guides and Top 55 lists. With content becoming more attuned to the search habits of consumers, niche content such as think-pieces and content specifically designed to engage readers, like How to Guides, could begin to take preference (and rank) over unengaging listicles.
That means digging into keyword research to identify the long-tail opportunities your competitors are missing is going to be even more important this year.
2. Virtual events
In the midst of the global pandemic, events became virtual through necessity. However what began as a must has grown into an opportunity.
Businesses realised that by hosting virtual events they were opening themselves up to a variety of different, newer audiences. With travel issues and costs removed, events saw much higher participation and attendance, and businesses were able to attract higher quality community speakers because there was more flexibility with scheduling.
Higher attendance and increased participation led to higher engagement, and higher conversion rates, whilst lower costs made for an attractive ROI. Thanks to these factors, virtual events look set to withhold their popularity long into the future.
The key of course to holding virtual events is to make them creative, interactive and full of high quality content with a sprinkle of fun.
3. The rise of Chatbots
Since 2019 chatbots have seen a 92% increase in adoption by businesses, earning them the title of the communication channel with the largest growth.
And it’s not only businesses happily hopping onto the chatbot bandwagon. Web users are increasingly willing to engage with chatbots in a number of ways, including making purchases, scheduling a meeting and signing up to a mailing list.
Whilst chatbots started out clunky, 2021 is set to be a huge year in their development as AI technology evolves to a point where chatbots are now conversational and able to hold much more natural dialogue with a user. This focus on natural conversation is expected to exacerbate the acceptance of chatbots by both businesses and consumers.
4. Video content
Video content is a trend that has been steadily increasing in popularity throughout the years, and that’s no different as we settle into 2021. In fact, 74% of marketers say video has a better return on investment than static imagery.
Video marketing has seen such an increase in its popularity because of its efficiency. With web users now on average only possessing an attention span of around 5-10 seconds, video is instantly engaging, capturing a users attention and conveying the necessary information quickly.
Video-sharing platform TikTok is one such platform that has seen exponential growth. In 2020 the social networking site peaked in popularity as people turned to the site for entertainment in the middle of global lockdowns. However, in the midst of that popularity businesses spotted opportunities.
Artists, beauticians, hairdressers, interior designers and even tradesmen have accumulated mass followings in a short space of time just by posting informative how-to videos and before and after transformations which have gone viral when shared across other social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram.
This quick growth for little effort is an attractive proposition for markets, saving time on production and even editing costs. Outside of TikTok, the appetite still remains for various types of video content including long-form and animated content.
Even Google has been testing a feature where video snippets serve as answers to popular questions. Marketers just need to create content that is engaging, relevant, entertaining and accurately reflects their brand. So creating higher quality video content should be top of your list for 2021.
Google My Business has become a lifeline to small businesses, and that’s a trend set to continue into 2021 as communities rally around small, local businesses that have been affected by the 2020 global pandemic.
Marketers must ensure they are crafting an SEO strategy that includes location based SEO. Location based SEO helps businesses to define their service area, which in turn ensures that their listing shows up in Google “near me” search results (a search phrase that’s grown by 150% since 2019).
With such an increase in localised searches, search engines are now beginning to prioritise relevance in their search results. So although a business may find it counterintuitive to limit their radius, it could more accurately define their market in search results. Additionally, keeping Google My Business listings frequently updated informs consumers of any changes in hours, ongoing promotions, or even the latest blogs that the business has published.
Google My Business management & optimisation comes as standard with us. Find out what else we offer in our SEO services, here.
6. Smart bidding
Finally, as PPC experts it would be remiss of us not to mention Google Ads’ newly refined Smart Bidding.
Automated bidding has been around in Google Ads since 2016, but its first emergence onto the scene was plagued with problems like reduced audience targeting and minimal budgetary control.
However Google has been hard at work, adding constant improvement after improvement, and with the rise of AI technology 2021 finally looks as though it could be the year for Smart Bidding.
With recent Google Ad product updates it’s clear that Google is pushing advertisers down the automated route, but it’s not completely hands free yet. And to be honest we don’t think it ever should be.
Whilst it may be tempting for small business owners to sit back and relax thinking Google is doing everything for them this will be a costly mistake. Whilst smart bidding can be effective Google Ads still needs that human touch to guide campaign performance and stay on top of the day to day things.
If you’re looking to get yourself a marketing department that will make sure you don’t fall behind with these major changes, and that will be much more cost-effective than hiring one, get in touch with us today. We’ve just been voted one of Clutch’s Top Digital Marketing Agencies for 2021.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, why not request a free website audit so that we can give you a taster of what we do?