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I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that 2020 changed everything for businesses around the world – no matter what industry you are in. The spread of COVID-19 accelerated the migration of small and local businesses to the internet, making having an online presence no longer an option but a necessity. 

In turn, these changes have had a massive impact on digital marketing, driving a wave of new competition and seismic shifts in how we connect with customers every day. 

For better or worse, many of these changes are bound to stick around well into 2021, influencing the ways we shop, advertise, and connect with customers for the foreseeable future. 

With this in mind, predicting next year’s search trends is a little easier than it has been in the past, with some clear indicators of what businesses need to do to stay relevant and efficient in a post-COVID world. 

The 5 Online Marketing Trends You Need To Know In 2021

The Effects of COVID Will Linger

The most obvious trend brands will need to be prepared for in 2021 will continue to be the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While vaccinations are finally rolling out and we can be optimistic to relatively soon be returning to something resembling normality, it is also clear that many shopping habits and consumer behaviors are permanently changed. 

For example, virtual events and trade shows are all but guaranteed to stick around. Now only do they provide an easier and more affordable way to bring together top members of your industry from around the country, they do it without massively interrupting your day-to-day operations. 

Likewise, many customers will continue to prefer using online ordering and curbside pickup from local businesses out of convenience well after social distancing is a thing of the past. 

Social Media Purchasing Goes Mainstream

For years, social media has been a major tool for consumers to find and learn about new products they otherwise would have never known about. Recently, though, they have been expanding to allow shoppers to not just find products, but to buy them right then and there. 

The ease of going from discovering something cool to making a purchase without ever having to leave your current app is fueling a rush to provide the best social shopping experience and this trend is only going to get bigger in 2021. 

We Are Past Peak Facebook

Facebook has been the undeniable king of social media for more than a decade now, but the platform has been facing increasing challenges that are getting hard to deny. 

In sheer numbers, the social network still far outranks any other platform out there, but a growing number of its users are aging, with younger demographics turning to hipper alternatives like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. 

Add in the continuous issues with the spread of fake news, concerns about echo chambers, a relatively recent data breach scandal, and recent calls for the breakup of Facebook’s extended network of services (including Instagram and WhatsApp) – it quickly becomes clear Facebook is past its prime and is no longer the single platform you should be focusing on. 

Video Content Is The Standard

For the past few years, my year-end lists have consistently included one thing – video content has been increasingly important for brands looking to maintain effective marketing and outreach. 

Well, call 2020 the tipping point, because video content is no longer “on the rise”. It is the standard and it is here to stay. 

While blog content remains important for technical SEO and connecting audiences with some specific types of information, the data makes it very clear that consumers prefer the quick, digestible, and entertaining nature of videos over long, often repetitive blog posts. 

At this point, rather than clicking to your blog page shoppers are more likely to check out your YouTube and Instagram page when trying to find out the details of what you offer and why they should choose you over the competition. 

Mobile SEO Is Now an Oxymoron

Since Google introduced its “Mobile-First Search Index” the writing has been on the wall. Having a mobile-friendly website was no longer an option or convenience. Mobile-optimized websites were quickly becoming the first thing anyone – including search engines – were likely to see when checking out your brand. 

With the recent announcement that Google would be dropping all desktop-only websites from its primary index starting in March 2021, the final nail is being pounded into the coffin. To be included on search results from the biggest search engine in the world, your website must be compatible with all the current mobile-friendly standards. 

With all this in mind, the age of considering separate SEO tactics and strategies for mobile users is long gone. There is just “SEO” and you must plan for mobile users if you want to have a chance of succeeding. 


We are all hoping that 2021 is a little less chaotic and a bit smoother than the past year has been. Still, even if we have the most tranquil year in history, there are bound to be a number of surprising new twists and factors in how Google ranks websites and content for users. If you want to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world, it is important that you stay up to date with all the latest from Google and be prepared to respond. 

If there is anything that has remained true about online marketing over the past decade, it is that online marketing is always changing. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that Google makes around 9 changes to their search engine algorithm every day.

To stay ahead of the curve, businesses can’t just understand where online marketing and SEO is today. They have to be able to look forward to predict the next wave of updates they can expect in the coming months and years.

With that in mind, I wanted to spend some time today talking about some of the biggest trends you can expect to see in 2020 and beyond:

1) Snippets Become The New “Number 1 on Google”

For years, Google has been using Featured Snippets to highlight quick information that may answer your query without ever having to click on a search result. You can see these when you search for recipes, look for lyrics to your favorite songs, or ask questions with relatively simple answers like “How big is the sun?”

Brands have long avoided targeting these snippets which typically appear above all other search results, believing that they reduce the chance of a person clicking onto their website or otherwise converting. However, growing evidence suggests snippets actually drive higher click-through rates and engagement by quickly establishing a single site as the authority.

Over the next year, the competition for these snippets is likely to continue rising, making them the next big fight for search engine results dominance.

2) Mobile Really Comes First

We’ve been talking about this moment for years. We officially use our smartphones and tablets to access the internet more desktop devices.

As such, Google has announced that its ‘Mobile-First Index” would become its primary search index. That means Google is now looking at the mobile version of your site before it ever considers the desktop version when ranking search results.

With this in mind, having a stripped-down mobile version of your site or not having a mobile site is no longer a viable option if you want to succeed online.

Site speed will also continue to be a major ranking factor because of its importance when accessing sites on the go from mobile devices.

3) Visual Search Gets Serious

Visual search has existed as a novelty in online marketing for some time now, slowly improving with each iteration. Now, we are reaching the point where visual search is becoming a major player in search.

While we don’t have statistics from Google Lens or Bing’s Visual Search, Pinterest’s Lens has been a revealing foray into the viability of visual search.

Within a single year of launch, Pinterest Lens was receiving more than 600 million visual search queries every month. This September, the company announced the tool was able to identify over 2.5 billion unique objects within the fashion and home industries.

With this in mind, it is easy to imagine a day in the near future when people regularly find it easier to snap a quick picture than come up with a precise text query when trying to find a specific item online.

4) Voice Search

Speaking of convenience, people are quickly turning to their Alexas, Echos, Siris, and Dots for their casual search needs – whether it is checking the weather or quickly ordering a product.

Out of all the coming changes, this may have the largest effect on how brands optimize their websites and content. This is because voice queries tend to be almost completely different than the types of queries we make when typing into a browser form.

With some estimates suggesting voice search could account for nearly half of all searches by the end of 2020, brands will have to begin optimizing for more conversational “long-tail” search queries and the unique capabilities of voice assistants.

5) Video Rules The Content Landscape

This is another online marketing trend that has been growing for years, but shows absolutely no signs of slowing down in the coming years.

The simple truth is that videos are more engaging than almost any other form of media, providing both audio and visual information in a quickly consumable package. Thanks to faster internet speeds and improved search indexing, they have also been an increasingly effective tool for sharing your content and driving actual engagement.

To give you an idea, some statistics suggest that videos can increase engagement by more than 80% compared to sharing the same information in simple text or audio clips.

Despite this, many brands have still avoided investing in video marketing because they believe it is inherently expensive or ineffective in local markets. Ironically, most users say they often enjoy videos shot using “authentic” methods like shooting selfie-style using a smartphone as much or more than slickly produced commercial videos.

 

Waiting for the “next big thing” to blow up before you jump in is a surefire way to always be a step behind your competition online. You don’t have to invest in every whim or indulgence of the digital marketing landscape, but focusing on these five surefire trends is sure to have you starting 2020 at the head of the pack.

Online marketing can be a scary world sometimes. You invest time and money on building up your brand and improving your online visibility, but it can all come crashing down overnight. It’s terrifying to think of, but it is the reality of the internet – everything is always changing.

While there is no 100% guaranteed way to protect your brand from this risk, you can take a few steps to help you sleep easier and feel assured you won’t wake up to a marketing nightmare. As long as you cover these bases, you’ll be safe from the most common disasters that befall brands online.

Don’t let your domain get snatched up

Website domains are kind of a funny thing. They are the foundation you build all your online marketing efforts on. But, once you have it set it is incredibly easy to forget. It’s one of those things that seems like it should last forever.

But, of course, that’s not the case. If you aren’t keeping an eye on things, it can be easy to one day wake up and discover your domain registration has expired. That alone can be enough to make for a stressful morning, but in some cases you may find you have lost your domain entirely.

Having your domain snatched up when it lapses is shockingly common and can happen to businesses of any size. Even huge brands and public figures like the Dallas Cowboys and Microsoft have dropped the ball and had to pay huge amounts to regain control of their domains.

Thankfully, most registrars now offer services to help you maintain control of your domain. Some allow for auto-renewal, while others offer text message warnings before your domain expires. In the case of GoDaddy, the service keeps your domain safe for almost 20 days after it expires so that you can get them back.

Watch your rankings (properly)

I know more than a few business owners who maintain the same ritual. Every few days, they will pull up the browser of choice and check their ranking for a few specific keywords. So long as they remain fairly high on the first page, they stay happy.

If that sounds like you, I have some bad news. The search results you see aren’t necessarily what others are seeing and you may have been sliding down the page for everyone else all this time.

Online marketing disaster

Every major search engine does some form of customizing search results for individual users based on a variety of factors. This can include demographic data, location information, and search behaviors. So, if you’re regularly visiting your website or searching from inside the office, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be high-up when you search for your company.

Instead, get a real look at how you are performing by using an analytics service. There are a number of free services available, but I always recommend Google Analytics as a starting point. The learning curve can feel steep, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you can quickly find everything you want to know about your site’s performance.

Take control of your reputation

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A small business is gaining steam and popularity. Suddenly it all comes screeching to a halt, as your internet traffic dries up and your website stops converting. The culprit? A single bad review in the right place.

It is perhaps the scariest campfire story you can tell a business owner. Sites like Yelp have become notorious for destroying local businesses who handled a negative review the wrong way.

In some cases, the business owners just try to ignore the bad review while it festers and drives away any interested customers. Unfortunately, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. In even worse situations, a business owner can let their emotions get to them and lash out at the reviewer – a move pretty much guaranteed to make you go viral for reasons you don’t want.

Neither of these is the right approach, and both can cause you headaches for a long time to come.

Thankfully, there is a right way to make sure your online reputation remains stellar no matter how scathing of a review you get from a disgruntled customer – address it head on every time. Rather than letting it get to you, keep an even head and treat every customer how you’d like to be treated. You’d be shocked to see just how many angry customers can be flipped into brand advocates so long as they feel their voice is heard.

The most important thing here is to be sure to watch all the major places people are likely to be talking about your business and be able to respond appropriately. This includes Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook. Check at least once a day to make sure you haven’t gotten any new reviews that need your attention. While you’re at it, it also never hurts to take the time to show your thanks to any positive reviews or mentions you’ve received as well.

These days, everyone knows about content marketing in some form. Whether you’re a business releasing blog posts and videos, or a consumer downloading ebooks and clicking on sponsored posts, there’s no denying that content marketing is ubiquitous in the modern day.

But, you might be surprised to learn this isn’t a new phenomenon. Content marketing has been around long before the social media, blogs, or even the internet.

It would be hard to pin down exactly when someone got the idea to promote something through content in some form, but Uberflip suggests content marketing’s seeds go all the way back to cave paintings in their Back to the Future themed infographic.

Let’s hop in the Delorean and check out all the landmarks and milestones that have shaped our modern content obsessed culture with A Visual History of Content Marketing:

A Visual History of Content Marketing

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In the age of the internet, Facebook has become one of the premier ways to advertise a local business. Now, a new report from Borrell Associates shows just how many businesses are using the biggest social platform around to grow their business.

According to the report, almost 80% of local businesses have a Facebook page, and 62% are buying Facebook ads to reach a larger audience. In total, that adds up to more than 2.5 million US businesses paying to promote their brands or content on Facebook every year, spending $1,500 on average.

For the survey, Borrell Associates quizzed a mix of US businesses – many of which qualify as small businesses. However, it is important to note that some respondents represent larger brands with annual marketing and media budgets over $100,000.

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Among those surveyed, 85% said they maintain a presence on at least one social media site. The vast majority of those (96%) were on Facebook, with Twitter in second place. Surprisingly, Snapchat does not appear on the list at all.

The data also shows that online marketing of all forms have firmly overtaken more traditional advertising mediums like print or TV ads as the best source of new customers for businesses. Company website and social media were second and third respectively, only outranked by word of mouth referrals.

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A significant number of the respondents were categorized as “social media mavens” by the report, because they consider social media as the absolute best channel for acquiring new customers for their business. However, these businesses are probably not who you think.

Instead of new, high-tech start-ups or large businesses with the budget for extensive social media marketing, these “mavens” are described as being:

  • “Smaller, older, independent companies with less than $1 million in gross sales.”
  • “More likely to have a single location or be home-based than have multiple locations and slightly more likely to cater to consumers (B2C) versus only businesses (B2B).”
  • 76% manage social media themselves.
  • 57% pay to boost posts

A significant number of these companies are also looking at cutting or eliminating traditional advertising from their marketing mix in the near future.

The findings highlight that you don’t have to be a Forbes 500 company or a typical online-based business to benefit from marketing your business on Facebook. Businesses of all sizes are seeing the social platform as an enormously powerful tool for reaching new customers.

With 2016 looming, it can be tempting to kick back and celebrate the New Year and successful holiday season. But, as any seasoned marketer can tell you, there is never any time for rest in the world of SEO.

The past year has seen huge changes in the world of SEO, with a newly emboldened emphasis on mobile optimization and responsive design, the change to 3-pack results in local search, and the expected new algorithms running over at Google.

With that in mind, it’s time to start looking forward and preparing for a booming 2016 by predicting the biggest trends likely to define the coming year. CJG Digital Marketing is doing just that with a new infographic detailing the hottest SEO trends in 2016.

See the infographic below, or at CJG’s website.

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