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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. 

The holiday shopping season is starting to heat up as retailers across the country prepare for the onslaught following Thanksgiving.

This year, the holiday shopping season is almost definitely going to look a lot different than in past years. Still, all estimates suggest this year’s holiday sales will be as big as ever.

To help you get prepped, Google is releasing a 27-page guide full of case-studies, useful data, and insightful predictions on this year’s holiday shopping. 

While these bits of info cover a wide range of topics, they broadly fall into 3 categories: search behavior, changes in online shopping, and buying behavior.

Google Search Behavior and Holiday Shopping

In the guide, Google highlights a range of specific search terms that have been shooting up in popularity:

  • Searches for “best affordable” have grown globally by over 60% year-over-year.
  • Searches for “fashion online shopping” are up 600% year-over-year.
  • Searches for “online clothing stores” have increased 100% globally year-over-year.
  • Searches for “available near me” have grown over 100% globally year-over-year.
  • Searches for “curbside pickup” have grown over 3,000% globally year-over-year.
  • Searches for “support local businesses” grew by over 20,000% since last year.

What This Means For You

This data provides two real takeaways for business owners. The first is that Google is seeing a huge influx of new online shoppers – especially when it comes to buying clothes. This leads us to the second takeaway, the COVID-19 pandemic has made many people reluctant to shop in-store, even when they want to support local businesses.

To accommodate this shift in behavior, it is more essential than ever that businesses provide a range of shopping methods including online stores and contactless pickup.

Changes In Shopping Behavior

With this in mind, Google conducted a survey to see how holiday shoppers are adapting to the unique challenges of 2020. Here’s what they found:

  • 69% of US shoppers plan to shop online for the holidays more than in previous years (with more people going online to browse and buy for the very first time.)
  • More than 50% of surveyed US shoppers tried a new shopping service for the first time this year.
  • More than one in ten surveyed US shoppers tried a new shopping app for the first time this year.
  • 70% of US shoppers said they were open to buying from new retailers.

What This Means For You

We are all generally resistant to change, but the reality of this year has everyone outside of their comfort zones and trying new things. This is clear in our shopping behavior.

Not only are shoppers trying new ways to shop, they are opening themselves to buying from new retailers who have stepped up to the challenge. 

Buying Behavior of Holiday Shoppers

The last selection of stats and data turns the attention towards what shoppers are expecting as they enter the holiday shopping season:

  • 62% of US shoppers will start holiday shopping earlier to avoid items being out of stock.
  • 46% of online US shoppers expect retailers to offer discounts.
  • 77% of US holiday shoppers said they would browse for gift ideas online, not in-store.
  • 46% of surveyed US shoppers agreed that “I make a deliberate effort to shop at businesses that align with my values.”
  • 66% of US consumers who plan to shop this holiday season said they will shop more at local small businesses.

What This Means For You

While the swell in people shopping locally online may seem like a broad shift in consumer desires and behavior, it can also be read as a sign that many local shoppers have been pushed online this year. 

Additionally, many consumers are making a concerted effort to support businesses in the community who may be struggling during the pandemic. 

The increase in tension surrounding the elections is also reflected in this data, as many showed they are focused on shopping at places which align with their values. 

To read the full report yourself and get even more insights into the 2020 holiday shopping season, click here

Google is experimenting with a new way to help people find you in search results. Limited to India for now, the search engine is rolling out new ‘people cards’ which let individuals highlight details about themselves including your website, social profiles, and other relevant sites in one spot. 

Anyone who has ever tried to make a name for themselves knows search engines struggle when it comes to finding individual people – especially if they aren’t a household name like Taylor Swift. 

Now, Google is trying to tackle this problem with a virtual business card:

“Today, we are solving these challenges with a new feature called people cards. It’s like a virtual visiting card, where you can highlight your existing website or social profiles you want people to visit, plus other information about yourself that you want others to know.”

The cards were created with entrepreneurs, performers, influencers, and freelancers in mind and allow for a small amount of customization including a short blurb and contact links. 

Google People Card Gif

When viewed, the cards initially display a person’s name, profession, and location. When tapped or clicked, it expands into a full card complete with links. 

When multiple people with the same name appear in a search result, the individuals will appear alongside each other, allowing you to select the person you are looking for.  

How Creating a People Card Works

While they are not available in the U.S. or U.K. yet, some have found workarounds using VPN services to create a People Card for themself. If you decide to do this, you should know the cards will still only appear to searchers within India until the cards are expanded internationally. 

If you still wish to create a card and can make the VPN process work (results have been mixed according to Twitter users), the process is relatively simple. 

  1. Make sure you’re signed into the Google account you want linked to your People Card. 
  2. Search for your name or query “add me to Search.”
  3. After clicking “add me to Search” on the prompt, you’ll be taken to a page where you can provide a range of details including:
    • The image from your Google account
    • A personal description
    • A website link
    • Links to social profiles
    • Your phone number
    • Your email address

While you can pick and choose which details you want to provide, Google says “the more information you provide, the easier it is for people to find you.”

The only exception is your phone number, which is required for authenticating your card. Users can choose to keep this information hidden from their card, however. 

How Google Will Vet The Cards

Accompanying the rollout of these cards (and potentially explaining the limited size of the test), Google says it is launching a number of strict quality control measures to ensure the cards are reliable:

“Our goal with Search is to always make sure people can find helpful and reliable information, so we have a variety of protections and controls in place to maintain the quality of information on people cards.”

For now, there is no mention of when People Cards could be arriving in America. Based on the excitement from many, though, it feels safe to say you can expect to see something similar stateside sooner rather than later.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted or changed almost every part of our daily lives in some way, and that holds very true when it comes to online search. 

Google has been tracking these shifts from the initial outbreak to our current time where over 4 billion people are staying home around the world and many in America are returning to work. 

In particular, Google says it has seen five key trends reflecting how online search behavior, consumers’ interests, and purchasing behavior have shifted over the past few months.

The five key trends in online search after COVID-19 include:

  1. More consumers are relying on multiple devices
  2. Increased reliance on Google search
  3. People are using online tools to create and develop virtual relationships
  4. Routines are adjusting to reflect being at home
  5. People are increasingly practicing self-care

Let’s dig into what these trends really mean and reflect:

Multiple Devices

With the huge jump in people working from home or spending extra time relaxing inside, Google has seen a similar increase in the amount of content consumption. Specifically, the company says staying home has led to at least a 60% increase in the amount of digital content watched in the US.

This means many consumers are relying on one device to indulge in their favorite content online while using another device to browse products, look up information, and connect with friends. 

Increased Reliance On Google

The search engine has seen a massive increase in searches for critical information and a wave of content designed to inform the public about safety, updated business practices, and other essential needs.

For example, Google has seen that online search interest for terms like “online grocery shopping” and “grocery delivery” grew 23% year over year in the US. 

Online medical needs have also skyrocketed, with online search interest in telemedicine climbing by 150% week-over-week. 

Building Virtual Relationships

Businesses may be opening, but many are still practicing social distancing which keeps them away from friends and family. In lieu of being able to spend time with loved ones, people are finding new ways to build relationships online:

As of April, Google Meet has hosted at least 3 billion minutes of video meetings, with nearly 3 million new users joining every day. 

Online search shows increased interest in digital recreations of normal social events, such as a rise in search interest for “virtual happy hour” or “with me” content which shows people doing ordinary tasks like cleaning, studying, or cooking. 

Changing Routines

As social distancing and quarantine continues for many, online search interest has shown that many are adapting their typical routines to be internet-first.

For example, search interest for “stationary bicycles” and “dumbbell set” has continued to rise while many try to stay healthy from home. 

Google also reports that search interest for “telecommuting” in the US has continued to grow since it reached an all-time high on Google and YouTube in March.

Practicing Self-Care

To help cope with the mental and physical toll of the COVID-19 epidemic, many are turning to online search to assist in practicing self-care from home. 

Some examples of this from Google’s report include:

  • Views of mediation-related videos are 51% higher in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • Searches for “bored” spiked significantly and have remained heightened since March. 
  • Searches for at-home activities such as “games,” “puzzles,” and “coloring books” have remained increased since March. 

Read the Full Report

The full report includes additional data as well as recommendations for responding to these changes to online search over the past few months. You can read the entire 39-page document here (PDF).

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, LinkedIn is launching a slew of new tools designed to help the job hunting and hiring process go virtual.

Specifically, the country is launching new ways for applicants to provide video introductions to hiring managers and AI-powered tools for preparing for job interviews.

Here’s what you can expect from both of these new tools:

Video Introductions

LinkedIn Video Interview Prep

Although the tool is technically still in testing, LinkedIn announced it is launching a feature aimed at making the best first impression possible – even when you can’t meet in person.

“We’ve found that 65 percent of people believe that the impression you make online is just as important as the one you make in person, but it can be challenging to show your soft skills to potential employers when you’re not in the same room.”

With LinkedIn’s new video introductions tool, hiring managers can specifically request an introduction as part of their hiring process.

Applicants can then provide recorded video responses or written replies to your questions or prompts.

“A carefully crafted response can help you stand out before the official interview process even begins,” said the company in the announcement.

AI-Powered Interview Prep

LinkedIn AI-Powered Video Feedback

Another new tool LinkedIn is bringing to job hunters is an AI-powered instant feedback interview prep feature, which prepares job candidates for common interview questions.

“When it comes to the interview, more than 50 percent of people say they lack confidence,” explained the company in a blog post.

The instant feedback tool listens to candidates’ responses to common questions and analyzes their speech content and patterns to provide real-time feedback and recommendations such as how often a person uses filler words, pacing, and sensitive phrases to avoid using.

After, users can opt to send their recorded responses to their personal connections to get even more feedback from trusted professionals.

LinkedIn Tips For Video Job Interviews

Along with the announcement, LinkedIn provided three tips all job hunters should consider when preparing for a video interview:

  1. Establish a relationship quickly: You don’t have the luxury of small talk on a video call, so it’s important to build a rapport quickly with your interviewer. Be sure to use the first few minutes of the call to establish that personal connection, as this will instantly put you at ease. Check out their LinkedIn page for background information or mutual connections that could provide a good base for conversation.
  2. Find a quiet spot: In this new age of remote working, there’s always the risk of being interrupted by kids asking for help with homework, or housemates wandering into the kitchen to make a sandwich. Let your family or housemates know you have an important interview scheduled so they don’t accidentally walk in on you or make too much background noise.
  3. Check your tech: An obvious but crucial tip: take some time ahead of the interview to make sure the tech works and you know how to use it. If you need help, check out these LinkedIn Learning courses to give you the lowdown on how to use the latest video tools.

Google has released a detailed document they are calling the COVID-19 Marketing Playbook to help you create a strategy for marketing your brand during and after the ongoing pandemic. 

The recommendations included are based on Google’s own observations of how businesses are responding to the quickly changing situation and the company’s internal data.

The Three Stages of COVID-19 Marketing

According to Google’s guide, there are three stages of marketing as the situation has unfolded:

  1. Respond
  2. Rebuild
  3. Recover/Re-frame

Here is what each of those stages mean and how you can do to help your business during each step:

Respond

What’s Happening?

Businesses are responding and adapting to fast-changing consumer behavior and fluctuations in demand.

What Can You Do?

Solve what matters today to get your business ready to rebuild.

Rebuild

What’s Happening?

Businesses are planning for the recovery and rebuilding their marketing fundamentals, with deeper insights, tools, and measurement.

What Can You Do?

Prepare to capture dynamic demand and position yourself well for the recovery.

Recover/Reframe

What’s Happening?

Businesses are reframing their business models and digital marketing practices to restart or maintain growth.

What Can You Do?

Implement marketing learnings from the crisis into your long term business strategy to drive sustained growth.

The Three Stages of COVID-19 Marketing Strategy

Similarly, Google says there are three steps to marketing your business during the pandemic:

  1. Use consumer insights to drive your approach
  2. Assess the impact on your business
  3. Take action now

How COVID-19 Has Affected Search

Google has identified three specific ways the ongoing COVID-19 situation has affected search patterns so far:

Shock

Sudden change in behavior, unlikely to be sustained

Example: Quick rise and fall in school-related searches as shelter-in-place orders were implemented.

Step-change

Sudden change in behavior that may sustain

Example: Quick increases in exercise-related searches have stabilized at heightened levels during this time.

Speed up

An acceleration of existing behavior that may sustain

Example: Google has seen an acceleration in the growth rate of delivery-related searches that appear to be maintaining for now.

How Google Has Responded To COVID-19

To illustrate how to put these concepts into practice, Google points to its own response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights five principles to ensure your strategy remains effective and relevant:

  • Context – Related to localization
  • Constantly Reassess – Being flexible and responding to changing trends
  • Creative Considerations – Evaluate if artwork, tone, words, and other create aspects are appropriate
  • Changing priorities to navigate uncertainty – Being helpful in a way that fits the current reality
  • Contribution at every opportunity – Identifying ways your brand can help that are specific to the pandemic

 

Download Google’s COVID-19 Marketing Strategy Playbook here (PDF) or read the full announcement about the playbook here.

A new survey of over 900 Americans suggests many business owners may not understand the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), such as how Google ranks websites.

Compared to non-business owners, the 394 business owners surveyed were slightly more informed – though both groups showed a clear knowledge gap.

Based on the survey results, almost 1 in 4 business owners and more than 2 in 5 non-business owners said they were not at all or only vaguely familiar with SEO.

When asked specifically about how Google ranks pages, over 1 in 3 business owners and more than half of non-business owners said they had little to no understanding of the process.

As Fractl, the company behind the survey, explains:

“Not only does that mean they might not be implementing the most effective content strategies and optimizing their websites appropriately, but they’re also likely missing out on low-hanging fruit, like improving site speed and considering site structure.

The good news is that if they learn about SEO now, they can make leaps in the right direction that will help them against their competitors.”

How About an Actual SEO Quiz?

Rather than entirely relying on self-reporting, Fractl also gave survey participants a simple 8-question quiz on SEO. When the scores were averaged, business owners received a 48.7% on the quiz, while non-business owners scored a 38.7%.

Notably, the majority of the survey participants said they believed SEO is either “moderately” or “very” important to the health of their business, indicating a disconnect between the desire to learn and having the time or access to resources to do so.

As the study concludes, “With greater SEO knowledge, companies can see massive gains in their marketing and sales goals and establish a foundation for greater long-term growth.”

If you’ve ever doubted the power of search engine optimization, just look at the events playing out surrounding the recently released movie Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). 

After the film significantly under-performed on its opening weekend, Warner Bros. has decided to revise the name to the simpler Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey for better SEO.

As the company explained to The Verge this week, the new title places the popular character’s name at the front of the title instead of hiding it towards the end. The idea behind is a “search expansion for ticket sites” to make the title easier to find for movie-goers who may be less familiar with the Birds of Prey title.

Attentive watchers noticed the change occurring three days after the film’s release across numerous ticket sites.

Did SEO Tank Birds of Prey?

It is too early to really tell how big of an impact the change will really have to the movie’s success. There is some evidence that Google and other major search engines were already surfacing information about the movie and ticket availability when just searching “Harley Quinn” before the change took effect.

Image Source: George Nguyen/Search Engine Land

The revision could actually cause more confusion, as many details about the movie – such as its YouTube trailer – still show the original movie title.

However, the power of SEO and branding can’t be ignored. Studies have shown that more than half of consumers only click on brands they are familiar with within search results. It is also hard to gauge exactly how many potential film goers were turned away or frustrated by irrelevant search results before the change took place.

Either way, the events following the release of Birds of Prey provide a real-world example of how SEO and branding affect the viability of even the biggest products.

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.

Have you ever wonder exactly how Google works? How it sorts through the billions upon billions of web pages to find the best results for users?

The latest video in the company’s “Search for Beginners” series helps explain the basics behind how the search engine functions, including crawling, indexing, and ranking sites in its search results – specifically from the perspective of a business owner trying to get their site ranking well.

While the video doesn’t get into more advanced concepts like Search Engine Optimization, it lays out a very clear picture of how the broad strokes of online search engines work.

If you’ve just set up your first website or you’re considering investing in online marketing, this clip will be enlightening and point you towards some valuable resources like the Google Webmaster guidelines, SEO starter guide, and Google Webmasters portal.