Agency Roundup: Digital Marketing Musts For 2021

Each new year brings new opportunities for marketers — and that’s especially true for 2021. As the U.S. continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are showing off their ingenuity like never before in order to survive. And while we hope that we’ll return to normal sooner rather than later, it’s important to know how to develop a successful marketing strategy in the wake of such unprecedented change.

With that in mind, we’re sharing some of our digital marketing essentials for your strategy in 2021.

Local SEO 

Local SEO is nothing new, but it’s become even more important during the pandemic. Platforms like Google My Business have allowed independently owned companies to share the latest updates with customers and increase their chances of showing up more prominently in search results (like as part of the Google Map Pack).

In 2021, an increased emphasis on local SEO will be key for small businesses, in particular. Make sure to optimize both your GMB profile and your services pages to attract visitors (especially mobile users!) who are searching for relevant results nearby.

Visual Content

Having compelling visual content on your website, social media profiles, and other marketing materials is a given part of any strategy. But it’s not enough to rely on boring stock images. You really need to invest in images that align with your brand and graphics that are truly unique.

As Ren D’Anelli of Vixen Creative Agency explains, “The most successful posts, the ones that attract high engagement and organic followers, will always have one thing: high-quality visual content that represents your brand well. Invest in beautiful, original content by hiring photographers and artists — like the ones at our company — or support your local community of artists!”

It’s also worth thinking beyond static images. Animation and video media are in high demand because they’re inherently more engaging. Video content can keep visitors on a page for several minutes at a time and prompt them to share this content with others if it provides enough value. If you plan on creating video content for your blog or social media, make sure it’s made accessible via transcription and closed captioning. Not only will this allow visitors to watch the video without sound, but it also provides you with additional opportunities to optimize.

Virtual Events

Conferences, expos, and other corporate events might have once played an important role in your marketing strategy. But these events have a questionable future due to the coronavirus. 

As a result, virtual events have become far more commonplace — and they’ve actually shown a lot of promise. They’re often a more cost-effective and accessible way to share information with potential clients, collaborate with other businesses, and increase brand visibility than traditional events can offer. Experts predict that even after conditions become safe again, virtual events will still be popular because of their convenience, affordability, and potential reach. 

User Experience

Web user experience has always been important, but Google has revealed that a new algorithm update focused on page experience is set to launch in May 2021. That means now is the time to make changes to websites in order to avoid any potential penalty.

As Hope Trory of Hope Works Design adds, “The most effective digital marketing strategies will include a focus on the page experience due to Google introducing Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor. Page experience metrics were always important but in 2021 they will become critical to pay attention to and optimize for.”

To prepare for this update and to align with Google’s existing ranking signals, you should focus on improving page loading speed, site security, and mobile responsiveness, at a minimum. 

Voice Search

You might dismiss Siri and Alexa as a fad, but you’d be surprised to learn just how many people use voice search functionality on a regular basis. Considering that mobile traffic now represents about half of all web traffic — and mobile users are more likely to use voice-powered search — it makes sense that you’d want to optimize for this technology.

Keep in mind that voice searches are typically more conversational than traditional web queries. You’ll want to optimize for full questions, strike a casual tone, and make sure your site is mobile-friendly to increase your chances of showing up in relevant voice search results.

Budgetary Flexibility

Even before the pandemic, some business owners were hesitant to spend too much on digital marketing. While many have embraced the need for it in recent years, COVID-19 really threw a wrench into things, as Ryan Hickey of Hickey Digital explains:

“2020 saw lots of organizations tightening their belts in the first half of the year in response to COVID-19 fears. This drove down impression costs and resulted in cheaper traffic for savvy organizations that held fast, followed by ‘panic spending’ by more reactive companies in the latter half of the year,” says Hickey. “Expect concerns about COVID’s impact to remain top of mind. I expect retailers to have learned their lessons and continue maintaining consistent spending throughout 2021, albeit possibly with cautious budgets.”

Whether you’re looking to ramp up your own marketing this year or you’re advising a client about how to spend their marketing dollars, it’s likely that we’ll see more consistency in terms of investment in these services. While you might not have as much of a budget to work with, we’re unlikely to experience such drastic hills and valleys with marketing spend. For best results, maintain flexibility and set clear expectations to weather the storm. 

Social Responsibility

Social plays an important role in any marketing campaign. But while social media remains an essential way to connect with customers and promote your brand, this isn’t the only social aspect you should consider for your marketing plan.

Social responsibility is a big deal for many prospective customers. It’s no longer appropriate for many businesses to stay silent on issues like racial justice, gender equality, or inclusivity and representation. While it might feel risky to take a stand, a recent survey found that 60% of American consumers want to buy products from companies that have a clear position on these types of issues, while 50% said they actually do research to see how a brand has responded to social issues prior to making a purchase. In that sense, it’s actually riskier to stay silent than to voice your support for human rights.

Certainly, it’s important to handle these issues with tact and from a place of centering the right people in the conversation. Whether you want to focus on sustainability or supporting the Black community, you’ll want to give these issues ample thought and make sure you’re not using them to “virtue signal” in your marketing. That said, it is important to take a transparent and actionable approach to show your customers where you stand and how your commitment reflects your brand values. 

When your goal is to increase your web traffic, improve brand awareness, and achieve sales goals, you’ll need to start by looking at your marketing strategy. With these must-haves in mind for 2021, you’ll be on your way to creating a plan that really works.

Develop Micro-Campaigns

“Rather than creating a broad funnel with large “asks” of your buyers, marketers should focus on developing micro campaigns with narrow – and shorter – funnels,” says Bill Schick of MESH Interactive Agency. “These microfunnels start with defining a targeted list of accounts, and build education experiences through the entire buying journey. You can’t do this… or make truly effective decisions without knowing your customer in and out.”

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