What will next year bring for the online world? Here are our digital marketing predictions for 2021.
Is content still king? You bet. If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that people and businesses just love to consume it, and the better it is, the greater your chances of doing well out of quality content.
Going into next year, what’s going to happen in the wider world of ever-evolving digital marketing that companies use to trounce the competition and get ahead?
Will short-form video become more popular, or will more platforms like failed Quibi, with it’s “Quick Bites, Big Stories” mantra, appear and just as quickly disappear?
Will TikTok get even bigger?
What about local SEO?
And will long-form blog content be just as important for companies, or — driven by Google’s frequently changing algorithms — can you get away with a lower word counts and still rank as highly?
What about sharing and engaging on social media — will it be just as relevant during the coming 12 months? Will voice search finally find its voice and become the norm, and what about interactive content for all kinds of great, inspiring and entertaining content?
Digital marketing covers lots of different disciplines and skills, including search engine optimisation (SEO), content creation, pay-per-click advertising, website development, social media management and more.
Unless you have your own, in-house digital marketing department, it can be hard — if not impossible — to keep up and not only maintain your digital operations but to propel them forward and increase your profits. This is why companies come to an expert digital marketing agency like ours to do it all for them.
So what do we think lies ahead for next year? We’ve dusted off our digital marketing crystal ball and — much more importantly — asked experts at Exposure Ninja for their digital marketing predictions for 2021.
What May Happen with Digital Marketing in 2021
Our General Manager, Charlie Marchant, thinks it’s likely that companies, or their digital marketing agencies, may be wasting their time creating reams of long-form content in an attempt to convince Google they’re simply the best and deserve to be at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).
After all, amid the frantic pace of commerce, who has time to read a 6,000-word blog post — or even half that? (Er, hello, this lengthy piece!) So focusing on search intent — what the searcher actually wants — and presenting it in an easy-to-consume format may be more beneficial than writing out an encyclopedia for every search query.
Charlie predicts there will be a “move away from over rewarding long-form content with top positions in the SERPs and a continued honing in on the intent of the searcher.” While she predicts that voice search will continue to fail to take off during the year, Google and other search engines will be more focused than ever on keeping people on their pages, and their ads too, for as long as possible.
She forecasts that there will be an “increased amount of interventions like Featured Snippets and Google answering the questions for you so that you don’t need to navigate through to websites and can instead do everything directly on Google.”
Most of us know that it’s Google’s mission to make the internet an awesome place, where content is quality and the experience for users is amazing. Are we almost at that digital nirvana? Charlie thinks that “increased reliance on the authority of authors as a ranking factor” will certainly help get us there, and that social media is becoming more exciting.
“Reels/stories features have gone nuts this year,” she said. “I don’t know if this will become exhausting for people, but I think the excitement of Instagram Reels and TikTok videos may continue to grow as it’s much more ‘fun’ than how boring most [social media] is.”
Professional social media sites like LinkedIn (join us on LinkedIn) — and there are lots of alternatives, like Bark, Xing and Opportunity — don’t fare as well in Charlie’s opinion of great places to spend time online.
“LinkedIn has even added Stories now, but I’m expecting that to flop, given how dry the LinkedIn platform is and its careers focus. This decision makes me think LinkedIn is either going to lose touch completely and dwindle or get a new team in and totally change what they’re up to.”
Also on Charlie’s radar for digital marketing predictions in 2021 is more small brands using influencers to create content for them and take photos of their products for social media use — and for “Organic social success increasingly becoming reliant on pairing it with paid ads interventions due to algorithms deprioritising brands.”
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Digital Marketing Predictions in 2021: Still Content with Content
What about the new era of working and running companies brought about by the pandemic, which hopefully will stay confined to 2020? Many companies had to quickly adapt or not do business at all, and many learned they did just as well, or even better, with their staff working remotely. Digital became the most important space because that’s where we all were — and still largely are — operating in.
Exposure Ninja’s Head of Content Marketing, Luke Nicholson, sees a rise in digital marketing needs from companies next year, including for high-quality content, as those that did well in turbulent 2020 rely on it to help keep the traffic coming in and the order books full. “We’ll see some boom and bust, with many industries increasing their digital marketing spending, but a few cutting it dramatically,” Luke told us.
Luke said there was still some way to go in cleaning up some aspects of the industry notably murky practices deployed by some SEO operators trying to dupe search engines into thinking sites and their pages are worth ranking highly for, when they may well not be. People who use these unethical “black hat” tactics ignore guidelines from Google and the other search engines, often at their peril. While they may make SERP gains in the short-term, in the long run, they’re mostly doing themselves, and their clients harm.
“Black hat SEO will never die, but I predict Google will continually improve their efforts at detecting and negating black hat techniques,” said Luke. And he also foresees mergers and acquisitions in SEOland in 2021: “We’ll see some consolidation, with bigger SEO agencies buying up or merging with less successful ones.”
Digital Marketing Predictions for 2021: Higher Online Competition
One of the more surprising digital trends this year has been a growing tendency of online retailers relying on loss leaders to snare new customers — according to Exposure Ninja Founder and Head Ninja Tim Cameron-Kitchen. This trend, he believes, is due to the pandemic and lockdown making the online retail scene way more competitive, because that’s where most customers were and many eCommerce stores sold at a loss for the first sale, to boost new business.
“This has been an accelerating trend for some time, but the increased competition caused by lockdown forcing retailers to focus online means that we’ll continue to see ad costs and competition increase,” said Tim.
“We’re seeing retailers ‘buying’ the first sale by offering 10-20% discounts to new customers becoming the norm, which further erodes margins. The stores that can thrive in this environment are the ones with a strong customer lifetime value, and well-optimised product and checkout pages, as eCommerce conversion rates have never mattered more.”
Tim runs a successful digital marketing podcast, interviewing business leaders around the world as well as offering marketing advice, and said the podcast sector, in terms of advertising, remained in disarray — despite having an estimated over $9.2 billion valuation last year.
“Let’s be honest; it’s still a mess,” said Tim. “There’s no reliable way to track podcast audiences, and with much of the tech being super old-fashioned and not designed for ad delivery, there is a huge opportunity for someone to give advertisers better visibility and targeting options to take advantage of the boom in podcasting.”
So what does Tim think will be big in digital marketing in 2021?
“QR Codes! They’re back from the dead!” he declared.
“Until Covid, QR codes still weren’t regularly used by most of the population. But thanks to having to ‘scan in’ to venues, order food online and even check in to COVID testing centres, QR codes are now — finally — a part of everyday life.”
But despite the rapid resurrection of the decades-old tech, questions remained about their usability in marketing. “How marketers are able to use this remains to be seen, but there are a whole lot of QR evangelists who, over the past few years, have been quietly packing away their stalls, and they might now consider their moment has finally come,” Tim said.
Managing Clients’ Digital Marketing Expectations
What about all those companies paying for digital marketing expertise? What are they looking for in the online world to try and get ahead of rivals and increase sales? We asked Nic Tuxford, Head of Account Management here at Exposure Ninja, what client expectations are like now. She said this year and going into the next, clients had become much more focused on laser-targeting quick results and highly personalised and responsive digital marketing agency expertise.
“One of the most common requests we get more frequently is for tight forecasts upfront,” Nic said. “In the current climate, clients are keen to predict a return and it’s highly important for agencies to work with clients closely to understand their financial goals.”
So Exposure Ninja’s Account Managers — who head our digital marketing campaigns and deal with clients — must know what companies’ margins are, where the break-even points are and how to soar well beyond them into big profits while minimising risks.
“Clients also want to know what’s happening behind the scenes,” said Nic. “So a simple once-a-month report is no longer good enough. Clients expect a relationship with their agency, including regular meetings, phone calls, emails and, in some cases, even instant messaging services. They want to work with human beings, not data reports.”
Nic explained it was now less about clients telling agencies what they want but relying more on agencies’ expertise to suggest ways to get ahead with their digital operations. “We’re moving away from the era of clients deciding they want to invest X amount in PPC to clients asking us where they need to invest their money for the biggest return.”
This means said Nic, that agencies now “need to be marketers, strategists, experts. They need people who understand how a paid search campaign might complement an organic social campaign. People who can take a lead-gen form and turn it into a highly converting email marketing campaign. Paint-by-numbers digital marketing is no longer good enough.”
Whatever happens with these digital marketing predictions in 2021, you can still get a free website and marketing review right here at Exposure Ninja. Get yours now and see how 2021 can be more profitable than ever!