Digital marketing in 2021: The trends to look out for
In today’s fast-changing world, where technologies grow like a shot and consumer interests are hard to predict, marketers can’t rely on guesses and old yet proven strategies only.
Digital marketing is about two opposing concepts in 2021. First, it’s humanization prescribing us to address real issues and craft the content for even more personal engagement. And second, it’s technology marketing with its more mechanical rules on SEO and other behind-the-scenes stuff our customers don’t see.
A smart balance between these two is what helps a business thrive in today’s age of innovation.
This article reveals the digital marketing trends of 2021, allowing you to find that balance for stellar online presence and customer communication.
Based on the neurobiological idea that all feelings, thoughts, and actions are the products of neural activity in the brain, neuromarketing analyzes it to predict consumer behavior and adjust ad campaigns accordingly.
It’s a strategy to measure a person’s brain activity, emotions, and attention to determine which types of content they find engaging. Also known as consumer neuroscience, its data allows optimizing your marketing materials to trigger desired responses from the audience, therefore influencing their decision making.
The examples of neuromarketing include but aren’t limited to ad testing with biometrics, eye tracking with heatmaps, FMRI and EGG imaging, etc.
Some neuroanalytics companies work on this trend already. They combine biometrics and neurometrics into complex algorithms to analyze the neural activity in human brains. It helps marketers understand what content to use or avoid.
Most innovative tools providing marketers with design instruments for ad materials follow this trend too. Their templates, whether a flyer maker or social media ad, are predicated on consumer neuroscience data.
2) User intent and semantic keyword research
While most marketers have agreed on the role of long-form content for better rankings, some of them still focus on primary keywords when optimizing it. However, Google doesn’t evaluate content like that anymore.
In 2021, we should be mindful of user intent, aka the reason behind a user’s search, and optimize the content accordingly.
Today, Google goes a bit insane with understanding a user’s intent behind a query. Not only does it evaluate keywords in a search box, but it also implements semantic search factors to get the context and offer the most relevant results.
With that in mind, and with voice search and AI on their rise, marketers now focus on semantic keyword research. They identify the intent behind a keyword and create content that aligns with it, including related terms, phrases, and questions in their content assets.
3) No-click searches
Voice search calls the shots today, changing the way SEO works. The focus is now on providing a user with the answer without them needed to click on SERP results. Marketers peg it as a no-click search, aka featured snippets, aka position zero.
Given that 62% of mobile and 34.4% of desktop searches come from no-click search results now, the trend is growing and changing the modern-day SEO. Marketers invest resources in On-SERP SEO, i.e., web page optimization intending to get more visibility in position zero, drive more organic traffic, and boost their CTR.
For that, they follow another trend in digital marketing, known as structured data SEO:
Structured data is such that organized in a way to make it easier for crawlers to find and categorize content. When done right, it boosts your chances to get to a Knowledge Graph Box or Rich Snippet results.
Content creators structure data in a web page’s back-end code by organizing information in tables or using Schemas (a semantic vocabulary of tags helping search engines understand and interpret the content right).
4) Image and voice search
The increasing use of voice search and its impact on sales funnels make marketers change their strategies in 2021. Just think it over:
71% of consumers prefer to conduct queries by voice instead of typing.
In 2020, 75% of all US households planned to have at least one smart speaker.
Voice shopping jumps to $40 billion in 2022, up from $2 billion in 2019.
Many brands already consider voice search when optimizing their marketing content. They write in a conversational tone, with keywords that users would speak rather than type in, and focus on getting no-click searches on Google.
But this trend is not only about delivering sales messages more effectively. Voice search becomes a channel for creating a more value-based consumer interaction and more connected brand experience.
With voice search, consumers enter a sales funnel at different stages of their customer journey. Such a non-linear life cycle creates a need for updating the funnel for a more customized experience.
Another digital marketing trend to remember when speaking of users’ search type preferences in 2021 is an image search.
With Google Lens, users submit existing images or take original pics to search for context. The results can lead them directly to product pages (read: conversions), so this trend changes the SEO landscape too.
Now it’s time to pay more attention to image optimization: alt tags, image sitemaps, and target keywords in image file names are just a few tactics to follow.
Back in 2017, Gartner predicted AI technologies to rush into every software product and service by 2020. There’s 2021 outside, and artificial intelligence assists businesses with many issues: consumer behavior and search pattern analysis, entry-level communication with customers, content creation and personalization, and more.
The most striking instance of AI that continues to be in digital marketing trends in 2021 is chatbots. On-site or in-messenger, they use NLP software to decode what a user wants and respond to queries as if it were a real person:
Consumers don’t mind interacting with chatbots: they are responsive, patient, and accurate; they meet expectations and give answers promptly. Understanding the benefits of this AI technology, businesses will continue adapting it to cut staffing costs, automate repetitive tasks, and accelerate their growth.
6) Conversational marketing
For those willing to stand out of the crowd in 2021, here goes one more trend. With voice search, AI, and chatbots on the rise, it becomes clear that users expect even more personalized communication from brands:
63% hate generic ads, and 80% say they are more likely to do business with a brand if it offers personalized experiences. (More than half of consumers are even ready to share their personal information if brands use it to benefit them.)
82% want an immediate response from a brand when they have a question.
So, conversational marketing is about a one-to-one, personalized, real-time connection between customers and marketers. It’s now omnichannel, allowing brands to meet customers on the platforms and time that suit them best. Its primary goal is to enhance the user experience for higher engagement and greater loyalty.
7) Advanced content marketing
Google search algorithms continue to value well-researched, data-driven, and regularly updated content in 2021. With that in mind, many top brands continue to invest in content marketing, upgrading their tactics the best way possible.
Here go a few content formats that give a lead right now:
Interactive content is one of the fastest-growing trends today: polls, quizzes, surveys, giveaways, contests — all they involve consumers in communication and can do wonders for brands. It’s original, engaging, and offers users an immersive experience.
People like interactive content because it makes them feel more connected and involved in brand communication. It’s another step towards personalization, better SEO (think of dwell time, CTR, and other algorithm-based factors), and stellar user experience.
Also, interactive content can serve as a proven instrument for communicating with customers and collecting data on their preferences.
It’s the content that meets Google’s E-A-T requirements where:
E is for expertise: the content on a page is of high quality and written by an expert writer;
A is for authority: a website itself has some reputation on the topic;
T is for trustworthiness: a website has a solid backlink profile, with trusted sites pointing to it.
And even though Google doesn’t have any single E-A-T internal score, this factor enhances the user experience by giving better rankings to up-to-date and well-researched content crafted by genuine experts.
Brian Dean calls it “Be the Source” content, aka research-backed assets that contain new data and useful insights for the audience. One more term he uses for it is “Epic” content, the one “that’s so massive, so in-depth, so impressive, that it can’t help but get attention.”
And for your content to become branding and meet E-A-T, Neil Patel suggests working on building your brand recognition, expertise, and reputation in the niche.
In 2021, short posts work on social media only. For marketers willing to attract traffic, establish their brand as an expert, and enhance the user experience, long-form content is a trend to follow.
Also known as 10X content or pillar content, it’s a 3,000+ words long asset that gives a complete answer to a user’s question on a given topic. Designed to provide value, such content ranks high in search engines, attracts more traffic, and generates a better ROI.
Why consider long-form content a part of your digital marketing strategy?
Better SEO: longer dwell time and a decrease in bounce rate.
More traffic throughout your website’s lifetime: as a rule, pillar content is evergreen, so it won’t stop bringing traffic over time.
77% more backlinks and tons of social media shares: epic content often goes viral, especially among niche influences.
Higher rankings: word count, backlinks, and shares will contribute to better visibility in SERPs.
So, now you have it — the top seven digital marketing trends to keep in mind this year.
Neuromarketing, artificial intelligence, advanced content optimization, and others — all work to polish your brand communication and help your business thrive.
The marketing niche is evolving, new trends arise, and even more changes are waiting for us over the coming months.
To stay the course, we must keep up with the times and not be afraid of embracing new technologies and strategies for our business and clients’ benefit.