By Amine Rahal, entrepreneur & writer. CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO & CMO at Regal Assets, an IRA company.
Digital marketing is an evergreen industry where change is the only constant. As we move into 2021, it's crucial that we, as marketers and entrepreneurs, stay on top of the latest industry developments. This way, we can adapt our marketing strategies by embracing the technologies and tactics of tomorrow while phasing out the duds.
As the founder of two digital marketing companies, clients often pick my brain about where I think the industry is headed. Here are my top digital marketing trends for 2021, with particular emphasis on emerging marketing channels that I'm confident will stick around for the long haul.
As artificial intelligence (AI) technology develops, chatbots will be more useful as both customer support tools and marketing channels. In years past, for many audiences, chatbots came across as annoying, inauthentic and disruptive. But as AI and machine learning improves, chatbots are growing better at offering helpful solutions specific to users’ individual needs.
Recent data from Facebook finds that 56% of shoppers would rather send instant messages than call a support line. If your customers can't quickly receive an answer to their question about your product or service, they might rather bounce than pick up the phone to call you. A chatbot is the best way to deliver instant answers to prospects and customers, allowing you to close sales that otherwise would have gone astray.
In the past, landing the top spot on a search engine results page has always been the No. 1 goal of SEO. These days, landing the featured snippet (or “position zero”) is even more important.
The featured snippet is a segment of text, usually no longer than a couple of visual lines, that is displayed in a separate box at the top of Google's organic results. To land a coveted featured snippet position, try these helpful tactics:
• Answer the searcher's question directly (less than 75 words).
• Place the answer at the very start of the article.
• Ask the searcher's question in the body text and one subheading.
• Elaborate on your answer using the rest of the article.
• Cite authoritative sources when backing up your claims.
Although shoppable posts are still new to Instagram, they've already proven to be highly effective for generating conversions. The latest data from Instagram states that 130 million users tap on shoppable ads every month. If you're in the e-commerce biz, you'd be remiss not to capitalize on running shoppable ads, given how they allow for a nearly seamless purchasing experience.
A recent Search Engine Watch survey found that 27% of global internet users utilize voice search on mobile devices. As more households adopt IoT technologies like smart speakers and personal assistants, we should expect this figure to rise in the years ahead.
Voice-activated SEO and regular SEO don't offer the same results. To optimize for voice-activated SEO, focus on ranking for long-tail keywords (less than four words in length), utilize FAQ sections, and make sure you're practicing proper on-page SEO optimization for mobile devices.
SEO And Earned Media Are Better Than PPC
In 2019, a quarter of internet users had an ad blocker installed on their web browser. In 2021, this figure is expected to rise by at least 3.3%. Although this represents a somewhat modest gain, the fact remains that ad-blocker usage is on the rise.
Therefore, forward-looking marketers and business owners should consider redirecting some of their resources away from their PPC strategy and put them toward SEO campaigns. Although PPC isn't going anywhere, fewer and fewer internet users will be able to see your ads in the years ahead, so it's better that you invest in organic digital marketing channels instead.
This one is a bit of an outlier from the rest. Whereas 2020 was a year of social upheaval, I think that 2021 will bring about systemic changes for the better. Over the past year, marginalized social groups have called for more representation and inclusion, and this year we should do what we can to accommodate their needs.
Politics aside, identity is more important now than in years past. People care deeply about having their identity acknowledged and represented. Marketers and business owners would be wise to include specific content and ads that appeal to ethnic or racial minorities, women, and LGBTQ+ communities.
Few industries transform as quickly as digital marketing. What was popular only a few years ago now seems antiquated (remember when autoplay videos were the standard?). That's why, as a marketer, you have to always be looking ahead. And it's why you can't afford to ignore these emerging digital marketing channels over the next 12 months.
Voice SEO, intelligent chatbots and one-click shoppable ads are in for 2021. Additionally, 42% of ethnic minority shoppers say they'd switch to a retailer that's committed to diversity and inclusion. And when it comes to SEO, featured snippets get by far the highest click-through rates (26% click-through rate on average).
In 2021, I'm revamping my digital marketing strategy to reflect these emerging trends — and if you don't, just remember that your competitors might.