If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what’s around the corner. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, the world leapt to react and pivot – often more than once. We enter 2021 in another lockdown, but this time with the hope of a vaccine.
Yes, no one saw it coming. But will that stop us looking ahead? No.
To get the year started, we thought we’d talk to our senior management team about what they can see in their crystal balls… What will 2021 mean for digital marketing?
Ben Foster, Managing Director
2020 was a challenging year for many businesses and marketers. Some saw budgets cut or placed on hold, whereas others in certain sectors experienced record growth. It was certainly a year like none before as we all learned to live with the pandemic.
For us as a business, we had to be very adaptable. Adaptability is one of our core values as a business: “Adaptability, with an open-minded approach that can embrace change”. We were tested with this on many levels in 2020 – from working at home, to onboarding new team members remotely, to being agile to changing client needs – and I’m proud to say that we demonstrated this value in abundance.
We took the strategic view to support clients where possible who were struggling, as we are here for a long term partnership, and we took a hit where needed. In many ways the demand for digital has grown during the pandemic as more and more people go online, so we were well-positioned to support new clients with their growth needs as they came to us.
The move towards investing more in digital, whether it’s through Social or Google Ads, better email comms, a website overhaul, or taking SEO more seriously, is here to stay. In fact, a Twilio study of over 2500 companies has found that, on average, COVID-19 has accelerated their digital communication strategy by six years.
Paul Friend, Head of SEO
One interesting opportunity for SEO professionals in 2021 is the recent introduction of Google Passages. What this means is that Google can now not only index whole web pages, but also specific pieces of text or information from those pages, leading to even more relevant in-SERP answers to user queries. Think of it like a natural extension of the featured snippet. Once the global rollout is complete, Google estimates that this new technology will help to improve around 7% of all searches – which, currently, would equate to around 245,000,000 queries per day.
Content creators will need to pay even closer attention to the core on-page information and how this is organised and optimised; with the tantalising prospect of a page now being able to rank in its entirety and for individual passages of information.
Kathryn Pearson, Head of PPC
One of the biggest trends we will see in PPC Marketing during 2021 is the limitation of data. We have already seen this begun with Google limiting search query data back in September 2020. Only allowing search terms of “significant volume”.
Along with the start of Google and Facebook phasing out third-party cookies, PPC marketers will have to become even more savvy. Using the data still available to them to make more informed decisions, guiding automation techniques and understanding the user and audience journey much more than before.
Over the last few years we have seen a huge push in automation, 2021 will see this trend continue. With machine learning now focusing on some tasks that were previously done by hand. Human intelligence has never been more important, PPC marketers will now have the opportunity to influence AI systems, by understanding the audience, the brand and the tools themselves. Gaining an edge over the competition.
Although understanding your customers’ journey has always been important, 2021 will see a bigger emphasis on this. With the limitation of data and the push in automation. PPC Pros will need to spend more time thinking about the customer, along with focusing on the brand’s audience as a whole. Identifying how that audience engages with the brand, recognising customer habits and predicting what the customer wants to see and hear. Moving more towards strategy-based campaigns that build brand exposure and increase return.
Gabriel Morrison, Head of Web
I suspect interest in AMP will continue to wane, but hopefully more general interest in performance will continue to grow. 2020 saw a backlash against AMP in the developer community and some of the benefits that publishers enjoyed by using it are due to be phased out in 2021. Others are likely to go too in response to the antitrust lawsuit Google is facing, leaving little point in implementing it on new projects.
2021 could finally be the year of the progressive web app. The support has been there on (mobile) browsers for a while (sadly Firefox is backing out of full desktop support). The App Store and Play Store have traditionally dominated the app distribution market, but with a storm brewing over Fortnite (of all things), it seems unlikely that Apple or Google will reduce this income stream without a fight. So already Amazon is using a PWA to distribute an app outside the App Store, and it feels like others are likely to jump ship.
Close to home for us, WordPress is continuing to push forward the trend of incorporating native support for functionality which had previously relied on third-party solutions. This is great news for developers and clients alike – offering more functionality, but crucially with reliability.
We could well see the popularity of third-party page building tools, such as Elementor, WP Bakery (formerly Visual Composer) and Divi Builder, fall dramatically from 2021 onwards. Just before 2019 Gutenberg, a native visual block-based editor, launched with WordPress 5.0, and last year saw the launch of the Block Patterns feature. The further polish planned on Gutenberg this year could really start to render them redundant.
There are also two massive features lurking in the long term WordPress roadmap, which I hope we can start to see some progress on this year: collaborative editing and multi-lingual support. Google Docs style real-time editing by more than one user at a time, in particular, will really help WordPress to stand out from the crowd.
Alex Hill, Sales Director
2021 is only a matter of weeks old, yet we’re excited and enthusiastic about the potential of the year ahead from a new business perspective. I foresee a further heightening in the need for a good website UX performance, as well as the need for us to continue to deliver greater organic visibility to client campaigns. This will involve keeping our new and prospective clients fully aware of the upcoming algorithm changes, to name just one example. The ever-changing Google and Social channel advertising landscapes will also dictate that our new business acquisition and positioning approach be as transparent, detailed and solution-led as it can possibly be.
Fully integrated campaigns directly focusing on the website, followed by the correct digital marketing approach and promotion of the website will yield our clients the best ROI, as this leaves very little to chance. Our continued consultative and strategic approach to achieving this, and the methodology behind it, means our prospective clients place a high level of confidence in us.
As we’ve all learnt in the last year, the future is difficult to predict. The key is to be adaptable and to always try and be pre-emptive rather than reactive.
If you want a helping hand keeping your marketing up to scratch, and up to date, get in touch with our expert team…