Digital marketing in 2021: the trends to look out for

Tom Shurville | 10th December 2020 | Analytics

While 2020 has been incredibly challenging for businesses, we have seen some trends and opportunities emerging – some in response to the new digital landscape we face. Here our senior experts share their predictions and the trends they will be watching in 2021.

Tom Shurville, Managing Director

Data will continue to be a big deal. As businesses understand more about how valuable it is and how carefully it needs to be managed, I expect we’ll see further restrictions of the data provided by major platforms (along the lines of Google’s retraction of the Ads Search Term report data and the loss of Jumpshot data this year). Marketers will have to source data from multiple sources, adjusting for the nuances of each dataset while remaining agile enough to switch sources if required.

Liz Walker, Commercial Director

Ecommerce has exploded in 2020 and the area of influencer marketing will be an increasingly prominent part of the retail landscape in 2021 – specifically, driving purchases directly from manufacturers. Although retailers have long encouraged influencers and bloggers to earn commission by sharing affiliate links and advertising via product placement, this trend will allow brands (of all sizes) to cut out the middleman. 

And also watch out for Shoppable TV. While watching the latest Netflix series and thinking what a lovely dress that is – well, you may just be able to click, find and purchase that very dress. Multitasking at its very best!

Lewis Koch, Senior SEO Strategist

The EAT principles are Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Although EAT has been a big factor in 2020, I believe it is a trend that will become more critical to ranking success in 2021. By researching into search intent and using this to inform the format of your content, you give yourself the best chance of ranking highly before conducting any link building activities. Referencing authoritative external websites, the author of the piece and building links to them should be a key focus for 2021.

Matt Finch, Senior SEO Manager

We have seen an increase in the number of websites we deal with over the past year relaunching and starting again from the ground up, and this is something I expect to continue into 2021.

A well-structured website with a Google and user-friendly hierarchy – easy to crawl and navigate, respectively – is essential to SEO success. The top of the SERP is more competitive now than ever before, and slicker, newer and more efficient builds (for both users and Google) are replacing sluggish, bloated and poorly architected sites.

There is a continued move towards headless offerings as well, giving developers and clients greater freedom, speed and security than ever before and I expect to be working on an increasing number of these types of websites in 2021.

Jack Goldsmith, SEO Manager

With the focus on improving page experiences in 2021, varying content types will play a crucial part in improving visibility and the overall user journey. Mixing up your formats and ensuring your content is digestible will likely improve engagement and enable your content to rank for more keywords and, ultimately, featured snippets. 

Users are becoming more impatient in their browsing, and content performance needs to be continuously measured to further improve your site’s experience, visibility and conversion rates. Understanding intent remains the biggest hurdle for many content strategies and this is another area which requires a heavy focus going into next year.

Cameron Sykes, Senior SEO Strategist

2021 will be the year that the Core Web Vitals metrics are introduced as a certified ranking factor. There will be a huge push across the industry to ensure that websites are performing well and ticking the right boxes – even more so than we have seen over the last few months. However, for those websites that aren’t prepared, the impact is unpredictable. It’s not yet known how impactful these metrics will be as a ranking factor, and so I will certainly be keeping a keen eye on the SERPs once this is rolled out.

Rob Laver, Senior PPC Manager

One PPC trend which I expect to continue in 2021 is the movement away from granular keyword bidding. Google has been rolling out various smart features and campaigns over the past couple of years, so the use of automated bidding is nothing new. However, the most recent change to restrict advertiser visibility on around 30-40% of search terms is a significant one. Keywords aren’t going away, but campaigns will need to be built and managed in a way which focuses on a range of customer signals, of which the keyword is just one, in order to maximise ROI.

Laurence Burden, PPC Manager

Social ecommerce will continue to expand. Facebook and Instagram have both introduced in-app shops allowing customers to complete transactions without leaving the app. The impact of this functionality has seen 37% of US internet users between the ages of 18 and 34 make a purchase using social media. In fact, we can expect ecommerce in general to continue to expand, given the current global situation with people spending more time at home and bricks-and-mortar stores closing.

Holly Barry, Senior Digital PR Strategist

Big, bold, creative and quirky campaigns are becoming the trend. While these suit consumer brands and those with budget, they’re not right for every brand; being relevant and aware of what will resonate with your audience should remain the priority. I predict that clients will increasingly need to use unique data and insights to help cut through the noise, in order to make a campaign stand out in a vibrant industry.

Creating a highly personalised strategy for you and your business is an effective way to avoid any conflict with other campaigns that have recently launched. To maximise campaign success, make sure you have ample expert comment from you, your clients and any other third-party experts who can add further clout to your story.

Matt Foster, Senior Digital PR Strategist

The challenges for Digital PR teams in 2021 will be how to cut through the noise – fewer journalists with more work on their plate results in a slimmer chance of your email even being opened. With Digital PR (and ‘link building’) becoming more popularised as a service, the competition to land those online column inches becomes greater. At Distinctly, we’re convinced that from this it will be quality work that will shine through. 

Al Livesley, Senior Copywriter

When I joined Distinctly in 2019, most of my time was focused on blog posts and website copy, but this year I’ve seen a massive increase in digital PR work. Brands of all sizes can use their expertise to tap into trends and campaigns, or unearth unique data that reflects the way people live, especially during the pandemic – and with our input this can become a compelling, authoritative story that catches the eyes of journalists and their readers. Digital PR can be about more or less anything and gives companies a real opportunity to make a mark in their field – it’s an exciting way to work and I look forward to seeing further growth in 2021. 

Louise Major, Senior Marketing Manager

I predict we will see more businesses using the data they gather on customers to create highly personalised content. Long gone are the days of simple personalisations – customers now expect more from brands. Businesses recognise this potential and need to turn swathes of data into interesting creative content based on user behaviour.

Spotify has done a great job of this recently combining data and immersive content seamlessly for subscribers. I predict we will see similar examples of data-driven campaigns from mainstream brands in 2021.

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