Now that we’ve left 2020 behind, we’re looking forward to the trends we think will be big news in 2021. Some of these trends you may already be familiar with, some emerged last year and some have just been there the whole time and are getting their moment in the spotlight.
Intent and semantics
The importance of intent and semantics both in search queries and on page content has been bubbling quietly but this year is the year. Last year we saw plenty of advancements in how Google interprets, understands, and ranks content on the web. Not just indexing web pages, but being able to index passages, as well as providing features like Topic Cards more frequently. With BERT now present for nearly every query, a huge focus going forward will be placed on entity recognition and building up the understanding of why your content deserves to rank over another site – think contextual relevance, hubs of content, and proving you are an expert on a topic rather than optimising for specific keywords just because they have a high search volume.
Leading on from intent, the theme of quality content for humans rather than search engines has been growing as algorithms get more sophisticated at disseminating meaning. A key marker of quality is accuracy and we’ve seen social platforms step up their fact checking with features that flag potentially misleading information. Google also announced Pinpoint last year, likely an extension of their investment into The Trust Project, also speaking to their ongoing mission to provide the best quality information in search results – making sure journalists are able to trust the facts they are quoting. While this tool is just for journalists, it does also speak to the need for SEOs and digital marketers to ensure their content is up to the fact-check challenge. This year we will likely see a focus on quality like never before, making sure content is in line with what the users need, the intent of the queries that lead to it, and that it is factually correct at every check.
Connecting all the dots is User Experience (UX), a major trend we think will impact digital across the board. Page experience signals are already part of the ranking algorithm, incorporating things like mobile friendliness, safe browsing, https, and ensuring there are no intrusive interstitials, but this is now expanding to include the Core Web Vitals as of May 2021 (a mere 4 months away).
As mentioned earlier, this is all part of Google’s drive to provide high quality information, quickly, for everyone. With it, we expect to see vast improvements to the quality of sites appearing in the top results, and UX will be a driving force. SEO-led UX enhancements should be a pivotal part of strategies this year, if you haven’t already been focusing on them.
Automation & AI
Automation and AI, the two buzzwords that just won’t go away. They’re here for a good reason, driving growth for video, personalisation and hyper identity based targeting. We can expect to see more and more developments in audience targeting, allowing for deeper understanding of how audiences are reacting to and engaging with our ads across different platforms. An example that stood out to us was the ability to segment bidding in Google Shopping by new and existing customers, introduced in late 2020. Considering this is a focus for most of our retail clients, we can’t wait for this feature to roll out on a wider scale. It’ll mean that you can tailor a CPA that’s acceptable based on the value of a new acquisition versus someone that’s already bought from you.
As for advancements on social, Facebook and Instagram are leading the way currently but we don’t think it will be long until other platforms catch up.
Paid social will no longer be a nice-to-have addition to Biddable Media strategies in 2021, it will become an essential part of connecting with audiences and with that we can expect to see functionality and reporting improve at the same time.
Appetite for Data
To round things off nicely, we’re looking forward to a healthier appetite for data science in marketing – not just the large companies but even the smaller ones extracting value. We recognise that data science isn’t just an impressive-sounding luxury but a real competitive edge, especially as the field of data science itself is so varied. Two data science teams are likely to offer very different things, so if your business is in the market for a competitive edge make sure to go with an agency that really understands your goals and wider industry context.
Can’t get your fill of 2021 digital marketing trends? If you need more, we wrote a white paper bringing together our learnings from 2020 and our predictions for the coming year. You can download it all here.
You’ve got the trends and now you’re wondering how to plan for the year? No worries, we’ve also created two guides that’ll show you exactly what to start doing and what to pull the plug on. Full of advice from our channel specialists, download our B2C and B2B guides for 2021 digital marketing.