Can we all just agree to stop talking about 2020? Everyone okay with that? Excellent. Here’s a way better topic: what are the SEO & digital marketing trends to watch out for in 2021?

SEO & Digital Marketing Trends to Look For in 2021

#1 Featured Snippets Will Continue to Be Important

Consumers want quick answers to their search queries, and they’d rather not click through the top few results to find what they’re looking for. 

Featured snippets are those bits of information that Google provides directly in the search results in the form of an answer box. Google chooses what content is featured in the snippet. Its algorithm tries to match the search query with the answer a piece of content gives (using our beloved keywords). Google also tries to show content that is the most useful for readers, meaning it has high traffic and a low bounce rate. 

The most obvious benefit of capturing a featured snippet is increased web traffic. If your content is selected for the snippet, it will be front and center on the search result page, and being the top of organic search results is nothing to scoff at. But beyond higher organic traffic, a featured snippet will also give your organization higher prestige. After all, Google is essentially telling searchers that your content is the most credible source of information, so they’ll start to believe that too.

The best way to gun for the featured snippet in your content to answer the question right away. If your article is titled “How Do Refrigerators Work,” you better dive into a simple, yet thorough, explanation in the first sentence. Then you can use the rest of the article to dive into the details. 

#2 Search Intent Is More Important than Keywords

In Google’s early days, content writers had to include very specific keywords or phrases to rank high on results pages. They were so specific, these phrases oftentimes didn’t make a lot of sense in the context of the article. Fortunately, Google’s algorithms get better and better, and rankability is much more focused on search intent.

Search intent is the motive behind a user’s search query. Do they want to buy something? Do they want to read an informative article? Do they want to compare products before making a purchase? Are they looking for food near their geographic vicinity? 

So when writing with keywords and phrases, you have to start thinking about the intent behind them. Why would someone be typing this into Google? That will inform you of what to write about.

#3 Faster Load Times Mean Better Rankings

People don’t like to wait for a website to load. In fact, 25% of visitors would abandon a website if it takes more than four seconds to load. 

Load time isn’t just important for consumers, speed is a ranking factor. If their web crawlers take a long time to make it to your webpage, they won’t stick around for long. Plus, an increased load time of one to five seconds makes the likelihood of a bounce go up by 90%.

Optimizing for mobile users is just as important. In 2020, over 50% of all web traffic came from mobile users. And 51% of those users have encountered a website that’s crashed or sent out an error.

Make sure your web host has a mobile optimization option to appease all of that web traffic. To improve your load times, reduce your image sizes, take out unnecessary redirects, and enable compression to start.

#4 Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness Matter

You’ve likely heard how important “high-quality content” is for improving your online relationship with readers, but what does that content look like? A popular, and effective, acronym that floats around the marketing bubble is “EAT,” meaning expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. 

Expertise means explaining your higher knowledge and skill on a particular topic in a way that engages your readers. To do that, find out what your audience wants through searcher intent and then over-deliver. 

Authority comes when people start associating a topic or product with your brand. Getting mentioned or linked to in other blogs indicates to Google that you know what you’re talking about, making you much more likely to rank higher. Even a Wikipedia page for your brand can work wonders for developing authority.

Trustworthiness means you are what you say you are. That means you are truly an authoritative expert, and readers come to you with an accurate expectation. Things like positive online reviews, a secure website domain, terms and conditions pages, and refund and return policies can instill this trust in your customers.

#5 Longer Content Still Ranks Higher

This is a two-parter: you need to write more content, and you also need to write longer content to optimize your ranking chances.

The more content you write, the more keywords and questions you can answer. Since you only want to focus on one primary keyword and a handful of secondaries per article or webpage, you need to write multiple pages for a broad keyword portfolio.

Google also prefers content that is rich with information. The first ten results typically have over 2,000 words. But it’s not because Google checks the word count. Long-form content offers more opportunity for backlinks, keyword variations, and keeps readers on your page, meaning longer user-sessions.

But even though Google likes brands that produce a lot of long content, you can’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Be sure all of your articles follow the EAT principles.

#6 Local SEO Is Just As Important As Ever

Local SEO took a bit of a backseat in 2020, mostly because of COVID-19 keeping everyone indoors. But this isn’t permanent! Even in 2020, 46% of all Google searches had local intent. If you prioritize local SEO now, you can gain a competitive edge over your local competition.  

Besides, if you really want to stick around, you need to use local SEO to show consumers that you exist.

#7 Niche Marketing on Social Media

Social media marketing is oversaturated. Every brand is trying to reach its audience(s) with the “right” message. But, not every company is able to make its desired impact. 

The key to social media marketing in 2021 is to identify where your customers are, create niche content that they are most likely to engage with, and get them to convert. This comes after some extensive experimentation on these channels.

Figure out which social media channel is the most popular with your audience. Experiment with different types of content to find out what they engage with the most. And above all else, try to instill trust and authenticity in your brand image through your social media content.

#8 Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is nothing new. For years, automation tools have helped marketers to target the right customers, simplify time-consuming tasks, and maximize overall efficiency for marketing campaigns.

So why is it so important to start on marketing automation. Because everyone else is. A new report suggests that 67% of marketing leaders already rely on automation. Another 21% have automation in the works for the coming year. So, if 88% of marketers are playing the game more efficiently, the other 12% are going to fall behind fast. 

Take time to find a marketing automation service that you can customize to your exact needs, whether it’s for sending out customer emails or creating nurture campaigns. 

#9 Voice Search Marketing

Voice devices like Alexa and Siri made it so people can just ask a question and get a handful of useful answers. It’s changed the way marketers approach keywords, opting for full questions and phrases rather than some choice words. But voice search is changing the way we market our products, too.

Voice search now works to improve the overall customer experience. This can include more personalized messaging, which creates a more natural interaction between customers and brands. So when a customer asks about getting new shoes, their device can show them deals and styles related to their past purchase information.

#10 Non-Linear Customer Journeys

In the early days of marketing, customers would see an ad and either go to the store to buy it or order it from a catalog. Those days are long gone. Now customers are doing their research, comparing one brand’s offer to another, and reading online reviews. It’s a long, thorough process.

Brands have to constantly re-grab a customer’s attention. That’s why strategies like remarketing and cross-device targeting have become so popular. These are the strategies that make people think Google or Facebook is reading their minds.

#11 Experience Economies

If you see two ice cream shops next to each other, one with flashy and colorful decor and the other with a simple design, chances are more customers will go for the flashy shop. It’s not because their ice cream is better, it’s because they’re offering something more: an experience.

Consumers don’t just want products anymore. They want a memorable experience they can associate with their purchase. Whether they get that experience from the brick and mortar store, the unboxing process, or the product itself is up to you.

#12 Emphasize a Strong Brand

All of these previous tips help your brand to get noticed, but what if your brand sucks? You’d be drawing attention to something that most may not want to associate with at all.

Don’t try and replace a good brand image with flashy or seemingly-impressive marketing strategies. Those strategies are supposed to augment your brand, helping leads to see your values and how your product can help them.

Don’t Procrastinate the New Year

You may think it’s a little early to start planning your company’s New Year resolutions, but preparing now gives you the head start that’s imperative for maintaining a competitive edge.

Think you need some extra hands implementing these trends into your marketing plan? Big Leap can help. Our holistic approach to digital marketing and SEO makes for an efficient and effective approach to any marketing campaign. Contact Big Leap today to learn how we can help you reach your company goals.

Jack Greaves