The first Search Session of 2021 was full of great information for small and medium sized businesses to implement into their strategies in the new year! Boostability’s VP of Marketing Amanda Price, Director of Content Kristine Pratt, and Director of SEO Colton Miller broke down key SEO, business and marketing trends you need to know to succeed in 2021 as well as predictions from 15 CEOs, thought leaders, and experts on strategies for the upcoming year, and how you can apply them. 

Read the full 2021 Digital Trends Report here. Or watch our full Search Sessions here or read on for some key takeaways:

SEO Trends

Online Business Listings

There are several things your business can do today that will help your SEO campaign. One of the best places to start is to update your business listings online. If you’re not listed on Google, Yelp, or any of the public business listing websites, do that today and keep it up to date. SMBs have to keep their data accurate and prioritize their online presence. Local SEO focus is more important than ever. 

Google My Business

Google My Business listings are free and are a key avenue for searches looking for local services and products. It is more important than ever for a small business to leverage every free marketing channel they have. There is a huge opportunity for those willing to dedicate the time now and going forward to optimizing their Google My Business profile. But it isn’t ‘set it and forget it.’ There are frequent updates to its functionality and features that can really help grow your business. 

Rise in E-commerce

From what we’ve seen in 2020 due to COVID-19, there will likely be a surge of local businesses. It most likely won’t be in the form of tons of new physical stores. Instead, it’s likely to be businesses operated from home or online only while serving a local area. This means we will continue to see a rise in e-commerce sales. Your online priorities for 2021 should include voice search and e-commerce capabilities.

Search Landscape Trends for 2021

Organic search competition will heighten as we head into 2021. Dedicate more time to reviews, social media, your website, etc. to get an edge over other businesses in your space. There are several factors that drive this: 

  • Increased e-commerce ordering and spending
  • Skyrocketing paid ad prices
  • Organic search has become a premium
  • Market gaps have formed due to COVID
  • Unemployment drives self-employment

Direct organic search data is almost non-existent. Start collecting your own data. Companies will need to become more in tune with their own data sources. This could mean leveraging what they have or even setting up new data sources. Things like scraping, information siphoning, and data scrubbing are likely to move toward common practice. Analyze your data to make informed, strategic marketing choices. The companies that come out ahead in 2022 and 2023 are the companies that are leveraging that data today.

 

E-commerce Growth, Emerging Trends & Strategies

E-Commerce has seen rapid acceleration due to the pandemic. Social distancing and government shut downs meant that consumers had to transition buying behavior from brick and mortar to online almost overnight. Quarter over Quarter in Q3 2020 vs Q3 2019 there was a 37% increase in online sales, and a 32.4% year-over-year growth in e-commerce sales. Nearly $1 in every $5 were from online orders. The good news is that if you haven’t begun selling online yet, you still can and should. In fact, e-commerce is slated to hit new heights in 2021 so now is the time.

E-Commerce Emerging Opportunities 

  • Change brings opportunity. Along with the significant e-commerce sales growth we saw in 2020, we are also seeing new emerging market opportunities in 2021 that you can and should take advantage of. As e-commerce is rapidly accelerating in America, it is also exponentially growing around the world. Now is the peak window to capitalize in this growth. It will be a lot easier to grow today internationally than it will in 10 years as those markets mature.
  • 3D and Augmented reality shopping experiences are also revolutionizing online shopping and improving online sale conversions. Big brands are training consumers to shop this way and expect the convenience of AR. You should definitely consider adding this feature to your site if it makes sense for the types of products you sell. 
  • Marketplace Brand Management is more important than ever. When you are selling your product on marketplaces like Amazon or Alibaba, one of your largest threats are bad sellers who will copy your products, sell fakes, undercut your pricing, or post fake reviews. Not only do you need to invest in growing your brand but you need to invest in protecting your brand. 
  • Robotic Process Automation is all about automating the customer experience. It improves conversion and retention, as well. In 2021, think of all the customer touch points and communications you can automate for your business from text messaging to email marketing and beyond. 
  • As e-commerce continues to grow, so does the importance of supply chain management. This is an opportunity for you to provide products, services and solutions as this sector becomes more and more important. 
  • With more people shopping online there is increased transparency into brands and their ethical practices. Make sure you review your messaging, positioning and promote your purpose so consumers can connect with your brand in more meaningful ways.   

E-Commerce Emerging Opportunities

John LeBaron, CRO at Pattern:

  1. Growing International E-commerce Opportunities – International e-commerce is becoming more interesting every year and more brands will continue to look outside of the US for growth. E-commerce is all about momentum, so once a brand gets established in a market, it’s a lot harder to displace them. 
  2. Brands with a Story & Cause Will Win – People are thinking about brands in terms of ‘are they green?’, ‘are they cruelty-free?’, ‘are they vegan?’, ‘do they support a cause?’, etc. More people will essentially “vote with their dollar” and it’s easier to tell this story online versus in-store, on the shelf.

Jeff Tomlin, CMO & Co-Founder of Vendasta

  1. Robotic Process Automation – Consumers expect delightful online experiences, whether they’re dealing with e-commerce-only websites or the small business around the corner. With so many SMBs looking to transact and communicate online, the automation of tasks such as meeting scheduling, notifications, and invoice approvals will be critically important. In 2021, there is no time for toil.

Marketplaces & Amazon One-click

The marketplace arena has exploded and is growing exponentially, primarily because of one thing: one-click convenience. Making shopping easy as a one click checkout is creating opportunity for new players in the marketplace space to grow at a rapid clip. If you are selling online, think how to make your shopping experience as easy as possible for consumers because the big brands are training consumers to expect and easy shopping experience.

Cyber Security Advances to Center Stage

With people spending more time than ever online, cyber security becomes critically important. According to SiteLock research, websites are attacked 94 times per day on average, and nearly 13 million websites are infected with malware. These statistics are expected to increase in 2021. Likewise – Cybercriminals have capitalized on the pandemic, targeting vulnerabilities or weak links within the newly remote populations as well as industries that cannot afford to be offline, such as healthcare and financial organizations. Every person or business with an internet connection should expect to be a target and take proper security precautions to prevent the unnecessary consequences associated with a breach.

Account Based Marketing

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a focused growth strategy in which marketing and Sales collaborate to create personalized buying experiences for high-value accounts. Traditional Marketing practices are about casting a wide net and nurturing leads down a funnel towards conversion. In ABM, you flip it upside down and target very specific leads and launch personalized campaigns to convert them. 

Demandbase is one of the top ABM software platforms in the business, and they give us 3 key insights: 

Gabe Rogel, CEO

  1. Sales Funnel Management Converts Sales Faster – “Widespread adoption of the Account Funnel to complement the Demand Funnel leads to MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads) opportunities. Integrations between ABM platforms and Sales Automation continue the movement from Marketing to Sales in ownership of email nurturing.” 

Jon Miller, CPO

  1. Data-Driven Decisions Rule Marketing Discussions – “In 2021, marketers will use intent data, AI, and orchestration technologies to combine the engage-ability of inbound marketing with the precision and targeting of ABM and the scale of marketing automation.”

Peter Isaacson, CMO

  1. Digital Journey Leaps Forward – “Marketing and sales will move from talking about “alignment” to prioritizing “integration”, with teams doubling down on technology that helps them co-manage the buyer’s journey.”  

Work From Home

Home is the new office. as Kramer Hope from Comparably says: “That means employers won’t be able to rely on a cool office space or a fridge full of snacks to attract and retain top talent as they have in the past. Employers will have to adapt to what employees want most in a post-COVID world: A mission employees are excited about and can stand behind, opportunities for career advancement, and solid leaders they can trust.”

In a Work From Home environment, you also have to build employee relationships in new ways. This means adoption for virtual connection and collaboration tools like Zoom for virtual meetings and Slack for team communication. Recruiting will also look different.The power of remote workforces will continue to be unlocked and corporate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion policies will evolve.

 

Content Marketing & Social Media Methods

Good Content Matters

Good content matters and will continue to matter in 2021. Content helps you to establish your brand and it shows you as the resource that you can be for your industry. 

All the recent Google Algorithm Updates emphasize the importance of good and relevant content on your website and digital channels. Google wants to see that you’re regularly updating your content and providing something useful to your website visitors. User intent has changed drastically in the past few years, both because of the pandemic and in spite of it. The reason people search online is different than it used to be, and you need to be prepared for that. 

Good content helps you connect with your customers in a human way, and it helps you establish your brand. It shows your customers and potential customers who you are and why you’re the best at what you do, also establishing you as a trusted resource.

Video Content

Start creating your video content strategy today. In a survey by the Hubspot Research team, they found that 54% of people prefer video content from brands and businesses they support. Video is seen as easily digestible bits of content that can help a user enhance their knowledge of a subject. 

Laura Cole, VP of Marketing at Vivial says: “In 2021, video is king. Similar to the user generated content, which should have a lot of videos, this implemented into your social strategy will drive more engagement…Find new ways to incorporate video into your social calendar. Those who do not risk falling dramatically behind.”

Build Consumer Trust Through Content

There’s a lot that can come out of having good content. It helps your SEO, it helps build your relevance and trust, and helps users understand your identity and intent on your website. Tell your story and tell your users about your services and what you do and let them know what you can do for them. By doing this, it can help you stand out against your competitors.

Remember that helpful things are rarely boring, even if they are, objectively, not as exciting as other industries. Use visuals and videos and make them shareable. If there are important people in your company, interview them and showcase them on your website.

Quality content is decided by your audience. Make sure it’s interesting and create more of the content they engage with. Make it easy to navigate. If you want people to dive deeper into your content, link to it and make it easy for them to engage.

Duane Forrester, VP of Industry Insights at Yext says: “Consumers expect more answers and they expect clarity. After all, they’re just trying to make a decision they can feel good about…What will work is answering questions, building trust with consumers, and being seen as an authoritative resource. You need to keep people engaged.” Andy Mentges, CEO of Vertical Response simply states: “Content needs to be targeted and meaningful.”

Social Media Matters & Builds Authority 

Users follow brands they like and trust. You have to make that connection with your customers. You can have the best content to share with the most carefully strategized campaigns, but it won’t make a difference if you can’t connect with your customers and show them how you can solve their problems, whatever they are, in a positive manner.

Here are some key social media takeways for 2021:

  • Make your posts “shoppable.” Be genuine, yet seize the opportunity to sell your products directly through the platform. 
  • Use your customer loyalty. User generated content will be more and more popular this year. That means having those who already like your product create a video, or write a review or blog post that you can then share out. 
  • Video content on social media will continue to dominate. Take advantage of posting video content on your social media profiles. 
  • Agility is key! 2020 showed us that we all have to think quickly and be prepared for anything. Rigidity is your enemy. Even the best laid plans often need to be adjusted because of current world circumstances or changes within your industry.
  • Take advantage of social stories,. They are growing in popularity and these are bits of microcontent people crave.
  • When you can, use memes in your social strategy. It’s a great way to be relatable in your communication with your customers. 
  • Know what social platform is right for your business. Understand where your audience is and where to reach them depending on your industry. Miguel Vives Angel Garcia, from ADN Mexico says: “Think outside of the normal social channels and connect on a personal level through apps and social networks specific to your business and industry.” 
  • Social media builds authority. More sales and exposure made through years of hard work to build up your social media presence and branding goes a long way with building trust with your customers. Customers trust brands with authority. 

Content is King

Content Marketing is endgame. It’s the number one factor to help you rank on Google. If you haven’t figured out a plan to improve your content in 2021, start today. Google’s latest algorithm updates have put emphasis on user intent and adjusting your content to match it. Figure out why users come to your website and how you can better tailor your content to their needs. Use your content to build up your brand identity and help connect with your customers. And if your content doesn’t match their intent, you either need a new content strategy or to cater to a different audience. 

 

Want to learn more? Read the full 2021 Digital Trends Report here.

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Krystin is the social media coordinator at Boostability.