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While 2020 wasn’t great from most perspectives, it was a banner year for digital marketing. As consumers hunkered down at home, they spent more time and money online.
Do not expect digital marketing to lose its value in 2021. Shopping habits are sticky. Even as consumers venture out more as the pandemic recedes, they’ll continue to log on.
Your marketing investments need to reflect market realities. Make sure your digital marketing game is where it needs to be to compete in 2021:
1. Outsource what’s outside your specialty
Most business leaders are not born and bred digital marketers. You may know your way around domains like web design, but that isn’t the same as being an expert in them. Outsource anything that you can’t do at a professional level.
Digital marketing needs small and large are easy to contract. A freelancer can write your ad copy. An agency can run your social media. An outsourced CMO can develop your entire digital marketing strategy.
Outsourcing also helps you identify mistakes your own attachments might blind you to. Had Dove brought in a digital marketing consultant, it might have known better than to run ads showing Black women becoming fair-skinned redheads. “This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs,” Dove wrote in a statement.
The point is, digital marketing isn’t the sort of space you want to stumble through. Your brand’s credibility is on the line.
2. Revisit your search strategy
You know that old real estate saying that the three most important things are location, location, location? In digital marketing, it’s SEO, SEO, SEO.
Real estate pros will advise you to skip the for-sale-by-owner route and get an agent to sell your property. Because SEO is complex and site penalties stiff, the same is true of search. “SEO is not simply about tricking the Google algorithm. Nor is it about cramming your website full of keywords in hopes of getting it to rank in the #1 spot,” writes SEO agency Hennessey Digital.
Of course, SEO touches a lot more than just your own site. Just as important as the content on your blog are the backlinks your company’s site receives.
In 2021, invest in off-page SEO. Connect with contributors at popular digital publications. Point them to link-worthy content on your site. Offer to create guest content, and share it out often on your company’s social media platforms.
Although you can do some of that yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help. One area you’ll almost certainly need it is in technical SEO. Make sure your site’s security certificate is still valid. Do an audit for broken links. Clean up your site architecture and make sure Google is indexing it.
3. Invest in interactive content
In digital marketing, interactive content is as good as gold. The longer you can get someone to stay on your site, the more likely they are to convert — and the more Google will see your site as an authority.
Interactive content can take many forms: calculators, polls and surveys, interactive video and infographics, contests, games, product recommenders and more.
Buzzfeed’s quizzes are a famous example. Clinique’s Foundation Finder asks questions and recommends a foundation based on user input. Allbird’s “The View From Above” story in The New York Times includes moving illustrations — both in the sense that they move as the user’s cursor does and in terms of their emotional impact.
Plus, interactive content like quizzes can do more than engage users; it can actually generate new audience insights. “Being able to see how the user answers each question gives you incredible insights into the customer,” explains Hootsuite CMO Penny Wilson. “Other types of interactive content can reveal their interests, ‘likes,’ pain points and patterns.”
What should you do with those insights? Build them right back into your content. If your fishing brand learns that its users also like to hunt, don’t ignore that detail just because you don’t sell firearms. Point out public lands that offer both recreation opportunities. Tell your product team that they should consider adding a camo print to your fishing vests.
Interactive content does take more work to develop, but it doesn’t require technical expertise. Tools like SurveyMonkey let anyone put together a poll in minutes. Putting on a contest may be as simple as blasting out the details and deadlines to your email list.
Digital marketing is now the default. Don’t cut and paste your 2020 strategies onto next year’s calendar. Although they might work, they won’t win.
If you want to do that, you have to take your digital marketing game up a notch. Start collecting data, enlisting partners, and creating content now. Make 2021 the year you master the art of getting attention online.
Rashan Dixon is a senior business systems analyst at Microsoft, entrepreneur and a writer for various marketing and business publications.