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SEO 27 min read January 24, 2021

Digital Trends Of 2021: What Should We Be Ready For?

digital marketing trends
Stacy Mine
Stacy Mine
Editor at Serpstat
How to know the future of digital marketing? How about reading tarot cards or using a crystal ball? Sounds like fun but there's another, more reliable way. We interviewed top experts to identify internet marketing trends for 2021 and collected a summary of their answers. Let's go!
Well, it will be interesting to compare the new data with the anti-trends in internet marketing that were predicted for 2020. Did the predictions match? What do you think?

Meet our contributors

What is your opinion concerning digital trends for 2021?

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Hannah Stevenson
Thanks to lockdowns and the increased prevalence of digital technology, we predict that digital marketing budgets will rise in 2021. Companies that had previously overlooked it will start investing in SEO to grow their reach. This brings lots of opportunities, but also downsides, as many new link building and SEO agencies might spring up that don't have the expertise to provide the support that clients need.

Ensure that you choose a trustworthy link building agency with the in-house capabilities to write engaging content, provide technical SEO audits, and build quality links. Look for agencies that have experience, or whose Founders are experienced in digital marketing and SEO, and ask for testimonials or examples of their work to find the right agency for your business.
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Jonas Sickler
In my opinion, the big SEO trend to watch in 2021 is Google's Core Web Vitals. These metrics aim to apply quantitative measurements to user experience. They build on existing UX ranking factors like mobile-friendliness, security, and frictionless content delivery by layering in more granular page speed data, interactivity, and visual stability. So, it looks like the "E" in SEO now stands for "Experience."

Google says they will notify site owners six months before rolling out the changes; we need to expect them sometime in 2021.
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Koray Tuğberk GÜBÜR
When I saw the "Passage Ranking" and "Content Dilution" terms from the Google side, I thought they would start giving less weight to the ultimate guidelines. That's why I have already warned my customers.

That's why having "less-structured" content and "more natural" and "specific, focused content" for users' specific needs can be better. My customers already tend to divide their ultimate guidelines into more relevant smaller, and more natural content pieces. Let's see.
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Chintan Zalani
An inclusive content strategy is now crucial to ensure your audience feels recognized through your marketing. It calls for creating thoughtful content that decreases cultural biases and empathizes with the diverse communities you engage with. This calls for robust audience research and thinking deeply about every aspect of your brand, including website copy, user experience, the style guide for your blog, your team, and even that seemingly harmless stock image of a group of people you choose for a post.

Your business also needs to be more accessible on the web to the next billion users coming online for the first time in the next five years. Translating your site's content into their native languages and creating a new YouTube channel in the top non-English languages your audience speaks is great for a start. But understanding the needs of these new users and how they experience the internet is key if you want to grow your footprint.
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Joydeep Bhattacharya
For SEO, three things will be crucial. These are:

Voice Search. People are gradually moving away from text search to voice search, and hence strategies like featured snippet optimization and long-tail keyword optimization will become more critical.

Page Speed. With the launch of the Page Experience Update, Google has made it clear that user experience is their top priority. Hence, making your site Core Web Vital friendly will be something that SEOs will concentrate the most on.

Content Quality
. Google has become smarter in detecting high-quality, fresh, relevant, comprehensive, and unique content. Content quality will play a game-changing role in the rankings.

For PPC, buyer journey optimization is the essential step that most PPC marketers still miss. PPC marketers need to study the customers' pain points and create ads for every phase of the buyer journey and not just the buying phase. Automation will play a key role with strategies such as smart bidding becoming more prominent. Moreover, marketers will start to capitalize on other PPC platforms' potential to cut costs and improve their ROI.

For marketing, I think brands who will move away from self-interest and work in favor of the audience will lead the race. For instance, create content that solves the consumers' pain-points, run ads that people find more engaging, test what is working at every step of the buyer journey, offer pro-active support, be there for the users when they need you, and automate your marketing and teamwork. Companies that will adopt digital solutions, use SEO audit tools to automate redundant tasks, and improve productivity while taking care of the customers at every level will be loved and accepted by the people.
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Evaldas Mockus
After significant challenges in 2020, I predict that marketers will be more focused on basics and finding channels that best resonate with their audiences. It seems that many companies are trying to implement any marketing idea they can think of without considering the ROI and whether those ideas bring quality leads and customers.

Regarding SEO, the last core Google update shows again that content is king and always will be. Content that helps readers solve problems and educate themselves will get the most organic backlinks, have the highest Google Analytics metrics, and most importantly, will convert the best.

Also, I believe that marketing winners will be teams that focus on actually doing effective things. All the best practices are already out there. Instead of planning and experimenting, just do what works.
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Phil Forbes
As an outreach manager, I see a massive void between good outreach and terrible outreach. And there's a clear differentiation in the quality of the links that both types of outreach get. Next year, I'm tipping that Google is going to pick up on this and do something about it. Some brands out there have backlinking via outreach down to fine art, and I feel it's only a matter of time until Google tries to monetize that themselves or finds a way to 'punish' those. Perhaps making link velocity, a ranking factor will come in.

I'm also seeing a lot of content that ranks for not overly competitive content, ranking real high with only a handful of really average links. I'm completely speculating here, but I think that Google will be able to understand that a handful of not overly authoritative links is worse than no links at all. So expect the influence of links on keywords with low difficulty to have less power. Then again, I may be completely wrong!
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Adam Connell
In 2021, we're likely going to see a continued focus on video and webinars. Video and webinars have skyrocketed in popularity since the outbreak started. Usage is likely to remain high even once the pandemic tapers off.

And with the budgets of brands in specific sectors being restricted, we'll likely see brands focus more on content repurposing to make the most of their budgets.
Marketing education will be in more demand than ever before as more and more small businesses embrace digital selling.

And businesses with a strong existing content marketing strategy in place will be in the best position to capitalize as online shopping continues to surge. So much so that some retailers may decide to move online entirely, at least for the time being.
One good example of this is a guitar store here in the UK, Peach Guitars. Even when they were allowed to open back up after the second national lockdown, they decided to remain closed due to increased digital sales.
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Dario Zadro
During the past year, we've had a handful of Google updates. Everyone likes to use catchy terms like YMYL, E-A-T, and others, but it's always the same — low-quality content on low authority sites that abuse link building tactics will get hit the hardest. That's not to say you should avoid link building or other grey-hat strategies, but rather, increased emphasis on other factors will continue to become more crucial. An article I wrote in 2015 on brand authority is still what sites should focus on.

Besides a continued focus on "brand" required to stay at the top, there will be another big hit to sites in March of 2021 that aren't prepared. What am I referring to? You guessed it, "mobile-first" indexing. Googlebot has already been crawling sites using a mobile User-Agent for quite some time. The difference is they are retiring their desktop User-Agent. If any website doesn't have content visible to Google's mobile crawler, that desktop-facing content will no longer be indexed.

My suggestions for 2021 are to double-down on building site authority through all marketing channels and making sure websites you're trying to rank have exceptional mobile experiences.
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Braden Becker
2020 made it clear to us that consistency in search behavior isn't a given. Not only can world events (like, but not limited to, a global health crisis) change search interests, but they can have a second-layer effect on unlikely industries. For example, while travel and restaurants suffered arguably the most this year, puzzles and tabletop games saw record demand in just the first month of the pandemic.

In 2021, the most successful marketers will be those who take a keen interest in the events, holidays, online trends, controversies, and crises that hinder or accelerate their growth. It won't be enough to react to situations as they happen. Folks will need to create demand forecasts and content strategies that they can activate under special circumstances.

SEO service providers might need to take similar action. With search volume changing so quickly (and in unexpected places) we'll need to be able to see these changes, at scale, for an entire website or keyword category. This notoriously hard-to-get data will need to become much easier to find.
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Edgar Suppes
The importance of smartphones and, therefore, SEO for mobile devices will continue to grow in 2021. From March 2021, Google will crawl all pages exclusively via their respective mobile version. And from May 2021, the "page experience" will become a ranking factor.
So we have two clear indications that the user experience on mobile devices will become an essential ranking factor in SEO terms next year.

Therefore, a website owner should make sure that their technical SEO is excellently adapted to these conditions by March 2021 at the latest; otherwise, there is a risk of severe ranking losses.

In my personal experience, TikTok is still extremely underestimated by companies. The advertising opportunities are enormous on TikTok with its 800 million users worldwide. Nevertheless, the competition on the platform is still very low compared to Facebook or Instagram ads. This means that at the moment, it is still possible to buy reach at pretty low rates compared to other ad platforms. Next year, significantly more companies will advertise by utilizing those full-screen video ads.

I think we will see a huge increase in new niche online shops next year. Many more people will focus on their passion and start their own business, thus creating small "hyper niches."
Covid-19 has forced many people to build alternative sources of income. At the same time, with Shopify, Shoppable Instagram Posts, TikTok, and Facebook Shops, a foundation has already been created so that the barriers to entry are also very low for individuals.

Therefore, we will see more small shops that only offer a handful of products, but these will be of top quality because they come from people who created them with passion.
I think content marketing will get more competitive in the next years. In 2020, many companies have already been forced to be present online. In times of lockdowns and closed shops, small companies had to find new strategies. At the same time, more and more people are setting up their businesses to make up for the losses caused by their lost jobs. All these circumstances mean that there will be more content than ever before.

Companies are thus forced to build communities around their brands and to network more. Videos, especially streaming, will become essential tools in this process. With videos' help, a stronger relationship with the community can be built up quickly and comparatively easily. This will be necessary to survive the influx of new content producers.
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Matt Diggity
While recent Google core updates appear to have focused primarily on backlinks, I anticipate a renewed emphasis on content quality in 2021. My advice to content marketers is to produce more high-quality content in 2021. Note the focus on quality. More and more, it's less about how much content you create — and more about how much value you deliver.

Here are some key factors to focus on when developing your content marketing strategy for SEO in 2021.

Search intent. Create content that matches the intent of the user searching for your target keyword. Check out the SERPs to find out what Google has already determined users are looking for when searching for your term. Search features like rich and featured snippets can also shed a lot of light on search intent.

Topical relevance. The more content you create relevant to a specific topic, the more likely Google recognizes your site as an authority on the subject. Having a solid internal linking (interlinking) strategy in place is a powerful way to build topical authority and relevance.

Entity optimization. Google has been pouring significant resources into Natural Language Processing (NLP) for years. NLP's impact on SEO is bound to grow significantly in the coming years as the algorithms become more sophisticated. Entities are one of the main components of NLP, and on-page optimization tools like Surfer can already help you tailor your content for a more NLP-driven future.
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Dan Taylor
For me, 2021 will be heavily focused on strategy (and product) adaptation and diversification.

As Google continues to develop it's own products and becomes more of a portal search engine than a linear search bar (akin to Baidu, Yandex, Yahoo), we need to adapt our approaches to accommodate a landscape that has changed (and not necessarily in favor of the SEO).

This year alone, we've witnessed significant changes in how Google promotes its products and services and changes in SERPs for a lot of high traffic keywords seemingly based around changes in user intent.

For many websites, the amount of traffic they can receive, compared to previous periods, and without significant change to their models, has now been limited - not by Google, but by a change in user expectations of search results.

Communicating this change in the landscape to clients is vital, as well as communicating the new approach to grow traffic again, within the new world parameters presented to us.
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Nathan Gotch
The biggest trend is the importance of User Experience (UX) and its impact on SEO performance. You won't get by with poor UX and expect to continue growing your organic search traffic. You may see it start to decline. I also predict that websites will continue to get less organic clicks because of an increased volume of search features and Google ads. That's why it's fundamental that you develop a strategy for "stealing" featured snippets. The best method I've used is to simply model what's already ranking. If your website has enough authority, you should be able to overtake them.
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Alex Tachalova
If you take a moment to Google a post about SEO trends in 2020, you'll find that they're quite the same as what I'll share here. On a general note, I wouldn't say that the core Google's algos are changing dramatically with each year. What's happening, in reality, is Google has started to focus on more specific details as it gets harder and harder to filter out second-rate sites on the fly. So, that's the reason why we see key web vitals as a part of a site's quality evaluation. And the same goes for content and links, and many other ranking factors. So, to ensure that your business will invest in the right SEO activities that will be paying off in the long run, you need to ensure that your benchmarks are far beyond industry average because eventually today's industry averages will become outdated by the next Google algo update. Don't believe me? Then let's take links as an example since I'm the founder of a link building agency. As you can guess, if today a link from a so-so site is acceptable, then tomorrow, most probably, it's not going to be okay. So, that's the reason why it's much more beneficial to invest in building truly meaningful links for your brand rather than getting something from sites that are okay for today.
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Nikola Baldikov
The Core web vitals will be the next SEO trend, as Google announced it will be a ranking factor. Google itself, in its Central Blog, defined the three factors that will be analyzed by the algorithm:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP);
First Input Delay (FID);
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

LCP is a user-centric metric for measuring perceived load speed. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have Largest Contentful Paint occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load. The metric reports the render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport. FID measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page to the time when the browser is actually able to begin processing event handlers in response to that interaction. In other words, a low FID helps ensure that the page is usable. CLS helps quantify how often users experience unexpected layout shifts. A layout shift occurs any time a visible element changes its position from one rendered frame to the next. A low CLS helps ensure that the page is delightful.

Many specialists foresee that this year's success would come to those who stay focused on their target audience. Marketers would preferably have to spend most of their time figuring out how to engage the right audiences. As the owner of ZATO, Kirk Williams, has formed it: "The business that invests well into learning who their audience is, what they care about, where they spend their time, and what they want to hear, can then build a PPC campaign strategy targeting those audiences and how they are searching. This will inform landing page creation and content, ad creative, and various Google ads targeting metrics such as audiences, keywords ranking, location, devices, and more." I relate to that 100%.

It has been estimated that by 2022, 55% of all American homes will own a smart speaker. The same year, voice shopping is set to jump to $40 billion, up from $2 billion today. Following the statistics, it is advisable that marketers invest enough time and resources in voice search campaigns. As the Digital Marketing Institute has put it: "Adopting a voice search strategy isn't just about remaining relevant – it's also about creating a unique and optimized customer experience that will foster relationships and build brand loyalty." Considering this, marketers must develop a unique approach to consumer interaction, and voice search should be part of a more connected brand experience.

It's obvious but many people do not do it. Do keyword research, write on topics that people actually look for, nail the searcher's intent and create long-form content based on your experience and data.
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Ian Lurie
1. Prepare for mobile-only. I don't know if we should actually prepare for it, or acknowledge it. Google long referred to mobile-first: the idea that they'd favor content and structure delivered to their mobile crawler. They've now stated their crawler is actually mobile-only, ignoring content that isn't delivered to their mobile crawler. That's a big difference. If you've been assuming desktop results might show content delivered only to desktop devices, adjust your thinking. Make sure all content for which you want to rank is delivered to mobile devices.

2. Passage indexing is coming, so pay attention to the on-page structure. According to Google, you can't optimize individual passages on a page. You can use subheadings and HTML's structured markup (paragraph tags, lists, etc.) to clearly define "chunks" of on-page content. That provides Google a clear picture of what is and is not a "passage."

3. Continue to respect site performance and UX. If you've been paying attention, site performance isn't a new thing. But Google's introduction of the Core Web Vitals framework shows they're taking page speed and user experience even more seriously. Keep refining and improving both.
What do you think about these trends? Do you have something to add? Share your opinion in the comments!

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