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The Top Digital and Google Trends of 2021

So, what’s on the marketing agenda for 2021? At Stream Companies, we want to shine our spotlight on the latest digital and Google trends in the pipeline. You should know these predictions to thrive in the latest phase of the Digital Age.     

Google’s leadership has recognized these trends. In fact, several of them come straight from the world’s largest search engine itself!

Google Is Driving a Revolution in Data Ethics

A renewed focus on data ethics is a welcome benefit for people who go online—in other words, most of us! We all expect the brands that collect our data to safeguard it and be clear about how they are using it.

This industry has been changing to meet people’s expectations, and this means marketers will have to make changes, too. You too should think through how to protect privacy and security when collecting data from users.

Think about data ethics the same way Google does—as a series of principles that inform your data-gathering process:

  • Respect users and their privacy
  • Be clear about the data you collect—and why
  • Put the power to review, move, or delete data in users’ hands
  • Only use data-gathering with built-in security technologies

Always Use Informed Consent in Data Collection

Of course you aim to respect users and their privacy, but what does that look like in action? Well, the user should have an “opt in” and “opt out” option to click on before any data is collected. Informed consent relies on:

  • Information. Be sure your website visitors are given all relevant information: what it takes to participate in data sharing, the risks and benefits, how their data will be used and protected, et cetera.
  • Understanding. It’s not enough that your guests are given the information. They must understand it, too—and that requires clear communication on your part.
  • Volunteering. The “opt in” should be truly that: a voluntary opportunity. Never make users feel coerced, manipulated, or persuaded to share. Just put it all out on the table and let them make the decision.  

With Shopper Suite by FullThrottle, Stream Companies helps its clients identify and market to the 97% of website visitors who don’t fill out a form or leave their contact information. Our closed-loop marketing solution does it ethically, by asking users if they will consent to share their location.

Data ethics is one of the most important digital trends of 2021, and it informs the next trend we will cover: Google’s phase-out of cookies.

No Cookies for You! Snack on Healthier Data Tracking

Businesses know how essential measurement is when it comes to performance marketing. Traditionally, online measurement has heavily relied on cookies that log useful information after a user clicks on an ad.

However, as user privacy demands and regulations increase, that will no longer be the case. Google has announced a phase-out of support for cookies in 2022. Businesses that want to market in a cookieless world would be smart to use 2021 to prepare.

Looking ahead, innovative and privacy-first measurements will win the day. Over the coming year, marketers will rely on techniques like conversion modeling to measure the success of their digital campaigns.

A world without cookies… it may seem hard to imagine! But you don’t need to let it catch you off guard. Prepare for the coming transformation in tracking by:

  • Having durable tagging and analytics in place
  • Collecting consents from users and storing them safely
  • Investing in first-party data

What Is Conversion Modeling?

Conversion modeling, also known as attribution modeling, involves creating a rule or set of rules to determine how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints (such as impressions and clicks) in conversion paths.

Sounds simple enough. But why do we use conversion models in the first place? Well, think back to the last time you clicked on an ad. Was that the first time you saw that ad or the third? Did it lead you to make the purchase then and there? Or did you go back to Google for more research?

No matter the path you took, credit was applied to each channel that influenced your conversion. This information helps companies deliver timely and relevant messages, influence campaign strategy, and guide campaign optimization. Not only that, but it helps you compile a more complete picture of the buyer’s journey.

Google Ads offers a range of attribution models. Stream Companies can help you choose the one that best aligns with your business goals:

  • Last click—gives all credit for the conversion to the last-clicked ad and corresponding keyword.
  • First click—gives all credit for the conversion to the first-clicked ad and corresponding keyword.
  • Linear—evenly spreads out the credit across all ad interactions on the path.
  • Position-based—weighs the first and last ad interactions and corresponding keywords more than the other interactions on the path.
  • Time decay—gives more credit to ad interactions that happened closer in time to the conversion.
  • Data-driven—uses your account’s past data for this conversion action to distribute credit.

What Is First-Party Data?

First-party data is the data you collect directly from your audience or customers. It may include data you have in your customer relationship management (CRM) system as well as social and subscription data.

And data from behaviors, actions, or interest demonstrated on your website and/or app? That’s crucial, too. First-party data can also include information from non-online sources, like completed surveys and customer feedback stored in your CRM.

First-party data is generally considered the most valuable. You know it’s accurate (because you collect it directly from the source) and you know it’s relevant to your business (because it comes straight from your audience). Since it’s your own data, it’s also available to you at no cost, making it cost-effective. Best of all, you own it outright!

Businesses that do not (1) collect and (2) activate first-party data are leaving money on the table—simple as that. There are so many useful ways marketers can use first-party data in the Digital Age of 2021 and beyond:

  • Predict audience behavior—and use those predictions to choose ads that will appeal more to your audience.
  • Analyze for traits your customers may have in common—and expand your audience to new customers who also share those traits.

Second-party data is essentially some other company’s first-party data that you purchase. It all comes from one source, so you can trust its accuracy. You’ll have to seek out the company from which you buy this data—likely a company with an audience similar to yours.

This data can supplement and add scale to your first-party data, helping your marketing campaigns go further. Because it is accurate data, there won’t be a question of lost quality as you scale up. That being said, you are paying for it, and those costs can add up quickly.

And third-party data? That’s the data you buy from large data aggregators who were not the original collectors of that data. They pull it from various platforms and websites where it was generated, paying the source for the privilege to do so.

The large volume and broad scope of third-party data can be useful. Still, because you don’t know the original source of that data and because it’s publicly available to any company that pays, it may not offer the competitive advantage you crave. It can be useful but is no substitute for a first-party data-gathering operation.

Google’s Experiment with Subscriptions

It’s probably safe to say you’re familiar with a subscription-driven service model. Some players in the digital space have embraced it for years—Microsoft Office, for one, in the business and personal realm—and Google isn’t so far behind.

This has been far from a sudden shift. Google, after all, has been testing out this type of model for years now, offering some of their services (or enhanced versions of them) via subscriptions.

Still, it may take many users by surprise, as the selling of subscriptions has been a relatively minor part of Google’s business model. In 2021 and beyond, however, the company may be ramping up these efforts in a more significant way.

They’re taking bolder steps to move beyond the purely advertising-powered, free-for-the-taking provider they were in the past. So, what’s been driving the change? Users behind the screen—people like you and me. Look at the trends:

  • People spend more time using walled-off services and less time searching in traditional ways. As a result, the data Google collects for ad profiling is more limited than ever—and so is the number of ads Google can serve.
  • People are more concerned with privacy and how their data is used. This trend cuts against the very way Google’s profiling technology works. It may give regulators reason to look more closely at Google’s business model.

As you may have guessed, this is very much connected with Google’s decision to phase out cookies. As Google moves away from an advertising-based model and toward user subscriptions, marketers will need to be savvy about navigating the new digital space. 

Mobile Apps Will Power Business Growth

One of the most important under-the-radar stories of 2020? All the time we spent on our phones. Globally, more than 1.6 billion hours of our time went into our devices—and that was just in the first half of the year!

In the third quarter, apps usage surged by 25% year over year. We spent 180 billion hours each month on apps, with the most time spent on:

  • Food delivery
  • Games
  • Online learning
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping

Yes, 2020 changed the game. And as many now believe shopping experiences will never fully go back to the way they were, businesses will need to capitalize on this new growth opportunity on apps.

A customer who downloads an app is showing affinity for a brand. App users tend to be more loyal customers. It makes sense: Apps offer better user experiences, they load content faster, and they are easier to use.

For frequent website visitors, an app is like a shortcut—one that yields real value to any business that offers one. For retailers, app users spend three times more than other mobile customers. In 2021, then, it will be more important than ever for businesses to execute app strategies and ensure that their apps add value.

Don’t Automate Away Consumer Trust

The machines are coming. Marketing automation is here to stay, as it helps brands be more efficient and meet emerging needs and expectations. Some of the many ways your business may want to use marketing automation include:

  • Creating a customer service chat box
  • Managing recurring orders
  • Employing autofill functionality

Whenever and wherever automation can streamline your marketing process and help meet your company’s goals, it makes sense to use it. Keep in mind, though, that it’s more important than ever to do it with respect to your consumers.

As we automate certain aspects of marketing, we must take steps not to alienate consumers in the process. Treat your customers’ personal data with respect and foster a culture of trust. Only then will the people you want to reach be open to sharing their personal information, which may aid automated marketing services.

The Rise of the At-Home Consumer

Last year, consumers spent more time at home than ever before. Increasingly, people turned online and to the TV screen for their experiences—and many of them became more comfortable shopping online, too.

Our own data from Shopper Suite by FullThrottle shows shoppers have been spending more time during the research phase of their consumer journey. That means more time spent on Google and business websites, too. This is a great opportunity to invest in:

  • Paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) services
  • Inbound marketing and educational content

With the perfect blend of paid and organic search, you can drive more traffic to your website. To boost your organic traffic, inbound content will be essential! It drives more qualified consumers—the ones more likely to buy—to your website and shows them how your product or service is the solution to their needs.

The best inbound content will be 100% unique and written equally for the eyes of humans and search engines. Unique content—content not duplicated on another webpage or website—will help your site rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).

This content should be strategic. It should be optimized to provide the information your audience searches for online. And in 2021 and beyond, it isn’t limited to written content.    

According to the Cisco Annual Internet Report, over 80 percent of consumer internet traffic will be driven by online video in 2022. Connected TV has seen a breakthrough: YouTube on TV grew by 80 percent year-on-year (YoY) in March 2020.

Brands and businesses that succeed in the era of the at-home consumer? They will need to be comfortable connecting with consumers in new ways. With live YouTube events and other solutions, now is the time to think outside the box!

Consumers Demand Sustainability

The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced—indeed, amplified—consumer demand for sustainability. You can see it in the Google Trends of user searches. This is one digital trend we expect to continue throughout 2021 and beyond.  

Consumers want the brands they buy from to demonstrate responsibility and transparency through concrete action.

Does your brand’s sustainable side show through?

Consider looking for ways to improve your environment efforts via partnerships, process improvements, and so much more. And don’t forget to highlight all your efforts on your website! Of course, there are more ways to get the word out:

  • Write Press Releases. Generate publicity for any sustainability goals you’ve reached. A press release can (1) build your brand’s reputation in the green space, (2) earn media coverage, and (3) grow your online presence.
  • Create Green-Focused Ad Campaigns. The best of them focus not on the problem, but on your product and its eco-friendly qualities. Be careful not to “greenwash,” or exaggerate environmental benefits. Stick to the facts!
  • Share Your Stances on Social Media. Engage your audience in your green initiatives on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Consumers are tired of blatant advertising. They want interaction, evidence, and inspiration! By its very nature, social media is conducive to all three.

You could even spotlight products or services your business offers that align with the sustainability theme. For instance, car dealerships could advertise hybrid and electric inventory and a “repair before replace” service center ethos.      

Consumers Value Equality

Search interest in the term “Black-owned business” skyrocketed mid-2020 in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, here in America and around the world. It showed people were willing to push for change through consumer decisions.

Businesses that do more than speak up—the ones that seek to make a difference and empower their customers to do the same—will position themselves to earn the trust of a consumer base that is shopping more mindfully.

And it goes beyond the external causes that businesses support. Companies must foster a diverse environment internally, and marketers must be more mindful and inclusive when it comes to creating campaigns.

Like the example above, there may be equality-themed search terms relevant to your business and products. With a solid SEO strategy, you can create content around them that ranks and shows your audience you share their values.

The PPC Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2021

What Google Ads trends will you want to watch as you plan your PPC campaigns in 2021? The top trends in PPC are ones you can’t afford to ignore! Gaze into our crystal ball and see what we believe is coming in 2021 and in the future.  

Automation and AI Take Center Stage

The market size of automation is due to increase in 2021 as advertisers automate the process of finding the right place to display ads. Automation will also play a role in testing and optimizing ads. It can help your business:

  • Find the best bidding strategy
  • Create bids to achieve the maximum conversions
  • Monitor ad performance and stop low-performing ads
  • Prioritize the ads that see the best results
  • Generate ads dynamically based on user behavior and website content

As artificial intelligence (AI) gets to know your audience’s behavior over time, it can more accurately create ads that improve your PPC campaign’s performance!

Google Ads Data Hub Offers Insights

After Google announced its phase-out of support for cookies, the company invested in Ads Data Hub. This custom analysis allows you to tailor your marketing measurement approach to your unique business needs.

It can measure the effectiveness of your ads across different screens and give specific insight about customer behavior. Harness the power of Ads Data Hub and understand how your prospects are interacting with your ads.

Understanding the Buyer’s Journey

In 2021 and beyond, it will be more important than ever before for PPC marketers to take a look at the bigger picture—the buyer’s journey beyond simply keywords. Advertisers who align PPC with the buyer’s journey will come out ahead in 2021!

Spend some time in your customers’ minds. Ask yourself how they decide to buy from you, and you can structure your PPC campaigns to jump-start that journey:

  • What might your prospects be searching for?
  • What information do they need?
  • Where do they interact?
  • How will you measure success at every step?

Ride the Wave of 2021 Google Trends with Stream Companies

In the fast-moving world of marketing, it’s so important to stay ahead of the latest digital and Google trends. In 2021, why not take the lead and make Stream Companies your partner in the digital advertising space?

We watch these trends closely, and we always have our ear to the ground for the next big thing—if we’re not inventing it ourselves! Request a digital audit today and let our specialists show you how to prepare for 2021 and beyond.

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