To say 2020 was a headline-making year would be a gross understatement.
My best friend of well over a decade is a nightly news producer and last year (and even the past two weeks of 2021) have definitely given me a peek at just how much chaos comes from never having “a slow news day.”
COVID-19 on top of political and social unrest has left no stone in our lives unturned and no minute of her broadcast unfilled.
Digital marketing and sales were certainly not immune to the madness or overwhelm, but thankfully, we have numbers on our side to offer a bit of clarity.
Looking at our data from last year and planning for 2021, I’ve pulled together the news stories that saw the highest traffic on our site last year and what you need to know as we charge into the new one.
Most of us experienced this news story first-hand. With shelter-in-place and social distancing orders, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed our shopping habits. It led to limited trips to the grocery store, shopping locally, a surge in delivery service demand, and increased online shopping in general.
This meant businesses had to adapt and adapt quickly turning more heavily to digital assets like paid ads, video, and e-commerce.
Google Ads was certainly one of the digital platforms that marketers flocked to as the pandemic took hold of the world. With consumers moving online, marketers invested to ensure that their links and products would be present and ready to be found as people searched for answers.
To aid in this effort, Google announced they were issuing $320 million in credit to qualifying SMBs to run ads on Google Search, Display, or YouTube.
IMPACT’s Vin Gaeta shared, “As to the reasoning on why Google Ads are the route they’re using to help SMBs, Pichai writes, ‘We hope it will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers.’”
Globally podcast consumption increased with European podcast consumption increasing 53% (Italy up 29% and Spain up 25%), but United States consumption overall dropped 20%.
It’s safe to assume this had to do with fewer Americans commuting and going to the gym during the pandemic (popular podcast listening times), but that’s not to say our behaviors didn’t adapt. Podcast listening via smart speaker did increase by 5%, despite the overall drop.
The year also saw many audio podcasts embracing video and changing their advertising strategies.
One of the few things that didn’t change in 2020 was digital marketers’ concerns about SEO. Back in February, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller made headlines and grabbed our reader’s attention sharing insights on the impact of word count on website search ranks.
As IMPACT’s Justine Timoteo wrote “Mueller said word count itself isn’t a ranking factor, but he didn’t say that word count doesn’t impact other ranking factors. Similar to how meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor but can help influence the click-through rate from the SERP, which is a ranking factor.”
While social media usage surged overall (more on this later), LinkedIn in particular saw massive growth. Not only did homebound people take to the platform to connect one-on-one, but many also logged on to search for employment opportunities as job cuts seemed to take place left and right.
This increased engagement, however, didn’t translate to revenue for the social network. Clearly brands had an active audience, but self-promotion wasn’t top-of-mind (and likely rightfully so considering user minds were elsewhere.)
I know it’s hard to recall, but there was a time before COVID-19 and back then, this piece about a massive strategy shift by athletic apparel company Under Armour was big news.
The company announced that they would be shifting spend that was previously committed to traditional marketing investments like celebrity endorsements and advertising and using it to reinvest in the brand, content creation, website redesign, and a CRM.
For much of the last decade, we’ve touted these digital methods as cost-effective solutions for SMBs that may not have the largest marketing budgets, but this move told the world that these approaches aren’t just for small fish.
My teammate, Eric Choma, explains “If Under Armour's shift in marketing strategy teaches us nothing else, it should be further proof that all companies NEED to be publishing consistent, quality content, regardless of why you may think "’your company is different.’”
As we’ve seen in many of the other stories on this list, stuck at home, consumer social media usage also surged and brands had to follow suit. They not only had to understand how to navigate the sensitive atmosphere but adjust to new user behaviors. This meant offering new types of content and re-evaluating when it was shared.
While there were a lot of negative headlines regarding COVID-19, this piece of positive news topped our list. Not all businesses struggled during the pandemic. In fact, some industries grew especially food delivery services and carry-out restaurants.
As much as we hope life will return somewhat to what it used to be prior to the start of the pandemic (and I’m sure it will), many of these elements will likely still stick around.
In fact, in May, CNN Business predicted, “...We expect consumers to continue spending more time at home, driven by a desire to save money, persistent safety concerns, and a new-found pleasure in nesting” and seven months later, even with vaccines rolling out, they seem to be right.
As we settle into 2021, don’t expect these strategies, mediums, and consumer preferences to just disappear. Lean into them. Use them to meet and reach your audience where they currently are and you’ll lay a strong foundation for the rest of the year.
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