Digital Marketing for Small Businesses in 2021

Ashley Ismailovski
Ashley Ismailovski

Director of Email Marketing

Digital Marketing for Small Businesses in 2021

The climate of digital technology is ever-changing, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who could have accurately predicted the global shifts we saw in 2020. Drastic and necessary changes have touched the lives of nearly everyone around the globe, and consumers & business owners alike were forced to adapt to this “new normal” seemingly overnight. But what does this new normal mean for small businesses? In the wake of all of this uncertainty, how can small businesses owners prepare themselves for 2021?

The answer, we believe, is simple – invest wisely in digital marketing. 

While we all felt it’s impact in some way, small business owners were arguably hit the hardest as a result of the global pandemic. Many were forced to adapt their current business model or pivot to new sources of revenue in response to the current crisis. While human instinct might be to hunker down and weather the storm; opportunity favors those who will recognize that their competitors will be doing just that. In an apprehensive market, small business owners must go bravely forward towards the high-return digital marketing channels they need to foster growth. 

If you are looking to invest wisely in 2021, we’ve identified 3 digital marketing trends you will want to consider.

Voice Search

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tried-and-true method favored by many digital marketers to increase organic search traffic. SEO depends heavily on search behaviors as well as the algorithms of popular search engines, like Google. But there is a trend that has been gaining momentum over the last five years or so that has changed the way a lot of people search – voice search. 

With the popularity of digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Bixby, consumers are changing the way they look for information online. Whereas in the past someone may have searched for “bakeries near me” on their computer, now they are asking Alexa, “Where is the closest bakery?”. This has changed the structure of keywords into something more conversational. While it may sound complicated, there are two main strategies for optimizing your business for voice search. First, make sure the information on your Google My Business listing is up-to-date. GMB listings are often prioritized in local voice searches when a user is looking for information such as store hours or an address. Secondly, this search behavior must also be considered when writing content for your website. Content should adapt a direct and conversational tone in order to match up with voice queries that are posed in the form of a complete sentence.

Local SEO

“Near me” searches, like the ones you might find yourself asking Alexa about, are certainly not a new search behavior, but the impact they have on organic search results has changed considerably in recent years. For small business owners, especially those that operate at a local level, your online business listings are one of your best assets in the digital marketing space, and Google My Business (GMB) listings are essential tools for optimizing your business for local SEO. GMB listings allow businesses to have a defined geographic service area that can help you rank for “near me” searches organically in your target market. Google My Business listings also provide users with basic information such as hours of operation, directions to your location, and a link to your website; which allows your customers to easily access basic information about your business. This also makes this information more accessible to virtual assistants who are searching for results via voice search. 

GMB listings are also a channel through which businesses can collect reviews. This is an essential component of local SEO, and directly impacts the listing’s appearance in organic search results. Google ranks GMB listings in search results based on three criteria: Relevance, Distance, and Prominence. Relevance refers to how well a listing matches a user’s search criteria, distance is a user’s physical proximity to your storefront, and prominence refers to your business’s reputation – including your review count and score. Recent changes to Google’s algorithm have caused a higher weight to be placed on a listing’s prominence, which means that a business with a higher rating or more reviews can now appear first in the search results over other businesses that might be physically closer to the user.

Mobile-First Websites

For many small businesses, your website is the end-all-be-all of digital marketing. Other paid search or organic search optimizations cannot produce a meaningful return on your investments unless your website is conversion-friendly and looks great on all devices. Mobile-first website design is the idea that your primary focus is designing your site first on small screens to deliver the best experiences to mobile users. If like many other businesses most of your website traffic is coming from mobile devices, it is essential that your website is not only responsive, but specifically tailored to mobile users through touchscreen-friendly navigation and fewer text-heavy pages. 

Starting in March 2021, Google will also be switching to mobile-first indexing, which means that desktop-only sites run the risk of being completely dropped from the Google index. After the switch, Google will only be collecting information for search results from the mobile version of websites. This means that ensuring that users on your website have a consistent experience between desktop and mobile devices is of the utmost importance. Content, photos, and videos should be consistently displayed on both versions, and be fully optimized for small screens.