Inbound marketing emphasizes the use of substantial content to induce relevant interactions and draw prospects to a business. When executed correctly, this marketing strategy can generate qualified leads and deliver high marketing returns-on-investments (ROI) in the long term. However, these benefits can be hard to come by, especially if you’re not up to date with the latest inbound marketing trends.
In this post, we’ll reveal all the hottest marketing trends you need to keep an eye on in 2021. We’ll show you how marketers are cutting through the clutter to build trust and credibility for their businesses. Understanding these trends will help you employ a more targeted marketing approach and draw prospects into your business more cost-effectively, especially at this time when the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered customer behavior and marketing approaches.
Inbound marketing encompasses multiple strategies, including SEO, content marketing, lead management, social media marketing, email marketing, and pay-per-click marketing. According to 75% of marketers, these inbound marketing strategies are effective and can deliver a high rate of return (HubSpot, 2018).
What’s intriguing is that, with inbound marketing, you don’t interrupt or persuade consumers at random. Instead, inbound marketing takes on a more targeted approach, allowing you to connect with people who are looking for your product. Generally, it stresses the creation of relevant, valuable, and helpful content that matches the needs of prospects. Inbound marketing aims to provide value to consumers. This way, prospects and existing customers are drawn towards a business when their needs emerge.
That said, inbound marketing delivers leads that are 61% less expensive than outbound leads. Also, businesses that use inbound marketing save at least $14 for every newly-acquired lead (Invesp). Most importantly, according to 53% of marketers, inbound marketing delivers higher ROI. In contrast, only 16% of marketers believe outbound marketing delivers a higher ROI (HubSpot, 2018).
Source: HubSpot (2018)Designed by
The cost-effectiveness of inbound marketing and the other benefits that it delivers makes it perfect for today’s business. However, with the fast-paced consumer behavior shift, it’s becoming harder to get the most out of inbound marketing techniques. If you want to get the best out of your marketing efforts, it’s time you changed your process with the following inbound marketing trends in mind.
Micro influencing is one of the inbound marketing trends that will continue into 2021. As you know, influencers are people who have built a commendable social following by producing engaging, quality content. The influencers can be YouTube celebrities, Facebook influencers, or Instagram stars.
Generally, influencers are relatable, and followers trust them. As a result, the opinions they convey are respected and can easily influence the behaviors of a target audience. A study revealed that 82% of consumers take into consideration the recommendations of a micro-influencer that they follow (AdWeek). This is the trait most brands are interested in. By leveraging the influencer’s position, inbound marketers build brand awareness, connect with customers, and promote content.
While working with A-listers is every marketer’s dream, brands are now treading this scope with caution. In a bid to make influencer marketing part of their digital marketing mix, businesses are currently exploring the possibilities of working with micro-influencers.
Take the partnership between Coca-Cola and travel and food influencer Miette Dierckx, for example. The heritage soda brand wanted to build reach and increase consumer engagement in Belgium. Working with Miette and other micro-influencers in the country enabled Coca-Cola to get in touch with the target audience in the most personable way. The campaign exuded authenticity since the ad was in line with Miette’s own posts, thus delivering a strong appeal to the audience.
However, working with micro-influencers comes with its set of problems like extra management work, time, and resources. This is certainly the case when running multiple campaigns concurrently. But, with the lower cost and higher ROI, we’ll see more and more businesses use micro influencing in 2021 to propel their inbound marketing efforts. Offering an ROI of up to $18 for every dollar spent, influencer marketing should definitely be included in your inbound marketing strategy (Influencer Marketing, 2021).
Gone are the days when consumers were ready to stick around your website and read a blog to the last word. Today, there are millions of websites competing in one niche. As such, there is an overabundance of information, and it’s narrowing the collective attention spans of readers.
Besides, consumers nowadays thirst for control and interaction, which are hard to come by with passive content. The ineffectiveness of passive content has tipped the odds in favor of interactive content. Interactive content like VR content, charts, engaging maps, and graphics make the audience part of the activity, rather than making them feel targeted. It allows them to make choices, explore scenarios, respond to comments, and gain insights.
Ultimately, it raises the engagement level and increases conversion rates. In fact, according to one report, interactive content generates two times more conversions than passive content, and that it converts around 70% of the time (Demand Metric, 2014). Furthermore, 77% of marketers who use interactive content agree that this type of content has reusable value and results in multiple exposures and repeat visits (Content Marketing Institute, 2017). With evolving technologies and consumer demands, marketers are finding creative ways to deliver interactive content.
The VenturePact calculator is a quintessential example of how brands can add interactive aspects to help consumers explore scenarios. The firm partnered with Outgrow to add a calculator that enabled its target consumers to estimate the cost of building an app. VenturePact knew that the cost was the biggest concern for its consumers. Therefore, adding the calculator was a well-orchestrated move aimed at quelling this concern. Within two weeks of introducing the calculator, VenturePact recorded a 15% growth in traffic and a 28% increase in conversion rate.
As the going gets tough, we’ll continue to see interactive content/aspects spring up in even more creative ways.
SEO is constantly evolving. Yet, in spite of all these changes, it’s still a requisite marketing strategy for digital marketers. SEO impacts inbound marketing, and as a marketer, you need to stay on the edge of the latest development in this arena. One such development is the voice search trend. Voice search was one of the hottest inbound marketing trends from 2018 to 2020.
The growth of voice search is partly attributed to the advent of intelligent voice assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. Initially, users had doubts about the accuracy of the voice-assisted devices. However, developers have continued to perfect these devices, and today they have a word accuracy of more than 90%.
As such, it’s hardly surprising that in 2019, around one-third of the US population used voice search features (eMarketer, 2019). Moreover, a recent survey revealed that 115.2 million US consumers leveraged voice-activated devices at least once every month (eMarketer, 2020). Meaning, while text-based search still remains popular, many have started using voice-assisted searches for their queries.
This growing usage of voice-enabled devices and changing user preference point to a burgeoning future of voice search. Businesses are adopting the necessary changes to keep up with voice search changes and drive more traffic. Some of the notable changes include adding a voice search snippet to blog posts and writing content that is direct and conversational. Of course, this entails adjustments on how you conduct lead management to make sure you capture voice-search inbound leads.
As you know, social media has faced a slew of era-defining issues with privacy and integrity. But, 2018 marked the boiling point when the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out. From that point on, users started to question the value that social networks provide, and many were skeptical about sharing information online.
Since then, a lot has changed about how users connect and share content online. For example, Facebook introduced a new algorithm in 2018 in a bid to restore its reputation, which was, at the time, going south (Brandwatch, 2019). In addition, Instagram stories feature has been revamped, and one-to-one messaging has exploded. Most importantly, new social channels like the ad-free WT Social have emerged, taking the traditional social behemoths, head-on (The Next Web, 2019).
It is also good to note that 72% of people now prefer watching videos over reading to learn about products and services (HubSpot, 2018). In response to this, 93% of marketers have already started prioritizing video content creation (renderforest, 2020). This raft of intimate new formats and strategies swung the pendulum back to a real, authentic, and personal approach to sharing content on social media.
For marketers, this means that the only way to compete now is to devise more meaningful methods for customer engagement and lead generation. Emphasis is no longer pinned on maximizing reach. Instead, the focus has shifted towards creating quality content and facilitating transparent engagement. Marketers are more interested in nudging the behaviors that deliver a tangible impact on increased ROI and brand value.
For example, in a bid to connect with millennials, GAP, an American apparel retailer, blended music, pop culture, and fashion in one visually striking, Instagram ad. The ad imparted straightforward messaging via attention-grabbing “Logo Remix” that was easy for the young generation to relate with. After 19 days, the campaign recorded a 73% higher click through rate than GAP’s previous Instagram ads (AdEspresso, 2019).
Every brand strives to be number one on the first Google SERPs. Right? But, it seems there is position zero. Yes, Google’s Featured Snippet is the new number one on SERPs (Google, 2021). The featured snippet was introduced in early 2014, so it is not necessarily new. However, in the last couple of years, the featured snippet has gained prominence with the changing Google algorithm.
Today, appearing in the featured snippet is every brand’s dream. As we mentioned earlier, Google is trying to make itself as helpful as it can to its users. The featured snippet resonates with Google’s desire to deliver instant and accurate results.
What the featured snippet does is help users find answers without having to leave the first SERP. For example, when a visitor searches “what is best help desk software” they quickly get the answer even before they open the websites on the first SERP.
The featured snippet is the first thing most users see when they search for a word or phrase on Google. Because of this, there is a high possibility that the users will visit the websites mentioned on the featured snippet. This means if your web page appears in the featured snippet, you will get commendable organic traffic to your website.
What’s even more interesting about featured snippets is that your web page doesn’t necessarily have to be the top-ranking page for a particular search query for Google to feature the snippet. A study by Ahrefs found that a featured snippet gets ~8.6% of clicks while the page right below it (the regular #1 ranking page) gets ~19.6%. If the featured snippet was not there in the first place, the #1 ranking page would have gotten all the clicks. In a way, the page with a good snippet that answers the user’s question enjoys a good number of clicks even if it is not originally the top-ranking page (Ahrefs, 2021).
This tells the whole story of why marketers are in a rush to optimize their content for the featured snippets. The importance of the featured snippet will grow as the days go by. Don’t be surprised if the optimization for the featured snippet trend persists for years to come.
The content marketing landscape has changed a lot over the last couple of years. From the way the content is created, served, and consumed, nearly every aspect has had a facelift. Besides, the boundaries on how, where, and when consumers can interact with content have moved.
While some forms of content have taken backstage roles, others have leaped to the fore. Take videos, for example. Video has become so prevalent that consumers expect it from all businesses, big and small. Compared to other forms of content, video is far more engaging. It educates and informs consumers while promoting products and services in a way that’s relevant, valuable, and flexible.
The video ticks all the boxes of a cutting-edge form of content. Besides delivering what the consumers want, when, and how they want it, video delivers numerous benefits too. For example, adding videos on landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80% (WordStream, 2020). Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, video content increased across social media platforms, peaking in April 2020 on Facebook at 15.8% and Instagram at 14.2%. Notably, Instagram videos generate 21.2% more interactions compared to images (Socialbakers, 2020). This is why it’s no surprise that nine out of 10 marketers felt that videos have become important for brand awareness especially during the pandemic (HubSpot, 2021).
The benefits of video marketing have caught the attention of many marketers. Also, with video content set to account for the lion’s share of all web traffic, we’ll see the video marketing trend accelerate in 2021. We expect brands to invest more in live streaming, podcast, and webinars. What’s more, new types of video live VR video and 360-degree videos will become a familiar sight in 2021.
Source: WyzowlDesigned by
Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming an essential part of nearly all industries, including marketing. Primarily, AI has had a great impact on inbound marketing, reinventing the very gears that make it tick.
Remember, the real essence of inbound marketing is to deliver content via a blend of marketing channels — SEO, content marketing, and social media — to grab consumer attention. However, with the vast amount of content, you would be at risk of overwhelming your audience. This is where AI comes into play.
Artificial intelligence enhances your content marketing efforts and helps you deliver personalized user experiences. Simply put, the proprietary technology empowers you to give your audience everything they need and nothing they don’t. AI helps you understand your audience better by analyzing consumer data. As a result, you can deliver the right content to the right consumers, and at the right time to increase reach and drive quality traffic.
Over the years, we have seen the advent of AI solutions geared towards simplifying inbound marketing. Take the AI-powered content recommendation widgets, for example. The widgets suggest additional relevant content for website visitors to explore. They personalize the content options based on the reader’s actions and preferences. This way, every website visitor gets a personalized experience, thus, increasing engagement and, ultimately, conversion. Furthermore, as voice search will be used in inbound marketing more, AI will naturally play a vital role in ensuring the accuracy of query and results processing (Marketing Insider Group, 2019). Econsultancy discussed in detail some examples of how artificial intelligence is impacting digital marketing (Econsultancy, 2019).
Already, companies like One North have invented an AI-powered solution, Relevance Engine (One North, 2019). The software is designed to empower professional service brands to deliver meaningful user experiences and increase engagement. Around 40% of enterprises in the US, EU, and China have also been using pre-built AI programs (IBM, 2020). We expect to see more and more companies turn to AI to enhance their inbound marketing efforts in 2021.
Source: Adobe Target 2018 Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Personalization Survey
When consumers first land on your website, they are searching for information to make the buying decision. Chances are, the consumer visited many sites before, and you have just a few seconds to make an impression. In most cases, the content on your website is not enough to drive the visitors down the funnel.
Why you may ask? Well, as a consumer scans through the product description, they will start coming up with real-time questions. If no one is around to provide instant answers, the potential customer will walk away. To prevent this from happening, brands are adding AI-powered chatbots to their websites. This comes after the realization that 83% of online shoppers want instant help (usually in five minutes) to complete a purchase (Econsultancy, 2013). Chatbots can help you meet this demand. In fact, 55% of users say they enjoy the quick responses they get from a chatbot (Drift, 2018).
Chatbots are designed to hold live chat and talk with prospects and customers. They hold formal conversations with the prospects, providing quick answers to real-time queries to keep visitors hooked. Not just that, chatbots can be programmed to route the customer questions to a human agent. Ultimately, chatbots reduce customer wait time and help deliver 24/7 customer services more cost-effectively.
Besides, chatbots help brands to collect vital data that can be analyzed to power more targeted marketing campaigns.
With the latest development in AI and mobile technology, consumers are getting accustomed to chatbots. As a result, more and more businesses are using them on their websites. For instance, about two-thirds of the world’s leading financial service firms have implemented the use of chatbots for their apps after the COVID-19 pandemic hit (Forrester, 2020). That said, it is something you should also consider adding to your arsenal of marketing tools.
As of 2020, there are 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world (Statista, 2020) and more than 50% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices (StatCounter, 2021). Mobile has become part of the consumer’s daily life, especially the younger ones. Individuals are consuming more content on their mobile devices than on desktop computers. The paradigm shift is shaping what promises to be an exciting future for inbound marketers.
The best thing about mobile marketing is that it has a huge viral potential and delivers instantaneous results. No one wants to miss out on the benefits of mobile marketing. Because of this, content and website optimization for mobile devices has taken precedence in brands’ marketing strategies. In 2021 and beyond, we expect to see an even more spirited rush of marketers optimizing their content to work seamlessly on mobile devices.
Websites will become more mobile-friendly, as marketers try to create an engaging and consistent user experience. For example, marketers will optimize their website to ensure it’s easy to navigate on mobile devices and apps will become easy to use. Moreover, load times will significantly decrease to prevent web users from abandoning web pages.
Google updates its algorithm a lot of times in a year. In 2018, it rolled out more than 3,000 “improvements” and the year prior, there were more than 2,000 “changes” (Moz, 2019). Google has constantly been tweaking its algorithm in response to the changing consumer behavior to enhance the user experience. The first real shakeup to the Google algorithm came in 2013 with the Hummingbird update. Many SEO experts believe that this change spelled the end of keyword dominance and elevated content clusters as a vital ranking factor.
Since 2013, marketers and SEO experts have been propagating new content clustering ideas. The first fruitful topic cluster experiment was carried out by HubSpot in 2016. HubSpot found that the higher the number of internal links, the higher the placement in SERPs. The findings of this experiment opened a new SEO horizon, and from this point on, the content cluster trend was set in motion. In 2018, the trend exploded. Then, in 2019, there was a mad rush to reorganize web content and adhere to the content cluster rules.
Here is how the content clustering works:
Let’s say you have “software for small business” as your pillar post. Then, you create variously related but narrowly-targeted pages and interlink them to the pillar post. For example, you can have subtopics (clusters) such as collaboration software, communication software, accounting software, and more. When the content is created in strict conformity with other SEO practices, Google presumes you to be an authority in the field. As such, for every “software for small business” search on Google, you’ll have higher chances of being found on top of SERPs. This is because Google sees you as being more helpful than websites that feature no topic clusters.
We don’t have the crystal ball to foretell the future, but 2021 might be the year for this trend to see its zenith.
Consumers are now enlightened and can easily see the sales speak in your piece of content. The worst thing is, today’s consumers won’t hesitate to shove aside content that drops charm offensive, to entice them to buy. So, what do consumers want? Today’s consumers crave authenticity and are interested in content that’s engaging, personable, and conversational.
Authenticity, coupled with a touch of user experience, is the new way for inbound marketers. This means producing high-quality videos, social media posts, images, blog posts, and podcasts. Besides, your content will have to address your audience persona in the most personable, interesting, and engaging way. Above all, every aspect of your business from culture, marketing, and communication has to ooze authenticity and transparency.
For example, to boost trust and loyalty, marketers nowadays are sending emails that bear the customer’s first name. Besides, the use of intelligent chatbots that recall the customer’s last visit is becoming the new norm. Even better, marketers are using any of the best tools for social media management to monitor all customer interactions. This way, they can deliver personalized responses that address the customer’s pain points.
The North Face Climb Instagram account is the perfect example of how brands can be authentic and empathetic. In one of its videos, the brand intimates the importance of not forgetting where you come from. The brand urges followers to draw inspiration from their history with a message that resonates with its brand story. This way, North Face provides a relatable and authentic message that nudges the viewer’s interest in what the brand cares about.
Moreover, it’s also high time brands leveraged user-generated content (UGC) more. It has been found that consumers are 2.4 times more likely to consider UGC as more genuine and sincere than brand-created content. As a result, 79% of customers believe that UGC greatly impacts their buying decisions (Stackla, 2019).
We have highlighted the latest trends to help you plan and execute your inbound marketing strategies. What you ought to know is that change is the only constant in this niche, and the disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic proves this. Simply put, the inbound marketing industry is steadily evolving as marketers aim to keep pace with changing consumer behavior.
As such, you’ll need to stay abreast of these marketing trends to boost your marketing ROI and overall business growth. To keep your edge against the competition, train your sight on emerging technologies like AI and AI-powered chatbots. In addition, learn and implement the latest SEO strategies, including voice search optimization, content clustering, featured snippet optimization, and video marketing.
Most importantly, create authentic, interactive content that your real-life customers can’t live without reading. You should also look into partnering with micro-influencers and adopting the latest social media best practices. This way, you can keep your strategies up-to-date.
In addition, you can check out our compilation of crucial inbound marketing statistics to get more insights into the shifts in the industry.
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