The last few years provided some significant shifts in digital marketing that impacted every marketer and site.
Mobile-first indexing officially paved the way for a new way of thinking, while the need for website speed and voice search compatibility echoed an increasing need to ensure a streamlined experience for consumers across the entire customer journey.
BERT improved Google’s ability to map intent to content or shifted from “strings to things.”
Now speed and user experience are the key area of focus with the Core Web Vitals update.
And of course in 2020, the Covid pandemic accelerated digital transformation and made getting ahead of all of these trends even more important.
What does accelerated digital transformation mean for businesses? It means digital will contribute a larger share of your business and should get increased focus, resources, and investment–digital is more important. Do you have a digital roadmap to describe where you are going?
What should be on your roadmap?
First answer these questions:
- How long since the last site redesign?
- When is the right time for the next site redesign?
- Do you have a current customer journey map?
- Do you know the conversion rate of your site?
- How are the channels performing?
- How engaged are your users?
- How much budget do you expect for next year?
- What are your retention goals?
- What are your acquisition goals?
- Do you have a content calendar?
If you need to do a site redesign, recognize that will absorb much of the marketing resources for about 1 quarter and plan accordingly.
Next, map out the primary digital channels and their contributions last year:
- Paid Search
- Paid Display
- Video and YouTube
- Paid Social
- Referral and PR
- Emerging channels, like TikTok and Pinterest
Adding channels to your roadmap will increase your reach. Optimizing the channels correctly will increase your traffic and ROI.
Next make a rough content calendar. Start with major product launches. Next add known events and trade shows. Then add 1-2 topics per quarter. That will give you about 12-15 major topics to cover.
Consider the Primary Trends
These trends mean some critical changes in consumer behavior that we need to plan and prepare for as marketers in 2021:
- Customer experience
- Outstanding UX and UI
- Smaller screens and screen-less devices that use voice input make it harder for marketers to deliver their message
- Consumers have shifted to asking questions instead typing keyword searches
2021 will continue these trends and will require digital marketers to evolve their thinking about personalizing experiences for consumers not just at the end-point but across the entire journey on all channels with a laser-sharp focus on customer goals and business outcome.
You can download an editable sample of a digital roadmap you can use for your annual plan.
Digital Roadmap Framework: The RACE Model
For digital marketers to successfully navigate this new world, it helps to use a framework or funnel to understand the customer journey.
Below is the RACE framework which breaks the journey into 4 main stages of digital strategies, aligned with business goals and outcomes:
Build and maintain strong online awareness for your brand by tapping into customer search intent. This includes capturing all “dream” moments and exploring consumer micro moments.
Encourage digital interactions with prospects and customers. As prospects enter the planning moments, align all consideration and engagement strategies with consumer micro moment planning and decisions.
Increase conversion rates through a multichannel approach to convert customers. As prospects move from planning into the purchase stage, leverage strategies and tactics needed to maximize conversions.
Improve customer loyalty and advocacy using digital customer communications. During this stage include tactics aligned towards improving the post-purchase experience.
With the RACE framework in mind, here are the top 10 “must-haves” across all stages of the customer journey. These must be aligned across all four channels: Paid, Owned (organic), Earned, and Experience. Prioritize the three main pillars of digital marketing in 2020 (Search Experience, Customer Experience, and User Experience).
1. Your content strategy should focus on solving customer problems while prioritizing consumer intent
As consumers shop they are always eager to get some help. Consumers will naturally gravitate towards brands that provide them helpful and relevant information – easily. This means that your content strategy needs to be optical and should provide strong context.
Consider ways to help overwhelmed shoppers by giving them content that lets them find the information they need quickly and easily. Answer questions that they might have before making a purchase.
In 2021, your content strategy should include a strong layer of Informational, transactional and navigational content in different formats across different channels. “How-to” information, simple instructional videos, infographics, pin trust-boards, Snapchat filters and stories on Instagram should be part of your digital content strategy.
Establish and grow your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness – better known as E-A-T in Google’s search quality rating guidelines.
Savvy digital marketers should focus on audiences and customizing ad messages, content, strategies and tactics based on where audiences are in the purchase funnel and customer journey.
2. Omnichannel means optimizing multiple channels across various stages of the customer journey & personalizing experiences based on audiences and device types.
Digital Marketing is about driving traffic and engagement wherever the consumer is searching. Consumers use multiple devices and go through at many touch points and channels before they make a purchase decision. This means the consumer path-to-purchase needs to be carefully mapped and optimized. All channels including paid, earned, owned and experience need to work together and should prioritize a phenomenal search experience, lightning-fast user experience and amazing customer experiences.
When thinking about your omnichannel customer journey, separate your strategies into three distinct groups, focusing on creating phenomenal experiences for consumers: 1) Leverage structured data, voice search and synergies between paid and organic searches to create search experiences that increase your reach. 2) Create immersive and engaging customer experiences by deploying content personalization, FAQs, optimized navigation and technologies like AMP. 3) Finally, engage with customers in more meaningful ways through online review responding, surveys and by empowering locations to do likewise at the local level.
3. Enhance search experience by prioritizing consistent information enhanced using schemas and distributed across all channels
Entity search makes it easy to be found on any device, any time by providing consistent, reliable information about your business, product or service.
To benefit from entity search, your business needs to ensure that critical information about the business is tagged with structured markups (tags that are read by all search engines).
To get the most value from entity search, however, businesses must first ensure that information about them is consistent across all channels and that this information is powering entity search.
The most critical step to building, maintaining and enhancing results in entity search include keeping a “single source of truth” – one central store of data that is most critical to the business like FAQs, business address, images, videos etc. – all tagged with schema markups and promoted across crucial entity channels like GMB, UGC profiles, your website, Yelp, social channels an paid campaigns.
As search engines increasingly rely on machine learning algorithms, entity search will be a key step in 2021 towards becoming and maintaining relevance.
4. Focus on mobile-friendly platforms and enhance mobile user experiences
Search engines have a simple goal: provide the best user experience on the specific device the consumer is using – and do so in a timely manner to ensure consumers remain highly engaged.
Mobile queries have continued to increase and have surpassed desktop search and in 2018 Google started transitioning to a “mobile-first” index. This means that as a business you must focus on providing an optimal user experience on mobile devices.
That means a responsive, mobile-first website that leverages AMP and personalization in a fast, easy to find format. When thinking about your user experience, it’s also critical to place content at the center of your messaging model. Content should be consistent regardless of delivery vehicle and channel.
Make life easier on yourself by leveraging content distribution platforms. To enhance user experiences, it will also be critical to create compelling designs across the entire customer journey – whether on your website, social media channels or special offers.
Wrap the user experience in an optimal, secure technology platform that prioritizes speed, crawlability, provides for low bounce rates, allows for rich schema editing and can deliver an optimal mobile-first experience powered by AMP and PWA.
5. Google is the home page of all your home pages – Saturate the SERPs
According to Milestone Research about 49% of mobile queries in Q2 of 2020 resulted in no click – with about 43% of desktop results exhibiting the same behavior. What does this mean to marketers?
Google is actively pursuing a strategy where it provides the “right” answer – on the Google search result screen, moving Google from a pure “search” experience to an “answer” experience.
This means businesses need to do as much as possible to optimize for this new “Google home screen” experience.
To achieve this, focus on your “80/20” rule – optimize and enhance digital relevance for the 20% of content that will yield 80% of your desired result. To achieve this, aim for 100% optimization of your Google My Business (GMB) profile, high authority citations, social and UGC profiles – leading to a solid presence on the Google results page.
While you are at it, don’t forget branded search. What shows up for a “brand + location” or a localized search for your brand is critical. Prioritize optimization of digital channels that you “own” like GMB, the knowledge panel, and select “earned” channels, like Facebook and YouTube, along with UGC channels like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Having consistent, high-quality, rich information across all these channels is critical.
6. Optimize for audiences and devices
SEO is about being present wherever and however people are searching – regardless of the device or channel.
Whether the user is using traditional text search, voice, whether they are searching for apps, a podcast, video – strong brands understand that you need to think far beyond driving users to your website.
The digital marketing mantra for this year needs to be about aligning strategies and tactics across all devices and all channels with a multi-faceted, unified, cohesive message.
7. Continuous experiments on audience, markets, channels, and intents
Channels like Amazon are showing significant gain vs. traditional channels like Google and Bing.
Much of this is a result of changing consumer behavior. Amazon has become such a “must” destination for shopping that many product searches begin on Amazon directly.
Embrace these changes with advertising strategies that leverage new ad formats, cross-channel experiments and make decisions based on full attribution – Videos, RSA, Text Ads with third headline, Facebook ads etc.
8. Adapt your advertising to audience needs and touch points
Advertise based on your audience, needs, desires, touch points – rather than using a one size fit’s all approach. Apply remarketing techniques across all audience types (new and returning) and across all channels (google, bing, Facebook, Amazon, Pinterest and more) to maximize advertising ROI.
9. Social media strategies that are hyperlocal and paid
While many local businesses are extremely busy and active on social media pages and networks, your social media efforts are wasted unless you are marrying paid social with your earned social media presence.
Whether you are active on Facebook groups, Nextdoor, Neighborland, E-Democracy or any other social network, leverage the benefit of boosted social media to improve your results.
10. Optimize for voice search to stay ahead
Contextual relationships between topics and behaviors, supported by structured markup is the key to winning in voice search.
Your content strategies, platform, presence across all channels, skills in voice actions, messaging strategies across channels and how you measure impact all align to help you reap the most impact from voice search.
With the rise of voice search, it is critical to create separate ad campaigns that capture all your informational queries like nearby, what, why and how.
Voice search campaigns will consistently deliver higher ROI than branded paid search.
Putting it all together
As you embark on your 2021 strategies, think about omnichannel approaches based on consumer, market, search trends, and business goals.
Find your sweet spot by identifying touchpoints, recognizing the pain points for your consumers and aligning them with moments of delight. Then work across all channels and all devices to deploy a unified strategy to maximize results.
What is a digital marketing roadmap?
A digital marketing roadmap is usually a one-page document that describes in less than 2 minutes the objectives, tactics, budgets, and timing of marketing programs and campaigns for a 1-year time horizon.
Why do you need a digital marketing roadmap?
Marketing leaders need a roadmap to communicate what work will be done, when it will be done and thereby build buy-in with management and colleagues.
How do you build a digital marketing roadmap?
Follow the steps in the graphic above or download the Milestone Digital Marketing Roadmap template and fill it out with the major components of your marketing plan. Start with objectives, budget, channels, migrations, launches, events, annual theme, integrated campaigns, and headcount.
Who owns the digital marketing roadmap?
The roadmap is owned by the head of marketing, which is usually the CMO or VP of Marketing. They need to figure out the targets and programs and map them out for their org so detailed functional plans can be developed.
How should you track progress on the marketing roadmap?
The roadmap is different from OKRs or MBOs, which should usually be tracked weekly. The marketing roadmap progress should be tracked monthly as the elements are larger and more programmatic milestones.
Marketing roadmap vs. a marketing plan, what is the difference?
Roadmaps are short summaries of longer marketing plans, like an executive overview. Marketing plans go deeper on personas, strategies, competitors, channels, tactics, and communications.
When should you have your marketing roadmap ready?
Fortune favors the prepared, so organized CMOs usually start planning in October for the following year. The roadmap should be ready by the end of November.
If you want to learn more about any of these trends/strategies, and how to leverage them, contact Milestone at [email protected]. or call at (408) 200-2211