14 Effective Digital Marketing Strategies and Trends for 2021 (With Proof)
Recently, I sent out a question to digital marketing experts. It was simple but addressed one of the most important issues that modern digital marketers want a good answer to. Here’s what I wanted to know: “What has been the most impactful tactic you’ve tried in digital marketing to produce results for yourself or others?”
In addition, I asked for these experts to include specific data in their responses so you’d know the exact results of their strategies and could verify their credibility. Prepare to see some specific numbers, charts, graphs, and data on traffic, conversions, conversion rate, sales, and before-and-after results. Let’s see what they had to say about effective online marketing strategies.
1. Spread value in Facebook groups
According to Sonia of Sonia McSweeney Media, there’s a lot of value in Facebook groups. I’ll let her do the talking:
I’d say that with clients and with my own business, I’ve gotten a lot of leads off of social media—not advertising but joining related groups. It’s better with smaller groups, like Westchester NY Small Business Babes—something like that. There, you can try to see if someone is looking for you AND post your business info. It’s MUCH better to join in on conversations so people get used to seeing your name and trust you.
But it’s really in my own business that I find social media a tremendous tool for generating leads. I live in Westchester, NY, about 30 minutes north of New York City. I found that there are tons of Facebook groups that are open to people in my region, as well as groups that are not local. I’m a member of community groups (like “moms” groups) where I can’t directly sell my services but can reply when someone is asking for website development or SEO.
Then, there are groups such as community sales channels (even “flea market sites”) in towns that are around a 25-mile radius where I can go right ahead and promote myself/my business. THEN there are groups where I’ve been granted membership from national Facebook groups as well as the UK itselfsuch as women business owners and so on. I’ve connected with these groups through my own research. These are the groups where it really pays off to get into conversations and provide recommendations for free just so people get used to seeing my name. I’ve gotten numerous leads from this approach alone.
I’ve been in the digital marketing space since 1994—converting tons of medical files into HTML, back in the days of AOL! I currently work full time as a marketing manager for a wood manufacturing company doing SEO and social media marketing as well as Google Ads (I’m a certified Google Ads Partner).
Sonia McSweeney Media
More support for Facebook groups
Zach Hendrix, co-founder of GreenPal (aka the Uber of Lawn Care), also agrees that Facebook groups is where it’s at. Here’s what he has to say:
Facebook GROUPS. Especially local Facebook groups.
No matter your niche or vertical, there’s a FB group that you can participate in to contribute to the discussion, answer questions, and develop a presence to refer people to your business, often when they’re looking for exactly what you offer.
Facebook just also launched a dedicated mobile app to support its groups’ communities. So now, it’s easier than ever to manage the groups that you participate in, monitor the conversations, and participate while on the go.
We’ve found this tactic to be very effective for our marketplace. We monitor local groups and neighborhood groups, and when anyone is asking for a recommendation on a lawn care service, we kindly let them know about the GreenPal community. This tactic can work for almost any business in any niche.
Every day, we set a goal to find and answer 100 inquiries about local lawn care services needed in Facebook groups. We track the traffic from answering those questions in the groups and find that, on average, 38% of the people we respond to in the groups click the link to sign up for our services. Of those who click through, 48% sign up for services and put a credit card on file to purchase.
So it’s a good way that we get 15 to 20 new customers a day on average without having to invest any money.
2. Make it freemium
Iejaz Uddin, founder and CEO of Dayjob.com—a website that has attracted over 42 million unique visitors—has obtained his traffic all without spending a penny on online advertising. He’s keen to help other small business by showing them how he did it. Check out his advice:
Between 2014 and 2017, dayjob.com (a site that specialises in CV, resume, and cover letter templates) received over:
- 42 million users
- 135 million page views
(All figures supplied by Google Analytics.)
Internet advertising is overrated. At a time when businesses routinely spend £1000s a month on digital marketing, we’ve managed to attract a considerable amount of relevant Internet traffic for nothing. I think online paid campaigns are like a black hole. Instead, I believe online businesses would be better off learning from what I’ve done.
How I did it—the freemium business model
My philosophy is, “Be good, and they will come.” One word sums up a highly visited site: useful.
If a site can give its user exactly what they’re looking for—and better yet, for free—then it’s certain to attract eyeballs. To achieve this user experience, a site must not be focused on money but on being a public service to its visitors. It must be prepared to use a freemium business model where it gives away services. Additionally, it helps if the site is easy to use, avoids advertisement pollution, and has quality content. If it can do this, then happy customers and word of mouth will result in positive SEO, such as quality backlinks. In turn, these lead to the site coming up higher in relevant search results.
Dayjob.com is living proof that the above formula works. The secret to its success comes from an increasingly competitive job market that has forced many job seekers to become more adventurous and innovative when designing their CVs. In response, Dayjob has created thousands of unusual CV, resume, and cover letter formats that are visually appealing in a way that helps applicants stand out and get noticed. In line with its philosophy, the company gives its users free access to all of its templates.
One of the most impactful digital marketing tactics we use is progressive profiling. The conversation around form optimization typically focuses on messaging and number of fields, with the focus being on making it easy enough to convert but not so easy that quality is poor. Rather than trying to find a specific balance, we use progressive profiling to create low barriers to entry for our visitors so they can access information easily. We then build up that customer profile over time by asking for more information on each visit as they access premium content or reach out to our sales team.
Progressive profiling helps to increase our conversion rate, as our visitors have more trust in us when they feel they can access the information they need while providing only small amounts of information at any given time.
Founder and CEO
3. Write long-form blog content
According to Pat Ahern of Junto, the key to success is long-form content:
I run an agency with 27 teammates that has helped 100+ businesses to drive more online sales through digital marketing. Here’s a tactic that has proven to be the most effective time and time again.
Short answer: Write long-form blog content based off of a data-informed content strategy. Our team has repeatedly seen that the most effective way to drive sales through digital marketing is to write the most extensive resource on the internet about topics that currently drive ROI for your largest competitors.
This approach helped Choose Wheels to see a 121% increase in organic traffic and a 526% increase in leads (in six months).
So how do we do this?
We plug competitor sites into SEO analysis tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush to identify each competitor’s top-performing content. From there, we analyze each piece of content to understand what we would need to do to create a more valuable piece of content for our readers.
We look at the length of the article and search for opportunities to elaborate on key concepts. We analyze other top-performing content that relates to this theme and look for themes that the competitor’s article overlooks. We analyze the readability of the competitor’s article. We take all of these insights to decide which content topics we should write about first.
4. Optimize YouTube SEO
According to marketing guru Vicky Wu, YouTube SEO makes all the difference:
One of the tactics that I’ve seen work great for many clients is optimizing their YouTube channel and videos for search engines. This tactic is one a lot of businesses still aren’t taking advantage of even when they’re doing video marketing on YouTube, so it’s still a somewhat untapped area where a business can potentially stand out easier online.
YouTube is the second largest search engine, only after Google (which owns the video platform). YouTube receives more than 1.5 billion logged in users per month and feeds over 1 billion hours of video each day. With 3 billion searches per month, YouTube’s search volume is larger than those of Bing, Yahoo, AOL, and Ask.com combined.
Google itself also regularly includes video results at the top of its search results, so the combination of that prominence and the fact that not everyone is optimizing their videos for SEO makes this a solid online digital strategy.
We did a highly controlled study for one client, optimizing one video to drive calls for appointments. This client was able to document a 1900% increase in the number of calls during the time period the video was initially uploaded, optimized, and marketed (which did not include paid advertising). While not all companies will achieve that same result, we have seen a boost for all of our clients whose video channels we’ve strategically optimized.
The nice thing is that after you learn what pieces of the strategy make it effective, it’s relatively simple to implement and support.
Marketing Guru with 30 years of experience marketing for world-class organizations, turning golden nuggets of marketing wisdom into effective, efficient, easy-to-implement, and affordable effective digital marketing strategies for businesses
5. Gamification funnels
According to Devin Beverage, founder of DevBev, gamification has exploded his conversion results. Here’s what he has to say:
The most impactful digital marketing tactic I’ve found is using gamification funnels. My use case was particular to Facebook and Instagram ads, but gamification funnels are useful anywhere. Gamification funnels are different from sales funnels in that they make your marketing interactive in a way that is enticing to the end user.
The logical outcome of gamifying your marketing is a higher CTR, engagement, and time on site and page. Simply incorporating an element that gives users enough reason to share and tag friends gives your campaigns the potential to go viral.
I recommend incorporating a chatbot or other automation if possible because it makes it easier to manage a large volume of inquiries if you do get to that point. You can offer a desirable “prize” of some kind, ideally a heavily discounted or free product or service. Alternatively, you can offer a quiz that reveals something to the user—like how many calories to eat per day (personal trainer), what their dosha is (ayurvedic medicine), or what type of sleeper they are (mattress sales—psst, Casper: still hoping to get you as a client).
My personal use case is a quiz designed to capture real estate leads. It’s working so well for one of our clients right now that I can’t share specifics (contractually), but our CTRs have risen as high as 74%, and we’re actively gaining email subscribers for a marketing campaign who want more content like the quiz. Shares are up from 0 to an average of a few per post.
Before we gamified our funnel, we were running a standard “Get your free home value report” offer. We’re in a competitive market, and our CTR was poor, hovering around 1.29% at $2.50 per click. Conversions were OK but also disappointing—about 11.7% at their peak, which is low for a free offer (the average is 20% for lead generation). At $32.17, CPM (cost per thousand impressions) was higher than we’d have liked it to be.
We were also spending more than enough money at about $20/day, according to Facebook. As for social proof, we got almost no engagement on these types of ads (comments and post reactions) and only one share the entire campaign.
With the overhaul, we put a real-estate-related quiz in place. (I’d love to share what the exact quiz is, but we promised our clients a high level of privacy and can’t reveal this publicly.) This quiz prompted users to share with their friends and tag friends according to certain results. To our surprise, we somehow even got some of our competition sharing these ads themselves, an outcome that we hadn’t considered to be realistic at the onset.
Our CTR shot up to 12.7%, conversions rose to 48.1%, and one in five users who took the quiz shared it.
The quiz concluded with questions about making a move in the future. Of respondents that indicated they’d consider moving within three months, 33% have become clients, compared to 5%, with far fewer conversions to start with.
Gamify it. You won’t regret it.
6. Use HARO
Casey is a lead content writer at VirtualPBX (a business phone system) and says he has a method for getting tons of free reach on publications with reasonably little investment. Check it out:
One of the most successful avenues I’ve found in recent months is the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) program.
The program tries to pair reporters with sources of information. I receive daily emails with queries from reporters that match my company’s niches (marketing, tech). I can easily scan the entries and respond to any queries I’m qualified to address. This service often leads to interactions with reporters and the companies they work for.
In 13 query responses in the past four months, publications have featured me four times. That’s about a 30% success rate. In addition, I have been able to continue my relationship with these individuals and companies by working together on guest blog posts and information shares. The four features I mentioned led to two guest posts on my company’s blog and a mutual share of links on various social media outlets.
I hope to continue my relationship with these writers and their companies. At the very least, our exchanges of information have been helpful in the dissemination of knowledge about the field of marketing. At most, we’ve developed some business-related interactions that wouldn’t have happened without HARO as a starting point.
In total, we’ve seen eight clicks back to our home page from links provided within others’ blog posts and articles. These results don’t include social media exposure, which, across four accounts, reaches potentially 90,000 followers.
Lead Content Writer
7. Unload it ALL on video advertising
Matthew Ross is co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard, one of the leading sleep and mattress review websites and YouTube channels. He unloaded all his budget on one digital media marketing strategy, and it sure paid off:
My company employs 12 individuals in addition to my business partner and exceeded $2.5 million in revenue last year. Your query caught my eye because we don’t spend any money on mainstream digital advertising anymore. Instead, we focus all of our marketing resources on video. That’s right; we don’t pay a dime for sidebar text ads, CPC campaigns, or Instagram ads. Instead, we focus our efforts on YouTube advertising because we feel video is much more personal and engaging. In our A/B testing, we found that video ads are about 30% more effective than digital text or picture ads in terms of engagement.
That’s the most important metric we look at. We don’t care how many impressions our ads get. We care about how many people our ads motivate to click, like, share, comment, etc. Plus, the trend on the internet is towards video, so we wanted to get out ahead of it. Research estimates that video will make up about 80% of internet traffic by the year 2022.
Since we began focusing all of our efforts on video advertising, we’ve seen a big jump in two important areas. First, our website traffic has increased by over 20%. A big catalyst for the increase is traffic coming from social channels (i.e., our YouTube video ads). In all of our ads, we entice and encourage viewers to visit our website within the first 10 seconds. The increase in traffic has positively impacted our overall revenue. Q1 2019 top-line revenue is up over 30% compared to Q1 2018.
Co-Founder & COO
8. Get a keyword-rich backlink
Adam White has stumbled into an SEO hack that’s gold. This may be one of the best digital marketing strategies in this entire article:
As our software monitors top-ten rankings and looks for patterns, we noticed an interesting trend. Many blog posts could rank in the top 10 of Google with fewer links than their competitors because the majority of their backlinks had the blog post title as the anchor text. Here is an example:
As you can see in the image above, Green Flag Digital ranks right above our website, SEOJet, but has fewer links to its page, less content, and fewer homepage links than SEOJet. But a deeper dive into their links lets you see what they’re doing differently:
When building backlinks to a blog post, it’s important to get some links with the blog post title as your anchor text. Your blog post titles will have key phrases you’re trying to rank for, so you get credit for those. But because the anchor is the full title, it reads more naturally, so it doesn’t get marked by Google as manipulative or spammy.
Once we recognized this pattern, we started doing more blog post title anchors and have seen rankings jump on several of our money pages a day or two after those links went live. The big takeaway is that if you have a page that is stagnant in the rankings, do a couple of blog post title anchors and see if that can’t get the needle to move.
After seeing these results, I decided to test it out on a page that had been sitting at #3 for months on Google for “how much to charge for SEO.” I got one link from a guest post with the blog post title as the anchor—and, literally within two to three days of the post going live, I moved up to #2, and that is where I currently sit.
Founder – SEOJet
9. Publish high-quality guides that don’t exist, and the links will come
Joe Goldstein, SEO and operations director, believes in building content that deserves the quality traffic it attracts:
Publishing and marketing content outside of your lead funnel is one of the best ways to aggressively grow your organic traffic and inbound links.
One of our clients, a water damage restoration company, operates in one of the most cutthroat markets in the country. To help differentiate them, we started researching and publishing informational guides on repairing water damage to consumer electronics, such as drones, hoverboards, and robot vacuums, even though they explicitly do not service these items. Because there are few high-quality guides for many of those topics, our guides quickly ranked, generated an enormous amount of traffic, and earned a few amazing links.
Currently, our best performing guide has earned 33,714 page views and 201 links from 27 referring domains with absolutely zero proactive outreach.
Director of SEO & Operations
10. Push notifications
Jeff Moriarty of Tanzanite Jewelry discovered a feature that’s knocking it out of the park for e-commerce:
I started using this marketing technique with one website about a year ago. It worked so well that I’ve also begun implementing it on other websites and businesses that I manage.
Push notifications—not the ones from phone apps, though. These are advertising messages that show up right in your subscriber’s browser, mobile, tablet, or desktop. It works well because you aren’t fighting against other emails, and they actually have to click through or close it right in their browser, so they will almost always see it.
For a low cost (sometimes less than $49 per month), we are seeing 10x returns or more with many of my clients. One client is spending $199 per month, but doing $15,000 in sales from just push notifications. This feature seems to work the best with companies where multiple orders are normal. It’s available for almost any e-commerce platform, which makes it so easy to test and see if it works for your business.
11. Optimize your SEO backbone
Dave Munson, CEO of Saddleback Leather, mentions something you should set up immediately to get your SEO foundation right:
The number-one most impactful tactic we’ve implemented is to change our meta titles and meta descriptions to match up with what people are searching for. We use exactly the words they are entering into the Google search bar, and then we offer to them what we sell. Our meta title is specifically going after the person who enters “leather wallet” in the search bar. Our title says, “Leather Wallet | Slim Full Grain | Saddleback Leather” rather than “A Really Small and Cool Wallet for the Discerning Gentleman.”
Organic traffic converts 8X better than any ad we could pay for, so why would we do anything else? By primarily changing the meta titles, we increased our organic traffic by 10,900 visits per month, which resulted in 500 more transactions each month.
12. Turn the questions you get into an FAQ
Cristian Rennella, VP of Marketing at oMelhorTrato, uses his customers and their burning questions to create massive traffic:
We have nine years of experience in South America, now with 134 employees and more than 21,500,000 users internationally in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia.
Having tried more than 54 content marketing strategies online, I can assure you that there is ONLY ONE marketing idea that generated the best results at NO cost: Answer the questions of your users AS AN EXPERT!
We receive more than 50 queries per week on different aspects of our service, but the vast majority are general questions, where the answer will help not only that particular user but also hundreds or thousands of others who have the same question.
That is why we answer questions in a special way. We dedicate time and effort to give a perfect answer. Not only do we deliver this response to this user, but we also publish it on our site as if it were a post on our blog.
Then, Google or any other search engine indexes this content, and new potential customers can find our answer. Since the answer is valuable, these new customers see our brand as a resource and begin to see (and eventually buy) our products.
This mechanism of transforming the traditional questions and answers (FAQ) section into a blog where we published all our answers helped us to grow by 54.7% for FREE (yes, AMAZING!). And this is a content marketing tip that you can apply to all business types.
Here’s an example of such a question: O que precisa para fazer um empréstimo no Bradesco?
VP of Marketing & CoFounder
More proof for the FAQ/knowledge base/glossary
Bradley Shaw, an SEO expert, confirms the power of an FAQ:
Recently, I implemented a simple tactic for a client that is on pace to drive over 100,000 organic clicks a month, while also serving their current customer base.
The tactic was simple: We added a knowledge base/glossary of frequently asked client questions. I started by asking the client for the top questions that their customer support teams receive. Next, I compiled this information in a spreadsheet and organized the terms into clusters. Then, I conducted keyword research and prioritized based on the value to our customers and organic traffic potential.
I had quality content created around each topic, like how-to tutorials. The average content had 1,000 words and quality custom images. In three months, we built 70 tutorials and expect to see over 100,000 organic clicks over the next month.
In the photo below, you can see that we obtained a 220% traffic increase:
13. Use effective content marketing to get SEO traffic
Hamna Amjad, Content Marketing Executive at Gigworker, is a super-fan of content marketing strategies. Check out these tips:
Content marketing has been the most effective technique for us in digital marketing. It has been instrumental in growing our organic traffic, bringing quality leads, and increasing our revenue. We use it to improve SEO and create brand awareness. According to Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers, and 86% of B2C marketers think content marketing is a key digital marketing strategy.
Our basic strategy looks like this:
Target keywords > Create content to improve SEO rankings and/or get backlinks > Obtain “free,” organic, and targeted traffic > Get more leads > Get more conversions
By using a keyword research tool like Moz or Ahrefs, we find out what competitors are ranking for and create similar content. We also find keywords that may not have the highest search volume but that your competitors are not targeting. This way, you can rank faster by avoiding competition.
We then create long-form content pieces on those keywords for our blog. According to Neil Patel, data shows that longer posts get more traffic.
We also find people who run blogs in the niche but are not competitors that have decent domain authority, a good Trust Flow to Citation Flow ratio, and good-quality content and design. We offer to write guest posts for them on the topics that are relevant both to our content and to their site. We include a link to our content in the body of the guest post to makes sure that we get a contextual backlink since these types of links are of a higher value than the typical author bio links.
Our strategy has obtained links and mentions from the likes of HR.com, MerlineOne, and Business2Community. We have yet to see a sharp increase in our organic traffic, but within only two months or so, we have earned unique backlinks from over 150 referring domains and continuous improvement in our domain rating and URL rating, as the screenshot below shows:
We have used the same strategy for our partner site Ridester.com to get its traffic from 0 to 253K unique monthly visitors, then from 253K to 650K (within 7 months), and from 650K to 1.5 million unique monthly visitors (within 12 months).
Content Marketing Executive
14. Data science storytelling
Sara Davis, VP of Growth for CanIRank, believes in the power of data-backed stories:
The most impactful tactic we utilize is to provide heavily data-driven content. For instance, our study on Google’s Medic update skyrocketed our traffic. Simultaneously, our studies on “Does longer content rank better?” and “What political view does Google have?” posts are still bringing in heavy traffic to this date. Turning true data into a story has been a massive turning point for our website.
We went from 2,000 regular site visits per month to just shy of 6,000. (See screenshot) We also had a surge in consultations, full-service clients, and DIY users.
Within two months of our original post, we gained 13 new clients and over $20,000 a month in recurring revenue.
VP of Growth
As expected, almost every digital marketing expert who gave their input here had a different answer regarding their most effective online marketing strategies for achieving more traffic and sales. That said, I was surprised by what some of those tactics were. I have tried out a lot of these tactics before reaching out to these people but hadn’t seen the results that some of these people shared. Their answers had a lot of data that showed that these tactics could have a monumental impact.
Perhaps I should stick with a tactic longer before I give up on it. And naturally, it’s expected that certain tactics may only work for specific industries. For example, push notifications on web browsers prove to work wonders for e-commerce businesses according to one answer. But I’ve seen that the number of people who will subscribe to these notifications in some industries is very low, and it may not be worth the cost in user experience.
The truth remains that there are online marketing strategies that work right now. If you’re struggling to move the needle for sales, leads, or traffic, pick one of the tactics mentioned here that you haven’t tried and get started. Which one was your favorite?