A (Re)Introduction to Guest Posting

Garrett French — founder of Citation Labs and all around link building expert — takes you on a comprehensive walkthrough of guest posting on sites supported by sales. Why is this a good strategy? How do your posts benefit these websites? How do you start and what websites do you reach out to? Watch to find out!

21 Smart SEO Tips for 2021

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Video Transcription

Hello, folks. My name is Garrett French, and I’m a link builder. I run Citation Labs. We have 120 employees, and we build lots of links. Today I am here to reintroduce to you the tactic of guest posting.

All right. Very specifically, though, guest posting with a target of publishers — this largest portion here of the publisher pyramid — who are supported by sales, whose main reason of publishing is to sell things.

Introduction

So let’s dig in. We are talking about earned placements. The publishers have to approve this content. There’s an editorial gatekeeper. Again, yes/no? Do we want to publish? Do we not?

Is it up to our standards? We’re talking about real websites with real audiences. We’re talking about flexible format. So you can think beyond an article. You can think into an FAQ, for example, or a glossary or something along those lines. Again, very much we want to emphasize the publishers that we’re talking about here get their revenue from sales.

They’re publishing so that they can get new clients or to sell products or services. We’re not talking about PBNs. We’re not talking about sponsored placements. We’re not talking about any circumstance where you have to pay money in order to get in front of somebody’s audience. Lastly, I want to point out we’re not necessarily talking about op-ed circumstances here.

This isn’t a branded expertise play. This isn’t your chance to show how much you know. Now you’re going to be able to show your expertise, but you’re going to be second fiddle. You’ve got to put the publisher themselves and their interest in sales first. That’s what you’re doing here, and that’s why you’re approaching this group, and again it’s why they publish. That’s the publisher benefit that you’re going to be emphasizing when you approach this group. 

Why guest posts?



Now, why guest posts? Well, guys, there’s an enormous amount of visibility and reach here. Look at the pyramid. Now, this is representative of most industries generally, where we’ve got 95% of the publishers are publishing to get sales, 4% that are mission based and are supported by taxes, tuition, donations, subscriptions, etc.

Then we’ve got the 1% ad supported. There are so many publishers out there trying to sell in your vertical, in your clients’ verticals, in your target vertical if you’re in-house, and there’s a lot of disaggregated reach there. There’s a lot newsletters out there, a lot of social media followings out there, folks, that you could be working to get in front of.

You have a lot more topic and context control when you’re publishing on these types of websites, when you’re seeking publishing on these sites. Again, if you’re looking at the tax, tuition, donation, and subscription supported swath here, the 4%, you can sometimes have topics where you can discuss sales or mention a sales page.

But more frequently you’ve got to really focus on the publisher’s mission, why are they publishing. They’re on a mission, and so they’re supported by something besides sales. Then lastly, of course, if we’re talking about digital PR or any kind of mainstream media focus or PR effort, they want content that’s going to drive page views.

That’s how they’re supported. There’s still some mission, of course, in there. But anyhow, you’re much less able, at that point, to link into your sales pages. So again, what we’re talking about here or one of the benefits here rather links to sales pages, which of course is going to improve the rankings of your sales pages.

How to guest post

Now why is that easier in this context, in the context of helping someone else sell? Well, let’s dig in and talk through the how, and you’ll see also what makes that possible. 

Finding publishers

So primarily we’re talking about finding publishers with whom you have top-of-funnel overlap, where some of your top-of-funnel topics, the pains that your prospective clients have and the pains their prospective clients have are similar, interrelated.

Perhaps we’re talking about audience overlap. Perhaps we’re talking about industry overlap. Even location overlap. There’s some kind of overlap here, and you’re speaking into that place when you’re thinking of topics for a given publisher. Another way to think about it is the members of that market it’s what we think of as a solution stack.

So in the SEO space, we all have our favorite tool stack, the tools everybody uses, Moz for example. Well, if you’re selling into that, if you’re an agency like Citation Labs, it might make sense to work and try to get some visibility on a SaaS tool in the SEO space.

“Unbundling” the stack



Let’s work here a little bit longer though, stick on this one a little bit longer and think about unbundling the stack in different verticals, because this is really at the heart of the process and the approach. Let’s think about you’re a realtor.

So within your stack or your industry and certainly within your location, there are going to be some roofers too, and a handful of these folks are going to have blogs. Not all of them, but a handful will. So you’re going to approach a roofer with a topic such as 10 reasons to fix your roof before you put your home up for sale.

Now, this solves a roofer problem, doesn’t it? It’s reasons to purchase roofing services. Also it gives you an opportunity to talk about your expertise as a realtor and what impact roof condition may have on the sale of a home.

Let’s go into this one here, commercial ovens, let’s say those brick ovens for pizza. We’re looking at somebody in the flour space. Maybe they’ve got some organic flour. Well, you’re going to write them a guide on why you need to use organic flour in your pizza dough for your pizza restaurant, the difference that organic flour can make on the outcome of the quality of the dough, of the crust.

You’re going to speak to temperature impact on organic versus not organic, if there is. There might not be, but let’s just for the sake of this assume there is. Then you’re also going to have a great chance to link to your commercial pizza ovens.

If you’re on a site that sells flour into the restaurant space, well, it really makes sense for you to have some visibility there. Let’s say you sell cell phones and you’re thinking about the fitness or health space. So you can pitch something.

You find a physical therapist. You’ve got 10 apps that augment your physical therapy. This can work just as well for let’s say a yoga studio or a CrossFit gym. Apps that augment your exercise, your physical fitness regimen. Again, you’re putting them first, because you’re talking about augmenting services or work that’s already going on, which is kind of assuming that someone would be their customer, would choose to go to this physical therapist, or would choose to attend yoga classes at this particular studio.

So this is what we’re talking about when we think about or talk about unbundling this stack. You see as we come up with topics that we would pitch, we’re putting the publisher first. Always putting the publisher first and recognizing the reason that they publish.

Hone your pitch

This is the biggest piece, guys. Why do they publish? They publish because they want to sell services and products. So you’re thinking about topics and formats that are going to support that and that overlap with what you’re selling and how you’re functioning. Let’s see. Here’s another good tip. Try and get calls to action for your publisher into the title.

So we could revise this one. Ten reasons to fix roof before sale of home. No, 10 reasons to call a roofer before you put your home up for sale, or 10 reasons to call a roofer now if you’re going to put your home up for sale in April.

So again, you’re really looking at honing your pitch for the intended purpose of this publisher group. You’re thinking beyond the article. We talked about it a little bit, mentioned this earlier. You’re thinking about FAQs. You’re thinking about glossaries.

Explore different formats

What other formats could be strong, potential formats? An infographic, a small, little infographic. Any of these could be explained or supported through the use of graphics. Again, this is the type of document or pitch that could be really effective, because the publisher is going to see immediately how it could benefit their sales, the reason why they publish.

Keyword research

You’re an SEO, right? You’re going to lean into keyword research on your pitch. Hey, it looks like you’re not ranking for some of these terms in your area. Again, there needs to be overlap for these terms and with what you’re trying to sell it or with what your topic needs to be.

But if you’ve got some basis behind your pitch, some keyword research to support your topic and why it’s going to benefit the publisher, you’re miles ahead of anybody else who is pitching them. 

Help promote

Then you could even offer some promotion. You’re going to link to it from another placement if you get another one. You’re going to put it up on Twitter to your following. You’re going to mention it on Facebook, etc. Maybe even buy some ads for it. 

Fact-based citations

Now one of the key pieces here, it’s kind of hidden down here at the bottom. You’re going to make sure that when you’re linking to your pages on your site, you’re doing it in the context of a fact-based citation. Ideally you’ve got something on your sales page, we call it a citable element, that’s fact-based, ideally your own data that supports a purchase decision ultimately. 

For example, if you know that your ovens do best with organic flour at 412 degrees instead of 418 and you’ve got the data to support that, well, that’s a great place and reason to link back to your oven page that would have that data point mentioned on it.

You’re best served by linking in a justifiable manner, and that’s specifically when we’re talking about data and we’re talking about some kind of citation that needs to be linked, where the link is absolutely mandatory, a quote for example.

So again, this model or this approach has to be supported by citable elements living on your sales pages or whatever page you’re linking to, if you choose to go this route and not necessarily do sales pages. 

Conclusion

Whoo, I think that’s about it, folks.

Probably lots of questions. But that’s our approach to guest posting on sales-supported publishers. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. Love to hear from you at garrett@citationlabs.com — happy to answer any questions. 

Thank you, folks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

4 SEO Strategies for Programmatic Sites

Planning and executing SEO strategies for sites with hundreds of millions of pages is no easy task, but there are strategies to make it simpler.

Programmatic pages are pages that have been generated automatically on a very large scale. SEO strategies for these pages are used to target multiple keyword variations by creating landing pages at that scale automatically.

You’ll typically find these pages in major verticals like e-commerce, real estate, travel, and informational sites. These verticals are relying on programmatic pages to build their SEO strategy, and they have a dedicated page for each product and category. This set up can lead to hundreds of millions of pages — they’re efficient, functional, and user-friendly, however, they do come with some SEO challenges.

In my experience, the comprehensive SEO strategy covered in this post works best when tailored to fit a large site with programmatic pages. Many strategies that typically work for sites with only a few hundred pages won’t necessarily get the same results on larger sites. Small sites rely on manual and meticulous content creation, compared to programmatic pages, which are the main traffic-driving pages of the site.

So, let’s get down to business! I’ll explore the four major SEO challenges you’ll encounter when dealing with programmatic pages, and unpack how to overcome them.

1. Keyword research and keyword modifiers

Well-planned keyword research is one of the biggest challenges when operating on a programmatic scale. When working on a sizable set of pages and keywords, it’s important to choose and find the right keywords to target across all pages.

In order to function both efficiently and effectively, it’s recommended that you divide site pages into a few templates before digging into the research itself. Some examples of these templates could include:

  • Categories
  • Sub-categories
  • Product pages
  • Static pages
  • Blogs
  • Informational pages
  • Knowledge base/learning

Once you have all the page templates in place, it’s time to build keyword buckets and keyword modifiers.

Keyword modifiers are additional keywords that, once you combine them with your head terms and core keywords, help with long tail strategy. For example, modifiers for the head term “amazon stock” can be anything related to market share, statistics, insights, etc.

Programmatic pages typically hold the majority of the site’s pages. (Take Trulia, for example, which has over 30 million indexed pages — the majority of which are programmatic.) As a result, those pages are usually the most important on a larger website, both in terms of volume and search opportunity. Thus, you must ensure the use of the right keyword modifiers across each page template’s content.

Of course, you can’t go over every single page and manually modify the SEO tags. Imagine a website like Pinterest trying to do that — they’d never finish! . On a site with 30-100 million pages, it’s impossible to optimize each one of them individually. That’s why it’s necessary to make the changes across a set of pages and categories — you need to come up with the right keyword modifiers to implement across your various page templates so you can efficiently handle the task in bulk.

The main difference here, compared to typical keyword research, is the focus on keyword modifiers. You have to find relevant keywords that can be repeatedly implemented across all relevant pages.

Let’s take a look at this use case on a stock investment website:

The example above shows a website that is targeting users/investors with informational intent, and that relies on programmatic pages for the SEO strategy. I found the keyword modifier by conducting keyword research and competitor research.

I researched several relevant, leading websites using Moz’s Keyword Explorer and SimilarWeb’s Search Traffic feature, and noted the most popular keyword groups. After I’d accumulated the keyword groups, I found the search volume of each keyword to determine which ones would be the most popular and relevant to target

Once you have the keyword modifiers, you must implement them across the title tags, descriptions, headline tags, and content on the page template(s) the modifiers are for. Even when you multiply this strategy by millions of pages, having the right keyword modifier makes updating your programmatic pages a much easier process and much more efficient.

If you have a template of pages ordered by a specific topic, you’ll be able to update and make changes across all the pages with that topic, for example, a stock information site with a particular type of stock page, or a category with stocks based on a price/industry. One update will affect all the pages in the same category, so if you update the SEO title tag of the template of a stock page, then all pages in the same category will be updated as well.

In the example above, the intent of the keywords is informational. Keyword intent focuses on how to match search intents to keyword modifiers. We’re targeting searchers who are looking to gather certain insights. They want more information regarding stocks or companies, market caps, expert evaluations, market trends, etc. In this case, it’s recommended to add additional keywords that will include questions such as “how?”, “what?”, and “which?”.

As another example, transactional keywords — which are a better fit for e-commerce and B2C websites — are highly effective for addressing searches with purchase intent. These terms can include “buy”, “get”, “purchase”, and “shop”.

2. Internal linking

Smart internal linking plans are vital for large sites. They have the ability to significantly increase the number of indexed pages, then pass link equity between pages. When you work on massive sites, one of your main priorities should be to make sure Google will discover and index your site’s pages.

So, how should you go about building those internal linking features?

When looking at the big picture, the goal is that Page A will link to Page B and Page C, while Page B will link to Page D and Page E, etc. Ideally, each page will get at least one link from a different indexed page on the site. For programmatic sites, the challenge here is the fact that new pages emerge on a daily basis. In addition to the existing pages, it’s imperative to calculate and project so that you can jumpstart internal linking for the new pages. This helps these pages get discovered quickly and indexed in the proper fashion.

Related pages and “people also viewed”

One strategy that makes link building easier is adding a “related pages” section to the site. It adds value for the user and the crawlers, and also links to relevant pages based on affinity.

You can link to similar content based on category, product type, content, or just about any other descriptive element. Similar content should be sorted in numeric order or alphabetical order.

HTML sitemap

Yes, even large websites are using HTML sitemaps to help crawlers find new pages. They’re extremely effective when working on large scale sites with millions of pages.

Let’s take a look at this example from the Trulia HTML sitemap (shown above): Trulia built their HTML sitemap based on alphabetical order, and in a way that ensures all pages have links. This way, there won’t be any orphan pages, which helps their goal of supplying link juice to all pages that they wish to index.

In general, many e-commerce and real estate websites are sequencing their sitemaps by alphabetical/categorical order to guarantee that no page will be alone.

3. Crawl budget and deindexing rules

Crawl budget is a very important issue that large websites need to consider. When you have tens of millions of programmatic pages, you need to make sure Google consistently finds and indexes your most valuable pages. The value of your pages should be based on content, revenue, business value, and user satisfaction.

First, choose which pages should not be indexed:

  1. Use your favorite analysis tool to discover which pages have the lowest engagement metrics (high bounce rates, low averages of time on site, no page views, etc.).
  2. Use the search console to discover which pages have high impressions and low CTRs.
  3. Combine these pages into one list.
  4. Check to see if they have any incoming links.
  5. Analyze the attribution of those pages to revenue and business leads.
  6. Once you have all of the relevant data and you choose the pages that should be removed from index, add no-index tag to all of them and exclude them from sitemap XML.

I work for SimilarWeb, a website with over 100 million pages, and I ran a no-index test on over 20 million pages based on the checklist above. I wanted to see the impact of removing a high number pages from our organic channel.

The results were incredible.

Although we lost over half a million visits over the course of a month, the overall engagement metrics on programmatic pages improved dramatically.



By removing irrelevant pages, I made more room for relevant and valuable pages to be discovered by the Google bot.

Rand Fishkin also has a really comprehensive checklist, which shows you how to determine if a page is low quality according to Google. Another great example is Britney Muller’s experiment, where she deindexed 75% of Moz’s pages with great results.

4. SEO split testing

Test everything! The advantage when working on a large scale SEO campaign is that you have access to big data and can utilize it for your SEO efforts. Unlike regular A/B testing, which tests human behavior, A/B split testing is purely for crawlers.

The split testing process is usually based on the same or similar templates of pages. Split the page into two or three groups — one group acts as a control, while the other groups are enabled. Test the following criteria:

  • Adding structured data
  • Changing the keyword modifier of SEO tags (title tag, description, H tags, etc.)
  • Image ALT tags
  • Content length
  • Page performance
  • Internal linking

In terms of measuring the performance, I recommend using one experiment at a time. For instance, you might adjust SEO tags first, and then continue testing other verticals after you’ve built some confidence.

Diving into a split testing example, let’s look at Etsy. Etsy wanted to test which title tag would rank higher and drive better CTR, and generally improve the organic traffic to the pages that were tested. In the image below, we can see how they performed the split test between control pages with default title tags against test pages with different tag variations in this article

Pinterest’s dashboard also shows how their growth team relies on split testing experiments for their SEO strategy. Pinterest’s goal was to build an experimentation tool that would help them measure the impact of SEO changes to their rankings and organic traffic.

Now it’s your turn

Since programmatic pages are different from most others, it’s imperative that you build and optimize these pages in the right way. This requires several adjustments from your normal SEO strategy, along with the application of new and proprietary strategies. The benefit of using the approach outlined above is the incremental scale with which you can contribute to your business.

Programmatic page searches are supposed to fit the search query, whether it’s by product search, address, or information. This is why it’s crucial to make sure the content is as unique as possible, and that the user will have the best answer for each query.

Once you grasp the four tactics above, you’ll be able to implement them into your SEO strategy and begin seeing better results for your programmatic pages.

5 Inspiring Reasons For B2B Marketing Optimism in 2021

Happy business woman smiling image.

How can the intense brightness that often follows humankind’s darkest moments help us achieve greater team unity and newfound marketing energy, gratitude and strength?

As the pandemic marches on into its second year, B2B marketers looking to rise above despair and make this a brighter and more successful year can look especially to the five reasons we’ve gathered here for being optimistic about the many positive opportunities and experiences that 2021 holds in store.

Let’s jump right in and take a look at five inspiring reasons for B2B marketing optimism in 2021 and beyond.

1 — We’re More United As Teams & As Communities

Despite the difficult pandemic challenges of 2020 that have continued into 2021, B2B marketers have gained a newfound understanding of the power of successful teamwork, even as remote work has typically meant less physically time together.

Online collaboration systems are undoubtedly flourishing as never before, as teams meet and share in fascinating and sometimes unanticipated new ways using Zoom, Slack, monday.com* and so many other powerful tools for digital integration.

Teams that haven’t been used to working together remotely have gained not only new technology skills, but a new sense of understanding and appreciation for work associates and the challenges we all face — issues that were largely unseen in professional life during pre-pandemic times.

“Teams that haven’t been used to working together remotely have gained not only new technology skills, but a new sense of understanding and appreciation for work associates and the challenges we all face.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis Click To Tweet

2 — We’re Poised To Unleash Tremendous New Energy

Be ready to tap into the pure and boundless energy that are likely to overflow when our professional and personal lives are safely able to return to not quite what they were, but as close as we can come.

The day World War II ended saw great global celebrations and relief, and while the pandemic recovery won’t likely be such an overnight occurrence, when we collectively switch to lives more closely resembling those we had before the global health crisis, each of us will be able to harness tremendous new energy, which can’t help but inspire our marketing efforts and lives in new and exciting ways.

When this post-pandemic energy is released into the B2B marketing world, the floodgates of creativity are likely to open and drive increased focus on campaigns that connect brand and customer in deeper and more meaningful ways.

“When post-pandemic energy is released into the B2B marketing world, the floodgates of creativity are likely to open and drive increased focus on campaigns that connect brand and customer in deeper and more meaningful ways.” @lanerellis Click To Tweet

3 — Our Gratitude Will Create Great Marketing That Makes a Difference

Living for over a year under trying circumstances has helped us to be thankful for our little victories, and to appreciate a new sense of gratitude brought on by some of those small aspects of our lives that have turned out to mean so much more than they did in pre-pandemic times.

This hard-won gratitude will go far in creating marketing efforts that tell more authentic stories, and help humanize content campaigns that allow B2B marketers to get closer to their customers.

To help you prepare to harness all that newfound gratitude, check out the following posts that explore how thankfulness can make for more powerful marketing:

“Try your best to make goodness attractive. That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given.” — Fred Rogers @FredRogersCtr Click To Tweet

4 — We’ve Got More Tools & Tactics Than Ever

During 2020 global usage of technology climbed in ways it’s never done before, resulting in a proliferation of new social media tools, expansion of online communication options, and the growth of marketing tactics that can help us succeed with each new possibility.

The sky’s the limit for B2B marketers who find the right tools that allow them to build relevant best-answer content. With such a wealth of application, tool, utility and service choices, the hardest challenge may simply be finding the ones that allow you to work in the manner that brings out your best.

To help you find new tools, we’ve published insight into some of the top tools for B2B marketers, such as these:

“Marketers have incredible power to spread some calm in a chaotic world right now. Use it wisely.” — Britney Muller @BritneyMuller Click To Tweet

5 — We’re Stronger From Overcoming Pandemic Marketing Challenges

It may not be immediately apparent yet, but by overcoming the challenges the pandemic has thrown at our professional and person lives, we have gained strength that may take some time and reflection to fully appreciate.

In 2021 this strength will unfold and eventually work its way into our efforts as B2B marketers, bringing a fresh zest for the power our content has to change hearts and minds.

To help us see and appreciate the strengths we’ve added, it’s helpful to look back and reflect on the challenges we’ve faced and overcome during the past year — whether small or monumental.

Some find that making a comprehensive list of the obstacles we’ve survived helps to bring into clearer focus the progress that will infuse our 2021 marketing efforts with new strength.

“It may not be immediately apparent yet, but by overcoming the challenges the pandemic has thrown at our professional and person lives, we have gained strength that may take some time and reflection to fully appreciate.” @lanerellis Click To Tweet

Embrace A Positive 2021 Overflowing With New Marketing Opportunity

via GIPHY

Combined, these five reasons for B2B marketers to be optimistic — our greater team unity, energy, gratitude and strength along with powerful new tools — can provide new inspiration as we gather ourselves to face the many challenges and opportunities of 2021.

* monday.com is a TopRank Marketing client.

The Best-Laid Plans: Can We Predict Anything About 2021?

I’ve deleted this introduction twice. To say that no one could’ve predicted how 2020 unfolded seems trite since we’re not even a month into 2021, and this new year has already unraveled. Our challenges in the past year, across the globe, have gone far beyond marketing, and I doubt any of us ended the year the way we expected. This graph from Google Trends tells the story better than I can:

The pandemic fundamentally rewrote the global economy in a way none of us has ever experienced, and yet we have to find a path forward. How do we even begin to chart a course in 2021?

What do we know?

Let’s start small. Within our search marketing realm, is there anything we can predict with relative certainty in 2021? Below are some of the major announcements Google has made and trends that are likely to continue. While the timelines on some of these are unclear (and all are subject to change), these shifts in our small world are very likely.

Mobile-only indexing (March)

Mobile-first indexing has been in progress for a while, and most sites rolled over in 2020 or earlier. Google had originally announced that the index would fully default to mobile-first by September 2020, but pushed that timeline back in July (ostensibly due to the pandemic) to March 2021.

If you haven’t made the switch to a mobile-friendly site at this point, there’s not much time left to waste. Keep in mind that “mobile-first” isn’t just about speed and user experience, but making sure that your mobile site is as crawlable as your desktop. If Google can’t reach critical pages via your mobile design and internal links, then those pages are likely to drop out of the index. A page that isn’t indexed is a page that doesn’t rank.

Core Web Vitals (May)

While this date may change, Google has announced that Core Web Vitals will become a ranking factor in 2021. Here’s a bit more detail from the official announcement

Page experience signals in ranking will roll out in May 2021. The new page experience signals combine Core Web Vitals with our existing search signals including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

Many of these page experience signals already impact ranking to some degree, according to Google, so the important part really boils down to Core Web Vitals. You can get more of the details in this Whiteboard Friday from Cyrus, but the short version is that this is currently a set of three metrics (with unfortunately techie names):

(1) Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP measures how quickly the largest, visible block of your page loads. It is one view into perceived load-time and tries to filter out background libraries and other off-page objects.

(2) First Input Delay (FID)
FID measures how much time it takes before a user can interact with your page. “Interact” here means the most fundamental aspects of interaction, like clicking an on-page link.

(3) Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS measures changes to your page layout, such as ads that appear or move after the initial page-load. I suspect the update will apply mostly to abusive or disruptive layout shifts.

While these metrics are a narrow slice of the user experience, the good news is that Google has defined all of them in a fair amount of detail and allows you to track this data with tools like Google Lighthouse. So, we’re in a unique position of being be able to prepare for the May algorithm update.

That said, I think you should improve site speed and user experience because it’s a net-positive overall, not because of a pending 2021 update. If past history — including the HTTPS update and mobile-friendly update — is any indicator, Google’s hope is to use the pre-announcement to push people to make changes now. I strongly suspect that Core Web Vitals will be a very minor ranking factor in the initial update, ramping up over a period of many months.

Passage indexing/ranking (TBD)

In October 2020, Google announced that they were “… now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages.” They later clarified that this wasn’t so much passage indexing as passage ranking, and the timeline wasn’t initially clear. Danny Sullivan later clarified that this change did not roll out in 2020, but Google’s language suggests that passage ranking is likely to roll out as soon as it’s tested and ready.

While there’s nothing specific you can do to harness passage ranking, according to Google, I think this change is not only an indicator of ML/AI progress but a recognition that you can have valuable, long-form content that addresses multiple topics. The rise of answers in SERPs (especially Featured Snippets and People Also Ask boxes) had a side-effect of causing people to think in terms of more focused, question-and-answer style content. While that’s not entirely bad, I suspect it’s generally driven people away from broader content to shorter, narrower content.

Even in 2020, there are many examples of rich, long-form content that ranks for multiple Featured/Snippets, but I expect passage ranking will re-balance this equation even more and give us increased freedom to create content in the best format for the topic at hand, without worrying too much about being laser-targeted on a single topic.

Core algorithm updates (TBD)

It’s safe to say we can expect more core algorithm updates in 2021. There were three named “Core” updates in 2020 (January, May, and December), but the frequency and timing has been inconsistent. While there are patterns across the updates, thematically, each update seems to contain both new elements and some adjustments to old elements, and my own analysis suggests that the patterns (the same sites winning and losing, for example) aren’t as prominent as we imagine. We can assume that Google’s Core Updates will reflect the philosophy of their quality guidelines over time, but I don’t think we can predict the timing or substance of any particular core update.

Googlebot crawling HTTP/2 (2022+)

Last fall, Google revealed that Googlebot would begin crawling HTTP/2 sites in November of 2020. It’s not clear how much HTTP/2 crawling is currently happening, and Google said they would not penalize sites that don’t support HTTP/2 and would even allow opt-out (for now). Unlike making a site secure (HTTPS) or mobile-friendly, HTTP/2 is not widely available to everyone and may depend on your infrastructure or hosting provider.

While I think we should pay attention to this development, don’t make the switch to HTTP/2 in 2021 just for Google’s sake. If it makes sense for the speed and performance of your site, great, but I suspect Google will be testing HTTP/2 and turning up the volume on it’s impact slowly over the next few months. At some point, we might see a HTTPS-style announcement of a coming ranking impact, but if that happens, I wouldn’t expect it until 2022 or later.

When will this end?

While COVID-19 may not seem like a marketing topic, the global economic impact is painfully clear at this point Any plans we make for 2021 have to consider the COVID-19 timeline, or they’re a fantasy. When can we expect the pandemic to end and businesses to reopen on a national and global scale?

Let me start by saying that I’m not a medical doctor — I’m a research psychologist by training. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I know how to read primary sources and piece them together. What follows is my best read of the current facts and the 2021 timeline. I will try to avoid my own personal biases, but note that my read on the situation is heavily US-biased. I will generally avoid worst-case scenarios, like a major mutation of the virus, and stick to a median scenario.

Where are we at right now?

As I’m writing this sentence, over 4,000 people died just yesterday of COVID-19 in the US and over 14,000 globally. As a data scientist, I can tell you that every data point requires context, but when we cherry-pick the context, we deceive ourselves. What data science doesn’t tell us is that everyone one of these data points is a human life, and that matters.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of viable vaccines, including (here in the US and in the UK) the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. These vaccines have been approved in some countries, have demonstrated promising results, and are in production. Here in the US, we’re currently behind the timeline on distribution, with the CDC reporting about 10 million people vaccinated as of mid-January (initial goal was 20 million vaccinated by the end of 2020). In terms of the timeline, it’s important to note that, for maximum effectiveness, the major vaccines require two doses, separated by about 3-4 weeks (this may vary with the vaccine and change as research continues).

Is it getting better or worse?

I don’t want to get mired in the data, but the winter holidays and travel are already showing a negative impact here in the US, and New Year’s Eve may complicate problems. While overall death rates have improved due to better treatment options and knowledge of the disease, many states and countries are at or near peak case rates and peak daily deaths. This situation is very likely to get worse before it gets better.

When might we reopen?

I’m assuming, for better or worse, that reopening does not imply full “herd immunity” or a zero case-rate. We’re talking about a critical mass of vaccinations and a significant flattening of the curve. It’s hard to find a source outside of political debates here in the US, but a recent symposium sponsored by Harvard and the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that — if we can adequately ramp up vaccine distribution in the second quarter of 2021 — we could see measurable positive impact by the end of our summer (or early-to-mid third quarter) here in the US.

Any prediction right now requires a lot of assumptions and there may be massive regional differences in this timeline, but the key point is that the availability of the vaccine, while certainly cause for optimism, is not a magic wand. Manufacturing, distribution, and the need for a second dose all mean that we’re realistically still looking at a few months for medical advances to have widespread impact.

What can we do now?

First, let me say that there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Many local businesses were decimated, while e-commerce grew 32% year-over-year in 2020. If you’re a local restaurant that managed to stay afloat, you may see a rapid return of customers in the summer or fall. If you’re a major online retailer, you could actually see a reduction in sales as brick-and-mortar stores become viable again (although probably not to 2019 levels).

If your e-commerce business was lucky enough to see gains in 2020, Miracle Inameti-Archibong has some great advice for you. To inadequately summarize — don’t take any of this for granted. This is a time to learn from your new customers, re-invest in your marketing, and show goodwill toward the people who are shopping online more because of the difficulties they’re facing.

If you’re stuck waiting to reopen, consider the lead time SEO campaigns require to have an impact. In a recent Whiteboard Friday, I made the case that SEO isn’t an on/off switch. Consider the oversimplified diagram below. Paid search is a bit like the dotted gray line — you flip the switch on, and the leads starting flowing. The trade-off is that when you flip the switch off, the leads dry up almost immediately.

Organic SEO has a ramp-up. It’s more like the blue curve above. The benefit of organic is that the leads keep coming when you stop investing, but it also means that the leads will take time to rebuild when you start to reinvest. This timeline depends on a lot of variables, but an organic campaign can often take 2-3 months or more to get off the ground. If you want to hit the ground running as reopening kicks in, you’re going to need to start re-investing ahead of that timeline. I acknowledge that that might not be easy, and it doesn’t have to be all or none.

In a recent interview, Mary Ellen Coe (head of Google Marketing Solutions) cited a 20,000% increase during the pandemic in searches from consumers looking to support local businesses. There’s a tremendous appetite for reopening and a surge of goodwill for local businesses. If you’re a local business, even if you’re temporarily closed, it’s important to let people know that you’re still around and to keep them up-to-date on your reopening plans as they evolve.

I don’t expect that the new normal will look much like the old normal, and I’m mindful that many businesses didn’t survive to see 2021. We can’t predict the future, but we can’t afford to wait for months and do nothing, either, so I hope this at least gives you some idea of what to expect in the coming year and how we might prepare for it.

Top B2B Marketing Trends for 2021

Top B2B Marketing Trends 2021
Each year I’ve taken inventory of the major trends emerging within our B2B marketing agency practice and with the crazy year that was 2020, the new year requires even greater focus on what’s ahead. Some of the marketing predictions and trends I’ve shared in the past include:

Top 10 B2B Digital Marketing Trends in 2020

  • Personalization
  • Video content and live video
  • AI and Machine Learning
  • Voice engagement and Podcasts
  • B2B Influencer Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Chatbots and Conversational Selling
  • Customer Experience
  • Visual and Interactive Content
  • ABM

Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2019

  • Live, Interactive Video
  • Voice Search
  • AI/Machine Learning/Chatbots
  • Data/Privacy/Transparency
  • Influencer Marketing 2.0
  • Purpose Driven Brands and Gen Z

It’s interesting to see things like Video, Voice, AI and influencer marketing persist each year. The fact is, when it comes to B2B marketing trends, the world is moving fast and while marketing innovation hasn’t slowed, there are still fundamental shifts in B2B buyer preferences for information discovery, consumption and engagement that have not yet been implemented by the majority of marketers yet. As a result, a lot of the “trends” we’ll see a focus on in 2021 are not particularly new, just not evolved.

The chaos of 2020 created some important shifts including 80% or more of the sales cycle happening in digital (Forrester) and impacting B2B verticals in very different ways. The uncertainty caused 50% of buyers to hold off on purchases (Harvard Business Review) but with Tech and Telecom least affected (eMarketer) that also meant an opportunity, especially for those B2B marketers that understand the new normal of go-to-market strategies is here to stay (McKinsey).

So, with all that’s changed in 2020 due to the pandemic as well as political, economic, and social uncertainty, what are the major trends B2B marketers need to be aware of for success in 2021? Here are 20+ that stand out:

Brand Trust

With an “epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions”, 70% of respondents to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer study said brand trust is more important today than it was in the past. Part of the problem is that globally, CEO credibility is at an all-time low and changing expectations create an opportunity to create that trust. 86% from the Edelman study think CEOs should speak out publicly about societal challenges and some are doing that. For example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared an email he sent to Microsoft employees expressing gratitude and the steps Microsoft is taking to support customers and the community as a long form blog post on LinkedIn. We saw an increase in the number of CEOs communicating in this way and the continuation of that trend in 2021 will help regain both CEO and brand credibility.

Building trust in B2B brands goes beyond CEOs of course and marketers would do well to take inventory of what current perceptions are of the brand and ensure marketing strategies and customer engagement are aligned around creating promises and experiences that strengthen credibility.

Digital First

One major impact of 2020 for B2B marketers was a shift to a digital-centric approach when it comes to marketing and sales. Because of the pandemic, the virtual loss of field marketing, outside sales and in-person events created a massive shift to virtual events and online information discovery, consumption and engagement for buyers. B2B marketers had to make significant changes from legacy tactics to digital. As a result, there’s been a big wake-up call to move B2B marketing to digital formats and according to research by Singular, 76% of marketing leaders say that digital transformation in marketing technology is their most critical focus for 2021 (Forbes).

Experience

According to Gartner’s Buyer Enablement Survey, more than 3 out of 4 people said the latest B2B purchase journey was very complicated. The challenges brought by 2020 have created even more complexities for marketers and buyers alike and that spells an opportunity to double down on optimizing experiences. Customer Experience is a priority, but so is employee experience and any experience created through the content and media published by a brand. It’s no longer enough to simply inform audiences with information.

In 2021 B2B brands will focus on authenticity in their communications and make substantial efforts to better empathize with buyers, be “more human” and add emotion to their marketing strategy.

“2021 will call on brands to authentically infuse empathy and emotion into their brand strategy, and I cannot think of a more appropriate time to build those emotional connections with customers and cultivate relationships,”  Jennifer Chase, SVP and Head of Marketing at SAS (Forbes).

As the majority of B2B buyers have shifted to digital channels, B2B marketers must understand the expectations that drive information discovery, consumption and engagement experiences and then optimize accordingly.

Pandemic Pivot

The challenges of 2020 forced B2B marketers to re-evaluate everything from their core offering to their approach to marketing. 94% of respondents to the Content Marketing Institute B2B Content Marketing Trends Report said that they had to adapt their content marketing strategy because of the pandemic. These pivots during the pandemic have driven some important changes in business and marketing strategies. Many of those changes will persist as most CMOs feel that their go-to-market models in reaction to 2020 will continue for the next 12 months or more. (McKinsey)

Areas of greater focus include:

  • More emphasis on marketing ROI – With slimmer marketing budgets, marketers have become more accountable to the business impact of their efforts. Greater ROI focus has impacted everything from strategies to tactics to measurement to technology and processes.
  • Retention marketing – According to Harvard Business Review, a 5% increase in customer retention can deliver up to 95% increase in profits. With 2020 budgets on hold and uncertainty about when they will open up in the new year, keeping current customers is more important than ever and that trend will continue in 2021.
  • Virtual events – Effective virtual events offer both livestreamed content on a schedule as well as on-demand video and online networking. At the same time, webinars and virtual events spiked in 2020, but people are looking for more. Zoom fatigue has set in and Lori Wizdo from Forrester thinks that physical events will rebound but with a new digital dimension. This will create some new opportunities in 2021 for hybrid event models for customer engagement.
  • Social purpose/cause marketing – According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, in 2020 65% of consumers said they are looking for brands that reflect their values. 43% said they’ll switch loyalties if companies don’t align with their beliefs. And 63% of Americans believe that brands that issue a statement in support of racial equity need to follow up with concrete action. Consumer expectations extend to B2B brands and there’s plenty of research supporting the importance of Millenial and GenZ preferences for what a brand stands for. The events of 2020 have made brand positioning on social causes even more important in 2021.

B2B Marketing Tactics

  • Influencer Marketing – The influencer marketing industry was worth $8 billion in 2019, and it is estimated to grow to $15 billion over the next two years. Our research into B2B influencer marketing has revealed that collaborating on content with industry experts helps improve customer engagement and marketing effectiveness in three key areas:
    1. Trust: 77% of B2B marketers say they believe that prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts.
    2. Experience: 77% agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand.
    3. Performance: 63% say their marketing would have better results if it included a B2B influencer marketing program.
  • Content Marketing – 83% of marketers surveyed for a report by the Content Marketing Institute said publishing content that provides value to their customers contributed significantly to the success of their content marketing efforts.
  • SEO – Search engines (56%) are more trusted than traditional media (53%), owned (41%) or social media (35%). Edelman Trust Barometer.
  • Video – 70% of the B2B buyers watch product videos as a part of their research. Cisco estimates that by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic. Research from Google has indicated that 70% of B2B buyers and researchers are watching videos throughout the buying journey.
  • Podcasts & voice – Voice engagement is on the rise from accessing information on mobile devices and smart speakers to formats for information consumption like podcasts and the new audio-only social network, Clubhouse. Audio and voice will continue to be a trend for information discovery, consumption and engagement in 2021.
  • Episodic Content – One of the content trends we’ve found to be gaining momentum within our own content marketing practice is “shows” and packaging episodic content as seasons. There are longstanding episodic B2B content examples like Moz’s Whiteboard Friday. We walk the talk at TopRank with episodic content through the Break Free B2B Marketing series and the Inside B2B Influence show.
  • Personalization – The loss of cookies and the move to first party data creates new opportunities for personalization in B2B marketing. Buyers do expect more meaningful, useful content experiences and personalization will only grow in importance to deliver on those expectations.
  • Interactive Tools and Content – According to Demand Gen Report research, interactive content is 23% more effective at educating buyers than static content. A good example is this Salesforce ROI calculator and in 2021, delivering engaging content experiences and driving greater marketing performance means more of this kind of tool.
  • Learning Hubs for Leads – While not exactly new, the attraction to cross-train and advance skills is greater than ever. To meet that need, B2B brands are increasingly investing in learning hubs where audiences can exchange their contact information for access to rich educational resources. Examples include HubSpot Academy, SEMRush and many more.
  • Email and Marketing Automation – Email’s one to one connection continues to be important. 84% of respondents to a SmartInsights study have implemented email as a marketing tactic. What different in 2021 is a greater focus on storytelling, personalization and more informal content vs. explicit sales offers.
  • ABM – A great example of a B2B marketing trend that has been on many lists over the past few years is ABM. There are very vocal advocates for ABM but it still has not as much momentum as other disciplines when it comes to active implementation. However, past research from SmartInsights reveals ABM is a top priority for B2B marketers (46%) compared to video (41%), influencer marketing (38%) and AI (38%).
  • Agile Marketing – Continuous improvement in marketing is as important as ever, especially after a year like 2020. According to CMI, 94% of B2B marketers said they had to change their content marketing during the pandemic. 80% of those that adopted a more agile content marketing strategy felt it was effective (Forbes/CMG Partners). And according to research from Merkle, 85% of marketers plan to increase agile usage in the next two years.

LinkedIn

It’s been reported in the past in a study by Oktopost that 80% of B2B leads are generated from LinkedIn. It’s hard to argue that any other social network is more important than LinkedIn for B2B marketers. LinkedIn provides an incredible opportunity for everything from building brand thought leadership to specific prospect targeting through organic content and networking as well as their evolving advertising and sales solutions. In 2021 will continue to be the leading community for B2B marketing opportunities. (LinkedIn is a client of TopRank Marketing)

AI and Chatbots

Research from Salesforce found that 80% of business buyers expect real-time responses from brands they interact with and the digital first approach most B2B marketers are taking in 2021 means AI technologies like chatbots and virtual assistants will become a part of the mix. As far as AI and machine learning overall, the expectations of modern buyers requires processing huge amounts of data to deliver personalized experiences across platforms and channels. To do that, two-thirds of B2B marketers are currently planning, evaluating, or implementing AI for marketing or sales initiatives.

Nearly 10 years ago I published a book called Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing. One of the key concepts from the book was the model we use to stay current with what customer preferences are for the information they need during their journey. Understanding buyer preferences for information discovery, consumption and engagement will reveal all the trends you need to know in order to deliver relevant and actionable marketing that best serves the customers that will grow your business.

While it’s tempting to chase shiny objects with trends posts, as I reviewed the major trends for 2021, I found that the discovery, consumption and engagement model to be just as true and useful today as it was 10 years ago. 2020 caused business customers to change their behaviors in significant ways and those B2B marketers that stay tuned in to information preferences will know what strategies, tactics and technologies they need to focus on.

8 Unconventional Ways to Generate Qualified B2B Sales Leads

We know there are numerous ways to generate B2B sales leads, but let’s face it, the same old methods have been done to death.

It’s time to take an unconventional approach to lead generation, especially for B2B companies, because B2B is a different ballgame than B2C — and your strategies need to reflect your audience.

As a refresher, here’s how organization goals differ in the B2C versus the B2B sectors:

Source: Venngage

Before we begin detailing these B2B methods, it’s important to keep in mind that lead generation isn’t a one-and-done deal.

You have to be open to A/B testing your strategies and your content. Regularly track your content performance, metrics, conversions, and be ready to improve.

So, what are these unconventional methods to generate B2B sales leads? Read on to find out.

1. Tailor content for B2B sales leads

B2B content is brand and agency-focused, and you want to create materials that attract attention from that audience.

Getting eyeballs on your content won’t mean much if they aren’t converting into customers — those aren’t the right B2B sales leads for your company.

How can you tailor your content marketing to the right B2B audience?

Buyer personas

Most businesses create audience personas to help them reach their target market. In the B2B arena, don’t aim for a company — look for the decision-makers within that company.

Every target company will have a few key people who decide which products and services benefit the business. These are the decision-makers your content needs to be tailored to, and for whom you can build buyer personas around, such as this example:

Source: Venngage

Determine who within a business will most need your product or service, and build your buyer personas based on the following:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Job title
  • Level in company
  • Preferred content channels
  • Desired goals
  • Pain points

Create a flow chart with these details to facilitate the content creation process. This also helps you decide which channels will get you the most traction.

Search intent

Once you know your audience, your next step in tailoring content to earn B2B sales leads is to determine their search intent, which can take numerous forms:

  • Searching for information
  • Searching to buy
  • Searching to learn

As a largely B2B company, we do extensive research before creating a piece of content. We ascertain keywords related to our topic, but we also check Google, the “People Also Ask” section, AnswerThePublic, and conduct surveys among fellow marketers.

Choose keywords and terms that are relevant to your audience — not solely based on search volume. Popular searches in your industry will attract more B2C consumers, whereas focused keywords that have a higher value, but a lower search volume, usually fall in the B2B realm.

2. How to use B2B email marketing

B2B email marketing has a higher click-to-open ratio than B2C, and is a favored channel for 59% of B2B marketers.

This is a channel that can consistently bring in B2B sales leads — if done right. You have to keep a few things in mind to make email marketing a successful lead generation channel.

Automate email marketing

Marketing teams know the benefits of automating processes: smoother workflow, faster processing time, and time funneled into creativity instead of repetitive tasks.

But automating your email marketing also helps to generate B2B sales leads.

You can use marketing automation to segment email lists, send targeted campaigns, respond to abandoned carts, and convert customers, as this graphic explains:

Source: Venngage

Imagine this scenario: a customer gets to the final stage of purchasing, but leaves your site right before checkout. Whether that customer was distracted, lost connection, or changed their mind, it’s up to your company to encourage them to finish the process.

If cart abandonment is being handled manually, this customer could fall through the cracks, or get a response well after they’ve decided on another brand.

Email automation can be programmed to respond to them immediately upon cart abandonment — and you’ve earned a customer who would otherwise have been lost.

Email deliverability

Automating emails is one thing, but are your customers receiving your emails? You can create the best content in your industry, but it will amount to little if your newsletters end up in the spam folder.

Brands can improve their email deliverability and draw more B2B leads by following these practices:

  • Emails sent with a company name instead of a person’s name are more likely to end up in the spam folder or not opened at all. Use an individual’s address to send emails, and include a reply-to option to that address.
  • Don’t change the frequency of your email campaigns too often. There will be certain periods when you send more emails, but be as consistent as possible so your subscriber base knows when to expect your emails.
  • Regularly check and clean your lists so you aren’t sending emails to addresses that no longer exist and increase your bounce rates.

Email content

Keep these things in mind when creating your email content as, at the end of the day, your email content is what will be most successful in earning you B2B sales leads:

  • Your content should be consistent with your brand. Send emails about products, services, events, industry news, and your latest blog posts.
  • Create a consistent design for your marketing newsletters, including branding elements like your logo, brand colors, and fonts.
  • Don’t go for the hard-sell approach! If every email is selling products to your list, people will unsubscribe.
  • Make it worth their while to click on and open your emails by sharing news, updates, and stories that will enrich your customers’ lives.

3. Hybrid events

Conferences have always been a good place to make potential B2B sales, as they’re shared spaces for people with similar interests. But 2020 changed all that.

Though the COVID-19 vaccine is ready for distribution, it’s going to take a while to return to business as usual. We’ve seen an increase in virtual events in 2020, but the future of networking lies in hybrid events, like Apple’s annual announcements.

Combining physical and virtual elements and attendees, hybrid events allow access to a greater swathe of industry specialists and clients.

There are three ways to get B2B sales leads from hybrid events:

  • Attend the event: B2B marketers should look at attending more hybrid events in their industry to meet potential clients.
  • Participating in events: search for speaking engagements at conferences to place your business as a thought leader in the field and generate more organic leads.
  • Hold events: your business can hold hybrid events to connect with experts in your field and establish partnerships with prospective customers.

Events can be a lot of hard work, but the potential for earning leads, converting customers, and boosting ROI make the process worth it.

4. Personalize B2B sales lead content

Personalization is a huge part of content marketing — and it’s crucial for finding B2B sales leads. In the B2B arena, you need to build personal relationships, not just transactional ones.

Because every relationship isn’t just a customer earned, it’s also a customer retained, with the possibility for future referrals that will bring in more sales.

Here are the three areas you want to focus on for personalization:

  • Presentations
  • Social media
  • Landing pages

Sales presentations

You can start building customer relationships early on in the lead generation process by designing a presentation that includes your branding and your customer’s.

In the pitch meeting, talk about subjects that matter to your customer — don’t focus too much on what your business can do, unless you’re talking about the solutions you can provide.

Don’t be afraid of getting granular in your pitch by mentioning buyer intent keywords related to your customer and their industry.

Do your research so you can show them how knowledgeable you are about their company, but also that you’re planning for a future with them.

Social media

Take it a step further by personalizing your social media outreach. Long believed to be the realm of B2C lead generation, social media has its advantages in the B2B field, too.

I’ve mentioned the importance of finding decision-makers within target companies. Most of these decision-makers will have a presence on social channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Choose personnel who can make personal connections with key decision-makers on these channels. But don’t treat every channel the same way.

Work with your team to craft LinkedIn summaries that showcase your brand’s ethos — and not just on your company page but also on staff profiles, where you can exhibit some personality.

Twitter is another place to generate B2B sales leads, and it’s a good one for understanding your customers, because Twitter is where people tend to share personal stories.

There are scheduling and analytics tools that you can use to research decision-makers and find out what their interests are — this will help create more meaningful relationships.

Landing pages

A great landing page grabs a customer’s attention within seconds. The best way to do that is to personalize your landing page to generate B2B sales leads.

What does a landing page need to include? It has to answer a specific question that your customers are asking.

What we’ve learned from making our landing pages is that you do not want to put too much information on there — that can be overwhelming for a visitor.

Keep it short and sweet — focus on one selling point, not all. That’s why we love the Moz landing page — it clearly states what the brand can do for any customer visiting it.

Can’t fit all your selling points onto one page? Create multiple landing pages, each one optimized to specific keywords and buyer intent.

It sounds like more work but designing more landing pages helps you retain B2B sales leads by creating cohesion between your advertising and landing pages.

5. B2B referral marketing works

Referral marketing doesn’t just exist within the B2C space — it’s an effective tool for drawing in B2B leads. People across the board trust referrals from fellow customers.

For B2B brands — where sales can sometimes involve millions of dollars — a referral from a friend, backed up by strong reviews, can lead to a purchase much more quickly than paid incentives and advertising.

Referrals lead to more loyal customers and better retention rates. They also act as a tool for boosting organic reach because established customers become your company’s ambassadors, like this PioneerSystems case study.

How do you get referrals? Here are a few steps:

  • Offer rewards such as discounts, free training sessions, and event invitations
  • Survey multiple customers
  • Keep your surveys short and precise so customers will be more likely to respond
  • Send surveys regularly and keep the window between surveys short
  • Include follow-up questions asking customers to explain their scores
  • Use the net promoter system to calculate how likely customers will be to recommend you
  • Ask for a written review or testimonial, or to feature in a testimonial video
  • Suggest creating a case study
  • Ask for a quote for a press release
  • Offer content that customers can share with their friends

Referral marketing is a great way to generate leads, but you do need to incentivize the process so customers participate.

6. Repurpose content

At Venngage, we are huge on repurposing content — we even created an infographic explaining how to do it:

We know how overwhelming it is for marketers to create fresh content to bring in more views and leads. This is why we’ve found ways to repurpose existing content.

Using old content in new ways takes a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, your marketing team can structure your strategy around it.

Here are a few ways we’ve stretched a single piece of content and generated more B2B sales leads:

  • Take quotes and stats from a blog post and create data visualizations for social media
  • Turn a blog post into an infographic — look at these infographic examples for inspiration
  • Share infographics on social channels and as a newsletter
  • Divide an infographic into multiple smaller graphics to share on social media
  • Turn listicles into social media carousel posts
  • Create email headers from social posts
  • Turn a blog post into a podcast or webisode
  • Combine multiple blog posts on a similar subject into a white paper or eBook
  • Use an eBook as the basis for a webinar
  • Divide a longer e-seminar into short YouTube videos
  • Create GIFs out of videos to share on social media

These are the content repurposing methods we’ve used but the possibilities with this method are endless.

7. Varied content channels

Conventional wisdom has been to focus on the channels that you know best, instead of being a jack-of-all-trades and dabbling in multiple channels. But you also need to know what channels your potential B2B sales leads are favoring. If you’re not where your customers are, you are losing leads.

Blogs

You may not have in-house writers, but with B2B blogs still being a huge source for leads, this is a channel that is worth investing in.

Podcasts

The content market is currently oversaturated — diversifying your content channels helps you reach leads who may not see your content on conventional platforms. Consider starting a podcast for your business. They take some time and investment, but podcasts are easier to run and maintain now. Focus your podcast on thought leadership, industry news, or on sharing behind the scenes tidbits about your business.

Video

Video marketing is another tool to draw in B2B leads. It’s gone from strength to strength, especially in the last few years, with 87% of businesses using video as a marketing tool.

Creating a YouTube channel for testimonials, business insights, how-to guides, and troubleshooting videos will bring in leads who don’t have the time to read a blog post.

But videos do take time and effort to create — you need equipment and software to shoot and edit videos. Plus, you can’t create a video and leave it at that — a promotion plan will need to be executed.

Forums

Search for B2B leads on channels like Quora and Reddit. Customers use these platforms to ask questions and you can tailor content around these.

But don’t use these channels to pitch your company. Follow the same etiquette as responding to a blog post comment. Share your own experience and use these channels for research.

There are a variety of channels available to get qualified leads. Don’t stretch yourself too thin as that will impact the quality of your content but don’t restrict yourself either.

8. Create gated content

eBooks, white papers, and webinars make for great gated content. But why should customers sign up for them?

We’ve seen success with our gated B2B content by doing the following:

  • Address your customers’ pain points early on
  • Solve their problems with your content
  • Include calls-to-action for gated content in relevant blog posts
  • Use more visuals than text in gated content — don’t make customers work hard
  • Repurpose your content whenever you can
  • Provide a preview of your content to whet their appetite
  • Be informative, inspire action, educate, be personable, and then promote

Your gated content should add value to anyone who accesses it, so longer-form content is the best for this lead generation strategy.

Key takeaways: Focus on the people behind B2B sales leads, not the business

The process of generating leads and encouraging them through the buyer journey to become a loyal customer who advocates for your business is a challenging one. It’s important to remember that even in the B2B field, you are engaging with people at the end of the day.

To recap, here are eight unconventional ways to get B2B sales leads:

  1. Tailored content
  2. Email marketing
  3. Hybrid events
  4. Personalize
  5. Referral marketing
  6. Repurposed content
  7. New content channels
  8. Gated content

You can adopt all or a few of these lead gen methods, but remember to test target segments, CTAs, landing page designs, and social media captions.

And finally, while it’s great to get as many leads as possible, ensure your automation software and sales team can handle it.

Which B2B lead generation methods have worked for you? Let me know in the comments.

B2B Marketing News: Top B2B Content Barriers Study, Google Adds New My Business Data, Top Posting Times Report, & Tech Spending On The Rise

2021 January 15 MarketingCharts Chart

The Top Barriers to Creating Great B2B Content [Study]
Workload, resources, interference and changing priorities rank as the leading obstacles faced by B2B content marketers, according to recently-released survey data of interest to digital marketers. MarketingProfs

Google My Business launches new performance reporting
Google has added new performance reporting features to its Google My Business service, which now includes search term data from Google Search and Maps, among other new reporting information available. Search Engine Land

The Best Times to Post Your Social Media Updates in 2021 [Infographic]
One LinkedIn post a day published on Tuesday through Thursday between 7 to 10 a.m. or 5 to 6 p.m. are the top posting days and times on the platform, according to newly-released report data, which also covers other social media platform top posting times. Social Media Today

Pandemic Accelerated Consumer Media Tech In 2020, Makes For Tough Comps In Next Few Years
U.S. consumer technology industry sales grew by 17 percent during the pandemic year of 2020 — its strongest performance of the past seven years — a growth rate that isn’t expected to continue during 2021 or 2022, according to recently-released forecast data. MediaPost

What Kinds of Online Ads Do Early Tech Adopters Say Catch Their Attention?
47 percent of early technology adopters prefer social network side banner ads and brand promotional content, while 37 percent prefer online video ads and some 34 percent favor traditional website banner ads, according to recently-released survey data of interest to online marketers. MarketingCharts

Advertiser Perceptions: Google Looms Large Over The ID Resolution Market, But Indies Are Also Making A Splash
29 percent of advertisers and agencies use Google as their top identity resolution solution, ahead of second place LiveRamp and Salesforce, according to new data from the Advertiser Perceptions ID resolution marketplace report. AdExchanger

2021 January 15 Statistics Image

Pinterest A Safe Haven For Brands As They Reportedly Cut Budgets Amidst Turmoil
The role of the primarily-positive social media platform Pinterest has undergone change during recent tumultuous times — changes that certain brands are benefiting from, as Pinterest announced fourth quarter usage gains. MediaPost

2021 Instagram Stories Benchmark Report
Brands are utilizing Instagram Stories more than ever, according to new RivalIQ report data of interest to digital marketers, detailing how retention rates are relatively flat and reach rates have fallen. RivalIQ

Consumers Want Warm And Cuddly Ads, Study Finds
Inspiration, joy, love and hope represent the top emotions that consumers are seeking in advertising, while 73 percent said that they wanted brands to feature greater diversity in campaigns during 2021, according to recently-released survey data examined by MediaPost. MediaPost

Here’s What Women Want to See from Brands in Advancing Gender Equality
More female leadership, stronger support, and more accurate portrayal in advertising are among the initiatives most wanted among brands seeking to advance the stature and representation of women, recently-released survey data shows. MarketingCharts

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

2021 January 15 Marketoonist Comic

A lighthearted look at “marketing beyond cookies” by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

How Old-School Text Adventures Inspired Our Virtual Spaces — Wired

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • Nick Nelson — 10 Important Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn from 2020 — Small Business Trends
  • TopRank Marketing — B2B Influencer Marketing: Vorteile richtig nutzen [In German.] — Contentpepper

Have you found your own top B2B marketing story from the past week of industry news? Please let us know in the comments below.

Thank you for joining us for this edition of the TopRank Marketing B2B marketing news, and we hope that you’ll return again next Friday for more of the most relevant B2B and digital marketing industry news. In the meantime, you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news.

Investigating Traffic Upticks

In this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Jo Cameron — Moz’s Learning Team Manager — dives into the process of addressing and capitalizing on traffic spikes, including how to determine where traffic is coming from and what to do with the increased attention. Enjoy! 

21 Smart SEO Tips for 2021

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. I’m going to be talking through the journey that you embark upon when you notice a sudden change in traffic to a particular page on your site. In our case, this was a sudden and consistent increase, which may on the face of it look great.

You may perceive that this is exactly what you and your clients have been striving for. But as we know, traffic funneling into your site isn’t the end of the story. You’re also going to want that traffic to convert. But also, when something like this happens, there can be other lessons that you can learn and potentially apply to other pages and areas of your site.

I’m Jo. I’m the Learning Team Manager here at Moz. We create all the course material that you’ll see on the Moz Academy. This is where you can advance your SEO education and earn your SEO Essentials Certification. We also write the documentation for how to use the Moz tools, and this is where our story begins.

What’s driving the spike? 

Over the summer, we noticed a fairly drastic increase in visitors to a particular MozBar help page. We wanted to go beyond trying to understand why we’re getting that traffic and turn this into an opportunity to support our company goals. 

So when you see something like this happen, your first question might reasonably be: Why? Why are we getting this traffic? What has changed? What has caused this? And also, what do we already know from the metrics we’re collecting? 

What do we know?

On the Moz Learning Team, we track top-level metrics monthly, including unique visitors. We also collect visitor sentiment through the “Feedback” button on the page. And we also collect reporting every month in our Moz Pro campaign, using Keyword Explorer and Link Explorer as handy research tools in our toolkit.

So first of all, we had a dig into the monthly metrics on a more granular level. We looked at the cadence of the traffic in Google Analytics to see if this was a sudden spike or a consistent trend over time. 

Now before you can be totally confident in the quality of your Google Analytics data, you may want to clear up and filter that data. You can learn all about this in the SEO Essentials Certification. With this course, we take you through our SEO methodology, which helps you to approach SEO strategically. This is made up of five sections: research, audit, optimize, amplify, and iterate. Reporting sits in the fifth section of the methodology, which is iterate. Within that, we break it down into awareness metrics, on-site activity, and the all important conversions. The lessons in the SEO Essentials Certification take you through this in much more detail, and you can download the SEO report card when you purchase this course.

So back to what we saw in Google Analytics, we noticed an upward trend that also reflected the pattern followed by our previous traffic trends. We saw these scallop shapes, which nicely line up with the weekdays and the weekends. You may be used to seeing a different shape depending on your industry. 

We also looked at referral data in Google Analytics and compared this to what we saw before the spike. We also looked at how traffic was entering and exiting that page through Google Analytics, and we had a dig around in Google Trends to see if we could identify any related topics taking off. I’m tracking the help section of the moz.com domain in my Moz Pro campaign, and I have this connected to Google Analytics. This pulls in the overall visits and landing pages. This is the data that you’ll see in the acquisition section of Google Analytics. 

So while my team is focused primarily on one area of moz.com, this gives me an idea of where this page sits as a percentage of search traffic in relation to other landing pages. 

Now this is where it all starts to come together. Under the rankings tab in my Moz Pro campaign, I can now see the landing page data cross-referenced with my tracked keywords and their rankings. So I can also see search volume and estimated visits for each tracked keyword. We also entered the MozBar URL into Keyword Explorer to review the ranking keywords for that URL, and then added these keywords to my existing campaign to track them over time.

We know that SEO and SEO reporting is iterative. So by building out your tracked keywords in this way, this will help you to fill in the blanks as to which keywords are sending traffic to your site. 

We also saw some interesting data from the “Visitor Satisfaction” button. This is the thumbs up or thumbs down option that you can select on this page and generally indicates if the content was helpful or not.

We saw that there were a lot more people responding that this content was indeed helpful. So this is not only positive for my team and I, but it’s also informative. It gave us a really good idea that the content on this page was generally matching the intent of the visitors. So we looked at all of this together, and we drew some conclusions.

It didn’t seem like this visitor traffic was coming from one particular source or campaign that we could reasonably attribute this to. It looked like it was reflecting our previous traffic trends, just a lot more of it. So it’s probably quite important now to explain a bit more about the page that we are investigating.

The page is about MozBar. It’s an overview of how to use our free Chrome extension. Now it would also be remiss of me not to mention the fact that we have had a massive shift this year in terms of changes to our lives and businesses due to COVID-19, which has had a massive impact on how people spend their time, how businesses are run, and many, many other areas of our lives.

So after we looked at data for that page, in addition to all the other reporting metrics, we took a step back and we thought, “Well, what is this page about, and how has this shift impacted demand for these types of tools?” Because of these two things, nothing else really standing out as a flag to indicate a single event and this global change, we started to lean towards this being part of an increase in demand for free tools.

MozBar is a free extension that sits at the top of your Chrome browser, and it displays link metrics for your pages that you visit on the web. It’s also got some other handy features, like the ability to highlight different types of links, so it can show you internal or external links on a page, and to check your on-page elements, and so on. So with all of this information we collected, we’re now circling around understanding what caused this.

What do we do with the traffic?



The trick for us wasn’t just to figure out why this was happening or why it happened, but to turn this into some kind of positive action. So what we decided to do was to test driving traffic directly from these pages or this particular page to our key Moz initiatives. So this would be our personalized, one-to-one walkthroughs of the Moz Pro tool and the Moz Pro free trial.

This was a quick edit for my team. We could add those in there fairly quickly to test this out. We already know that this page is doing a standup job of helping people to understand how to use MozBar, so let’s see if they are interested in our other SEO tools. We added length to this page to help people identify what to do next once they’ve given MozBar a go.

And what we found out was that we are indeed seeing people taking us up on this offer, and they are clicking through to have a chat with our excellent Onboarding Team and also to check out the Moz Pro 30-day free trial. So with this relatively small amount of effort from my team we’ve now started to collect data on visitor behavior that can better inform future decisions and future projects.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope that this helps.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Break Free B2B Marketing: Oliver Christie on Making Life Better With AI

Oliver Christie of PertexaHealthTech Image

Just what is a B2B influencer, and what do they actually look like?

In our third season of Break Free B2B Marketing video interviews we’re having in-depth conversations with an impressive array of top B2B influencers, exploring the important issues that each expert is influential about.

Successful B2B influencers have a rare mix of the 5 Ps — proficiency, personality, publishing, promotion, and popularity — as our CEO Lee Odden has carefully outlined in “5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers.”

Offering up all of those boxes and more is Oliver Christie, chief artificial intelligence (AI) officer at PertexaHealthTech, who we’re delighted to be profiling today.

Nothing helps individuals and the businesses they work for break free from the norm quite like a tech disruption. The microprocessor. The internet. Mobile data. E-Commerce. When these technologies came onto the scene, everything changed… but what’s next?

According to Oliver Christie, it’s AI. In his own words: “Artificial Intelligence is the biggest technology disruption of our generation.” As far as he’s concerned, A.I. isn’t just the future, it’s the present. In today’s new episode of the Break Free B2B Marketing Interview series, Christie speaks about the role of artificial intelligence in our lives, including topics like A.I. and morality, bias in A.I., and the direction of A.I.’s future.

Artificial intelligence isn’t science fiction. It’s very much a science reality, and Oliver Christie is one of the leading experts talking and consulting on the topic. In today’s 31 minute interview with TopRank’s own Josh Nite, he’ll be passing some of that expertise along.

Break Free B2B Interview with Oliver Christie

If you’re interested in checking out a particular portion of the discussion, you can find a quick general outline below, as well as a few excerpts that stood out to us.

  • :55 – Introduction to Oliver Christie
  • 3:05 – Human-centric artificial intelligence
  • 4:14 – Personalization and how to avoid the “diabolical side”
  • 5:46 – The ways Oliver believes AI will impact the life of the everyday person in the next couple years
  • 7:10 – Personalization on Amazon
  • 11:13 – How AI will be reshaping business
  • 13:46 – What’s your new question?”
  • 16:50 – How the pandemic is changing the way technology is being developed
  • 19:10 – Bias in AI
  • 22:46 – How Oliver Christie found his niche as a thought leader
  • 27:58 – The importance of being yourself

Josh: I’m really interested in what we were talking about before we started. The idea of human-centric AI. AI can feel like this distant or cold thing or something that is, you know, it’s powering my Netflix algorithm. But I don’t know how it relates to my day to day. How is it a human-centric thing? We’re thinking about people and individuals.

Oliver: Something we’re moving more and more towards is thinking about people as individuals and what matters to us. How we talk. How do we act? What are our interests? You mentioned Netflix. The algorithm which says what you should watch next. If that’s successful, you watch more. If it has an understanding of what you might like, you can see more media if you get it. If it gets it wrong, if it doesn’t know who you are, it is a turnoff and you never see the difference between that and other media services. I think that the next big leap is going to be our products and services are going to be much more reactive to who we are. How will we live? And so on. But there are some big challenges. So it’s not a quick and easy thing to do. But I think the future is pretty exciting.

“I think that the next big leap is going to be our products and services are going to be much more reactive to who we are.” @OliverChristie #BreakFreeB2B #ArtificialIntelligence #AI Click To Tweet

Josh: Have you ever been on Amazon while not logged in? It’s such a striking thing to open an incognito window or something and you see how much personalization goes into that page and how just clueless it seems when it’s not on there.

Oliver: Amazon’s an interesting one. It’s algorithm is better than nothing. And it works to a degree. Some of the time, if you match a pattern — so the music you listen to, the books you buy — f someone is quite close to that, it works. As soon as you deviate, it pulls down or as soon as you’re looking for something original, it also doesn’t work. So I think Amazon is a good example of where we are at the moment, but not where we could be next. Amazon doesn’t once ask, what are you trying to achieve in your shopping? What are you trying to do next? And I think that’s going to be one of the big shifts that will happen.

Josh: What are we trying to achieve with that shopping, though? Besides, for me, it’s filling the void of not being able to go out to a concert and having a party, having something to look forward to with deliveries coming in. What kind of intent are you thinking about?

Oliver: Imagine you had the same shopping experience and let’s say it’s for books, videos, or courses. And the simple question can be, what would you like to achieve in your career in the next six months? Where would you like to be or what’s happening in your personal life? Want some advice and information which could be really useful? I think this sort of tailoring is where things are heading. So it’s still selling books and courses and videos and so on. But it’s understandably the intent behind content. What could this do to your career? What could this do for your family life, your love life, whatever it might be? Now, of course, we’re all locked down at the moment. So it’s a very different sort of situation. But I think some of the same things still apply. There’s going to be a back and forth. So how much do you want to give up about your personal life? Better recommendation. And I think it’s kind of early in some respects. But the data they passed shows, yes, if you get something positive out of it, you’ll have to give up some of that previously.

“Amazon is a good example of where we are at the moment, but not where we could be next. Amazon doesn’t once ask, what are you trying to achieve in your shopping? What are you trying to do next?.” @OliverChristie #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet

Keep your eye on the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Also check out episodes from season 1 and season 2.

Take your B2B marketing to new heights by checking out out previous season 3 episodes of Break Free B2B Marketing:

Travel SEO Trends and Pivots from 2020 (and What to Carry into 2021)

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you can’t predict the future of tourism. Unlike nearly any other industry, tourism is simultaneously dictated by a number of factors including consumer proclivity, weather and climate, global economics, and government.

Travel was undoubtedly one of the hardest hit sectors in the 2020 shutdowns, which affected every business domain from the largest destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to local small businesses that thrive on the foot traffic tourism normally brings. US Travel’s year-end assessment determined there was a 48% drop in travel-related spending for December 2020 compared to 2019, and a year-long loss of $500 billion. Success in tourism in 2020 meant simply surviving for many businesses, accompanied by total content strategy revamps, product pivots, local SEO investments, and local marketing activations.

What worked in 2020

Locals-only tourism

With out-of-state quarantines in effect for most of the US, and especially prevalent in the northeast, once global destinations and metros became intensely local. Succeeding locally meant celebrating local culture and playing to the hometown advantage, and creating and activating hyper-local content and SEO to sell reimagined experiences and drive renewed interest at home.

Visit Philadelphia, the DMO for the greater Philadelphia region, revamped its 2020 marketing efforts to rollout “Our Turn To Tourist” through winter 2021, a “regional marketing initiative [that] encourages people to take staycations and close-to-home drive trips.”

Visit Philadelphia’s main objective is to attract tourists from all over the country to the city of Philadelphia. With millions of out-of-state visitors each year, and huge growth each year proceeding 2020, Visit Philadelphia had the early foresight to create content geared towards both locals and visitors, and adopted a local-first SEO strategy for things to do, see, and eat nearby.

The organization went so far as to create local-centric mini itineraries based off of current restrictions, optimizing for local tourism and attraction-related keywords, and widely distributing new COVID-19 content. This campaign supported not only the hotels and attractions in the city, but also the local restaurants and small businesses.

While not totally divergent in its approach, the long-term investment that Visit Philadelphia has made into winning at local search, snagging SERP features, and embracing new features like Discover, helps ensure it will continue to be a successful advocate for Philadelphia as “the greatest city in the USA to spend the weekend”.

Reinvented experiences

Tourism and experience-based companies hadn’t extensively ventured into the virtual space prior to 2020 — after all, why plan to watch the action from home when you could board a plane and take part live and in-person?

Philadelphia-based Beyond the Bell Tours, the only LGBTQ+-owned-and-run tour operator in the city, faced a critical decision in May 2020: Their hallmark Pride-themed “Drag Me Along” drag queen trolly bar crawl was unable to launch with bars closed indefinitely and social gatherings restricted. As searches continued to increase for virtual events, virtual gatherings, and virtual things to do, businesses that rose to meet the demand found success. For Beyond the Bell, that meant turning the “Drag Me Along” concept into “Pride In A Box”: a series of five different themed Pride boxes that included products and experiential components for use at home.

Though their website was originally built on a tour-booking engine, to execute a pivoted product strategy, they restructured it to allow an e-commerce integrated function, and optimized to sell products and experiences for Pride.

Founder Rebecca Fisher said, “We thought about how a box could embody a community. We highlighted queer people, businesses, and queer products, and held weekly events for Pride, all proceeds of which were donated to racial justice. A single ‘box’ purchased during Pride supported many queer businesses, and we wanted people to feel that impact.”

Ultimately, businesses that adapted quickly to changes in consumer search behavior, and that conducted and implemented keyword research for new content targeting previously unranked/low-volume terms, were better positioned to maintain consumer support and visibility even though actual travelers continued to drop.

Up-to-date info on expanding and changing regulations

Domestic travel is rarely regulated in the US, so when cities across the country responded to shut down orders, hot spots beloved by locals and tourists alike emptied out and revenue began to drastically fall.

As an SEO community (especially local!) we’re always advocates of the value of keeping local listings in Google My Business up-to-date, and it never mattered more than in 2020. Coming out on top were those who updated hours, COVID-19 policies and procedures, and published delivery or third-party partnerships. Unsurprisingly, AirBnB’s and VRBO’s new Covid content “enhanced cleaning protocol” and “guidelines for owners” come out top in searches for short term rental cleaning best practices, and cleanliness related to travel accomodations. Updated local listings allowed exasperated consumers to easily see what businesses were open, and allowed search-savvy businesses to leverage their GMB to position themselves as safety-conscious, accessible, and prioritize addressing consumer concerns (not to mention the features released to help businesses access these tools).

What to expect from tourism in 2021

It’s hard to remember a time of greater collective cabin fever. Though with border closings, pre-travel testing, and business closures remaining a moving target, we can still expect that a majority of travel will happen closer to home in early 2021. Here’s where we can expect to see growth first.

Short term stays: road trips, workspace respites, and snow birds

What’s ahead for short-term travels? Continued RV sales, for one, which were up 4.5% annually in 2020. These growth indicators, as well as public perceptions of travel safety, continue to slate hometown and close-by exploration as the early 2021 winners.

Outdoor and spaced-out activities show continued interest in search volume and sales. Yellowstone National Park alone saw a 21% increase in year-over-year visitation in September 2020. Don’t expect this to slow down any time soon.

Another trend we expect to see continue in early 2021? Snow birding. Once reserved for the retired, heading south for the winter is especially popular this year for northerners leaving lockdowns at home. Expect extended stays, fuller flights, and busier beaches than normal.

One final place you can expect to see travelers? In a nearby hotel. Formerly reserved for the luxurious staycations, local hotels have become workplace respites for those fully remote workers who lack adequate home office space. Though not “technically” travel, many hotels (Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton, for starters) are offering single-day, day-time only, “work from hotel” deals to help relieve lost revenue and fried nerves of managing co-occurring zoom calls at the kitchen table.

Extended visits: remote relocations

With many children and families, not to mention formerly remote employees, feeling the squeeze of their walls at home, many hotels and villa properties are offering cost-effective extended stays (three weeks or more). Mid-term relocations are becoming incredibly common, with particular flight happening from metro centers in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. Individual countries are actively trying to scoop up consumer demand for change of scenery and pace, with countries like Dubai, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands offering temporary extended work visas to US citizens as a way to revive local tourism.

Short term rental properties such as beach house bookings, waterfront properties, mountain cabins, and southern getaways — or you know, just a yard if you’re a city-dweller — are booking in greater numbers in 2020 than nearly any time in 2019. AirDNA notes, “Among those leading the rebound are beaches, mountain towns, lakeside getaways, and really anything within driving distance of a major urban hub.”

Longer-term remote stays, whether for yourself or your family, are increasingly popular, as are remote work options which, according to Google trend data, have increased by two-times the previous levels pre-pandemic. Searches for extended stay vacations peaked at the end of December 2020, with previous highs in October and April 2020. Moving into 2021, we’ll likely see expanded tourism offerings to match this consumer demand, and also to accommodate pre-quarantine requirements, which vary city to city.

In conclusion

Travel isn’t what it used to be, and for the time being, we’re seeing increasingly important local search activations and feature adoption. And as remote work and location agnostic work becomes more the norm, the lessons we learned from pandemic travel search will help businesses thrive in this new tourism climate moving forward.