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The world looked pretty different in 2020. Even this year, the human landscape is remarkably changed. Because our public lives were sequestered to our homes for such an extended period of time, it changed our demands, how we shop, how we learn, how we attended concerts—how we went to the doctor. And all of our questions, worries, and boredom brought us to one communal spot. A place where we could mingle without the risk of exchanging germs: the internet.
Because internet users’ habits changed, website publishers had as much of an adjustment to make. They had to adjust their SEO terminology to include a brand new set of keywords, and they had to adjust the intent of their posts. Ads for e-commerce started focusing on pandemic demands—masks, food delivery services, streaming subscriptions. Online shopping had to start accommodating heavier traffic. The change was massive—and that was 2020.
Now in 2021, as states lift pandemic regulations, people are trending different searches, wanting different things. Restaurants and shops are opening back up and they are going to be jumping at the opportunity to bring their advertising game up to speed. More than ever, it’s crucial to follow the latest digital ad trends.
What Are Digital Ads?
Digital ads are targeted marketing strategies that use data and analytics to cater to a user’s wants and needs. The goal is to reach the consumers at every stage of what we call the buying, or digital marketing, funnel. For publishers, digital ads are what help them monetize their websites. While advertisers supply ads, publishers supply the inventory (ad units). By acting as the middleman between them and consumers, publishers can earn a lucrative profit.
The New Marketing Funnels and Why They are Important
The traditional marketing funnel focused on a linear, one-size-fits-all consumer experience:
Awareness → Interest → Desire → Action
The newer digital marketing funnels—there are three different types—account for the non-linear path a consumer takes, from awareness of your product to customer conversion.
- Hourglass: ten steps that focus on building and maintaining customer relationships
- Looping: six-step, flexible, and customizable look at how a user may return to consider a product and their loyalty to it at any point
- Micro-Moments: inspired by Google, it focuses on a consumer’s “want to” (know, go, do, buy) moments and intents
These three new marketing funnels weren’t invented because marketers behind the scenes decided that it was morally imperative to give a personalized user experience for consumers. It’s because the old strategy wasn’t working for the new internet. As a result, the new focus has changed the face of digital advertising. And as the middleman, your strategies must adapt too.
Top Digital Ad Trends
These aren’t the early days of the internet where we clicked, learned, thought, and bought. The internet is saturated with information, and our understanding of how to use it is more in-depth. Online marketers and digital ad strategists have to change the way they think about consumer behavior altogether.
Because of this, the most adaptable digital ad strategies to a “non-linear” transition will be the most successful. In 2021 and into 2022, we’re seeing these trends in digital advertising:
1. Programmatic Advertising
Long gone are the days of traditional waterfall bidding–and soon, anything else not using AI technologies. Instead, the advertising world moves past manual ad insertion and negotiations with ad networks to a more automated landscape—cue programmatic advertising.
Programmatic advertising uses different artificial intelligence, software, algorithm, and user data to automate the ad-buying process. One of the main goals of advertising is to deliver ads to the right audience. As a result of using advanced technologies, advertisers can better maximize the relevancy of their ads. As the publisher, you benefit from an easier way of earning and higher yield. There are a few types of programmatic advertising to consider using:
- Real-time bidding (RTB): During RTB, ad units are auctioned off to an array of ad networks simultaneously. The bid begins once a user clicks into your website and ends with the highest bidder’s ad shown. RTB invites the opportunity for an increase in competition when you work with a provider offering a competitive network stack (more money!).
- Programmatic direct: Publishers arrange a deal to sell inventory directly to a specific ad network at an agreed-upon price. Ad software automates the buying and delivery process from there.
- Private marketplaces (PMP): In a PMP, publishers negotiate in a more private setting instead of an open market.
2. Cookieless Advertising
HTTP cookies are tiny pieces of data that a website collects and stores while users browse it. They typically assist advertisers with better audience tracking and targeting. However, 2021 is seeing the gradual phase-out of these little nuggets of information.
In 2020, industry titan Google announced that a total cookie phaseout would be reached by 2022. We can expect most of the web to follow suit. Following data privacy and protection laws will be (and kind of already is) essential as a publisher. While advertisers will no longer have access to third-party cookies, they can rely on things such as first-party cookies and performance indicators. Consequently, publishers will be relied on more heavily for information and audience segmentation moving forward.
3. User Experience and Core Web Vitals
In the end, it’s all about user experience (UX). So remember your basics: keep your site speed high, don’t overload it with flashing advertisements and heavy pictures, and compliment your content─don’t interrupt it. Also, remember overlooked components that affect user experience: aesthetics. For example, your ad layout is a part of the overall look and feels viewers receive from your blog. So be sure it’s a good one.
And before skipping past this section, we’d like to note this is not just a passing trend. The digital world is already placing good UX as a standard. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Google’s Core Web Vitals have become the standard for determining the quality of user experience on your site. Core web vitals will access everything from page load speed and bounce rate to layout shift to evaluate your site’s UX. It will impact rankings, and consequently, profits.
4. Mobile Device Advertising
People are relying on their phones more and more to do what they would normally do on their computers. Already, between 2019 and 2020, mobile advertising spending increased to an enormous $189 billion. As digital advertising and technology advance, the number is just going to keep growing.
About 50% of people will not buy something from a website with a poorly designed mobile page. Rather, an easy-to-use platform or blog can carry a customer to the loyalty you’re looking for. So be prepared with a mobile-friendly website and ad units that are mobile responsive as well.
5. Short-Form Videos
Short-form videos are the way to advertise, entertain, and reach younger generations. Social media has reworked their platforms for it, and people are scrolling through short-form video after short-form video when they’re bored. Knowing this, advertisers will pay higher for video ad unit rates than other types.
Although video ads are no new concept, there is some negative stigma surrounding them. Before, publishers would need all types of resources and software to implement them. However, programmatic advertising saves the day once again! Publishers who want to work with video ads can use video header bidding providers for seamless integration.
Though short-form video as a trend may not have longevity decades from now, its current foothold in marketing is something to take advantage of—at least until Gen Z ages out.
6. A/B Split Testing
This digital ad trend is more technical than the others on this list but equally as important. By conducting a split test, you can see what variables in your ad units are working and which ones are not. It’s a definite way to pinpoint areas of weakness and improve your digital ad strategy.
Today’s publishers have more transparency with ad rates, bidding, and even advertising trends than ever before. Pairing this knowledge and A/B testing, you can create high-performing ad units. In addition, this can help you overcome and work around unavoidable factors, like seasonality.
7. Native Advertising
People know when they’re being marketed to, and they typically don’t trust it. So instead, they look for organic information. When someone is shopping online, they are looking for trustworthy reviews to back up their decision. They haven’t tried the product out yet, so how do other people who have used it feel? In fact, reviews and organic content can make or break interest in an ad. That being said, one of the biggest (and possibly best) trends to come with 2021 is the shift towards native advertising. Think of native advertisements as ads that blend in with the content surrounding them.
A couple of examples of how you can achieve native advertising are:
- In-feed: Incorporating ad units alongside your content that blend in with the look and overall feel of your own.
- Branded content: Your posts surround/ recommend the products that you place an ad unit on the page for. This is highly achievable through direct deals (and can be very lucrative!).
The Bottom Line
We can choose from different ad platforms, create higher-performing ad units, and streamline our own work with AI technology. It may be more work to learn a new strategy, but doing so will help you in 2021 and prepare you for the future beyond. Try it today, and find out what revenue boost you could be earning with this free earnings calculator.