Digital Marketing News 2021: Top Marketing Stories of the Year

Posted on: January 14, 2022 | Written by: John E Lincoln, Ignite Visibility

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As we wrap up 2021, let’s take a minute to look at some of the biggest digital marketing trends this year.

So much has unfolded this year. It can be hard to pinpoint exactly what change had the most profound influence on the way we market online.

From Google algorithm updates to cookieless tracking in email marketing, what digital marketing news made the biggest impact on your business this year?

Overall Digital Marketing News

Some of the biggest stories in digital marketing news this year came from Google’s algorithm updates that affected almost everyone.

Even though Google launched Core Web Vitals in 2020, it made significant updates and changes in 2021.

In June 2021, Google started the algorithm update with a ranking change, the dismissal of the AMP badge, and changing the Top Stories carousel to feature all news stories that meet both the Google News content policies and guidelines.

By the end of August 2021, Google initiated an update to their Core Web Vital Metrics (LCP, FID, and CLS) and to a site’s Mobile Friendliness, Safe Browsing, HTTPS, and No Intrusive Interstitials.


core web vitals

Core Web Vitals

If you found yourself struggling in the aftermath of Google’s updates, you weren’t alone.

A lot of sites took a hit when these new updates were rolled out. Luckily, expert marketers were able to come up with some tips and tricks on how to recover from these big rank changes.

While these updates may have added some work to our plates, it proved to be a good opportunity for digital marketers to take a look at their sites. They focused on where they could improve and how they can make their site more user and SEO-friendly.

Digital Marketing News: The Biggest SEO Stories

Next up, let’s talk about some of the biggest SEO stories of 2021.

Google Meta Tag Algorithm Updated

Always a fan of switching up their algorithm to keep marketers on their feet, Google also changed the way they manage and review and index Google Meta Tags.

These meta tags are the text within the code of a webpage. They describe the content of that page to the search engine performing the indexing. While it used to be popular to keyword stuff these tags to manipulate search engines, Google’s algorithm has become smarter.

Many marketers learned this year that, by incorporating meta tags into their SEO strategy, they were able to see better rank results.


What is a Meta Title?

What is a Meta Title?

Increase Local SEO with Google My Business

In addition to leaning on meta titles and Google meta tags, Google My Business also saw a huge increase in 2021 when it comes to a site’s SEO strategy.

With more users looking for local brands and businesses, optimizing your site’s Google My Business places pertinent business information directly in front of relevant audiences while also increasing your local SEO.

This is a win-win situation for everyone involved!

There were some updates done to the local search feature in late 2021 so if you did any work on your brand’s Google My Business SEO, you might want to check out the details of the update to see if your business was affected.


Google My Business to Google Business Profile

Google My Business

Social Media Stories That Made Digital Marketing News

Social media has always been a strong piece of the digital marketing landscape.

But, with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging and people looking for more ways to connect with their favorite brands online, social media only got bigger in 2021.

The TikTok Takeover

One of the year’s biggest social media stars: TikTok.

Once just a lip-syncing app, TikTok is too big to ignore. Whether it’s through in-house created content or influencer marketing strategies, this fun app allows brands to connect with their audiences in a more unique way. All you need is for one video to go viral and suddenly, you’re “TikTok famous”!

This is great news for brands that are looking to reach a lot of people quickly. Even though other apps like Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter have been around longer, TikTok has a larger audience with more than 33 million downloads.

In fact, Cloudflare even just announced that TikTok received more traffic than any other domain in 2021.

Not only is it a huge app in terms of users, but it also ranks #1 in consumer spend and, starting in 2021, is indexed by Google, which means that your TikTok content has an even better chance of being seen by the right audience with the right amount of money to spend.


TikTok vs Google: Top Domain

TikTok vs Google: Top Domain

The Rise of Clubhouse

Another big social media story in 2021 digital marketing news: the rise of Clubhouse.

Maybe due to the desperate need to hear other people’s voices while so many of us were working from home alone, Clubhouse, and other audio apps, saw a huge increase in usage in 2021.

Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang describes Clubhouse as the “Goldilocks” medium: “Text is not enough, and video is too much; social audio is just right. It represents the opportunity for social connection and empathy without the downsides of video.”

Whatever the reason, Clubhouse is an excellent opportunity for industry leaders to make a name for themselves while connecting with other thought leaders and new audiences.


Clubhouse Adds New Topics


The Day Facebook Went Silent

TikTok and Clubhouse’s rise in popularity came at the perfect time because we all remember the day when Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram went dark.

Previously seen as the social media giant that no one could shake, Facebook was certainly shaken and October 4, 2021, proved to be a day most digital marketers won’t soon forget. While Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram were fairly quick to come back online, it planted the seed: maybe digital marketers should stop relying so much on the Facebook family of apps and start to branch out to new ones, like TikTok and Clubhouse.

The Biggest PPC Story of 2021

Pay-per-click advertising is not immune to the constant evolution of digital marketing.

Value-Based Bidding

While many experts predict a lot of changes coming to PPC in the next few years, the biggest digital marketing news to come out of this space in 2021 was the rise of value-based bidding.

Also called “smart bidding”, value-based bidding is a strategy that defines your keyword and ad group bids by advertising features.

This type of PPC strategy allows you to narrow down your advertising focus and optimize your ads for conversions. With value-based bidding, you can focus on what is truly working for your product or service and stop wasting time and money on what isn’t.

Value-based bidding has been around for a while but, with the need to watch ad spend costs, more digital marketers leaned into it this year.


Increasing Local Extension in Google Ads

Another big update in PPC news was the improvement of Google Ad Extensions.

If you’re a digital marketer using Google Ads, don’t ignore the moneymaker that is a local extension.

With Ignite Visibility clients alone, we have found that 80% of all impressions come from location extensions.

So many Google researchers are looking for local brands or businesses. Why not capitalize on that by adding a local extension to your ad?

Email Stories That Made Waves in 2021’s Digital Marketing News

Email marketing has always been a cornerstone of digital marketing and it held that title in 2021.

But not without some pressure. Changes to how marketers can obtain tracking and targeting data really shook up the email marketing and PPC ad scene in 2021.

Apple’s iOS 14.5 Update

While Apple’s iOS 14 update was done back in September of 2020, the April 2021 release of iOS 14.5 was the update that really impacted digital marketing.

With the iOS 14.5 update, users now have to go into an app’s settings and specifically give the app to track them. This is huge news for digital marketers because some sources are saying that only 4% of users in the United States are giving that permission.

In fact, iOS 14.5 users can give a blanket rejection to all apps in their settings, rather than specifically denying each individual app.

Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and other social media sites aren’t excited about this update. Without that tracking data they can’t target users as well as they used to. Without their prior targeting methods, their ads weren’t converting as well which caused their ad sales to start to see a decline.


Apple iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection

Apple iOS 14.5 Mail Privacy Protection


Google’s Elimination of Third-Party Cookies

In addition to this blow to user tracking and ad targeting, Google Chrome also announced in 2021 that they are starting the process of eliminating third-party cookies.

Third-party cookies are used to track online users’ activity and interests. Digital marketers can then use that data to better target their ads to specific audiences.

But Google said no more.

And they aren’t the only ones. Apple, Safari and Mozilla Firefox actually began phasing out third-party cookies way back in 2013. With Chrome users accounting for more than two-thirds of internet users, Google eliminating them is way bigger news.

While these changes are good for user privacy, it’s not great for digital marketers.

It’s not the end of the world, though. With some pivots in priorities, a shift in mindset, and revamping some of your strategies, the best marketers can overcome these changes in tracking.


First-Party vs. Second-Party vs. Third-Party Data

First-Party vs. Second-Party vs. Third-Party Data

Other Noteworthy Stories in Digital Marketing News

In addition to the big news stories above, there were other pretty noteworthy pieces of digital marketing news to come out of 2021, including some huge WordPress vulnerabilities.

WordPress Plugin Vulnerabilities

In September 2021, a popular WordPress plugin, Ninja Forms, had a vulnerability that exposed more than a million sites. In this situation, there were two vulnerabilities: Sensitive Information Disclosure and Unprotected REST-API to Email Injection.

These two issues put all of a website’s user’s confidential information at risk. Yikes!

WordPress found itself in the news again in October 2021 when vulnerabilities in the WP Fastest Cache plugin were discovered.

In this situation, over a million WordPress users found themselves vulnerable to an attacker assuming full administrator privileges of their site.

Unfortunately, October wasn’t a great month for WordPress plugins.

It was discovered at the end of the month that the plugin, Smash Balloon Social Post Feed, had a vulnerability that exposed over 200,000 websites to Stored XSS vulnerability.

Then, in November 2021, the makers of Asta Theme discovered an XSS vulnerability that can lead to a total site takeover. This affected more than a million sites as well.

Luckily, Starter Templates were able to patch this vulnerability pretty quickly.

More vulnerabilities were discovered with WordPress plugins, including All in One SEO and WPS Hide Login, in December. These vulnerabilities exposed more than 3 million sites and 1 million sites, respectively.

In positive news, in November, WordPress announced an acquisition that may just be what the site giant needs to increase its security efforts.

Of course, the security issues aren’t usually with WordPress itself. The issues lie with the plugins that are built for the hosting giant. To help you weed through the plugins that may cause concern, we’ve pulled together some of the best WordPress plugins of 2021.

GoDaddy’s Global Data Breach

Even with all of these documented attacks, WordPress wasn’t the only web host that fell victim to vulnerabilities.

In late November, GoDaddy announced that they discovered a data breach that affected up to 1.2 million websites worldwide. The intrusions mostly took place over a week in September with an additional date in early November.

During this breach, some users lost administrative access to their sites. They saw their content being changed when hackers installed backdoors, added rogue administrative accounts, and uploaded malicious scripts.

Looking Ahead to the Digital Marketing News of 2022

We’ve certainly packed a lot into 2021, didn’t we?

There was some good — the introduction of Clubhouse and the explosion of TikTok.

And there were some events we could have lived without, like all of the WordPress vulnerabilities.

With 2022 just around the corner, I, for one, am excited to see what evolutions come to the world of digital marketing.


About the author:

John Lincoln (MBA) is CEO of Ignite Visibility (a 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Inc. 5000 company) a highly sought-after digital marketing strategist, industry speaker and author of two books, "The Forecaster Method" and "Digital Influencer." Over the course of his career, Lincoln has worked with over 1,000 online businesses ranging from small startups to amazing clients such as Office Depot, Tony Robbins, Morgan Stanley, Fox, USA Today, COX and The Knot World Wide. John Lincoln is the editor of the Ignite Visibility blog. While he is a contributor, he does not write all of the articles and in many cases he is supported to ensure timely content.  

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