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2021 digital marketing review

2021 Digital Marketing Review | Lever Interactive Q&A

Digital marketing continued to evolve through a transformative period in 2021, with new tactics and strategies often progressively linked to a world consistently adapting to new technologies, working ideologies and pandemic realities. We consulted our agency experts to look back on the previous year and determine how recent trends are evolving the landscape as we progress into 2022.

For this 2021 Digital Marketing Review, we checked in with Drew Metherd, Director of Media Operations, Amber Hodges, Media Director, Jeff Hanrahan, SEO Operations Manager, and Valerie Guglielmi, Senior Account Executive.


What event shaped 2021 in Digital Marketing?

Drew: “Apple rolling out iOS 14.5. [The iOS 14.5 rollout] made it so that apps required your permission to track your online behavior and serve personalized ads. Suddenly, the user-level tracking data lost to opt outs and central to effective audience targeting and marketing attribution was restricted. Meta Platforms took the brunt of the ad spend hit while also taking privacy regulation lumps.”

Amber: “Google ads smart bidding. Through both pressure from our google partnership and testing across multiple accounts, smart bidding across google has proven to generate a stronger outcome. While not 100% automated, with less focus on micro-optimizations like keyword bids, this allowed for more time to test, analyze, and advance audience targeting across campaigns. As of May 2021, more than 80% of advertisers use automated bidding to achieve their performance goals.”

Jeff: “One of the most significant events that shaped digital marketing in 2021 was the Google Algorithm Update from June-August. The update focused on Google Core Web Vitals, which emphasized a website’s user experience as a ranking factor, particularly for mobile. Mobile usage was on the rise in previous years. The pandemic helped ramp that usage up quicker than previously predicted.”

Val: “Obviously, COVID had a huge impact on our lives in 2020, and then as vaccines rolled out at the beginning of 2021, we finally started to see the world open up again by the summer. This progress shaped digital marketing in terms of the types of messages being communicated—allowing and encouraging people to come together once again. But as cases began to rise again toward the end of the year, I personally saw digital communication refocus on “virtual/remote” solutions that are likely to become a norm for years to come.”


Can you describe the ways in which Google’s updates impacted businesses?

Amber: “Google’s Updates simplified structures across paid search campaigns with more broad keywords (sunsetting broad match modified) allowing for more signals that smart bidding can optimize within a live environment. Google’s new campaign types are based around display and video support. Increased use and development in responsive ad formats (search, display, and video). With pushes towards machine learning and simplified structures, these new formats utilize multiple text, images, and videos to generate creative combinations that are more relevant to each user. Specifically, across video and display, responsive ads can generate more formats and sizes to increase impressions share and site inventory.”

Drew: “With strategic usage of Google’s automated bidding, we have successfully scaled our client’s paid search campaigns while enhancing performance KPIs.”

Jeff: “Long story short, it varies. If a company is proactive and already engages in valuable technical SEO practices, these Google updates present an opportunity to move up in the rankings, boost traffic and improve Core Web Vitals. However, if a company is not regularly refreshing many of the primary signals Google is crawling for, they risk falling even further behind. Conversion rate, market share, and revenue stand to suffer. Google’s updates essentially force companies to invest in user experience, which was very evident in 2021.”


What does the increased popularity of CTV mean for digital marketers?

Drew: “CTV continues to be an effective awareness and acquisition channel for our clients, outperforming display in some cases in terms of cost per acquisition/lead and conversion rate.”

Val: “In 2021, CTV continued to be a key brand awareness channel that allowed brands to reach millions of viewers. And while CTV may not be the last channel a user interacts with prior to becoming a lead or converting in some way, it is proven to be a beneficial touchpoint influencing the customer journey. We have to recognize the attributed value upper-funnel channels like CTV have on achieving our digital marketing goals and continue to diversify the media mix knowing that customers do not follow a parallel path to conversion.”


Referring to the 2021 LinkedIn Spring Cleaning series, which tip did you find most useful?

Amber: “Week 3 – Paid Social – Refresh Facebook Audience Targeting and Week 3 – Paid Social Dust Off Your Paid Social Ad Creative. These tips worked hand in hand highlighting the importance of keeping creative fresh while matching those ads with refined target audiences. From a Paid digital standpoint these tips were highlighting only Social but are tactics that can be mimicked across multiple paid and organic media platforms.”

Jeff: “The 3rd tip is about streamlining your landing page. It is helpful information for pages being used for Paid Search. Most campaigns have a designated landing page outside those found on website navigation. Having a page with a specific action that you want a user to take is essential. Removing certain page elements that would result in them taking another action can help. Limiting the content on the page that helps support or persuade a user to take said action is best.”

Val: “The spring-cleaning tips revolving around “Streamlining Your Landing Pages” were the most useful to me and my clients. I think this part of the customer experience is too often overlooked as we focus on initially engaging prospects through ad copy and creative in the places, they are most likely to be online (i.e. Google search engine, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). But once we’ve honed in on engaging creative and are measuring the success of a campaign, it often comes down to the experience users are having on the landing page. A user-friendly setup with a clearly defined call-to-action is just as important (if not arguably more important) as how the user arrived at the page in the first place.”


What is your personal prediction for 2022 Digital Marketing?

Drew: “In 2021, TikTok surpassed Google as the most popular site on the web.  In 2022, I predict that TikTok will safely surpass Twitter and LinkedIn in ad revenue.”

Amber: “The largest change will be marketing strategies and data management preparing for a “cookie-less” environment. In turn I think this will provide more value and increase investments across upper funnel tactics (display, video, programmatic and CTV).”

Jeff: “My prediction is that you will see more advances with platforms to help digital marketers gain insights through AI and learning machines, making for less manual work. This gives digital marketers more time to focus on producing and executing strategies.”

Val: “I predict that video advertising will continue to boom across industries. We saw record-breaking engagement on video creative in 2021, and I expect that momentum to remain strong throughout 2022 as a user-preferred medium for obtaining information and absorbing content in a memorable way.”

(For additional 2021 Digital Marketing Review insights from Lever Interactive’s full roster of expert digital marketers, consider reading our thoughts on 2022: How to Upgrade Your Digital Marketing Strategy for 2022 and Beyond.)

A Different Agency Experience

Since you joined Lever Interactive how have you seen the agency evolve and what makes it different than other agencies?

Drew: “Small but mighty is a phrase used to describe Lever before I began in 2021, which definitely holds true. This enables us to evolve quickly on behalf of our larger clients to seize opportunities and instantly adjust to our ever-changing industry. For example, we pivoted in 2021 to adopt the best of Google’s automated bidding, while adding audience and campaign pacing optimization platforms to our technology stack. We also automated redundant reporting tasks, enabling us to spend more time optimizing campaigns.  Finally, we continue to add valuable talent to our team, people who really make the difference for our clients and continue to introduce better ways to serve our customers.”

Amber: “Shifts within our internal structure to ensure that we can support our client stacks and the addition of expert pod structures across our top vertical, healthcare. Also, updating our internal technology stack. As tactics across marketing are becoming more multi-channel, we have partnered with more audience and site analytics data tools. Our new reporting software has allowed for more visibility into these multi-channel strategies by easily merging multiple data sources into single views.”

Val: “I have personally seen Lever Interactive embrace evolution over the past 2.5 years—both from a client services perspective and from an internal standpoint. For our clients, we have expanded our offerings and continued to grow our expertise in areas where we have identified the biggest and best opportunities for each business or industry. Internally, our team has grown in size despite the obstacles of COVID; we have swiftly adapted to remote working situations while simultaneously improving our level of service in an ongoing effort to provide a different agency experience; and overall, we have restructured our agency team in a way that allows for increased productivity, individual growth, and ultimately stronger client support. I believe the personal level of care our team has for the success of our clients and the relationships that we build is what sets us apart from other agencies.”

Lever Interactive Digital Marketing Q&A 2022 Series

For more digital marketing insights and tips, check back each month as members of our agency participate in our Digital Marketing Q&A Series. Additionally, each week Lever Interactive will post interesting, unique digital marketing content.

If you’re interested in partnering with a proactive digital agency that values trust, confidence, and creativity, you can reach out to us at Sales@LeverInteractive.com. We’re looking forward to helping you with your digital marketing needs, in 2022 and beyond.


If you’re looking for a different agency experience, look no further.

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