2020 Hindsight: Analysing the year’s digital marketing

23 Dec 2020

Digital marketing

Claire Crompton

Claire Crompton

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As you read this, you may be relaxing, enjoying the closing of the year, ready to wave off a year like never before, or you may be riddled with anxiety, worrying about what’s to come. 2020 has certainly been no walk in the park that’s for sure. 

We’ve all had to adapt, especially when it comes to working. We’ve traded ties for permanent loungewear and swapped conference rooms for home Zoom calls. Speaking of Zoom, the app saw a dramatic rise in usage in March 2020 as businesses all over switched to work-from-home mode. In December 2019, there were around 10 million daily meeting participants on Zoom and by April 2020, there were 300 million! Even the UK Cabinet and 90,000 schools in 20 countries were amongst the new users of the app.

UK Cabinet Zoom meeting to show digital marketing 2020

2020 turned a lot of things on their heads and it’s fair to say it’s been a crazy and unpredictable year. Last year, if you’d have been told that 2020 would see concerts go virtual, travel bans be imposed, and priests carry out baptisms with water pistols (yep that’s happened this year), you would have just laughed, cried, or maybe you’d have thought “Cooool!” 

All over the world, businesses, organisations, marketers, and even the clergy had to seriously rethink processes, strategies and campaigns. We’ve had to adapt ourselves and it hasn’t been easy! As the weirdest year in history draws to a close, we take a look back at 2020, through the lens of digital marketing.

SEO 2020 round-up

What’s the landscape of SEO looking like as we head into a new year? Well let’s run through some key Google updates that you should know about in the SEO game, unless you’ve been living under a rock – or more like a duvet – this year. 

Google’s 2020 updates

  • Google announced that come May 2021, not only do words and relevancy matter to gain higher rankings, but user experience does, too. Learn more about how Google’s Core Web Vitals will be search signals for page experience and rankings next year
  • Earlier in the year, Google announced they’d be switching to mobile-first indexing with Google’s mobile-first update set to happen in September 2020. Considering mobile search engine usage has overtaken desktop in recent years, it’s not surprising that Google made this decision. However, due to 2020 being an up-and-down year, even Google had to adapt and postponed the update until March 2021
  • Froogle came back in April and brought back free listings of products to the Google Shopping tab
  • Google had three core updates: in January, May and December this year to freshen up content rankings and to broadly improve algorithms

Make sure you’re preparing your website for any Google updates in 2021 or risk seeing an organic ranking drop!

Google’s top 2020 search trends

Quick quiz, without scrolling down! See if you can guess the most searched keywords of 2020…

  1. What was the top search overall?
  2. What was the top search in lyrics?
  3. What was the top searched TV show?
  4. What was the top searched game?
  5. What was the top searched movie?

Scroll down a little for the answers to see how you did… 



… Don’t be cheating now

Right, how did you do? 


  1. Coronavirus

If ‘coronavirus’ wasn’t your answer for the most searched for term of 2020, where have you been hiding? And we’re curious to know what other terms you thought had taken over ‘coronavirus’ as the top Google trend! Comment below!

  1. WAP
  2. Tiger King
  3. Among Us
  4. Parasite

See more of what was trending on Google in 2020.

The best and the worst of 2020’s PR campaigns

As a PR agency, we’re always excited to see big brands deliver PR campaigns that carry creative messaging. Unfortunately, not everyone gets it right. We look back at those who nailed it this year, and those who completely missed the mark.

Our favourite PR campaigns this year

1. Captain Sir Tom Moore

With what started out as a humble fundraising campaign on JustGiving to raise £1000 for the NHS, Captain Sir Tom Moore aimed to complete 100 laps around his garden for his 100th birthday, and he surpassed his target immensely – raising over £32 million! So, how did that happen? 

Well, first by being all the makings of a national treasure, an actual hero war veteran and a pillar of the British nation – that’s a good start. 

His story made it even more special. The fact that even in old age (turning a century old!), there are people who still hope and want to keep fighting, by doing all they can is truly inspiring. 

Behind this, the marketing team at JustGiving optimised the fundraising page for Captain Sir Tom Moore’s birthday walk for SEO to make it easier for search engines, like Google, to find and display the page in SERPs. They also featured Captain Sir Tom on their homepage to give it even more visibility. They also created ‘Positive Postcards’ to give an interactive web experience so that people could make personalised digital postcards for him.

From there, thanks to a local press release and a spot on BBC Radio 2 speaking to singer Michael Ball, funds jumped up to £250,000. And before you knew it, he was on Good Morning Britain, hitting headlines all over the world, and inspiring countless art pieces. He even inspired others to do fundraising. 

Captain Sir Tom Moore mural showing a good digital marketing 2020 campaign

What an achievement! After changing their target to £500,000 because of the unwavering support, the campaign delivered a 6559% fundraising result with £32,796,355 donated in the end! 

2. Innocent’s billboard reminders of a time before lockdown

Bringing a bit of light relief to 2020, the Innocent brand delivered a prize-winning billboard campaign that posted friendly reminders of simple things we may have been forgetting during the pandemic-stricken year. 

Innocent billboard marketing 2020 campaign

Innocent billboard campaign

It’s on-brand, it’s eye-catching, and it’s enough to bring a little smile and warmth, even during troubled times. Innocent is known for doing simple yet effective marketing campaigns, ones that don’t always directly link to their products. But then again, they’re all about putting goodness into you with their smoothies and drinks, so their light-hearted jokes fit perfectly.

3. The AA wanted you to get back on the road

Back in the summer, coinciding with the ease of lockdowns and restrictions, the AA did a clever parody of the 1979 “Get blown-away” ad for Maxell’s cassette tapes, which featured a man sat in a chair getting blasted by the sound of Wagner’s “Ride Of The Valkyries” from a speaker in front of him.

Cut to 2020 with an antsy nation cooped up in lockdown, they got a glimmer of hope and joy in seeing a housebound dog set up a fan to remind itself of the lovely feeling of windswept freedom and driving on the roads. It’s bright (also literally – to be on-brand), funny, joyful and timed well. 

2020’s PR campaigns that missed the mark

And, unfortunately, there were those that just didn’t work or really backfired on their creator. 

1. The government’s career change campaign

Starting off with good intentions – in the midst of a hard-hitting year – the government rolled out a campaign to encourage people to ‘rethink, reskill and reboot’ their career paths. Along this, an image featuring a ballet dancer with the encouragement to go into cyber was put out. This campaign came about mainly due to a lot of jobs and businesses struggling to remain active during a pandemic, namely those in the hospitality, arts, culture and entertainment industries.

However, this didn’t go down too well. 

UK government's ballet dancer's next job could be in cyber campaign

People were up in arms at the seemingly blunt dismissal of certain jobs and industries, like the arts. Unsurprisingly, in the aftermath of the backlash, it was quickly taken out with a spokesperson for the Prime Minister saying: “This particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign. The government recognises the challenge to the cultural industry.”

And cue the memes…

Next job could be in cyber memes

2. PureGym Luton & Dunstable’s ‘12 Years of Slave’ workout

Wanting to really sell one of their toughest and sweat-inducing workouts during Black History Month this year, a PureGym personal trainer down in Luton & Dunstable thought a way to celebrate both would be with the ‘12 Years of Slave’ workout. In their Facebook’s caption of the post, they stated: “Slavery was hard and so is this.” 

PureGym's 12 years of slave digital marketing 2020 campaign

Well, you can imagine how long that stayed up for… We’ll give you a hint – not long!

A huge backlash came as many criticised them for using a topic like this to promote a gym workout and even accused the company of being racist. The business quickly took it down and apologised. 

Whatever you feel about it, it is important to know that the personal trainer who created it is a black man who just wanted to celebrate both his race’s history month and passion, but it just completely missed the mark. His apology was: “I sincerely apologise to all whom I offended and angered in any way, shape, or form, directly or indirectly. There was absolutely no malice or ill intentions meant by the post. There are no excuses for it. Only a place from which the post came. Which was from a proud black man wanting to bring his history together with his passion and profession.”

3. Dettol’s back-to-the-office ads

One brand that would have done certainly well during this year is the cleaning and disinfectant business, Dettol. Unfortunately, their campaign to get people back into work and school didn’t do so well.

Dettol's back to the office marketing 2020 campaign

People cringed at the new London Underground signs that consisted of long paragraphs listing the everyday, typical office actions that people could look forward to, whilst making sure they took extra care in cleaning throughout the work day. Yet, many felt that they needed to read the room. 


So, what else happened in the digital marketing world in 2020?

Internet shopping and ecommerce took off

As we were all told to stay home with businesses having to shut up shop, thanks to a digital era, we could get a lot done online – one being our shopping.

People competed for supermarket delivery slots. Instagram launched its new Shop tab and more and more people were checking out on mobiles and desktops.

With the impact of the coronavirus, 2020’s global retail ecommerce traffic was at a record-high with 22 billion monthly visits. 

This has us thinking about the future and how we see things going forward.

Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond

As a new year looms, we’re getting ready for more unpredictability. As the world sits and waits for a global rollout of a vaccine, it has to contend with so many different views and uncertainties still.

The impact of COVID-19 has brought some profound changes to the world, in how we shop, communicate, do business and plan. So, what’s on the horizon?

Social media platforms becoming the new bricks-and-mortar

We expect to see more companies investing in better and safer policies and measures to help keep workers and customers safe. We also envisage them focusing even more on online marketing and turning to PPC agencies to improve their ecommerce strategies – both through search engines and paid social

With the likes of Instagram putting shopping at the forefront of their app now, enabling people to checkout on the platform with a specialised area to view and shop curated collections from brands, it won’t be surprising to see other social media sites follow suit to adapt to a world with a growing population of mobile users and online shoppers. 

More digital communication

We also expect to see businesses using more digital communication platforms to host meetings and for general updates, like Zoom, WhatsApp, Slack and Google Meet – since so many businesses figured out that working from home was doable, well, needed this year. However, we also think many will get ‘zoomed out’, as many are already growing tired of Zoom calls, and with that there should be a steady transition back to offices, alternating between office days and work-from-home days with continued safety measures put in place.  And to help with working from home, have a nosy at our tips on how to separate work and life when you work from home.

That’s TAL Agency’s crystal ball anyway. It’s obviously hard to tell how things will go, and we can only keep on following the science and the government’s guidance when it comes down to it. Whatever 2021 has in store, we hope it brings you more joy than 2020 did and we look forward to seeing what next year’s trends come to be. 

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