2021: The Year In Review

2021 The Year In Review

The ever-shifting political landscape, a rampant year of COVID variants, and wild weather all helped wreak havoc to throw most Americans and their businesses off their game.

Despite it all, Top Of The List continued to push forward, ending up with a successful year. Here are some of the top happenings, both to us personally, and within the digital marketing industry.

Top Of The List Inside News

All Top Of The List Clients Were Set up With Google Analytics 4 (GA 4)

All clients were set up with GA4 to run concurrently with regular analytics. GA 4 is a new kind of property, with different reports than those in Universal Analytics.  One of the main advantages of GA 4 is that it can be used for a website, an app, or both a website and app together. 

It is also much more flexible in the events that can be tracked, offering marketers even more data to help provide the right information to their users.

GA 4 is not ready for prime time yet. It is still being developed, and the reports we now rely on are not there yet. But it is important to set up GA 4 now because data won’t be able to be migrated from the traditional Google Analytics to GA 4.

Historically, that data is very important. We want to ensure our clients don’t miss a beat when GA 4 becomes the dominant Google Analytics tool, and they are ready!

Employee Insurance Reimbursements through QSEHRA HRA

It’s challenging for a small business to offer insurance benefits at a rate that is affordable for both the employer and the employee. Top Of The List has been struggling with that one for quite some time.

But then we learned about a QSEHRA HRA plan from one of our clients, Simply Counted Business Services, Inc. Basically, our employees find and purchase their own health and dental insurance, and are reimbursed monthly by Top of The List for their insurance payments.

There are rules on who is eligible and limits to the amount that can be reimbursed. Overall though, the program was easy to set up and has been very successful.

We’re an SBAM Certified Small Business

SBAM Certificate

In December, Top Of The List became an SBAM Certified Small Business.  There were hoops to jump through to obtain this certification regarding business size, revenue, and more, but its recognition opens more doors for us as a business.

We also receive a listing in SBAM’s certified small business directory on their website. Congratulations to us!

Staying Up to Date in a Rapidly Changing Industry

Attending conferences is one way to stay up to date in our industry. While conferences throughout the U.S. were canceled in 2021, the staff stayed current with changes in SEO, PPC, Local Search, Social Media, and more through virtual conferences. 

One of those we attended was the Brighton Virtual SEO Conference

Held in September, this conference had it all. It included everything from psychological triggers and cognitive biases in web design, optimizing site architecture, and how JavaScript prevents you from passing Core Web Vitals, to improving readability scores and AI content generators.

Both Nicole Vesota and Mandie Allietta attended parts of this conference, which resulted in a wealth of new processes and ideas that we have already implemented, plus a few new tools for productivity improvement.

Relatively new to the conference scene, Brighton SEO pulled off a first-class conference. They are planning two conferences in 2022, one in April and another in October.

Digital Marketing Industry News

Microsoft Launched Unified Smart Campaigns

In May of this year, Microsoft began piloting its new Unified Campaigns platform. The tool brought together organic social media campaigns with paid campaigns that run on multiple channels — all in the same place.

Users add their campaign information to the platform, link to their accounts, and use Microsoft’s AI to manage it all. One of the features actually suggests ad copy, and users can even manage Google Ads campaigns through Microsoft.

Like the rest of the Microsoft Advertising dashboard, there is no cost to use Unified Smart campaigns – now simply called multi-platform campaigns. The ability to manage all organic and paid campaigns with analytics, AI, and reporting? Not bad for a free tool!

There are some caveats though, mostly dealing with control. The campaigns are ideal for companies who don’t have the budget for a PPC campaign expert. Most of the campaigns are automated, meaning less control for the manager.

In addition, all channels are considered as part of the same campaign. This means you have one budget for the entire project and Microsoft manages it across all your channels. 

New “Brave” Search Platform Launched

screenshot of Brave search engine

Brave, an open-source web browser, launched its own search engine. In an age when users are increasingly aware of how their personal information is used, Brave was created as a private alternative to Google Chrome and other big-name browsers. Users, however, are still betrothed to search engines that track their data.

This privacy issue is why Brave created a search engine that protects user data. Its recent acquisition of search engine Tailcat allows the company to get serious about keeping data private.

As of October 2021, the search engine has seen nearly 80 million queries per month since its launch. We’re not sure how much data we’ll be able to obtain from this search engine, given its privacy rules.

Google My Business became Google Business Profile

As of November, local SEO cornerstone Google My Business is now called Google Business Profile.

In addition to the different name, they are making other changes to how Google Business Profile works. The Google My Business app will eventually stop being supported, as Google is encouraging all users to manage their profiles directly in Google Search or Google Maps.

Single location businesses will have a link directly on the Google Search page (when the user is logged in) that allows them to manage their Business Profile:

The Google Business Profile (GMB) listing for Top Of The List

Businesses with multiple locations or agencies that manage other businesses can still use the Google My Business interface, but it will be called Business Profile Manager.

Google is also adding a few new features:

  • Businesses can keep track of phone calls made to their business from Google Search and Maps with Call History (US and Canada only)
  • Businesses can read and reply to messages within their Business Profile using a chat feature (US and Canada only)
  • Google Ads users can plan local campaign budgets using Performance Planner, a tool that allows forecasting campaigns and adjusting ad spend easily.

For more information about these Google Local updates, see Search Engine Land’s comprehensive article.

New or Growing Top Of The List Services

blog writing image of phone with B on it and blue pencil

Blog writing

While we have always written blog posts for our website and for a few other clients, 2021 was the year when more clients than ever asked for a blogging package.

Once the foundation is set up for organic SEO, either blogging or adding more content of other kinds (or both) is what helps keep sites attractive to potential customers and search engines!

Whether our staff does the writing or it is performed by others with the right background, blogging is an incredibly successful strategy in the SEO world!

computer, tablet, mobile phone and print flyer

Website Design and Development

This new service was actually introduced in 2020. But we’re announcing it again because Web Design and Development is another service that really took off in 2021.

Mandie Allietta coded the entire backend of Whiplash in record time. This site involved completely new branding and migrations from two other domains to the new Whiplash.com domain.

This meant even more coordination and hundreds of redirects. Mandie’s design and development skills continue to bring more value to all of our clients when the technical items on their sites need attention or new content is requested.

visual design, head with print marketing in place of brain

Visual Marketing

In July, Top Of The List proudly launched visual marketing as another service to enhance your marketing strategy.

Your business may have already benefited from our digital ads, but did you know we also offer infographics and brochures? People remember 4 to 7 times more information when they see it, as opposed to reading or hearing it. No wonder visual marketing is such an effective tool!

If you’d like to add this type of content to your site, look no further than Top Of The List!

Looking Ahead to Digital Marketing in 2022

As we look ahead to the new year, we reflect on a year full of positives in spite of the negatives. We are fortunate for the health and safety of our employees, clients, and community. We hope to see another year full of exciting changes and improvements throughout the industry and the world. Happy New Year!

About The Author

Nicole Vesota

Nicole Vesota

Vice President & Project Manager

Nicole has been working in online marketing since 2007 when she joined Top Of The List. She loves creative endeavors and spending time with her daughter.

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