Search engine optimization is a crucial aspect of any internet marketing strategy. It determines how you will rank for specific search queries. Unfortunately — or fortunately for the smart marketers — SEO evolves at a fast rate.
Google’s PageRank system keeps changing, and failure to follow emerging trends can take a toll on your web visibility. Here we’ve put together the latest trends set to transform the SEO landscape in 2021:
1) Core Web Vitals
In 2020, Google updated its criteria for measuring user experience — a key ranking factor. The three new metrics include how fast a web page loads, the time it takes to become interactive, and its loading stability level.
Google recently announced that the update would come into effect in May 2021, much to the benefit of webmasters who have already optimized their page load speeds.
Use tools such as Search Console, Chrome UX Report, PageSpeed Insights, Chrome DevTools, and Lighthouse to measure Core Web Vitals and gain useful insights into improving each metric.
If you’re already working with an SEO agency to optimize your site, they will have separate tools for checking and enhancing these metrics, as well as trained personnel to use them.
2) Mandatory mobile-first indexing
Mobile-first indexing refers to the policy where search engines prioritize the mobile version of your website over desktop when indexing and ranking your web pages. Google introduced the policy in 2016 and made it mandatory that all new websites be indexed mobile-first.
The system is still a work in progress, but there are reports that the search engine will be transitioning to full mobile-first indexing despite many websites still not being ready for it. The transition will start in March 2021, so there is still time to optimize your website for mobile if you haven’t already.
3) Artificial intelligence to rule search
Google introduced AI-based RankBrain and BERT in 2015 and 2019, respectively, to simplify the interpretation of search queries and results. BERT has proven quite effective in establishing exactly what a query is looking for.
It has helped solve lexical ambiguity, correct misspellings, and find synonyms, all by studying past user activities. BERT is also behind the recently introduced passage indexing, which displays relevant passages from irrelevant pages when there is a shortage of relevant content for specific searches.
This means that pages now have a chance of ranking high for various keywords and search queries, depending on how the content is laid down.
4) E-A-T factors to play a bigger role
Google’s algorithm has changed and evolved drastically over the past two decades. The driving force behind much of the evolution is the desire to surface the best results for a user’s search.
To do this Google looks for signals which display E-A-T, or expertise, authority, and trustworthiness factors. While machines can’t measure these directly, indirect E-A-T signals can be used for insights.
For example, a page will be deemed accurate if it mentions several related entities for the subject in question. And where the author’s name is mentioned in multiple sources across the web, especially in related content on high authority websites. Then Google will understand their expertise.
5) Local SEO to grow more intricate
Google has slowly taken local SEO from being a matter of business proximity to being about relevance and quality. Just because your local business is nearest to a searcher, that doesn’t mean you will appear at the top of the local pack results.
Google will instead factor in the similarity between the query and your product or service description. To enhance your visibility, you should monitor the feature changes in your Google My Business listing and make updates accordingly.
6) Increased reliance on voice search
Thanks to the introduction of chatbots and other AI-based functionalities, voice search is slowly evolving into a mainstream search technique. Stats show that more than 40% of internet users performed a voice search at least once in the first three months of 2019.
That percentage will undoubtedly only increase further given the huge increases in the number of smartphone users worldwide.
Voice search works by listening to a user’s query, translating it into text, and going about the rest of the process the traditional way. What most marketers don’t know is that voice search differs from textual search in that conversational keywords are different from typed keywords.
For example, a user is likely to type “cake recipe” but then say something like, “How do I make a cake?” and expect the same results. As a content marketer, you must include conversational long-tail keywords in your content if you want it to appear in voice searches.
7) Long-form content to improve SERPs
This new trend has quickly picked up, and it seems to be the way forward. In 2020, websites with long posts (2000 or more words) outperformed websites with short posts in rankings.
Experts say that long posts align with Google’s E-A-T guidelines and appeal more to search engines.
According to this report, posts with over 3000 words get four times more shares and three times more traffic. They also get three and half times more backlinks compared to articles of average length (901-1200 words)
More websites are now increasing content volumes to rank higher, meaning you should increase your posts’ word count to 3000 plus. If you’re serious about running a successful, high-ranking site, think about your website post lengths. With that being said, you must maintain the quality of your content.
Long-form content by itself will not be enough. You want to provide users with shareable, engaging and actionable content. Users read content differently on the web so you should make your long-from content easy to scan by breaking it up into short sections with H2 and H3 subheadings.
Subheadings are especially crucial for mobile sites. Second, you need to make sure you link to relevant and authoritative sources. Lastly, your content should be easy to share. Be sure to include sharing links and even an incentive to share, such as unlocking a download.
8) Video SEO will be more explosive
SEO is not all about ranking for textual content; it includes video too. According to YouTube, its platform now has over a billion users. That means there is a vast marketplace for video creators to sell their products.
Like other search engines, you will also need keywords for your videos to rank top on YouTube. The stiff competition on the platform calls for proper keyword research.
YouTube has an autocomplete feature that will help you find the keywords your target audiences are using. Head on to the search field and enter the keyword you’re targeting. As you do so, a list of related keywords will pop-up, and those are the most searched keywords that relate to your video.
Include those suggestions when writing your description, title, and tags. It also helps to mention them early in your video if you will be speaking. That way, people will understand what the video is all about. Additionally, Google and YouTube will suggest the video to the right audience.
9) Search intent will be a huge talking point
With the 2019 BERT update Google’s search engine has become even smarter. It now considers the keywords entered into the search box and the user’s intent behind their search. What are they hoping to achieve?
Nowadays, users are even looking for information through voice search. Thus, search engines and marketers have to up their game if they’re to satisfy their customers. Google has mastered this art and can now understand intent whether you’re looking for a specific website, a product, or piece of information.
Marketers will have to change how they target their audiences. Understanding what people want and how their content will satisfy the user is the best way to determine intent.
Additionally, having the user intent in mind will inform your market strategy. Think about the users’ natural queries and develop a resourceful FAQ section that adds value. Google will consider search intent more than keywords as every search has an objective.
10) Content Quality still reigns
Although some SEO trends may come and go. Quality content is not one of them. The fact that search engines will still consider content quality tells a lot about their E-A-T policy. You must demonstrate your expertise, authoritativeness, and trust in the quality of the content you create.
The best thing to do in 2021 is to study the users’ intent, as already mentioned above. Including this approach in your marketing strategy should give you desirable results. However, you should know where to start if you’re planning on creating top-notch content.
To start with, create buyer personas tailored according to each customer’s individual needs. Creating content that speaks to these needs will help you to effectively match the search intent research and enable you to plan and structure your content the right way. Understand what people are looking for and tailor your content to respond to these needs accordingly.
The format of your content is also important. Your users will gladly consume content in a format that they want. For instance, you cannot create video tutorials when your audience wants to read whitepapers. Creating content without these considerations no longer cuts it.
11) Predictive search will improve
Another trend that will significantly improve is predictive search. In 2017, Google launched their Google Discover feature that makes research more comfortable and faster for Google users. The AI-driven tool studies a user’s behavior and uses their habits to improve the accuracy of the content it displays to them.
With Google Discover already having a huge customer base, it is a tool that marketers should be keen to use. To appear, create high quality and relevant content. Content ranking depends on the algorithms inspecting the quality of the content and user interest.
12) Semantically-related keywords will be key
There has been a tendency for over-reliance on primary keywords in SEO for many years. These days, we understand that secondary keywords matter just as much. This has seen SEO professionals gravitate to semantically-related words and even change their overall approach to content creation.
As a marketer, the better you can combine these keywords within your top-class content, the better you rank. After researching keywords, take your time to weave them into correct contexts. Google will rank your site higher if you get this combination right.
The best way to create relevant content is by designing it to match visitor queries. Remember though, you’re writing content for humans and not bots. If you keep that in mind, focusing your content on the end-user will be an easy task.
13) Structured data will be worth everyone’s attention
Structured data help search engines to understand your content better. It helps them to distinguish different types of content, whether that’s an article, an event, a recipe, or a product review.
This structured data is then often displayed as either right snippets or rich results.
You should seek to learn this skill and familiarize yourself with Google’s structured data tool. If used well, your landing pages and website content will be more visible. That will also escalate your click-through rate and increase conversions for your business.
Structured data is the way to leave a lasting impact on your audience in 2021. Besides, getting your page to the top and making you more visible will enhance your authority.
14) Restructuring of old blogs
A perennial trend is updating your old blogs to match new SEO trends. Your old blogs may contain outdated information, and leaving them that way doesn’t help. We recommend you inject some new life into the old posts and watch them attract more traffic again.
Revitalized blogs help marketers gain 8% traffic within seven days. Check your old blogs and remove out of date information, then replace it with new data, research, case studies, and more. That’s one of the most inexpensive ways you can improve your rankings and authority.
15) User experience will still impact rankings
Search engines have been considering user experience in the past. Although it’s not a new trend, keeping it in mind this year will help your site and business grow. Taking care of user experience should start with creating relevant content and making a mobile-friendly website.
In short, search engines will love and rank your site well if users love it too. As you focus on the content structure, keep image optimization in mind too. Ensure your site has an excellent performance from loading speeds to navigation, and you’ll attract a bigger audience.
16) Influencer SEO to grow in popularity
Influencer marketing has been a great SEO tactic in the past. This year, influencers with large followings can help your business grow its followers and gain entry into Google’s first pages.
According to 89% of marketers, influencer marketing has a better ROI than many techniques they’ve tried.
You may consider taking advantage of the massive audience influencers have on social media. It will help if you start by carefully choosing an influencer whose audience is likely to find your products relevant.
Influencers can help you take advantage of their growing social media traffic. They can be a great source of backlinks that will help your content to build up authority. With that, they make your website more visible and improve your brand’s popularity in the industry.
Remember, viral content is one of the things Google and other search engines love most. It shows you’re adding value to the people you’re targeting.
17) Security will be paramount
Although user data security has been necessary for a long time, it’s about to become even more vital this year. According to research, 85% of internet users avoid unsecured websites. You need to reduce the number of people who’ll be clicking away from your site this year if you’re to impress search engines.
With people becoming aware of data security, privacy is a necessity for every website. Starting with basic security like having an SSL certificate will prove your authenticity. Such primary and more advanced security features depend on your website hosting provider and other factors.
The more you invest in security, the more trust you build. Your rankings will drop if browsers mark your website as ‘not secure’ because that’s a factor Google and other search engines take seriously.
18) Data and analytics will impact rankings
Website data and analytics are crucial to businesses in several ways. If you’re looking to improve your SEO this year, you cannot do it without historical data. It’s important to know how successful you’ve been in the past and things that you need to change to become better in the future.
With analytics, you get a picture of your site’s overall performance over a period. For instance, you can know how many visitors your website gets, the best keywords, bounce rates, and conversions. You can then build on this data and improve your products or services for better success.
The best thing to do is finding a great analytics tool that will guide your decision making. With accurate data, you can track your progress and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Ranking high on search engines without using data and analytics is impossible as there’s no better way to improve your strategy.
Although data and analytics as a trend have existed for years, it is becoming vital this year. Search engines track websites more, and you’ll fail to rank higher if there’s no effort to improve your strategies. Use sophisticated methods to gather this data and use it to become even better.
These trends are set to take the marketing world by storm in 2021. Keep them in mind when building your SEO strategy for better online visibility, more traffic, and more sales.