It’s 2020—lots of new stuff to look forward to. And one thing that has not changed. SEO keeps changing, every day, and not just because Google seems to keep shifting the goalposts but because web users are changing the way they search for information and their preferences about what they want to see. So, even though you may have read a half a dozen articles recently about how SEO is dying (someone writes one of those at least once a week. According to some SEO has been dying since 2010 (or maybe 2009) and here it is still going strong…
While no one can quite predict what Google and the other search engines might have in store for 2021, there are some definite trends that you should not only be keeping an eye on but actively working on in order to ‘win’ at SEO in 2021 and get your website into the best possible position to do its job. Here is a look at some of the most important of them.
Last year, in August, Google unleashed one of their famous (notorious?) “broad core algorithm updates”, and it quickly had quite an impact. Rand Fishkin of MOZ nicknamed it Google Medic, not because it seemed to impact healthcare sites more than others (which, despite what you might have read it really didn’t) but it certainly did seem to indicate that Google was worried about content quality again.
Many SEO experts are speculating that Google’s broad core algorithm update – whatever you want to call it – has something to do with a more advanced ability to evaluate how much websites are meeting the company’s E-A-T standards. Not to be confused with culinary expectations, this acronym stands for Expertise – Authoritativeness – Trustworthiness. After the August update, as Twitter was flooded with worried web owners wondering how this would impact their SEO, Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sullivan wrote: “Want to do better with a broad change? Have great content.” It’s as simple as that.
And it seems it really is. Good, engaging content that offers real value and can back up any assertions and advice it gives with verifiable expertise and facts. So in 2021, the focus of your content marketing efforts should be on producing the highest possible quality content you can, even if it means producing a little less of it (for example, one really great 1,000-word post every two weeks instead of three 350 word blogs a week)
Get Ready for Voice Search
Do you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home in your home or office? Do you use them – or Siri or Cortana on your phone? If you don’t, you are rapidly becoming part of a minority as voice search has exploded over the last 12-18 months.
As more people use the spoken, rather than the typed, word to search for all kinds of information, the way you optimize your website for voice search has to change too. As clever as they are AIs draw their information from search engine listings, just like you do.
But they are reacting to spoken queries, queries that make use of different language than written searches do. In fact, it is predicted that by 2022 55% of households will have smart speakers within the house (like Google Pod or Alexa).
One of the best ways to do this is to include LSI (long-tailed) keywords that better reflect human speech. And many will be in the form of questions. Not sure how to do that? Sites like Quora can be very helpful as they reflect the way people ask questions about all kinds of topics and these answers can be a great resource for the kinds of LSI keywords you need to rank higher in voice search.
Optimize for Featured Snippets
In addition to optimizing for your own website, you must also optimize for the Google search experience in 2021. Answer boxes, recipes, the knowledge graph and carousels are taking bigger and bigger bites out of the rates of organic traffic that even the top web pages on page one of a Google search gain if they are not featured in one of these new ‘searcher friendly’ innovations.
Achieving these positions is not easy, it can be a complicated process that takes more than a little bit of work, especially as, as usual, Google has revealed very little about how they choose featured snippets and content for their mobile carousels. It’s certainly something we’ve been working on at Pearl Lemon for our clients over the last twelve months so if you are interested in getting your content into those ‘hot spots’ in 2021 feel free to give us a call.
A lot is talked about, written about and discussed off-site SEO and the use of keywords, rich media etc. to create search engine and user-friendly content. What is discussed far less often is ensuring that your website itself is friendly to those parties as well, and that, in 2021, means getting a little more technical than ever before.
A website that has a great technical SEO profile has worked on a lot of different things (which is why, we assume, Google rewards these sites in the SERPs) Not sure what’s going on with your site behind the scenes or where you should even start when trying to make things better, therefore giving your SEO efforts – and your website’s effectiveness – a huge boost? A technical SEO audit is the answer.
What should such an audit cover? In 2021 these factors and more:
A check for Google penalties (many site owners have never done this)
- A check on how a website’s pages are currently appearing in search
- A check of your permalink structure and how friendly your URLs really are.
- A check of the security levels of your website
- Checking and optimizing robots txt files
- Checking content for SEO friendly elements like H1, H2 headings, images with alt text etc.
- Checking basic site navigation and for page errors and bad redirects
- Checking for broken links
- Checking for toxic backlinks from other sites
Bring on the Snack-Pack
As always, local SEO is a critical component in ensuring your overall SEO success. Adding onto vocal searches include people searching for those “near me” queries. This means you must be listed on Google My Business and your listing fully optimised for local SEO.
Snack-Pack is that nice box of the first three local listings related to a “near me” search. If this displays first (after the ads) users tend to click the first listing here, so it is important to have your name, address, phone number, reviews and high-quality photos to rank well here and draw attention to yourself.
Beyond just the snack-pack, sometimes the first organic listing is displayed before the map and after the ads. This position is prime for clicking, and the majority of users will click this before any map result if their search results get displayed this way.
Due to this, focusing on local SEO and getting those “near me” searches is critical for your success when your competition is close by to you.
Power to the AI
Just as with the last few years, AI continues to grow in popularity and importance. The particular algorithm from Google associated with AI is RankBrain. RankBrain has a unique ability to learn and adapt with trains and needs.
AI makes the user experience more important than ever before. UX/UI is the largest ranking factor within the RankBrain algorithm. Your site visitors need to be captivated and engaged on your site. So in the upcoming year, really put a focus on user experience.
Google Discover is another powerful AI tool within the Google scope. The content recommendation tool identifies user behavioral patterns over time and gradually learns these habits. Discover is able to identify the most accurate content most likely to interest the user. It seems that location history, browsing history, app usage, calendars, search history, and home and work locations are all relevant to Discover.
Both of these tools help out with the semantic search. This means that Google learns what the user is typing, interprets what the user meant, the interpretation of the query and what will be the most relevant to the query. Between all of these factors, Google learns the context of the query.
Don’t Drop Focus on the Phones
Mobile SEO is of continual and growing importance in the world of SEO. In fact, it is predicted that by 2025 73% of internet users will be using a mobile device for their main internet use device. Your site will need to be just as friendly and fast on mobile as it is on desktop.
User Experience is a Must
User experience has always been an important factor for SEO. As we head into a new decade, it is even more important. According to Google’s Core Web, Vitals user experience will now be more centre stage than it has before.
This means your site must be user friendly. Your site has to be easy to navigate, easy to use, and it must be fast on all devices. It is all about a smooth and pleasant experience for all users.
If you want to check out your Core Web Vitals, this is now a menu option within your Google Search Console. This will show URLs on mobile, desktop etc. and if they are good, bad, or could use improvement.
Content is Still King
Who are we kidding, content’s importance will always be a top trend no matter the year. However, the importance of long-form content is now taking the SEO world by storm. This means having thorough, evergreen, and thought-provoking content that aims to reach or surpass 3000 words.
This long content should be well broken up, though. Be sure you are making use of all the proper H1, H2, and H3 headings.
Above all, focus on the quality of your content. The length will not matter if the content itself gives no value and is constructed poorly. If you have previous content published on your blog that may not be up to par, you can also focus on polishing this up. Improving old blog content is a great way to add value to your site and be sure that your content is still relevant or updated.
Don’t Forget Your Videos
YouTube has more than 1 billion users. If you aren’t creating video content, now is the time to get started. Make sure to optimise your video channel name and description. The description shouldn’t just be crammed with keywords but provide a user-friendly overview of what your channel is about.
Your videos must be fully optimised though, so be sure that you brush up on the nuances of video SEO or there is always the option of bringing on the Youtube SEO experts here at Pearl Lemon.
Still need some convincing regarding whether or not you want to dive into the world of videos. Check out some of these quick stats:
- 85% of businesses use video as a part of their marketing scheme, and 92% of marketers consider video important in the world of marketing.
- 87% of video marketers report increased traffic to their website as a result of their videos.
- 96% of people watch explainer videos for a product or service before making a purchase.
- 84% of people admit that a video can be a final convincing factor for buying a product or service.
All sounds like a lot? It kind of is, but there are a lot of great tools out there to help you – SEMRush and Ahrefs are just two of the resources we use and can recommend – and if you need help the technical SEO team here at Pearl Lemon are always willing to step in and take this rather large undertaking off your hands.
These are just a few of the trends we see right now for SEO in 2021. As the year progresses, there will certainly be many more. And while Google – and SEO – are unpredictable sometimes the one thing that is not is that the Pearl Lemon team will be on top of them all, so check back here frequently for the latest news, trends and tips all year long.