As the New Year is around the corner, everyone is looking for expected trends for their respective industry in 2021. The same is the case with the SEO industry. The Google Keywords tool is showing the following keywords that people are searching across the world:
- SEO trends 2021
- SEO 2021
- SEO strategy 2021
- SEO tips 2021
There are thousands of blogs flooded with topics like top 3/6/8/10/12 SEO trends in 2021, SEO tricks in 2021, SEO strategy in 2021, etc. Everyone is writing to catch the eyeball, show their expertise and thought process. Many SEO professionals implement a lot of such SEO strategies and predictions based on their belief and followership of various thought leaders in the SEO industry.
The common question for all the SEO professionals remains the same “What SEO tactics and strategies will work to dominate the SERPs and earn more revenue in 2021?”
So, let’s dive into the SEO trends and predictions for 2021
1. Featured Snippets
In recent years, Google has evolved to deliver a better search experience for the user, like through Featured Snippets. These usually appear above the first organic result, commonly referred to as “Position 0” among the SEO community.
These featured snippets get generated on most of the queries you’ll ask on Google, especially the ones having how, why, are, will, does, do, can, is, should, etc as a preposition.
According to a study by SemRush on a variety of questions, featured snippets generates tables, lists, and paragraphs. 52.2% of queries generate “lists” for queries with a preposition “how”.
How to rank for featured snippets in 2021
In order to rank your content into these featured snippets:
- Write FAQs for the most searched terms
- Use tabular format to present the data
- Use listed and unlisted bullets within your copy
- Write shorter sentences
- Structure of your heading tags in a hierarchy
- Set up the structured data wherever applicable
It would be very difficult to find topics or key phrases where no snippet gets generated. If you find one, you would be lucky. You would need to compete with the existing ones, writing better and informative content from them.
2. BERT & Voice Search
Let’s first understand, what is BERT?
It Is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) that helps Google to understand context on the word-by-word basis and then to deliver better search results.
With the incorporation of BERT this year into Google’s ranking and featured snippets algorithm, Google has taken a huge step forward into making search about intent matching rather than pure string matching.
By 2021, around 50% of searches will be voice-based so there will be less typing involved. This will give rise to a higher number of long-tail keywords and hyperlocal searches.
The BERT algorithm update along with RankBrain will predominate in 2021 while understanding the natural language through voice searches and processing the SERPs based on machine learning. So, your content becomes the next crucial thing.
3. Content for Readers, not Machines
Though it sounds just opposite to what I mentioned above, however, producing engaging and meaningful content for your readers will only help you in 2021. When we write the content without the focus on SEO keywords, we write what we think that justifies the topic. Since BERT is all about natural language processing, better is to write in a conversational natural language.
The goal of the content created should be changing the mentality to more of a topic-focus is to create content that addresses an entire conversation holistically as opposed to just focusing around a single keyword or phrase on a page should be targeting. Include stats, surveys, or an industry study, to get more backlinks from bloggers and journalists.
While designing the content strategy, in a holistic view, the content should be structured in content clusters. A great example of a site that uses content clustering is Hubspot
The ultimate objective is to have different sections of your content around specific topics creating a hub and spoke structure. In this model, you can connect other content pieces around the same topic together. Having such a model in place will help search engines to understand the core topic and rank the page accordingly.
The content length had also been a topic of discussion during the past few years and it will also be there in 2021. Many kinds of research have shown that writing at length yields a better ranking on the search engine result page.
I certainly agree with this as if you would write about a topic in detail with all the research content, you will automatically reach to a good content length without sounding verbose. Just try to cover all the aspects of the topic you are writing about. While detailing out your thought process, you will naturally use synonyms to make the context clear both for users and search engines.
Another top SEO trends of 2021 will be to include video content in your SEO strategy. According to Forrester Research, video is 50 times more likely to show up on the first page of SERP than a web page with plain text. Also, 62% of Google’s universal searches include video. The video content can include a question, a detailed answer with a storyline of the incidence and situations that can be linked to your audience.
You can either host a video on your web server or on YouTube.
Hosting videos on your website will require a video player to be installed on your server. In addition to it, you should add essential video schema markups to your videos. You can check a list of all the parameters you can use with video schema markup on this page, It would be great if you can add a video transcript to your post so that search engines understand them better.
YouTube SEO is an altogether different space. YouTube videos can appear in Google Search results, video search results, Google Images, and Google Discover. Please refer to various blog posts for YouTube optimization.
You should also focus on FAQ pages for content creation in 2021. Google, in May 2019 announced new search results for FAQs in search and Google Assistant. It is designed for pages that provide a list of frequently asked questions and answers on a particular topic. Adding this structured data helps Google show questions and answers directly on Google Search and the Assistant. Here is the documentation for search and Google Assistant.
With Google Passage update in October 2020, Google will rank passages of your page solitarily. Google now looks at each section of your page. So, each of the sections should cover a specific subtopic. A few quick tips:
- Write shorter sentences
- Use hierarchal heading tags structuring
- Use subtopic level keywords
4. Technical SEO & UX
Technical SEO is all about crawlability; how well the search engine spiders can crawl and index your website pages. It is called “technical” as it is all about optimizing the infrastructure of your website having no relation with content and website promotions.
All the best practices of technical SEO need to be followed to rank your website in 2021 to generate more revenue. Here is a quick list of elements of technical SEO:
- Setting a Preferred Domain
- Navigation and Site Structure
- SSL and HTTPS
- Website Speed ( Core web vitals)
- CDN Optimization
- Optimize Your URL Structure
- HTML optimization
- Mobile Friendliness
- Structured Data Markup
- Canonical URLs
- Optimize 404 Page
- XML Sitemap Optimization
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- Pagination and Multilingual Websites
Technical SEO approaches search engine readability, and UX targets your website’s visitors. Both share a common goal of giving users the best experience. However, there is a very close relationship between technical SEO and UX; the contradictions!
5. Mobile SEO & AMP
These days more Google searches happen on mobile devices, hence optimization for mobile is crucial. It’s your choice whether you implement your mobile site through separate URLs, dynamic serving or having a responsive design. Each of them has its own pros and cons.
In 2021 and years after, mobile SEO will win the world. After the mobile-first index, Google crawls the mobile version of your web pages and attributes the mobile page structure and content to position you on SERPs. So, having a great mobile page should be the highest priority. If your page doesn’t load well on the mobile screens, you will lose ranking in both mobile and desktop results. Google recommends that your site should load in under a second for mobile users.
For various industries, mobile SEO will prevail in 2021 as a crucial part of their SEO strategy. It will primarily be focused on the transactional websites having different functionalities which depend upon the user actions.
Here are a few quick actions to optimize your website for mobile devices in 2021:
- Speed-up mobile loading
- Structure your content which is easy to read on phones
- Use HTML5 For Video and Animated Content
- Configure “Viewport Content” Tag
- Use smaller header images
- Use negative spacing between text, buttons and design elements
- Use social sharing buttons as a tab bar
The Core Web Vitals
In 2020, Google Search Console introduced the Core Web Vitals report that shows how your pages perform based on real world usage data (sometimes called field data).
The report is based on three metrics: LCP, FID, and CLS.
Status metrics are evaluated against the following boundaries:
Please note that Google puts tablets “in their own class” and states: “When we speak of mobile devices, we generally do not include tablets in the definition”. In other words, according to Google: mobile=smartphones.
Accelerated Mobile Pages are stripped-down versions of webpages designed to load quickly on mobile devices. In fact, AMP pages load about 4x faster than their non-AMP counterparts
For non-transactional (display content-only) websites, the AMP pages will be crucial. On mobile devices, AMP pages will rank higher due to faster loading speed. The main aim of the AMP project is to prioritize speed and readability. AMP pages are developed with lazy loading of images which means that the images will load upon scroll only. Also, AMP pages are heavily cached on Google’s server to display the content as fast as possible.
6. Local SEO
With the rise of “near me” queries, everyone is looking for local SEO. The local SEO industry will grow multifold in 2021.
DID YOU KNOW? According to Google, 46% of overall searches have a ‘local intent’.
Catering to the local reach has become crucial for most of the businesses. The rise in demand for local providers and opened up new business opportunities for the brands.
There are three core elements of local SEO
- Proximity: How close is your business to the searcher? You would need to have a physical presence of your business listed on Google My Business in the area of your target audience. In some cases you won’t be able to do so however, Google picks up some businesses based on their online reputation. In such cases, you can mention all the possible service areas.
- Relevance: How relevant to the search query are your products and services? You need to expand the description of your products and services in your Google My Business listings. You can list each of the products and services in respective sections with a brief description. You can target a few long-tail keywords in these descriptions.
- Prominence: What do other consumers say about your products and services? In 2021, reviews will play an important role in local SEO for businesses. Having more positive reviews will help in achieving ranking higher on the local search results. As a best practice, you should also post replies to the reviews you receive. If it’s a positive review, thank them and in case it is a negative review, try to sort out their problem. If they get satisfied, ask them to change their review of your business listing.
Other important factors of Local SEO in 2021 will include NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) syndication, citations, local reviews on social business pages, local directories, and supporting content.
7. Backlinks, Influencers & Branding
SEO is generally classified into Technical, on-page, and off-page SEO. While considering off-page SEO the first thing that strikes us is backlinks. I have noticed on different forums that people are asking if backlinks will hold any value in an SEO strategy in 2021?
The answer is yes, however, there will be a change in the definition of quality backlink. Quality backlinks in 2021 will be the ones earned from natural backlinking by publishing quality content. It’s a paradigm shift towards the topics centric approach we need to attain to earn backlinks.
At the same time, influencers and branding elements will also play a major role in your SEO strategy in 2021. Influencer marketing had always been a trending topic over the past few years and it has shown value as well. Branding and influencer marketing goes hand-in-hand where you promote your brand on various publications and collect the share of voice from real people.
Branding helps you get brand mentions and influencer marketing helps you to get backlinks.
Brand mention – If you are getting mentioned by your business name or brand name by the people but they do not link (hyperlink) back to your website, it will still help you to rank high in Google search.
8. Google E-A-T and YMYL
Back in 2015, Google released its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and this gave us an idea of what is deemed to be a high (or low) quality website, from Google’s perspective. After updating it’s search quality raters guidelines handbook on September 5, 2019, E-A-T and YMYL came from a very important for the SEO world
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) content is the type of content that, if presented incorrectly or deceptively, could directly impact the reader’s safety, health, happiness, or financial stability. In other words, If you create a YMYL page with incorrect information, it could affect people’s lives.
Google takes this content very, very seriously. Make sure that only experts write such YMYL content pieces.
In section 2.3 of Google search quality rater guidelines, Google has defined the following YMYL topics.
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness. Similar to YMYL, it’s Google’s way to protect searchers from low-quality content that can impact the searcher’s health and safety. The content quality evaluation mechanism will not only review a website’s E-A-T but also the content creators E-A-T too.
Google now wants to see how authoritative the author is particularly if it’s a YMYL subject. This means that we now need to build author E-A-T as well along with the website. This can be done using the author boxes for blog posts with links to the authors’ social profiles. You should also use author schema markup, i.e. structured data markup that tells Google about the author, making it easier to connect the author with any other authority signals
So, that’s how I’m preparing for SEO in 2021.
SEO is crucial for businesses irrespective of their industry. SEO trends in 2021 will continue to be similar year after year as search engines work on the sole objective of serving the right content to search query resulting in user satisfaction. If you are thinking the same way, you are on the right track.
Now it’s your turn: which of these factors you will try first? Are you going to handle technical SEO, focus on local SEO, or streamline your content creation process first in 2021?
Let me know your thoughts by leaving a quick comment below