As we prepare to say goodbye to 2020 (without any regrets), we also start planning for a new year. For marketers and business owners, this means reassessing your marketing and SEO strategies. For us, it means looking at the signals sent by search engines and top analysts and preparing the list of SEO trends for 2021.
And just like we did every year, we will share our findings with you. We believe that it is never too soon to start implementing the most effective strategies to boost your page rank in Google and grow your website traffic and, by consequence, your sales. Also, the SEO trends for 2021 that we have selected are not just passing fads. They will stay with us for the foreseeable future and shape the way websites should respond to the consumers’ need for information.
What Is the Overall Trend in SEO?
The main driving force behind changes in SEO trends for 2021 is the major upgrade to the Google search algorithm called BERT. The acronym stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. That is quite a mouthful and it sounds very technical. In essence, it means that Google now relies on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language programming (NLP) to improve its search results.
The key to what Google is looking for in crawling websites is a good match to the search intent. Intent is, thus, the keyword for SEO trends for 2021 (no pun intended). Your entire strategy should focus on this goal: running a website that contains useful information for your visitors’ search intent.
The Most Important SEO Trends for 2021
With all the preliminaries above in mind, here are the key trends for SEO in 2021:
1. Google EAT Principle Will Determine Top Ranking Content
EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. This is a principle Google adopted to fight the growing wave of false news. Currently applicable to websites in the healthcare, financial and business sectors, the EAT principle is set to become the norm for all websites ranked by Google.
What can you do to meet this standard set by the most important search engine? The answer is: build brand authority, by following these principles:
- Create relevant, accurate and useful content
- Link back to reputable sources of information
- Monitor backlinks and remove low quality links
- Reach out to industry leaders to share and comment on your content.
2. Video Becomes a Big Part of SEO
Among other SEO trends for 2021, video optimisation is something we had expected for some time to become relevant. Users love videos, because they break the barriers of language and disabilities (captions allow visitors with hearing deficiencies understand the content). And many brands create and share lots and lots of videos, from tutorials to product unboxing and behind the scenes teasers,
However, few brands have already considered the importance of optimising their videos for SEO. This means creating relevant titles and descriptions for the videos, containing the main keywords the business wants to rank for. It does not take a lot of effort to cover these aspects when creating a video. Thus, consider it one of the basic steps you must include in the process of preparing and editing videos before you publish them on your website.
3. Google My Business Will Be Essential for Local SEO
Local SEO is the most important of the SEO trends for 2021 for small and medium sized companies. They depend on foot traffic to their physical location. We are talking about restaurants, gyms, car repair shops, daycares and small grocery stores.
Finding customers from their local area depends on Google’s ability to match their location with that of the user performing a search. To this end, Google will rely more and more heavily on its own platform – Google My Business. Claiming your listing and maintaining it up to date will be essential if you want to rank for local search results.
4. Search Intent Becomes More Important than Keywords
You were wondering when we get to the intent element in our list of SEO trends for 2021. Here it is now: the way Google identifies search results has become smarter since the BERT algorithm update. For instance, when a user looks for “visa requirements for Canada”, Google will display the official website of the Canadian embassy in their country as the top search results, not a newspaper article debating on visa issues.
What does it mean for you SEO strategy? First of all, you should forget about things such as “write for the search engines” and “keywords are the most important part of SEO”. The golden rule right now is to write for humans. Your content should read easily and use the natural, conversational sentence syntax. Keywords must blend in with the rest of the sentence inconspicuously. Finally, instead of focusing on keywords, focus on topics of interest for your customers and group your content around them.
5. Voice Search Will Rule the SEO Trends for 2021
Ever since people discovered digital assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, they haven’t stopped talking to them and asking questions. According to Google, 27% of the world’s population is already using voice search on mobile. And this number is only going to increase as people replace their older smartphones with recent models, which incorporate digital assistants as standard feature.
Optimising for voice search is quite simple and will not disrupt your regular SEO strategies:
- Use long tail keywords (for example, “how to make avocado toast at home” instead of “avocado toast recipe”)
- Write your content in a conversational tone
- Create or update your FAQ page, answering the most common questions about your business and products.
6. Focus on User Experience (UX)
UX belongs to the technical part of an efficient SEO strategy. And you must make sure that your website offers visitors an excellent experience. This is one of the SEO trends for 2021 that will continue to grow in importance. After all, Google’s new updates for 2021 (becoming effective in January) include Page Experience signals among the key ranking factors.
So, what exactly is great user experience? It means:
- Fast page load
- Simple and intuitive navigation
- Website optimised for mobile, including older smartphone models.
To achieve the last point, make sure that your pages have a clean, simple code, and that animated and interactive elements are built with HTML5 not Flash. On this topic, Flash will be discontinued at the end of this year by Adobe, so you will have to remove all Flash elements from your web pages.
7. Artificial Intelligence Will Run Search Algorithms
We have already spoken about the BERT update, but this is not Google’s single foray into artificial intelligence. A few years ago, Google scientists developed RankBrain, an AI-powered tool that collects and analyses user experience signals to determine the page rank for websites.
Google did not share detailed information about how RankBrain works, but it appears to use machine learning to become better at selecting the best match to a user’s intent. We may speculate what kind of data it uses:
- Click-through rate
- Bounce rates
- Time spent on site
- Last page visited
So, how do you prepare for a powerful AI deciding on the relevance of your website for search queries? Get better at everything, from user experience to the quality of the content you publish. Forget about black hat SEO tactics and focus your efforts on becoming a helpful and authoritative source of information for page visitors.
8. Long Form Content Will Be King
No surprises in this last item on our list of SEO trends for 2021: content is still king. However, not just any kind of content will rank and bring your site on the first page of Google. Long form content will become more relevant for the Google algorithm. Also, it is more appreciated by readers, because they can find in-depth explanations for their topic of interest.
It is also in your best interest to create long form content. You can introduce a larger number of secondary, LSI and long tail keywords. This variety can only help you rank higher for various relevant search queries.
The SEO trends for 2021 should come as no surprise for marketers and business owners who are constantly looking for the latest developments in this field. They have already been hinted at by official Google releases and in our own articles. And we constantly encourage you to become early adopters, because you will have less work to do on your website and your SEO strategy when these trends become the norm.
As always, we will continue to look out for relevant signals from specialists and share them with you as soon as possible.