Are you ready to win the Internet next year thanks to your stellar SEO strategies for 2021? Or is that the last thing on your mind thanks to a truly terrible 2020? Don’t let it be: now’s the time to take stock and up your online game with the top SEO trends for 2021.
2020 has not been a kind year to any of us. (Except maybe Jeff Bezos). We’ll spare you a doom-and-gloom roundup of all the ways this year has been terrible (if you’ve been anywhere near Twitter in the last 8 months you’ve had more than enough of that), but we will say this: 2020 has taught us that your online presence has never been more important, and your SEO for 2021 and beyond needs to match up.
COVID-19 has changed the way businesses operate both now, and for the foreseeable future. Employees are working remotely, business models have pivoted completely from in-person to online only, and only those that have embraced the change, and continue to do so, will survive and thrive. The way we use the internet, both personally and as businesses, has changed from nice-to-have and, yes, important for success, to absolutely crucial for survival. Plus, the ease and security which this new online-only world offers (Doorstep delivery plus social distancing? Yes please!) means that even once we’re allowed to move, shop, eat and drink freely again in the outside world there will be no going back to the way we once were.
With that in mind, is your business embracing the change? Are you on a course to successfully navigate this new world? You can start by amping up your SEO strategy by making sure our top 10 SEO trends for 2021 are a part of your online arsenal.
1. Local SEO
Local SEO is the practice of optimizing a website to rank well in local search results; this includes both local businesses and products. The importance of ranking well in local search results is a result of the increasing popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices. Local SEO is about more than just keyword optimization; it is about improving your online presence and building an online reputation that consumers can trust.
Showing love for small, local business has never been popular, or more important. The pandemic has taken an enormous toll on not only human life, but the life and economic health of small businesses across the world. A strong local support base can mean life or death for small business, and to ensure you get that you need your local SEO to be rock solid.
Start by optimizing your Google My Business account. For full details on how to do this, read our blog post How to Optimize Google My Business – Beginner’s Guide. The short version? Log into your Google My Business account, then add/update the following immediately: your business information; your service area; your products/services; your photo gallery; your reviews.
A fully optimized GMB account offers a triple whammy of benefits: it can increase your visibility in search, drive more traffic to your website, social channels, and any other online presence you may have; and improve your bottom line.
Even in a post-pandemic world, people are going to be focused on rebuilding their communities and local businesses. To get your fair share of that community-love, you need to make sure you can be found in said community easily. In other words, show your business some local SEO love, to feel the local love from your community.
2. Optimize for E-A-T
No, this isn’t a reference to the Covid-19 Carb Fest, resulting in the Covid-19lbs! While we have zero judgement if you’re eating all the calories in these trying times if that’s what helps, the EAT in this case is actually an acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness, and it is undoubtedly one of the most important SEO trends for 2021.
Google’s 2018 EAT algorithm update was primarily aimed at medical websites, in an effort to ensure that the information provided thereon was legitimately expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. Important attributes for websites that pertain to people’s health, wellbeing, and perhaps even life or death. This then expanded to include what Google termed YMYL, ‘Your Money or Your Life’ sites – sites containing content that pertain to users happiness, health (mental and physical), wealth and wellbeing. But what, exactly, does this all mean? Essentially, Google wants to make sure that all content online that has the potential to impact a user’s well-being, negatively or positively, falls on the positive side, with information that is not only relevant but correct. Trustworthy. Good for you.
This is obviously a crucial practice for both medical and YMYL sites, but, honestly, it should be common practice for all content we consume. Which is why Google is increasingly using EAT and YMYL theories to flag content which is either unworthy or plagiarised.
What does this mean for you? Make sure your content is relevant, correct, unique (i.e., not copied from somewhere else), and trustworthy. Aside from good writing, you can achieve this by ensuring you build up your backlinks, using a good number of reference links to relevant websites; writing your own authoritative blogs on what you do and know best; doing guest posts on the same, proving to Google and users that other site view you as a trustworthy authority on your subject matter; making sure your social media channels are up to date, interesting and relevant; and generally just being a good citizen, with good business practices, and the content to match.
3. Hosting Quality
A hosting company is a business that rents server space, bandwidth and other computer infrastructure. You can use their servers to host a variety of things such as websites, email and databases. Most hosting providers will allows you to add, modify, and delete files on a server. Some hosting companies are better than others, and it is up to you to research and find the right hosting company for your needs.
There is never a good time to be cheap. Cheap shoes? Blisters. Cheap (fast) food? Bad health. Cheap DIY? Disaster. Cheap diamond ring? Dumped. Cheap website hosting? A world of problems (see below).
For 2021 especially, when there isn’t a single aspect of life that isn’t going to be online in one way or another – online is where the whole world will continue to live, breathe, eat, shop and unwind – you are going to want the very best hosting quality that you can afford. You want the host with the most. Here’s why.
It’s no big secret, and we’ve certainly banged this drum enough: your website’s page load speed really matters. (Find out everything you need to know about site speed here). Not only does your site speed affect SEO rankings, how fast, or heaven forbid, slow your website loads, will directly affect whether customers bother to even stay on your site, and whether or not they bother to come back.
Users are not going to wait more than a handful of seconds to see content on a slow loading site. There are plenty of others offering the same service, product or information you have… and faster. To really give you a leg up in the speed game, choosing a good quality, respected host can make all the difference. Host-related factors that might play a role in your site speed include the type of hard drive technology, availability of a content delivery network (CDN), and whether the hosting is optimized for your content management system (such as WordPress etc.).
With more people online, more of the time, site security has never been more important. Not only for your own, well, security (as well as that of your users), but also for your SEO ranking.
Aside from the threat of hackers and data breaches (the horror), Google has long admitted that HTTPS, with the S at the end of the HTTP signalling a site that is encrypted with a secure website connection, is now a key ranking factor. What’s more, increasingly savvy online visitors will be quicker to abandon ship – or website in this case – if they see the absence of that S. This affects your bounce rate which also affects your search ranking.
Think of that S at the end of the HTTPS as the equivalent of an online safety blankie. It ensures your users, and Google, can trust you. And that can never be a bad thing. Good quality hosting knows the importance of site security and can build that into your hosting package for you. You can find out more about how, and why, to make the move to HTTPS here.
A good quality web hosting company will ensure that your website is up 99.9% of the time (known as uptime). But you can expect to pay for that. The poorer the host quality (which usually translates to a cheaper offering), the more often you can expect your website to be down (downtime, i.e., offline, inaccessible), which will ultimately annoy users and drive them away for good, and annoy Google and drive your SEO rankings down the drain! Conversely, if your website is accessible 99.9% of the time (and you never know when Google is going to crawl it during a search, so it really does need to be up all the time), it’s more likely to be found in relevant searches and thus rank better. So remember that magic number when looking for a quality host: 99.9% uptime.
Everyone who has a website has been there: that moment when you realize your website is down and you have no idea why. The world goes black for a minute, time stands still (along with your website), and you can feel the panic spreading through your entire body. The good news? If you’ve paid good money for good quality hosting, they will have a trained tech support team on standby, 24/7, to get your website back up and running – and your heartbeat back to normal – quicker than you can say “Thank goodness we paid for proper hosting.”
4. In-depth Content
This is where most people will trot out that old saying about content being, well, you know the rest. Insert eye-roll here. We will refrain from completing the phrase. We won’t refrain, however, from agreeing with the cliché. Your content does need to be worthy of a crown, by which we mean it needs to be relevant, informative, compelling, well-written, and, of increasing importance in the SEO stakes, in-depth. This means writing quality content for your site – for your blog, your information pages, your about pages, and so on and so forth – that is really worth taking the time to read. Pro tip? Longer content is currently the way to go for good SEO results: according to research done by Brian Dean from Backlinko, who analyzed 11.8 million Google search results to bring you this tip, “longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words”.
5. Mobile Optimization
While you might think that mobile matters less now that people are moving around less, and staying home more, you’d be wrong. You know those anxiety-ridden pre-dawn hours where sleep evades you and the world can seem overwhelming? Those are the hours where people are prone to reaching for their phone and diving into the worldwide web to find that which might soothe them. Be it online shopping, online therapy, online music, online anything other than the crazy pre-dawn voices in your head.
Mobile optimization, and ensuring your website is mobile-friendly, continues to be key to both Google and your users. In fact, we’d like to take it one step further for 2021. Instead of designing a site and ensuring it’s mobile-friendly, think mobile-first: design it for mobile and make it desktop friendly.
6. UX (User Experience) Optimization
If your site isn’t user friendly, your users aren’t going to feel friendly towards your website. Neither is Google. Which is why UX (User eXperience) Optimization is more important than ever for your 2021 SEO efforts.
Some of the issues key to a good user experience have already been covered – fast load time, mobile-friendliness, quality hosting, safety and security, quality content that is easy to read and find – but UX is so important that Google is planning to roll out a new page experience update in 2021. And since Google’s end game is always to keep the online user happy, this update, designed to improve user experience, is going to have some serious SEO significance.
Google’s new page experience update will be based on the following core metrics or core website vitals related to the user experience:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP xcheck the loading time of a page from a user point of view. (Check your website’s LCP in your Google search console.) An LCP below 2 seconds is considered good; under 4 seconds is categorized as needing improvement; and anything greater than 6 seconds is poor. Buck up.
First Input Delay (FID)
FID measures the time a user takes to interact on your page after they have opened it. An FID under 100ms is considered good.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS is the visual stability of your page. If any or all the elements on your page move or change their position while the page is loading, then your CLS is considered high, which equates to a bad user experience.
7. Video Optimization
If one can’t go into the world, one must bring the world into one’s home. Already an increasingly important player in the SEO stakes, the trend towards video – disclaimer: properly optimized video – has only increased in 2020, and will continue to do so into 2021 as we navigate our new reality.
Video stats you can’t ignore:
- Video thumbnails in Search Results help DOUBLE your search traffic. (Econsultancy.com)
- Video search results have a 41% higher click-through-rate than plain text results. (Tubular Insights)
- Video causes visitors to stay 2.6 times longer on a page than pages without video. (Wistia.com)
Given these stats, it’s clear that video improves the user experience (see UX Optimization above), and is going to be key in getting your website, and business, noticed in an increasingly competitive online arena. You can’t just load up any old video any old how, though. Make sure your videos are optimized in terms of size, upload speed, titles with proper keywords, front-loaded descriptions (with proper CTAs and links), proper categorization, and relevant, useful subtitles and close captioning. Find out more about optimizing your video to win the Internet here.
8. Voice Search Optimization
Did you know that more than half of all online searches are now made through voice? (Comscore) And here you thought it was only for those who really love the sound of their own voices!
It’s time to embrace your own voice – in every possible way – and optimize your online everything for voice search!
Virtual assistants and smartphones have changed the way we search, with voice search taking an ever-more-important place in the world of search. It does mean, though, a slight change in how we optimize our sites for search. Voice search or voice commands delivered to Siri, Alexa, smartphones and co. usually take the form of a question, rather than a statement. What’s more, voice searches are usually made in ‘regular speak’, as in they take the form of full sentences and how human beings actually talk. This allows us to embrace long-tail query keyword phrases which, in turn, allow for exact matches for our product, service or offering.
This is actually one SEO strategy that is fairly simple to understand and implement. Just optimize your content to mimic how a regular human being would think and talk. Imagine that.
9. Optimize for Featured Snippets with Schema Structured Markup
Schema structured markup is one of those SEO terms that sounds scary and complicated, but which is increasingly crucial to stand out in the online crowd.
Schema markup is a semantic vocabulary of tags (also called microdata) that you can add to your website’s HTML code. This structured data not only helps to enhance the way Search Engines like Google can read and understand your website content, it also creates more informative results for searchers. More simply, Schema helps a search engine understand the context of the page it’s crawling and helps in ranking them better for search queries related to them.
By optimizing your content for rich or featured snippets, you are greatly increasing your chances to feature on page 1 of Google’s search results pages, in turn greatly increasing potential traffic to your site. How so? Featured snippets allows Google to fetch information and present it right on the SERP, giving users a preview, or snippet, of the content featured on the page itself. This serves to give up-front meaning to your website content; increase your Click-Through-Rates (CTR) and SEO traffic; display more useful data in Search Results, improving search experience; which, ultimately, serves to help you rank better in search.
Learn more about Featured Snippets Will Influence Your SEO in 2021.
10. Pivot to Online Everything
It bears repeating: 2021 and beyond, even post-pandemic, is going to look different from everything that went before. The online world has become so much more than just a useful, fun place to be and play. It has become a lifeline to, well, everything this world has to offer. And we don’t see people ever going back.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to pivot your business, and offering, to an online model. Be it e-commerce, online ordering, online consultation, online support, online courses, online teaching, online contact forms, online chat, online downloads, online information, online anything and everything, there is some part of your business that can work for you, and your customer, online.
Yes, we know we said online about 1000 times in the previous paragraph, but it really is that important. And will remain so. Embrace it.
Is Your SEO 2021 Ready?
Do you need some help making sure your SEO for 2021 and beyond is up to scratch? We’ve got your back, and we can do it all from a perfectly acceptable social distance (i.e., remotely). Contact our SEO Experts by calling toll-free 1-888-262-6687 or contact us online.