Top SEO Trends for 2021
Keeping up with a modernized SEO approach will help your organization revitalize and reimagine success in the year to come.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused entire industries to enter a holding pattern in March of 2020 as many states initiated quarantines and shutdowns. The marketing and advertising industry was one of the hardest-hit industries due to businesses slashing advertising budgets in efforts to reduce operating costs. All across the economy, businesses drew back from online marketing strategies and search engine optimization tactics, forcing marketing companies to help clients reimagine services in order to regain a place in the operating budget.
The inconsistent market performance meant that there was little recovery taking place across the economy until well into the third quarter. The stresses this put on the marketing industry were exacerbated by a number of factors at the end of the year stifling those promising recovery signals. This resulted in marketing experts struggling even by the end of December to identify emerging best practices when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) tactics that they could pass on to clients in order to help those businesses succeed in the new calendar year.
What experts can agree on is that 2020 couldn’t be considered as anything approaching an ideal year for the marketing and advertising industry. But as we take our initial careful steps into 2021, you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief. While industry experts remain uncertain whether “business as usual” will at some point resume, the marginal stability that took shape at the end of 2020 is anticipated to continue into 2021. Perhaps even more reassuring is that industry veterans will be comforted by the familiarity of many of these trends, as they either stem from industry-shaping trends from prior to the pandemic regaining momentum or trends resulting from consumer behaviors that are anticipated to outlast the pandemic.
Even if you’ve got an SEO strategy in place for the year, chances are your organization is playing it safe because of the continuing economic uncertainty. In this article, we’re going to explore at length some of the trends in SEO that will help your organization revitalize and reimagine success in the year to come.
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Navigating Increasingly Complex Search Engine Algorithms
Search engine results today are generated by extremely complex artificial intelligence engines. While several sites maintain a consistent market share, Google has dominated the search engine landscape for the last 10 years, maintaining market share in excess of 80%. Despite its popularity and influence, users remain uncertain exactly how the engine ranks websites and creates search results based on specific search criteria.
One aspect that Google professionals have disclosed is that one of the primary algorithms behind the search engine, RankBrain, is a primary decision-maker in the ranking of search results and its ability to learn and adapt to user search behaviors over time will help it evolve over time. SEO experts believe that recent behavior by RankBrain suggests user experience signals–signals such as time spent on a page, click-through rates, reviews, feedback, referrals, and content linking, to name a few–play a significant role in the ranking process. In order to accomplish this, experts suggest that businesses focus on creating content that is educational and informative.
While successful on-page SEO tactics revolving around content captivating readers through meaningful and timely content isn’t a new trend, the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the growing importance of being attributed to content. This importance is built around consumers being much more concerned with a brand’s social awareness and willingness to act as a source of education and information.
In focusing on content as a driver, your brand will have to take into account how consumers and web users will be using search platforms to discover that content throughout your strategic SEO approach.
Their Voice Matters
Voice recognition software improvements have opened the door to voice search in a huge way over the last few years. So much so that voice search is second only to mobile browser use. It’s important to note, though, that despite Google’s dominance in the search engine sphere, the rise of voice search across mobile devices and in-home speakers built on Android and Apple iOS platforms means that Bing needs to be considered when creating optimized web content.
Optimizing your website for users using voice search means that you need to build content around keywords as well as longer, natural-sounding conversational key phrases. Consider the interface–when typing, a search engine user will abbreviate and use more terse language that is easily typed out to conduct a search, whereas someone searching by voice will speak to the interface as if they are speaking to a person.
Connecting Voice Search to Semantic Keywords
Voice search built around longer key phrases and natural speech has forced search engine providers to take user intent more into account in the search result algorithms. Therefore it’s important to identify secondary and even tertiary keywords that will help your content meet the semantic expectations of search algorithms. Gone are the days of just stringing phrases together, as companies now have to create content to meet the criteria of search engines trained to understand user intent.
Focus on Long-form Relevant Content you can Adapt for Mobile Devices
In years past, market professionals would work to churn out as much copy as possible, load it with as many keywords as possible, and post the fairly repetitive copy wherever they could. To be fair to the veterans still in the game today, that’s how the search engines seemed to work: pages that spammed the most and made the most noise received the most traffic. Today, we’re lucky that the algorithms have evolved in ways that have driven positive, healthy change to how we approach content.
The need to generate large amounts of content is still technically there, but many organizations take a more efficient approach. Studies show that long-form content is most useful presented on landing pages, blogs, and other targets for your inbound marketing funnels. So instead of repetitive, uncreative content, success now comes in the form of creating several long-form articles and videos that can then be cut down and repurposed across multiple social media and marketing channels. Each channel has specific content that works best for that medium, but the messaging across all channels is consistent and on-brand.
The Importance of Staying on Topic
The EAT principle in marketing has never been more important than it is now, based on what we know about how search engines generate their results. Focusing on content that shows three important traits will help make it content that search engines consistently seek out:
- Expertise: Your content should be presented in a way that establishes your voice as an expert on the topic. If you’ve received rewards or your staff has certifications that validate that your content comes from a position of knowledge, then share that.
- Authority: Come prepared with facts, studies, figures, peer-reviewed research, links back to relevant and trusted sources to lend weight to your own words. Focusing on the facts, you establish yourself as an authority in the industry.
- Trustworthiness: Doing these two things consistently, over time, will help your industry and consumers to see you as a consistent voice that they can turn to for advice and guidance as well as a quality product or service that meets their needs.
Search Engine-Friendly Structure and Format for Long-form Content
As important as providing high quality and meaningful content is how that content is formatted and structured for presentation. Search engine algorithms favor content that is easily scannable. That means keeping paragraphs short and to the point, while using second- and third-level headings focused on the keywords and topics that are relevant to the long-form search phrases being used by consumers to track down solutions to their problems and challenges. This structure will also keep content easily displayable on mobile devices, an essential strategy given that nearly 60% of all online searches take place on a mobile device.
Video and Image Optimization Play an Increasingly Important Role
Video has been ramping up in importance for the last 5 years, with more than 85% of businesses using the medium as a central component of their marketing strategy. A study by Cisco anticipates that video will continue to grow in utility and prevalence to a point that it will overtake all other forms of content in terms of consumption. Building content from and around video content and optimizing that content to attract search engine search algorithms is a key strategy for driving engagement and traffic to your website.
As image recognition technology continues to evolve and be integrated into search engine functionality, website administrators will need to prioritize SEO for the images used across their digital footprint. Proper use of metatags and alt-image tags, ensuring the use of high-quality images relevant to the topics they are meant to illustrate, and using actual images in the site map are all methods for improving SEO performance.
SEO is Ever-Evolving, and Data Analytics are Crucial to Keep Up
Search engine optimization isn’t a “set it and forget it” activity to be checked off the marketing checklist at the start of the year, never to be looked at again until the following planning cycle. Your website and social media channels are living and breathing platforms that must constantly be updated with content that builds your online credibility.
But you won’t know how effective your efforts are unless you’re tracking your analytics and site performance on the backend. This is a time-consuming and highly complicated process that many organizations don’t have the bandwidth to effectively manage. That’s why at UpCity our focus is on connecting you to B2B services providers that truly understand SEO strategies and tactics. Somewhere in our community of service providers is the right organization that will provide you with the analytical support to continue to evolve and traverse the unknown economic landscape ahead and drive your success in 2021.