SEO Trends for 2021

A laptop showing Google’s search page

SEO has always been a moving target — it’s ever-changing. Practices like keyword stuffing might have worked in the earlier days, but they don’t fly anymore. Google and other search engines have been refining their ranking factors to better serve their end-users. The good thing is that you don’t need to completely revamp your SEO practices after every Google search algorithm update. After all, Google made 3,234 updates in 2018 alone!

One factor takes center stage in the latest SEO trends in 2021 — people and their experiences are at the core of your website’s rankings. Make SEO moves to improve user experience, and you will succeed.

Here are the top trends to prioritize in the coming year: 

Core Web Vitals

In November 2020, Google announced that its Core Web Vitals will become ranking signals in an update in May 2021. Google’s Core Web Vitals were introduced in 2020. They were designed to measure user experience in terms of speed, responsiveness, and a page’s visual stability. Core Web Vitals are comprised of the following:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This component measures the loading speed of a page’s main content. To rank highly, a website’s LCP measurement should be 2.5 seconds or faster.
  • First Input Delay (FID): FID measures how long it takes for a page to be interactive. A measurement that ranks highly will be under 100 ms.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This component examines a page’s visual stability by measuring the unexpected layout shift of its visual content. An ideal CLS measurement is less than 0.1.

Google is developing labels to add to search results that would indicate which pages meet all experience criteria measured by the Core Web Vitals. When implemented, pages that don’t qualify for the labels will likely experience lower traffic and conversion rates, which makes qualifying crucial for successful SEO. Since an August study found that less than 15% of websites would pass a Core Web Vitals assessment, the vast majority of businesses need to prioritize optimization in this area.

User Experience Is Pivotal to Success

Put yourself in your website visitor’s shoes. Do they have to struggle to access specific information on your website? How fast do pages load, and are they free from intrusive and annoying pop-ups? Poor experience leads to a high bounce rate, which can seriously undermine your SEO value. SEMrush rates bounce rate as the fourth most significant factor determining your SERP rankings. Google and other search engines care about offering site visitors an amazing experience, and following key SEO trends is a sure way to make them happy as a business. 

This means that leading web visitors to pages that offer the best user experience is essential. A recent Google blog post announced that the search engine would begin factoring a handful of UX signals into how it ranks websites. Google Search Console even has a Core Web Vitals page that will show you where your website stands from a UX perspective. It can also provide suggestions on the changes you need to make to rank better. 

If you want to be on top of SEO trends, take a look at your website. Even if you have a page that currently ranks highly, you should audit it from a UX perspective to continue improving its rank.

Local Search Listings are More Important Than Ever

Local search has been an essential part of making Google useful to internet users and will still be an important part of SEO trends 2021. For instance, a customer who wants to find tacos in San Diego will easily get local suggestions on the search engine. As long as your business has a physical location, optimizing your SEO for local search is wise, and Google My Business is a great place to start. Mobile-friendliness is crucial here, too; 61% of mobile searchers say that they are more likely to contact a local business if their site is mobile friendly.

Google considers the engagement and activity on your Google My Business profile as a strong ranking signal. The more complete your GMB profile is, the better your local search visibility will be. Ideally, the profile allows you to provide customers with information about your website, such as:

  • Addresses 
  • Working hours
  • Services
  • Phone numbers
  • Reviews and ratings
  • Company websites
  • Menus

The good thing is that completing a GMB profile to claim your business is quite straightforward. Google makes it intuitive by showing how complete your profile is and prompting you to add specific business details that are missing. Here are more ways to optimize your Google My Business profile to stay compliant with SEO trends:

  • Add weekly photos that are relevant to your business and customer base
  • Answer FAQs on GMB about your services and products
  • Share business posts regularly to announce business events and new product launches
  • Use Google My Business website builder to create a website

Content Needs to Fulfill Google’s EAT Principles

The age-old statement “content is king” remains true. Search engines value quality content, and sites that provide it are rewarded with increased search visibility. The question is, how can you tell the difference between quality and sub-par content? It all trickles down to EAT — the Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness of your content. It also means that cookie-cutter content won’t fly.

Your content needs to provide value to your target audience to rank high. You should:

  • Create buyer personas: the more you understand your ideal customer, the higher your chances of creating quality content. Take time creating detailed buyer personas so that you can generate great content.
  • Package content in a user-centric manner: the latest SEO trends also focus on how you package content. It all trickles down to how well you understand your ideal customer. Some want video content, while others would love to read blog posts. Package your content in the most relevant ways, including podcasts, long or short blog posts, infographics, and videos. 
  • Hire great content and copywriters: Google and website visitors will see right through keyword dense content — they are interested in value. Visitors want content that dives deep into the topic it addresses and hiring a great writer is a great way to achieve this. The right writer will understand buyer personas and marketing funnels and adapt your tone and style accordingly. Your best bet towards keeping up with next year’s SEO trends is to hire a writer who specializes in your specific business space.
  • Invest in search intent research: search intent is among the most important 2021 SEO trends. It helps you take a look at the terms that bring customers to your website or the terms you would love to use to drive traffic. It answers the question, what are people looking for?

Mobile-Friendliness Will Influence Search Rankings

Woman using a smartphone in a cafe

By 2025, 73% of internet users are expected to be accessing the internet solely on mobile devices. This is why Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in 2019. It simply means that it will treat the mobile version of websites as the ‘primary’ version instead of prioritizing the desktop version. As long as you make your website attractive to search engines, you will increase your chances of ranking high on SERPs. Even better, your visitors will have an amazing experience visiting your site. 

Fortunately, it’s easy to assess your site’s mobile-friendliness. Simply use Google’s free mobile-friendliness test and the ‘usability report’ on Google Search Console. Both will show you where you’ve missed the mark as well as make amazing suggestions. Ensure you don’t have the “disallow directive” in place so that Google can crawl your URLs. Also, use similar meta robots tags on mobile and desktop sites.

Optimize Your Content for Voice Search 

Voice search has come a long way. Innovations like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant keep pushing the envelope. 55% of households are expected to own a smart speaker by 2022. If you want to future-proof your SEO beyond 2021, voice search should be at the top of your priority list.

Among the best ways to optimize for voice search is to incorporate long-tail keywords that sound as natural as possible into your content. Unlike in typing, where people might abbreviate their search terms, people tend to use longer search terms when searching online. For instance, when searching online, people will typically type “SEO trends 2021” but say, “What SEO trends should I expect in 2021.”

Video Optimization Will Be a Necessity

Video content will make up 82% of the world’s internet traffic by 2021. With video proving to be the content marketing gem it is, it would be unwise for you to ignore it in your SEO. Everything from short to long videos could easily help you rank. While posting content on YouTube is a great place to start when looking to keep up with SEO trends, you need to start thinking beyond the platform. For instance, you can post video content on your site too.

Google highlighted the presence of video content in their “A reintroduction to Google’s featured snippets” post. Other than creating engaging video content, here is what you can do to rank high with this type of content:

  • Organize your video content into discrete sections: this makes it easy for Google to pick specific sections to feature in the snippet.
  • Optimize the content for SEO: use a good tag, title, and descriptions to help Google figure what your video is about.
  • Upload a transcript: while YouTube’s transcripts have proved to be good, they aren’t the best. Provide a transcript with your videos to further improve the search experience. 
  • Embed video content into your text-based blog posts.
  • Grow your YouTube channel.

Be People-Centric

The key takeaway from these SEO trends for 2021 is that you need to consider the target audience when creating content. They need to access your website with ease, learn about your information easily, and gain great value from your website. Even better, following a people-centric strategy will future proof your website against the next SEO trends.