The SEO world has evolved in several profound ways over the past decade, mostly in lockstep with the adoption of emerging technologies, such as voice assistants, artificial intelligence (AI), and the rise and development of mobile experiences. In all of these, a central role has been played by Google and other search engines.
The good news is, there are plenty of tools and SERP checkers to help site owners and bloggers not only better understand why and how they are ranking where they are, but also to help them improve their knowledge of their own rankings, and their competitors as well.
Through the use of such SERP tools and tracking, it’s no longer a matter of guess on when and where your rankings will appear, and for what keywords. Now it’s all about analysis and taking actions with the site data at hand.
Here is what you need to know about SERPs and SEO in 2021
User Experience (UX)
We know that it is important to improve users’ experience once they enter our website, UX 101. However, as it turns out, good UX would have a more influential impact on search engine rankings as we advance in 2021. Google Search will also factor a large handful of UX signals into its results, including Google’s latest Core Web Vitals, according to a May 2020 Google Webmaster Central Blog post.
Fortunately for you, there is a dedicated Core Site Vitals report that you can pull from Google Search Console and get an understanding of where your sites stand from a UX standpoint, as well as recommendations about how to make changes.
Semantic Search Will Be Even More Prominent
In 2021, most SEO’s core theme will be how people look for stuff on the internet. Semantic search is no different. Let’s start by defining semantics to understand semantic search. Semantics is the analysis of words, their associations, and in specific contexts what those relationships mean.
Semantic search is how search engines use all the data at hand to determine the context, intent, and meaning they need to serve the most relevant and complete content possible in search engines. It all boils down to how the customers search and why. What answers, information, content, or even expertise are they likely looking for?
When it comes to semantic search, here are the areas to concentrate on:
- Create content that addresses the questions raised by your target market
- Write for humans, not for bots (search engines)
- In places where it makes sense, use structured data
- On your website, use internal contextual linking
- Optimize content for topics instead of keywords
Search Intent Will Matter More Than Keywords
The Google search engine has become even more conversational. In other words, the Google algorithm can now understand intent, such as purchasing something or locating a nearby spot – even from longer queries using natural language.
It is an evolution of the search engine experience to accommodate voice assistants’ growing popularity and voice search. People are now talking about Siri or Alexa naturally, asking questions and treating those conversational AI tools like search engines – a kind of “touch-free” search experience.
More importantly, the emphasis on search intent is a warning to the market that individuals want to search the same way they speak, and Google is evolving to fulfill this need.
That means relying on just the top-of-the-funnel and short-tail keywords, from an SEO viewpoint, does not cut it anymore. It’s just not how users want to search anymore. Instead, users are looking for four separate “core intentions”:
- Get information
- Make a purchase
- Shop and compare products
- Get to a particular website
Google My Business Will Be Essential for Local SEO
Location-based search is based on a simple premise. When a person in California looks for “street tacos” on Google Maps, they presumably want to see results limited to their geographical area. (Street tacos in Colorado are all well and nice, but…) While the search process might seem simple from a user’s perspective, on the search engine side of things, there is a lot of content, analysis, and optimization that goes into it.
If local search is part of your marketing (assuming you have physical locations for your company), you would want to ensure that your listing for Google My Business is complete, rich in information, and regularly updated. Why? Google My Business optimization factors significantly into local search interactions, first and foremost. Engagement and engagement on a Google My Business listing are important Google ranking cues. The more your listing is complete and configured, the more likely your company will feature in local searches.
Content Quality Will Remain King
In 2021, certain things will undoubtedly go by the wayside, but “content is king” is not one of them. Marketers like tossing around this catchphrase, but what does it mean? First and foremost, it is a reminder that “EAT” (Experience, Authority, and Trustworthiness) still matters, particularly for companies that come under the category of “your money, your life” (YMYL).
Since COVID-19 struck, this has become even handier. Search trends show that coronavirus has been an immense subject of concern since the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. And you don’t want to be the organization struggling to satisfy this demand when customers need accurate responses, alerts, and information about something as important and possibly urgent as Covid-19 (and missing out on valuable search traffic as a result)
This is the type of strategy you should take on your website. It’s time to consider the information that individuals are searching for and need first. Now is the time to create a comprehensive content marketing plan for 2021, as the focus on premium content continues to rise.
Video Will Continue Flooding the SERP
These days, if you search Google for almost anything, the first thing you’ll usually find on the SERP is a video carousel. Back in 2018, Google added camera carousels to SERPs. The video has only achieved popularity since then. Knowing that YouTube, the second biggest search engine globally, is also owned by Google, it all makes a lot of sense.
Most people would rather watch a short video than read a lengthy article. It’s quick, mobile-friendly, and lends well to multi-tasking. And the Google algorithm is evolving accordingly.
This offers another facet of SEO that digital marketers need to work on in 2021. This change in inclination to videos, both for individuals and search algorithms, means that it is time to:
- start preparing and generating even more video content
- optimize your videos to increase exposure, likes, and traffic
Zero-click Search Results Will Continue to Evolve
Do you see a trend? Search algorithm improvements, video ads, and SEO tactics are all based on what the end-user needs. For so-called ‘zero-click’ search results, the same is true. A zero-click search result offers all the details a user needs to answer their question or query, as the name implies—no need to waste any more time clicking through a page.
For instance, search “coronavirus” on Google and look at the SERP. You’ll find a glossary with information on symptoms, statistics, and testing on the left side. You will get the most current local and national news. And for your location, you can get a localized map of outbreak severity and case volume. Google is committed to offering a one-stop-shop with trustworthy information on critical and serious topics.
Getting the Most Out of Your SEO Efforts
It’s all about the users and their experiences at the center of virtually all of the 2021 SEO trends we’ve set out. Therefore, to boost your SEO strategy’s outcomes in 2021, your understanding and response to these SEO trends are crucial.