2021 SEO Trends Explained
Every new year brings a variety of lists circulating with the top 10, top 12, or key SEO trends to watch out for. They are there to help inform you and set the basis of what SEO areas are now even more important than the previous year. For many this may seem odd, how can something that was a low to middle tier priority last year suddenly become the top priority for this year and vice versa?
Over the years keyword targeting has evolved. It is no longer enough to simply use keywords to achieve good rankings in search results, there are now several factors alongside keywords that must function correctly for your SEO efforts to be successful.
At IMS Marketing, we have been helping our clients succeed online for over 10 years and SEO Services have always been a key part of what we do. In this blog post, we want to review some of the top trends outlined for 2021 and break them down for you. We aim to make SEO easy for all our clients to understand and to recognise SEO success.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is broken down into three main areas; Technical SEO, On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. Within each of these main areas are smaller elements that are essential to a successful online performance.
Technical SEO involves optimising the foundation of your site, looking at site architecture, page speed, server optimisation, responsive designs, and more. On-Page SEO is all about creating good quality content that is well structured, has metadata implemented, image optimisation, and schema implementation. Off-page SEO is strongly associated with link building, local SEO, and influencer marketing. Every business will have specific objectives, which will guide their SEO strategy.
Having reviewed the various trends outlined by SEO experts from around the world. Here are the trends that the IMS Digital Team thinks everyone should familiarise themselves with and include in their SEO strategies for 2021.
User Search Intent
Our clients will have heard us mention the phrase user search intent quite regularly, but what does it mean?
Essentially, it is important to remember that for every search query made there is a living human behind it, and each search made is driven by their end goal. The user could be looking for a specific piece of information, like “how to bake a cake”, or it could be local where they are searching for “coffee shop near me”. Maybe it is transactional, where the person could have searched “buy ladies running shoes”, or it could be navigational, where the user has a certain task in mind and is intent on finding a specific website.
Informational, local, transactional, and navigational are the most common user intent categories. This list may vary and there has been much conversation recently about expanding this down into ‘Micro Intentions’ – but that’s a topic for another day!
Search engines such as Google, work hard to always show the most relevant results to each search query. Taking each word involved in the search queries into consideration, to establish exactly is the intent of this user before presenting what Google deems to be the most relevant results.
According to Searchmetrics, “companies and publishers must consider whether their content satisfies the requirement of their readers. They need to orient their content around keywords that correspond to the user intent that they want to serve”. So, when writing content, always ensure it answers a key question or problem your customer has. By analysing available data, you can try to establish your customers’ motives with each search query. This then helps to establish potential topics or subtopics that will be of interest to your target audience.
Why is all of this important I hear you ask? Well, because it helps your conversion funnel to work effectively.
If you can establish at what stage of the buyer journey users are dropping off at or simply not getting to, and fill these areas with the right content, then your online performance will improve. You will see improved rankings, conversions, and overall, greater opportunity to reach your target audience in search results.
There has been a notable shift from optimising websites for search engines to a more user-centric approach – putting the user first. Taking greater consideration as to how a page makes a user feel, as opposed to ensuring a page is accessible and easy for a search engine such as Google to understand.
Did you know that the recommended page load time is less than 3 seconds? According to 2018 research conducted by Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load.
You could be losing out on valuable conversions by simply having a slow page speed. As mentioned earlier, Technical SEO is about ‘under the hood’ optimisation.
Key considerations with this type of SEO include:
- Page load speed
- How quickly pages become responsive
- The navigation of the site – especially on mobile devices
- The safety and security of the site’s connection
- Condensed & optimised images
Google has recently introduced Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor. This means they will be utilising their free tools such as Google Search Console and Page Speed Insights to establish the ‘quality’ of your site. Focusing on three main areas of user experience.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
- First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
Source: Google, 2021
If your site is gaining poor results in any of these areas, it will impact your online performance. The Technical SEO aspects are best dealt with by an experienced web developer, often a day or two’s work can be enough to optimise the site if any issues are present.
IMS conducts monthly audits on our client sites to ensure they are performing as they should and to note any further optimisation opportunities. It is best practice to keep on top of any technical issues rather than letting them build up.
This is one of the most important trends for 2021 and beyond, as Google is now indexing sites for mobile-first. What this means is that, when you submit your sitemap to Google Search Console to be indexed, it will now be doing so for the mobile version of your site rather than the desktop version. This is in line with a change in users’ habits, as the majority of users now access Google Search using a mobile device. Google has been rolling this out for over a year now and will stop indexing all desktop-only sites from March 2021 onwards.
If you have a desktop-only site or any content that is designed for desktop only, it will no longer be indexed by Google. You will lose ranking positions and your online performance will dip dramatically. If you have logged into Google Search Console recently, you will have most likely received a notification stating that your site has now been switched to mobile-first indexing.
Some of the key areas Google have noted to ensure your business does not run into any issues with this switch are:
- Ensure your mobile site contains the same content as the desktop version.
- Using the same page headings on mobile as desktop.
- Don’t block Google from crawling your resources on mobile.
- Use the same meta robots tag on both versions of the site.
- Make sure Google can see any lazy-loaded content.
- If your site utilises structure data, ensure it is present on both versions.
- Use the same metadata for both site versions.
View the full lists of recommendations by google here.
Featured Snippets & Local Search Listings
Featured snippets were introduced in 2017, they are made up of a very brief section of dedicated content at the top of Google Search results. Depending on the user query the snippet feature can be a box containing a definition, a short answer, a how-to guide, or a list for example. They are often referred to as the podium position on Google as they appear before any of the regular paid or organic results. They also tend to be much more clickable and are great for boosting brand authority online.
Going back to our earlier point about user search intent, creating content that is designed to answer key questions or queries from your target audience, presents a good opportunity to gain a snippet feature. To create snippets, it is advised to focus on question-based queries with relevant keywords. When looking at your content strategy for the year, keep Snippet Features in the back of your mind.
Local search listings are also a great feature to utilise. Whether you are providing goods or services, it is important to set up a Google My Business page, adding important information such as the company address, opening hours, and phone number. So that anyone looking for your goods or services in the local area can find you easily. This feature has been so important for many businesses during the pandemic. Encouraging customers to leave reviews will also help your profile stand out and encourage more click-throughs.
There is no doubt user experience and site speed will have a major role to play in your online success this year. We recommend you run a Technical SEO check on your site to ensure it is performing efficiently. Make sure your site is mobile friendly and follows the advice outlined above, this will safeguard your online performance once Google has fully completed its move to indexing for mobile-first worldwide in March 2021. Content is still king, but rather than creating content around relevant keywords you want to rank for, give some time to think about user search intent. What questions or queries can you answer for your target audience.
If you would like to talk to us about reviewing your site’s SEO, email us at [email protected] or call us on +353 91 739450.