February 22

Five SEO Trends to Watch in 2021

By Isabel Roco

February 22, 2021


If you’re interested in knowing what the best minds in marketing are thinking about these days, look no further. It is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

“Research shows 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine, with more than 50% of all website traffic coming from organic search. B2B companies generate 2X more revenue from organic search than any other channel, “BrightEdge.

What is organic search? Organic search refers to unpaid search results, those occasions when users intentionally look for a product or service online by entering search words. Optimizing your content with SEO tactics helps boost traffic to your website without you having to pay for advertising, including widely used pay-per-click (PPC) ads. Careful application of SEO will result in your content showing up at the top (or near the top) of the search results page. And bingo, that’s where you need to be.

What are the SEO trends to watch for in 2021? The overarching theme this year is to provide online searchers the best user experience (UX). This means they can find your content quickly, that it is easy-to-navigate, and it is high quality. As you can imagine, there are many factors that go into this, so let’s focus on the few key areas.

Before we begin, keep the months of March and May in mind because they are especially important this year. In 2021, add these five items to your SEO checklist.

1.   Mobile is in. Desktop is out.

Google has been working on mobile-first indexing for several years. Starting in March, it will switch its indexing over to 100% mobile-first. This means that Google will now be using a website’s mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking.

Google has these tips to ensure that Googlebot can see your site’s full content on the mobile version:

  • Use the same robot meta tags on both your mobile and desktop version.
  • Follow best practices for lazy-loading.
  • Check your robots.txt.file to make sure you allow crawling if you want Google to crawl your URLs.
  • Make sure your main content is the same on both desktop and mobile.
  • Check your images and videos to make sure you are following best practices when it comes to image quality, alt attributes, URLs, video markup, and video/image placement.

Ensure that you provide the best mobile experience for the user. Consider readability. Check your relevant meta tags and make sure they’re filled out on both mobile and desktop versions of your landing pages.

After implementing these tips, check out Google’s Mobile-friendly Test to see if your website passes and where you can improve mobile usability.

2.  Page experience now to include Core Web Vitals.

Google puts user experience as its top priority when it returns search results. Starting in May 2021, it will underscore the importance of this by making Core Web Vitals part of its ranking factor. This is in addition to other page experience signals including mobile-friendly, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and no intrusive interstitials.

What are Core Web Vitals? They are metrics that focus on loading, interactivity, and visual stability. They show how your pages perform based on real world usage data, sometimes called field data. The image below shows the key metrics and their thresholds.

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance; ideally, LCP should occur within the first 2.5 seconds.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity and ideally should be less than 100  milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability and ideally should be less than 0.1.

Here are some tools that you can use to measure and monitor Core Web Vitals:

Now that we’ve discussed SEO changes that are being initiated by Google, let’s turn our attention to the other important items for 2021.

3.  User intent needs to be priority.

Optimize your content so it aligns with search intent.  For example, why do people make this search? What do they want to learn? Do they want to purchase something? Or are they trying to find a particular website?

Your job is to give them the most relevant results. An Ahref study showed a 677% increase in organic traffic in a six-month period by creating content with the intentions of the end-user in mind.  

The study mentioned the four types of search intent:

  • Informational – The user has a question or is looking for information.
  • Navigational – The user knows where they want to go and they’re looking for a specific website.
  • Commercial Investigation – The user is planning to make a purchase but hasn’t made a final decision.
  • Transactional – The user wants to buy something and is looking for a place to buy it.

Using the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), you can get clues about search intent. For example, featured snippets usually show for informational queries. Shopping results and carousels typically show up for transactional searches.

4. Content is king. Quality content is king.

Long gone are the days when keyword stuffing was the easiest way to rank high in organic search. Google has turned away from that tactic and wants to improve the way it provides relevant, high-quality content to its users.

Here are some items related to content that can help your site’s ranking:

  • EAT – What does EAT mean in SEO? EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google strives to produce not only relevant results, but it also wants to share correct information. To rank well on Google, you’ll need to continuously work on and nurture EAT. Google has actual real humans evaluating websites. They pass on the results to Google’s engineers who take the input to improve Google’s ranking algorithm. Websites, companies, and creators are all reviewed.

High-quality, user-generated content, such as visitor comments, can help improve your ranking.

Do you have a Wikipedia page? You have to be an authority in your space to have a Wikipedia page. Having one can improve your EAT. The top three results of a search (search ranking) usually have a Wikipedia page.  Links from authoritative sites also build your credibility.       

  • Long-form content tends to rank higher on search results. It also tends to have more social shares and engagement. Long-form content with a word count of 2,250 to 2,500 words earns the most organic traffic. And articles with more than 2,500 words get shared the most on social media, according to Hubspot.

However, even more important than word count is meeting your user’s content needs. Nowadays, it seems users are craving deep, comprehensive, and informative content that long-form content can satisfy. Having said that, don’t feel the need to fluff up an article just to increase your word count. Giving users the relevant information they need is still the priority.

  • Featured Snippets –  Landing “position zero” or being a featured snippet in Google is a coveted position. What are  featured snippets? Featured snippets are organic search results displayed at the top of a Google search results page that answer the user’s question immediately. As you can imagine, this helps brands get more visibility.
  • Passage Ranking – Passage ranking, previously called passage indexing, went live in the U.S. in English on February 10, 2021. What is passage ranking? Google will now be able to start ranking pages for searches based on specific passages within the page and not just index web pages. This granularity will allow Google to serve up more relevant results. Organizing your content into distinct sections with H3 subheading may help with the rankings. Once passage ranking is rolled out globally, it is expected to impact about 7% of Google search queries.

5.   Video will continue to grow.

We have already seen how video has become a powerful form of content. Expect it to continue to grow. In fact, online video is predicted to make up a whopping 82% of all online traffic by 2022 (Cisco). You may have even noticed videos as featured snippets, appearing at the top of organic search results.

How do you take advantage of using videos to rank in search results? Here are some tips:

  • Organize your video information just like you would a written article. Clear sections in your video will help Google understand and serve up your content.
  • Include your keyword(s) in your title. Google uses title, description, and tags to determine what your video content is about.
  • Add video content to your blog posts. It will make your article more interesting and may even increase the time visitors spend on your site, reducing your bounce rate.
  • Pay attention to YouTube. It’s not just a website, it’s the second largest search engine in the world after Google. And it’s not simply a place to watch cute cat videos. B2B companies use it to build its brand, showcase products, replay webinars, do explainer videos, share customer success stories, and more. We have also seen client success in using YouTube advertising to expand reach.

Conclusion to SEO trends in 2021:

To sum it all up, there is a lot going on in the SEO world and there are many ways you can heighten your company’s visibility. Make sure you’re ready for mobile-first indexing and core web vitals. And be sure to keep user experience and intent a priority while producing quality content. Along the way,  you’ll be able to strengthen your brand, reach new prospects and improve revenue. We think that’s a pretty good deal. If you want to learn more about SEO and cutting-edge marketing approaches, please let us know. Currently we are offering a complimentary digital marketing audit ($2500 value) with no strings attached.  

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