With the pandemic forcing businesses to rethink their marketing strategy, Search engine optimization (SEO) has become a lot more important in reaching out to potential customers. It is a great tool to attract consumers to your various online platforms — but only if you do it right.
SEO is always evolving. Staying on top of the newest updates can be a huge challenge, especially if it has to cope with the constantly changing marketing landscape. However, it is worth all the effort because we know it works.
With an estimated 3.5B searches on Google every day, only 0.78% click on results from the second page. This means that more than 99% of them click on the first page, with the #1 result in Google’s organic search result getting 31.7% of the clicks. And 70% to 80% of these focus exclusively on organic results, mostly ignoring paid listings that are usually found at the top.
Why does this matter? Because 28% of those searches convert, leading to a purchase.
So, to generate organic traffic and improve your conversion, you need to rank on the first page of the SERP. That’s where SEO becomes useful. However, top-ranking SEO performance requires focusing your attention on many metrics, such as traffic, backlinks, social shares, and many more. What you need is an SEO strategy that is tailored to the trends in 2021 so that you are not wasting your efforts (and marketing budget) on campaigns that don’t convert.
To make it easier for you, we’ve outlined the 10 core SEO strategies every business, marketer, and SEO specialist can leverage this year. The strategies include:
- Google’s BERT
- Core Web Vitals
- Keyword research
- Original content
- Voice search
- Video marketing
- Artificial intelligence
- Featured snippets
- Influencer SEO
- EAT & branded SEO
We’ll explain each strategy and provide tips, suggestions, and resources on how to optimize for each.
1. Google’s BERT looks for intent matches
Google’s BERT algorithm (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) uses machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to better understand searches and what users are actually looking for. It works in more than 70 languages and for almost every query in Google English.
With Google’s BERT update, the Google search engine bots have become much more “conversational,” so now, Google’s algorithm can now interpret the intent of the searcher. In simple words, Now Google can understand things like the human brain.
What this also means is that websites that have content-intent mismatches will be negatively impacted. No matter how detailed or high-quality that long-form content is, if it is not satisfying user intent then BERT will ignore yours and prefer another content piece that satisfies the intent for the given query.
One thing to note is that Google BERT is not an algorithmic penalty. It’s a part of the Google search engine that helps filter out the most relevant & useful content to users by understanding search queries and content as humans. So it won’t de-rank or penalize sites. It will just give favor to those that show the best results to users, which is what Google has always strived to do.
If your content is not providing what a user is looking for, then your content is not BERT-friendly and you won’t rank for that keyword for the long-term. That’s why publishing valuable content that satisfies the user-intent can help you.
How to optimize for Google’s BERT
Search intent is exactly what the user is searching for when they type a particular keyword into a Google search. Are they looking for an answer to a question? A list of options? A how-to tutorial? Or do they want to buy a product and read reviews? There is a lot of intent that users bring to the Google search bar, so it’s important to make sure your content and the keyword intent match.
For example, if someone is searching “seo” as a keyword on Google, that means the user wants to know about SEO. But if a user is searching “seo services” as a keyword that means the user is seeking out someone for “seo services.” So the keyword “seo” is an informational keyword while “seo services” is a commercial keyword.
But some keywords could be multi-intent keywords like “seo expert” Maybe the person who is searching it is looking for an SEO expert to hire or wants to be an SEO expert.
Always search a keyword on Google before starting working on content for it! This strategy will help you understand the intent of a keyword so that you can be sure it will succeed before taking the time to create the content.
2. Core Web Vitals as a Google ranking factor
In May 2020, Google announced three new metrics, called Core Web Vitals to be used for measuring user experience: Loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability. All three metrics are basically related to just one thing, and that is page speed: how fast does the page load, how soon does it get interactive, and how stable is it while loading. So if your website has been infected by malware and does not load properly, then that would greatly affect how Google sees your website.
Core Web Vitals will be among Google’s ranking factors in May 2021, meaning you will have to pay close attention to them in order to appear on the first page. For example, if there are two pages with equally relevant content, then user experience metrics will help search engine bots to decide which one should be ranked higher.
3. Keyword research will become more important
More than 50% of searches are zero-click searches. It means more than half of the Google searches (appx. 175 billion searches per month) end without any click. This is because with such rich results in the SERP—Google business listings with menus and contact information, Featured Snippets with answers, related questions with accordion answers, and more—consumers can get the answers they need without even having to click a result—or even finish typing out a query…
But that’s provided your website, ads, Business Profile, and blog content contains and covers those keywords according to the searcher’s intent. Given the advancements in the SERP and with so much competition out there, it’s crucial to invest some time in keyword research to find keywords that can actually drive traffic and sales for your business.
How to do keyword research
Find long-tail and targeted keywords for your business. You need some creativity and skills to get those keywords. But the secret is Google Search Console—your gold-mine where you can easily find unique keywords for your business.
Understand the intent. While SEO tools. are important to use, it’s crucial that you analyze the SERP for that keyword before choosing it. In a recent experiment I ran, I found that if the intent is right, even a low-volume keyword with only 10-20 searches per month can still generate thousands of dollars in a month.
That’s why you do your keyword research with patience and find keywords that can easily rank and generate revenue for you.
4. Google still wants original content
Since great content plays a crucial role in SEO and ranking, authentic content is important for businesses in more than just branding. Simply put, this is unique content that has not already been published somewhere else.
Would you buy a shirt with the same color and design that you already have? No! The same thing happens here. There is a lot (thousands of pages) of similar content on the same topics indexed on Google. If you were to produce a piece of content very similar to existing content already ranking on the web, why would Google rank your piece above the original piece? Why would others bother to look past the top ranked results? That’s why your content must be authentic, useful, and add value in your own brand voice and language.
Good material to work with to produce unique content includes case studies, experiments, customer testimonials, company milestones, and more. Not only will this make for authentic content that Google likes, but the content will establish you as a trusted brand in the eyes of Google and your audience.
5. Voice search
According to Google, a staggering 27% of the entire global population is using voice search on their mobile phones. Furthermore, ComScore reports that more than half of smartphone users are engaging with voice search technology in 2020.
Now here’s a thing, most of the voice search queries are long-tail and very specific. Users look for specific answers to their queries when they use voice search. And such users are at the consideration stage of the funnel and are more likely to convert than the rest of the users. Since voice search optimization is still growing as more people are opting for it with the passing time, it is expected to continue trending in 2021 as well. So this can be a necessity in terms of SEO.
6. Video marketing
YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google with over 1 billion users. So even if you aren’t into videos, it’s high time to get started.
But how to optimize that video content for search engines? Start with optimizing your video channel name and description. Though the description shouldn’t be overloaded with keywords but provide a user-friendly description of what your channel is all about.
However, even keywords are important. For example, if you’re optimizing your videos for YouTube, you can use YouTube’s autocomplete feature. Start typing your video’s topic and then some suggestions will pop-up in the search field. The suggestions are the related keywords that you can use for optimizing the video for reaching the right set of audience.
7. Artificial intelligence
Just like most of the industries, AI is changing the SEO and marketing industry as well. The reason behind this impact of AI is the personalization that AI provides. And here’s a fact: Google utilizes AI to provide the searchers with results they are looking for.
But how can AI help with your SEO strategies?
It takes years to understand the search engine algorithms used to rank web pages. And then creating strategies accordingly takes a lot of time. While SEO experts can help with such strategies, utilization of AI and machine learning can be a game-changer. It would be much more efficient and powerful in terms of decoding the algorithms and creating favorable strategies.
There are several companies like HubSpot, Frase, and MarketMuse that are providing AI-based solutions that can help companies with their SEO efforts and in the coming years, such tools can become a major trend in the industry.
8. Featured Snippets
Featured snippets, or Position Zero, appear at the top of SERP in a rectangular box. These snippets aren’t just useful for the searchers but also beneficial for websites. However, you can’t be able to select the content that is shown in the Featured Snippet for any given search; it’s the Google algorithm bots that do the job.
The exact method of getting your web page in the Featured Snippet isn’t clear. Marketers and SEO experts use a few strategies that might be helpful. For example, to get in the featured results, you need to answer a specific question, and answering in bullet points (well-structured content) would be better.
9. Influencer SEO
Influencers are the ones with millions of followers, and these followers may become your customers if you can get your business in front of them.
Such influencers earn the trust of your potential audience over years and if they come forward to support your brand, the ROI can be enormous. And so 89% of marketers believe that the ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing methods.
However, you need to be quite specific while choosing influencers to supplement your SEO strategy. Not every influencer can help your brand. You need to choose the ones who have the right audience—The audience you want to target.
But how does influencer marketing impact SEO? Here’s how.
Backlinks are an important ranking factor. But not all kinds of backlinks can work. You need high-quality backlinks. And that’s where influencers can help. With an influencer or influencers by your side, you increase the chances of getting natural high-quality backlinks for your website.
Brand visibility & engagement
Influencers know what their audience likes or dislikes, so when they create content around your brand, their audience relates to it. And that content is unique, valuable, and helpful.
Search engines have a soft corner for viral content. And when an influencer shares a post that has all the share-worthy traits, the content gets shared by a plethora of people which provokes the search engines to rank the mentioned web page higher in the SERPs.
Social media traffic
This goes without saying that viral content always helps generate tons of social media engagement and referral traffic.
10. EAT & branded SEO
Google prefers content quality when it comes to rankings. But does “quality” alone work? There comes the EAT principle: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Brands are the future of SEO. SEO is shifting to branding and authority. The more popular and authentic your brand, the higher and more frequently you’ll rank on Google. And you’ll notice this in the upcoming months.
That’s why you should make efforts to establish your brand’s reputation. Give it a top priority in your 2021 SEO strategy. Also, build brand awareness to increase brand search queries. Brand queries are a hidden ranking factor that will help you to rank higher and establish yourself as a trusted brand on Google.
If you are working in a YMYL (Your Money Your Life) niche then this is even more important for you. Work on improving your EAT, as Google itself says that it is very conscious of ranking YMYL sites and taking EAT seriously. (EAT is not a direct ranking factor, but Google uses some algorithms that analyze EAT for sites)
Publishing your business on news media publications, complete well-described (including qualifications & recognitions) author profiles, address, details about founders & C-level, awards, proper contact details, etc. helps you to improve your website EAT.
Bonus: Local Search Listings Will Play a Larger Role in SEO Strategies
When people think of the internet, they often think of its global nature. The fact is, most people use search engines to find localized goods and services. They might be hunting for a neighborhood restaurant, for example. Local SEO is important — and it’s evolving. This evolution is in part because of the rise of zero-click searches — which some SEO marketers are dubbing the new normal.
In a zero-click search, the user’s query is answered via the SERP itself. They thus don’t click on any of the ranking results. One reason for the rise in zero-click searches is the increase of featured snippets. Many zero-click searches are local searches that show the results on the SERP in what’s been dubbed a “local pack.”
Even though most businesses have closed and switched to digital channels, getting your business into the local search listings still helps a lot for users looking for information about you.
How do you get your business into that local pack? Start by creating a Google My Business page. Having a strong backlink profile is also important. You can check what kinds of backlinks your competitors get for inspiration and target those yourself.
To recap, these are the SEO trends that you need to know about as we move towards 2021. Keep these trends in mind and to continue driving relevant traffic to your website throughout this year and years to come.
– Jessica Bullet