There’s no doubt that SEO in 2021 will experience a huge shift, and with the major update coming to Google’s algorithm (Google Page Experience) set to launch in May, later this year, you’ll need the right SEO strategy to weather the storm.
So, in the meantime, here are some of the most important strategies for SEO in 2021.
- 1. Page Speed is still crucial for SEO in 2021
- 2. Content Marketing
- 3. Rewrite or Update Old Content
- 4. Schema
- 5. Smarter backlinking for SEO in 2021
- 6. Expertise, Authority, and Trust
- 7. International SEO
- 8. Video
- 9. Google Actions
- 10. Technical SEO in 2021
- 11. SEO in 2021: Voice Search
- 12. Accelerated Mobile Pages
- 13. Branding for SEO in 2021
1. Page Speed is still crucial for SEO in 2021
It’s no longer news that page speed is closely tied to bounce rates and dwell times. As a matter of fact, Google made it official in 2018 when they announced it as a ranking signal.
By 2019, Google emphasized mobile-first indexing which meant the Googlebot now crawls the mobile version of a website by default. And, as we understand, one of the most essential aspects of mobile optimization is speed.
Thus, SEO in 2021 still factors page speed as a very important element because of its central role in the customer experience. Slow speeds won’t help your site’s visitors nor Google.
In fact, slow load times typically mean search engines like Google will be unable to crawl as many pages of your site which could lower SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) rankings.
I. Run speed tests frequently
Take frequent page speed tests as a priority and a habit. It’s relatively easy to conduct since all you have to do enter a URL and watch Google spit out a score including a list of opportunities and recommendations.
II. CDN helps too
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) can massively help in lowering load times by pushing your website into the cloud and utilizing the server closest to your website visitors to deliver the content to their devices.
What this does is that it eliminates the delays associated with loading content from a distant location.
Although users closest to your server will receive the fastest access to your content without the need for a CDN however if your business appeals to a national or global audience, then having a CDN is a must.
In addition, CDNs also reduce your bandwidth and help prevent downtime via caching. This gives you quick rendering and rapid delivery times as it handles the following elements of your content:
Images and videos
III. Remove plugins you don’t need
Some errant plugins may be contributing to slowing down your website without your knowledge. Do a plugin audit to identify these culprits. Remove all inactive plugins even if they are not presently active.
Consider installing plugins only if they offer significant value to your brand. Also, assess their usage regularly – if you haven’t made use of them in a few months, kick them out.
Aside from slowing your website down, inactive plugins can compromise its security as well. They can leave your site vulnerable to hackers.
You won’t want this as not only does it create extra work for you, it can also harm your site’s reputation, leave customer data exposed, and send your SERP rankings tumbling down.
IV. Keep your codes clean
You should also check the various codes that make up your website. Of course, you should get someone with more technical know-how to help out here.
Leaving poorly configured theme files on your site can muddle your users’ browsing experience and increase load time.
2. Content Marketing
Content has, and will still be around for a while. However, content marketing in 2021 really takes SEO to a new level – and it’s not just about having great content. Brands will need to develop an intelligent strategy.
Such a strategy should include a team of people with each person playing a unique role in increasing traffic generation for each web page. SEO in 2021 has no room for disjointed, bland content strategies.
See below for some ways to bring your content marketing strategy up to speed.
I. Blog posts and videos aren’t enough. Go Multichannel
If you think about it, it won’t take long for you to realize that the most effective marketing and advertisements often take place over the course of several interactions. That’s why you get to see and hear the same ads repeatedly.
In terms of organic marketing though, one of the biggest trends of SEO in 2021 is embracing a diverse mash of content across multiple channels. It takes much more than just posting an article to generate leads and conversions.
Basically, you will take moves at ensuring your audience gets the chance to find your brand in their preferred format and on the channels they frequently use. Content creators in 2021 should work on providing a seamless, on-brand story across all channels.
II. Create a collaborative content strategy
For the fact that content is becoming increasingly diverse, you should take a unique approach when it comes to setting up the content calendar.
Considering messaging, video, blogging, podcasting, social, personalization, and so on – there are just so many moving pieces involved for only one person to handle.
Businesses will have to constantly provide content assets in a wide range of formats in a process that is astonishingly difficult to scale. Content collaboration should solve this problem in 2021.
Teams will have to be set up in a collaborative mode with plans for scaling, backlinks building, and promoting your various content in as many places as possible.
In addition, content is more than just a multichannel game – it is a multimedia game. That’s why part of the content conversation in 2021 needs to include voice search, Google Actions, augmented reality, even messaging applications.
III. Content must be helpful
The ultimate goal of Google is that users must stay happy and continue to use their search engine.
With this in mind, content that users find helpful by answering a question or solving a problem tend to rank higher than posts offering nothing substantial.
There’s no indication that Google will stop rewarding positive user experiences in 2021. Thus, publishers delivering the highest value to users this year stand to gain a lot more traffic. So, as you set up your SEO strategy, answer these questions:
Does your proposed content deliver value?
What makes it unique from other (similar) available content online?
Will the reader leave with something actionable?
Will the headline mislead the reader and lead to increased bounce rates?
Is there a way to link this article to the other pages of my website to increase my overall page views?
What can I do to keep my user engaged on this page for as long as possible?
3. Rewrite or Update Old Content
Google, like users, also loves new content. So we recommend taking time out of your busy schedule to go through your old content. Then develop a plan to refresh posts ensuring no posts are older than six months.
The major reason for updating your old content rather than just leaving it down the pecking order is that Google will notice the updates when it crawls your website.
Here are some things to keep in mind when it’s time to refresh your content:
I. Begin with content auditing
Title – Does it have your target keyword? Is it clear enough to the reader?
Word count – Although it doesn’t directly affect the quality of the content, short articles often don’t have the time to elaborately deeply on a topic.
URL – Is it SEO-friendly? Remember to structure your URLs like this https://example.com/about-us or http://example.com/category-title/product-title/ and be consistent about it.
Author – Does the page have an author bio? Are they an authority or expert in your industry?
Publication date – When was the article published?
Stats and external links – Is the article’s information up to date? Try to employ the use of statistics and source material that isn’t over two years old.
Inbound links – How many backlinks does the content have? And are they coming from high-quality sources?
II. Know when it’s time to refresh
The page to be refreshed should meet the following criteria:
– It must have valuable links.
– It needs to have a high rank in SERPs
– It must have got consistent traffic at some point
– Its engagement is low
– It contains content that is outdated
– It has few conversions
If this is the case, your refresh should be focused on updating information to keep it factually correct, up-to-date, and absolutely better than what your competitors have on the topic.
Additionally, you will benefit from sticking with the old URL because it comes with some domain authority as opposed to starting from scratch with a new post.
III. And when the time has come for a rewrite
However, if the page has no domain authority and bad writing but contains some valuable information, you should do a rewrite. Here, you’ll have to rewrite the post while filling it up with updated information and keywords.
Next, create a 301 redirect from the old post to a new URL that has been SEO-optimized. Although Google can forward PageRank via 301s, your new page will have to closely match the topic of the previous one.
SEO in 2021 places more importance on Schema.org. Indeed, Schema has been around for 10 years now, however, the collaboration between search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., is making a bigger impact than ever before.
Just to bring us up to speed, Schema is a type of microdata that can be introduced to websites to enhance how search engines read the content on the web pages.
This basically improves the chances of your content appearing directly in front of your target audience.
Even though Schema isn’t officially a ranking signal, it is still required for eligibility to show up in the featured snippets.
This increases visibility in SERPs and also improves CTR (click-through-rates) when compared to regular organic listings.
The fact that every website needs to have an SEO Schema strategy cannot be overemphasized. Check out some of the focal areas where marking up your site can remarkably grow your brand’s reach.
I. Voice and mobile optimization
Schema is ideal for optimizing voice and mobile. As a matter of fact, you get to rank even better for featured snippets as opposed to traditional desktop search.
The majority of voice search results are drawn directly from the website currently in position zero. Also, Google Assistant only reads a result at a time.
Since Schema is needed for snippet eligibility, marking up your content is your best shot at ranking there.
As you ensure your content game is topnotch, keep in mind that Schema structured markup can help you become the only result for a specific voice query. Thus, it is the best way to get ahead of the crowded desktop landscape.
II. SERP eligibility
Google has been working toward a massive pivot for some years now that will ensure SERPs are the destination rather than a means of taking searchers elsewhere.
However, they still require structured markup to be eligible for the rich result. This no-need-to-click result is a new part of the SEO landscape that requires brands to adapt to. The bottom line is that embracing Schema as a strategy can help your content stand out.
5. Smarter backlinking for SEO in 2021
Continuing from the previous section where we discussed content, backlinks remain one of the best methods of spreading information about your brand. In fact, they can be considered a crucial mainstay of any SEO strategy.
This is because they inform Google that other people believe your content is engaging, credible, and useful.
As a result of this, it can help your site rank higher on SERPs. However, for SEO in 2021, we feel you should soft-pedal on backlinking and take a slower but hyper-targeted approach.
You can follow these tips to build a backlink strategy that focuses on high-quality content:
I. Prepare for Conversions
There’s no point in building backlinks if your referral traffic doesn’t convert. So, before you even start reaching out to publications, carefully take time to understand your buyers. Next, map your content to each touchpoint they face from start to finish.
Although the concepts of buyer persona research and journey mapping aren’t exactly new, however, only 44% of marketers actually do it.
Basically, you will want to map out your customer journey and pick out where to set up landing pages and conversion paths tailored to each persona and each stage. With this, you’ll have a system in place for visitors arriving from your backlinks.
This makes it easier to get them into your funnel for potential marketing efforts in the future.
II. Your content should target your audience’s pain points
Once more, this requires a deep understanding of who you are targeting and why to solidify your backlinking strategy. As you plan out what content you’ll be focusing on, ponder about what you can do to be more useful to your audience. Remember to be specific about it too.
According to Gartner, this process is referred to as “buyer enablement”. It basically describes the concept of a B2B selling context and should apply to all content as well.
The basic idea is that sellers should develop content that doesn’t just speak to the buyer’s needs but also helps them understand the vast amount of available information while presenting solutions they may never have thought of on their own.
Is there something you can offer your audience regarding information they need while providing something new which they can’t get from other content providers?
When you do not understand your audience, their pain points, and motivations, you are writing to a general audience – a strategy highly unlikely to achieve any tangible result.
III. Develop links from publications with high authority
Lastly, as soon as you develop some content that offers value and created a funnel for inbound traffic, the next stage is outreach.
In order to be successful here, you’ll have to approach this process by focusing on identifying and targeting a couple of opportunities at a time.
In other words, look for people who also care about the same things as your brand and share the same audiences.
This lets you develop targeted pitches to the right publications as against mass emailing several editors with the same template. Simultaneously, it ensures that you continue to build authority by sticking with your brand’s values and messaging.
You can look up new guest posting opportunities by searching for them on Google or Twitter this way:
“Keyword” + “guest post”
“keyword” + “write for us”
intitle:guest blog guidelines
intitle:guest post guidelines
“Niche + guest author”
As an alternative, you may look toward social listening tools to assist you with identifying some potential options.
IV. Create the perfect pitch
Once you’ve identified some targets, then the time has come to prepare for your outreach effort.
Now, your pitch should be made up of two or three ideas. This gives publications the option of choosing the one they like best.
Make use of keyword research to inform your topics and target mid-funnel, high-volume keywords that will draw receptive referrals to your site.
Ensure that your message is short and sweet. Also, add samples of links that resonate with your shared audience. Don’t forget to include samples of your past published articles to maximize your chances of receiving a positive response.
Once again, only reach out to publications that share the same target audience with you. The whole point of this exercise is to reel in relevant referral traffic anyway.
Thus, you’ll want to appear before visitors who are likely to be interested in what you offer.
If there’s a mismatch, it’s only natural for visitors to bounce away fast which, most likely, may cause Google to send your website further down away from the front page.
6. Expertise, Authority, and Trust
Along with semantic search plus a focus on delivering search results that are in tandem with end-user intent, expertise, authority, and trust aim to prioritize content derived from credible sources, is equally engaging, and serves a purpose.
So, aspire to:
– Earn links as well as mentions from domains with high authority.
– Constantly keep your website updated with relevant information and link it to authoritative sources to back your claims.
– Develop a unified brand on several channels.
– Include terms and conditions as well as privacy policies in a visibly accessible location (usually at the website’s footer)
– Keep your domain properly secured with a perfectly implemented HTTPS.
– Add an “About Us” category on your website.
– Also, include an author’s bios in your content.
– Endeavor to cite high-authority relevant sites if they’re helpful to your audience.
– Add a physical address to your website.
– Ensure that your audience has a clear way to reach out to you on your website – emails, phone numbers, and social handles shouldn’t be difficult to find on any page on your site.
– If you sell products, add detailed specifications and any other relevant information, such as safety precautions or care instructions.
– In addition, sellers should have a comprehensive return and exchanges policy highlighted on the site.
7. International SEO
SEO in 2021 presents the best time to engage in international SEO. By adding “hreflang” tags, you can easily translate content into a different language and rank for those languages on an international version of your website.
This creates a whole new spectrum of opportunities from backlinks to conversions, authority, and more. Before engaging in international search, consider a few things below:
I. Keyword problems
When you develop content in your native language, you’ll want to target keywords that real people would use if they search for your brand. It’s alright to take a look at your competitors’ keywords for ideas.
However, it will always be better to ask someone who’s familiar with the target language and culture for some help. This is because literal translations may not be sufficient enough to deliver the results you are aiming for.
II. You may have to create multiple websites per country
If you’re targeting a lot of countries to market your brand, you should consider developing a different website. It can help you deliver an overall better user experience while setting the stage for an excellent SEO performance.
For instance, if you own a mid-sized e-commerce outfit and aim to cater to a global market, using hreflang tags should be sufficient enough.
The point we are driving is that whether you should open a new site or no will depend on the current size of your website and how much content you will be posting.
In addition, bear in mind that you may need to invest in a CDN to optimize website load times.
III. Hreflang alone may not be enough
Indeed, hreflang helps in directly translating the language on your current pages. This is all fine and good for product pages. However, it is not so useful when it comes to delivering culturally relevant content to your target audience.
If your sight is set on a huge international content marketing project, it may be best to acquire the aid of an international content agency. They are better suited to helping you capture the nuances of the local language.
IV. Choosing a ccTLD
A country-code top-level domain or ccTLD is a domain name that highlights that a web content is related to a particular country.
Thus, your ccTLD, hreflang, as well as flag choice will need to match up. Fail to do this and you’ll face difficulties trying to rank for that country.
Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that your ccTLD is verified with Google by connecting it to the main site in your Google Search Console.
V. You may need extra support
Planning and executing tasks for your international website may come with new requirements in terms of resources. From content and analytics to IT assistance, you might need local support to truly succeed when you go global.
That’s why you have to consider if you can afford to hire some help – this could be by bringing a local freelancer or an entire SEO team.
SEO in 2021 will continue to expect customers to see and enjoy video content from their favorite brands.
It doesn’t matter whether the video is depicting B2B or B2C, what matters is that the video keeps the target audience engaged and influences their purchasing decisions.
Check out a few tips below on how to use video for your SEO strategy in 2021:
I. Livestream will get more popular
The interactive qualities of live video place it at an advantage for SEO in 2021. 80% of respondents on a survey conducted by Livestream agreed they’d rather watch live video than read a blog post.
Also, a report by Forrester indicated that people spend 10-20x longer watching live video feeds compared to on-demand videos.
II. Google Home Hub
Google’s trending touchscreen-based interface can play YouTube videos and also has the potential for video-based actions.
III. Google Discover
Previously recognized as Google Feed, the interface is a personalized content feed that can allow YouTube content to feed directly into it.
IV. Aim towards diversifying videos in 2021
To move above the constantly changing algorithms of social platforms and more complex SERPs, you should aim to be in as many places as possible. Instagram Stories, IGTV, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc., should all be a central component of any strategy along with YouTube.
9. Google Actions
Literally, everyone has Google Assistant on their phones these days, thus creating major changes for SEO in 2021 and beyond. Generally, we believe all brands should have a Google Action strategy.
Google Actions, according to Google, are applications that let you “extend your brand experience” to the Google Assistant.
I. Google Actions are more accessible with Schema Markup and templates
Back in October 2019, Google made an announcement that auto-generated Google Actions would be initiated for specific content types with well-implemented structured data.
Examples of eligible content types are Podcasts, AMP articles, recipes, FAQs, and How-tos.
The good thing is that creating a simple Action using Google’s Dialogflow builder is relatively easy. In fact, an average SEO marketer shouldn’t have any trouble putting one together in under 20 minutes. (It might take longer if you’re building something more complex)
II. Prepare a use case before creating an Action
You should take a cue from the mobile app boom and prepare a use case and a plan before developing a voice app.
Granted, in some cases, you may want to put the cart before the horse especially when there’s something new to introduce in your 2021 SEO strategy.
However, for Google Actions, be sure to carefully consider how users presently interact with your brand and if voice-based content offers something that brings value to their lives. Can you resolve a problem? Offer vital information?
10. Technical SEO in 2021
Let us classify SEO for those who are new to it. Now, SEO is divided into three distinct categories.
– On-page SEO: This refers to SEO on your website from product pages to blog posts
– Off-page SEO: This is SEO that you engage in away from your website such as backlinks, guest posts, website directories.
– Technical SEO: This category of SEO happens behind the scenes including crawling, indexing.
Technical SEO has grown to become a very important and complex process.
Although, it has always been a ranking factor, however, many marketers are faced with more components to tend to as they compete for limited positions on SERPs.
I. Monitor your Google Search Console reports closely
Google Search Console’s reports are a big help in terms of the technical aspect of SEO. They help break down everything from issues with structured markup to AMP performance and link profiles.
Ensure you review your manual actions report regularly. Always test mobile-friendliness and the rich results performance as well as the URL inspection tool.
II. Develop and optimize XML sitemaps
Google believes that XML sitemaps should include URLs of all your web pages – that’s basically all of your pages containing high-quality, original content.
It doesn’t include pages such as contact us, tools, and other stuff that may be useful to a user but doesn’t offer much in terms of information.
If your website has lots of rich media content, be sure to optimize it and submit a sitemap following Google’s best practices.
III. Resolve on-page SEO problems
These issues will need to be addressed for your website to have a chance at ranking on SERPs.
In truth, it may be a bit overwhelming but running quick weekly audits can help ensure you stay at the top of your SEO game and prevent missing anything that could hamper your SERP performance.
IV. Keep your site secured
For websites to even appear in Chrome, they will need to be secure for SEO. You certainly don’t need to be lectured on the importance of security at this stage, however, you still need to watch out for any cracks or breaches in the system.
If even a single page on your site doesn’t have the HTTPS designation, Google will stop at nothing to down-rank you.
11. SEO in 2021: Voice Search
Although, the stat above may have been floating around the web for some five or six years ago, however, when we take a closer look at the internet trends today, it seems that the prediction is actually becoming a reality.
Lots and lots of people are acquiring smart devices such as smart speakers. In fact, 72% of those who own a smart speaker have admitted to talking to their devices as part of their daily routine .
Let’s not forget that a lot more people also own smartphones (an estimated 2.5 billion people globally) of which voice search capability is a prominent feature.
I. Be conversational
You will have to get more conversational in your approach if you want to optimize voice SEO. Virtual assistants in today’s world are getting more proficient at understanding how we speak. As a result of this, you will have to relearn how to include natural language in your strategies.
Google’s search engine now places major emphasis on voice search optimization – and effective voice search optimization is premised on conversational speech.
Remember, speaking is different from typing. Fortunately, optimizing for voice can help us write better.
That means we may soon bid goodbye to trying to mash up awkward sentence fragments into our content to make it sound natural.
According to Google, 70% of all searches on Google Assistant are done in natural language. This implies that long-tail keywords that mirror real human speech are becoming essential than crappy, awkward sentence fragments.
II. Voice and visuals will go together
Voice capabilities are gradually evolving beyond smart speakers and mobile into more visual platforms.
To be fair, these innovations have been around for some time now, however, new smart speakers with screens, such as the Google Home Hub and the Amazon Echo Show are becoming more accessible and affordable.
III. Prioritize local SEO on voice search
Voice search is pretty powerful for local businesses. The majority of searchers in the space have the keyword “near me” as a suffix for their search terms for local businesses while they’re on the move.
Like it or not, your smartphone or home assistant device is always aware of your exact location, thus, including the keyword “near me” has become the fastest-rising search trend in the internet space.
Basically, you do not have to say “best organic smoothie in Lekki” anymore. You can simply say “best organic smoothie near me.”
According to research from BrightLocal, many people mostly use voice search to look for businesses within their locality.
Also, Google has discovered that the term “near me” has seen a 500% increase in mobile searches over the last two years as against high-intent phrases such as “can I buy?” or “to buy.”
However, keep in mind that voice search is also time-sensitive. Thus, users will likely search for “near me” results when they need are hungry or need to run an errand.
12. Accelerated Mobile Pages
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), refers to an open-source project whose aim is to help publishers achieve fast-loading content to mobile users by breaking its code down to a more simplified HTML format.
Unlike non-AMP pages, Accelerated Mobile Pages do not offer as many on-page elements. This is because AMP is more focused on delivering improved user experiences.
More businesses are utilizing AMP for their email campaigns to help them deliver rich experiences straight to their subscribers’ inboxes.
And recently, Google launched AMP stories which allowed marketers to build AMP landing pages for their campaigns and content creators to develop visual stories which Google described as “evolving news consumption.”
Indeed, AMP is not an official ranking factor for SERPs but speed is and AMP markup lets news publishers become eligible to show up as a top story in the Google News carousel.
In addition, it is one of the formats that is supported by the new Content Action capability.
13. Branding for SEO in 2021
Not many people would think of brand building when it comes to SEO but it actually applies. If your brand isn’t great then don’t expect to rank well for SEO. Authority and trust are two major things that follow your business with great branding.
Additionally, it also plays a major role when it comes to user experience because online users today engage with social media, YouTube, review websites, and more to gain more information concerning products and services.
With this in mind, you will need to focus on keeping a consistent voice and brand aesthetic both on and off-site.
I. Target branded keywords
Google’s algorithm focuses mainly on brand queries. Thus, you should ensure that whenever a user searches for your brand, they’ll be presented with a rich page full of results that link directly to your website.
Branded queries are made up of your business or brand name or at least, a close variation, and those online users who research branded search terms often do so upon hearing about your brand somewhere else and are curious to learn more.
The truth is you would likely only get fewer people looking for your specific brand name than relevant unbranded terms, however, branded searches represent a high-intent searcher who is likely interested in making a purchase.
Another advantage of locking on to branded terms is that you’ll experience growth across all keyword rankings. As your branded search volume increases, the chances to rank for an unbranded search gets better.
This simply implies that if your brand shows up alongside a high volume of unbranded searches, Google might begin to associate it with those keywords, which in turn can elevate your profile in the organic search results.
II. Develop a narration about your brand across several channels
You’ll want people to hear about your business from somewhere before they can enter a branded search term. That’s why a narrative about your brand will have to be spread across the internet.
You can do this by contributing your ideas, thoughts, and content via guest posting on high-quality websites. It is one of the best ways to build your brand awareness, reach a larger audience, and website boost traffic.
III. Acquire and optimize all relevant profiles
From social media profiles and YouTube channels to Google My Business and Google Assistant Directory, SEO in 2021 should be about capitalizing on all available opportunities to rank.
In case you haven’t noticed it yet, the tips in this write-up are all closely connected.
Expertise, Authority, and Trust all emphasize how important it is to build a consistent brand reputation while focusing on relevant usability standards such as security and page speed.
Content is more than just blog posts. It now extends into newer formats like Google Voice, Actions, and the plethora of video platforms and in fact, it has gotten even easier to translate your work into different languages.
Let’s not forget that Schema is also creeping into everything from local business profiles and reviews to recipes and podcasts.
The list is almost endless but the bottom line is that SEO in 2021 is geared at producing high-quality content in multiple formats and spread across several channels.