On 13th January 2021, Google confirmed the January 2021 Core Update, which is set to impact all search results on a global scale.
In fact, in the last few days, data centers are already seeing significant changes in rankings, with the positions of the stable domains changing after the recalculation. As they roll the update out to Google's data centers across the world, its effect is still under scrutiny.
But that was not the only recent change. In October 2019, BERT was released internationally. It supports over 70 languages.
As you can find in the latest webmaster report, Google has issued several other small tweaks in its algorithms, which will, directly and indirectly, influence your site rankings. Staying on top of these constantly evolving updates and SEO trends is indispensable for every marketer.
The most fundamental and proven approach to succeed in SEO is to prioritize the content above everything else. In 2021, communicating with your audience to provide the best solutions is where your primary focus should go to.
What you would want to avoid is creating content and then integrating SEO into it. The audiences' search intent should be at the forefront of your marketing strategy.
With that in mind, let us look at which SEO trends are expected to shine in 2021.
Leverage the Effect of Zero-Click Searches
Featured snippets were introduced into Google search results a while back. However, in 2019, there was a noticeable change in how brands started taking advantage of this feature.
For instance, when you look for the best essay writing services, Google right away suggests EssayPro service through its featured snippets, so you do not have to visit student review sites.
According to the data provider Jumpshot, in the first half of 2019, Google's US search engine solved 48.96% of searches without a click. These zero-click searches occur when users can find answers to their queries without having to click on any links.
Now the competition is no longer about being in position one but at position 0. This is only achievable by providing qualitative answers to frequently asked questions.
It might not necessarily convert into traffic but will definitely boost your brand awareness as an expert on the topic and increase visibility among organic results.
Understanding the BERT Update
BERT was initially published in November 2018, aiming to make the NLP (Natural Language Processing) more efficient. The goal was to understand the search intent better, along with the context.
The most recent version is bound to impact the informational queries more than navigational or transactional queries. BERT finds quality content more relevant that the common conception of using informational related keywords in the search results.
The algorithm also doesn't focus on word count, but on the content being super-specific. With BERT 2021 update, the SEO works more or less the same.
Now it includes different languages. Marketers will also have to adapt to the local context and what would influence the search intent in different parts of the world.
If your brand is looking to execute a global online marketing strategy, the first misconception to address would be the idea that translating pages would suffice.
Preparing an international website requires more than just delivering content in different languages. It requires planning to cater to the inflow of a multiethnic audience.
Local content does not confine to retail marketing alone. With the BERT update, there is no way to avoid the demands of multilingual SEO.
While 80% of the focus is on Google, it is also suggested to adapt to search engines popular in other countries such as Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China.
With international customers, marketers should also capitalize on global SEO to optimize their content with relevant keywords. If the webpages are not translated properly, the user experience will take a toll, negatively impacting the business.
Targeting Local SEO
Meanwhile, local SEO should also be a priority, especially when 46% of Google searches are for local results. Out of this, 50% result in conversion to sales.
In 2021, this trend is only expected to become more popular. This is made possible by the increasing use of mobile devices to browse the internet and then using Maps to find the location.
This phenomenon is also driven by reviews of places, both on Google and on niche websites. Users are most likely to trust reviews as much as recommendations, meaning brands should work for enhancing local queries with positive reviews and take advantage of local listings.
Keep in mind that even the slightest change in location, including a street or the proximity, will influence the kind of results a user will get.
Integrate Brand Building Strategies
As brands are opting to shift to digital performance marketing over other platforms, brand awareness is equally important, along with SEO.
With paid advertisements taking up half the space on page 1 results, organic rankings might not be enough to work in your favor. Even with the highest optimization and quality of content, if the brand is not one you have heard of, you are less likely to click on the page.
In 2021, the customer-first approach will gain momentum - once again so. SEO specialists should deliver content that does not only push for rankings but also one that builds around the brand and generates traffic.
Brand building works with SEO in two ways; first is to get Google to trust your web pages for the audiences' search intent. The second is to find out how customers get to trust webpages.
The decision to purchase happens at this stage, or even before when users identify brands. In this landscape, social media plays a bigger role in creating brand awareness.
It is highly recommended to utilize social channels along with working on the search engine visibility.
Monetize on Voice Search
Voice searches are predicted to constitute 50% of all searches in 2021. This change was highly influenced by the increasing usage of smart devices and virtual assistants in day-to-day life.
However, monetizing voice search is far more challenging than web traffic. For one thing, you have to consider all the major players, including Google, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and more.
Since voice search takes a more conversational approach, it is complex, emphasizing the quality of content and matching search intent with it.
Creators will have to develop content around long-tail keywords that feels natural. In the voice search, phrases would be more like "when is, what is, or where is" rather than generic keywords.
Optimize Videos for SEO
The Video Marketing Statistics of 2019 tells us that 87% of businesses are using videos as a marketing tool. An interesting way for brands to catch-up on this traffic is to convert their text-based content into videos.
Video SEO, hence it will play a prominent role in the upcoming years. It means to optimize the video to rank higher on SERP. The platform on which you post videos will also influence the SEO strategies.
There are many ways to implement video SEO. The first impression, which in this case is the thumbnail would be the deciding factor on whether or not the viewers would click on it.
The title follows this in regard to significance. The places where you can include keywords are in the description. Another way to work your keywords in videos is by including them is a script.
Additionally, if you are embedding video to your website, make sure that the rest of the content and the video is in line with the topics of interest.
Aim for Better User Experience with Technical SEO
You might say that UX is a field that is not much relevant for SEO professionals. But when you view digital marketing as a whole, the UX might be what that distinguishes the most.
User experience, in this regard, means everything from the initial interaction of the users in the SERPs to when they leave your website.
It will thus affect every step, from how they perceive your website as a search result, what the landing page offers, and how the navigation feels like.
The UX also constitutes what the entire website offers to the user for their search intent. And this is something Google is consistently improving upon filtering results.
The key to accomplishing this is through technical SEO. In 2021, it will no longer suffice to implement SEO strategies in content alone.
Integrate it by optimizing the structure of the website. The mobile user experience should also be a key consideration while using technical SEO. Make speed and responsiveness the top priorities.
Include Structured Data
As algorithms are catching up with the context, structured data is what gives the search engine hints to understand better what is on a page. Now that Google measures topical authority, structured data is becoming more relevant than ever.
Structured data removes ambiguity from your website. This will increase the chances to appear in featured snippets and answering voice searches. The universally accepted vocabulary for structured data is Scheme.Org.
Unfortunately, structured data does not impact your organic search ranking. However, considering how feature snippets and zero-click searches will take the front seats in 2021, working in this direction will certainly benefit you.
These markups are another layer that is continuously changing, with new ones added or existing ones changed. It is thus best to do manual changes than merely trusting an automated plugin.
Every time marketers think that they got the hang of how SEO works, the algorithm changes. In simple words, there is no hard and fast rule to follow when it comes to digital marketing.
Nevertheless, the underlying factor is to anticipate what the audience wants and deliver it as accurately as possible. SEO trends in 2021 aim to attract both the search engine algorithms and the audience through increased visibility and better usability.