9 SEO Trends: How to Win in 2021

The year 2020 is now behind us and many regard it with a sigh of relief. However, the world of the internet has a different story to tell. During the pandemic, internet usage across the world saw a significant spike. Mobile traffic grew by a whopping 50% between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020.

With lockdown and travel restrictions in place, people looked towards entertainment websites and communication platforms to entertain and educate themselves. YouTube’s data shows that certain genres of videos were getting a disproportionate amount of views post-march 2020 than their previous averages. Videos of meditation saw a 50% increase, cooking videos saw a 100% increase and workout videos saw the greatest uptick in views at 200%.

More users on the internet mean more ways for a website to generate revenue. However, how people access the internet and the amount of time spent on the internet has greatly changed. So what should SEOs of 2021 do to reap the benefits of this new decade? Let’s review!

1. Optimize for featured snippets

There is no denying the fact that the featured snippet implementation from Google has been a great success. Google snippet is the card that contains a short piece of content that appears under the search bar when you search for something.

You may have noticed the content in the featured snippet is relevant to your search query and may or may not contain an image along with the content.

Having your website featured in the snippets box is very advantageous. First of all, it will drive more traffic to your website, and, secondly, it will create a sense that your website is authoritative. There are a few ways to optimize your content for featured snippets:

  • Make your content concise and informative: if your website can explain a concept in a few words, then it has a greater chance of being featured.
  • Use short paragraphs and bullet points: There is a character limit to the featured limit. So if the content on your website uses large paragraphs, then the chances of it being featured are low. However, you can break up content to bullet points, which is a great way to present content.
  • Add tables and lists: break down your content as lists or tables so that you can serve information in a much more effective way. Make sure to add schema markups for those tables and lists.
  • Review competitor snippets, and write one even better: Review the current snippet that has been ranking on the search results page. Now write an even better piece with authoritative content and links hyperlinked.
  • Make your website mobile-friendly: Mobile-friendliness is a great way to get your content recognized by Google bots because Google always gives extra points to websites that pay attention to user experience.

2. Online Video will continue to rise

Post lockdown, after movie theatres were closed, people looked towards the internet for entertainment. As mentioned, YouTube saw a significant rise in its viewership (4 billion hours of “how-to” videos watched over the past 12 months), and so did other streaming platforms like Netflix (16 million signups within the first 3 months of lockdown) and Amazon Prime (Prime subscriptions grew to 5.6 billion).

So the demand for video content is at an all-time high. And you can leverage the same for your SEO!

“Incorporating videos into your content is a great way to keep the users hooked and increase the overall dwell time on your website,” said Steve Brady from Allen Law Firm, P.A. “Since there are a plethora of videos available, you do not have to make your own video if there is a good resource material available.”

You can also create a channel for your website that hosts videos related to it. As people search for unique and interesting videos, make sure that you stand out. Use SEO skills to create titles and descriptions that are both google and user-friendly.

3. Google Passage Ranking

Google’s Search On Event 2020 unveiled their Passage based indexing update. In passage-based indexing, Google will show passages related to the search query in the SERP from a website, even if that passage is within a larger paragraph.

Essentially, Google is capable of indexing more than just webpages, it can now understand the context of different passages. The aim behind Google passages is to provide the most relevant information within a large website.

So if your search query is quite complex or niche, Google can still give you relevant answers even if those answers are buried deep within a larger content piece. 

And when you click on the Google Passage search result, it will open up the website and highlight the part that may be of use to you.

In essence, you can get straight to the point without having to read long intros or other information that are not relevant to you on that same page.

For SEO 2021, you need to make sure that the content you create is informative and answers the problem it is meant to solve.

4. Improve your page experience performance

Google values page experience because a higher score on page performance means that the page is very user friendly. Google plans to roll out page experience signals in May 2021. What does this mean for SEOs?

You need to make sure that the webpage you are trying to rank adheres to the best practice guidelines from google. While Google hasn’t let out all the details on page experience, there are some things you can do to increase your overall user experience score.

Mobile-friendliness: With more people accessing the web using their mobile phone than ever before, your website must be easier to view and navigate on mobile. You can check the mobile-friendliness of your website here.

Safe Browsing: Google Safe Browsing was introduced to ensure that users are safeguarded from malicious websites that may cause harm to the user or the device through the use of malware, virus, or phishing. You can check the status of your website using the Safe Browsing site status tool from Google.

Https Security: HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure provides an additional layer of security over the standard HTTP module. You can get your website HTTPS status by installing an SSL certificate. Google gives more priority to websites with HTTPS because of the data encryption it provides.

Intrusive interstitial guidelines: These are more like best practices from Google when designing elements for mobile view. What this means is that the webpage you design must not have elements that hinder usability, like a pop-up that takes the whole screen. The experience should be such that the user can interact with the web content without having their immersion hindered by other visual or dynamic effects.

5. Focus on Semantic and Search intent

Stuffing keywords in the content was one of the effective ways for websites to rank on search engines in the past. However, that has changed significantly over the past years as search engines began to give importance to semantics and search intent.

In 2021, the content you put on your website must provide value to the user, and must fit the search intent.

Understanding search intent is easy. All you have to do is ask ‘Why is this person making this search?’, ‘What do they hope to find in a website?’ and ‘Does my website answer their query?

If you can figure out all three, then you can create content that is tailored to help the user find what they are searching for on the internet. It is easier said than done, but the reward is definitely worth it! Google prioritizes websites that provide real answers to users rather than keyword-stuffed set pieces. The Attorney Brian White&Associates blog is a good example of this. They created content for relevant search queries to help users easily find them. For example, “Should You Ride Your Bike on the Sidewalk?”, “What Happens If a Dog Bites Someone On Your Property?”, or “Can You Sue for Emotional Distress?”

6. The importance of local SEO

Local SEO is very important in 2021. Websites rank much better for local SEO keywords than their more generic counterparts. This is because Google likes to point you to services that are much closer to you than the most famous one or the one with the most number of reviews.

This is the reason why searches for services like bakeries, plumbers, electricians, etc. show the nearest results to your location.

If you have a Google My Business listing, you can always improve it by adding more photos, or getting more reviews, or updating it with the latest contact information. If done right, local SEO can drive online visits to offline purchases.

7. Content Quality will still be the king

Google is constantly developing ways to give users the best results. Featured snippets and Google Passage are implementations that point towards that one goal.

So you must create quality content for users. If your website does not have content that engages the audience, then they are not going to spend time on your website, which hurts your Google ranking even more!

Review the content you create for EAT: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

Ensure the content creator has expertise in the area for which he/she create content. The next step is to establish authoritativeness in your content by adding relevant information about the subject. The final step is to ensure that the content is trustworthy and it doesn’t mislead the user in any way.

And always remember that you are creating content for humans and not bots.

8. Rank for zero-click search results

One of the concerns of SEOs, when Google implemented Featured Snippets and Google Passages, was that it would lead to users finding answers for their query without clicking on the web links.

And it did hurt websites. After Google’s new updates, 34.4% of desktop searches result in no-clicks while the number escalates to 62.5% on mobile devices. In essence, people are getting their search intent answered even before they visit a website!

As you know already, websites generate revenue through traffic. If the user finds the answer to their query from the SERP itself, then there is no need to click on the link and visit the website.

So how do you do SEO for zero-click search results?

The best way is to make sure that your content ranks for Featured Snippets so that your website gets pushed to the top of the SERP page. Optimize your content so that it is authoritative which will prompt the user to learn more about it. In this way, you have a better chance of landing a click.

9. Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is the method of marketing your products or services through social media influencers. The influencers can be celebrities, bloggers, or social media personalities with a huge follower count.

It is highly effective if you have a good strategy in place because you can reach your target audience much more directly. The global influencer-marketing platform is set to grow from USD 6.0 billion in 2020 to USD 24.1 billion by 2025.

Influencer marketing works because people tend to have more trust in the celebrities and famous bloggers they follow. So if they saw them recommend a product or service, it creates social proof that this is worth your time and money.

To create a successful influencer marketing strategy, you will need to:

  1. Set a budget that doesn’t burn the bank
  2. Find the right influencer who can represent your brand
  3. Understand whether this influencer has followers that match your target audience
  4. Create a strong message that can be delivered to the audience
  5. Track changes and makes changes if necessary

Summing up

2020 completely broke expectations when it comes to user behavior on the internet. And in 2021, we can expect this trend to continue with people being more independent on the internet than ever before. With Google making efforts to deliver more meaningful results to  users, SEOs must think in that same line.

2021 is all about giving the user relevant and quality content with an emphasis on user experience. So you have to pay attention to the user experience on a website in addition to delivering quality content. And as always, things may change and the most important skill an SEO must have is the ability to adapt!

Irina Weber is a freelance writer and content strategist. She loves helping brands to create, publish, repurpose, and distribute content through different marketing channels. She is a regular contributor to a lot of media outlets like SEW, SME, SMT, CMI, etc. Follow her on Twitter @irinaweber048