Building and improving your SEO should focus on the fundamentals without ignoring the latest SEO trends. It's a slow-moving discipline. Changes happen over time, but they do happen. You need to figure out which new trends will come up and which old ones will die.
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The SEO landscape has become a dynamic field with experts and novices alike all hoping to do right in the eyes of Google. A few mistakes and bad faith tricks, and you may end up losing some valuable traffic. To help you with the process, we’ve come up with a list of the biggest SEO trends and new best practices that we're seeing right now.
Let's jump right in:
- Voice search
- Page Speed and UX
- Relevant content
- Machine learning
- Going beyond Google
- Increasing expertise, authority, and trustworthiness
- On-page optimization
- Featured Snippets and other SERP features
1. Voice Search
Voice search has quickly started gaining ground in the past few years. About 35.6 million Americans used voice search devices at least once a month in 2017. This was an increase of 128.9% year-over-year. The adoption has, of course, been led by millennials.
Image via eMarketer
With the advent of AI assistants, voice searches are becoming increasingly accurate and personalized. This has allowed users to find immediate answers to all of their search queries through voice. It is especially true for question-based or exact term searches as the assistants can give instant answers to those.
So voice search optimization will be one of the biggest SEO trends this year. AI assistants such as Google Assistant and Siri are leading this voice search wave through their presence in every new smartphone. With the launch of smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, this trend is spreading even further.
Naturally, 2021 may see an increase in the number of voice searches conducted. Due to this reason, it is necessary to optimize for long-tail keywords and exact search terms to keep up with one of these major SEO trends.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and think of the questions they might ask on Google. These questions will be a bit different from the traditional search terms. Your content needs to be optimized for these queries.
One important fact to keep in mind is that Google prefers shorter answers for voice searches. The average voice search result is only about 29 words long. If you can optimize well for voice searches, you may be rewarded with higher traffic.
Mobile searches accounted for about 56% of all organic search visits in the US in 2020’s 1st quarter. This upward trend has Google adjusting to its mobile-first indexing method. Mobile-first optimization will be one of the biggest SEO trends for the coming year.
This makes it necessary for you to have a mobile-friendly website. That means that your website should be responsive and fully-functional on mobile.
Image via Statista
Additionally, your page loading speed should be optimized for mobile. In fact, a website which loads slow on mobiles will be pushed down in the search results. This is because a slow-loading website causes a bad user experience. To rank higher and keep up with the latest SEO trends, you need to improve your page loading speed.
To check your current page loading speed, you can use Google PageSpeed Insights. Not only does the tool analyze your page loading speed, it even shows suggestions to improve it.
Image via Google PageSpeed Insights
With the improvement in mobile network speeds and the ease of browsing on mobile, people are increasingly relying on their mobiles to surf. This trend will continue in 2021 as well.
3. Page Speed and UX
In a move unusual for Google, they gave notice far ahead of a planned May 2021 update on page speed and other UX factors. This Page Experience Update ultimately values high usability.
Google has incrementally added updates that address page speed, mostly penalizing only a small percentage of pages/query combinations. That's to say that a slow page would still rank high if its slow content is great content. Now it puts the pressure on more site owners to modernize their pages with faster page load time and fewer outdated visual gimmicks.
They are looking for pages to load quickly and for the layout to remain stable once you get there.
Their goal is to move past those annoyances that make it hard to read a page: buttons or links that move (thanks to other loading elements) when you try to click them and overuse of glaring pop-ups. This is mostly covered by a
If you rely on older tactics to grab a user's email or even older site structure that slows down page loads, it's time to invest in updates. Google will reward positive user experience, and that could go further in long term brand reputation and repeat visits.
4. Relevant Content
With the introduction of RankBrain, it’s about time that you start posting high-quality, relevant content. Google is not only able to read the content well but is even able to interpret its meaning now. This means that relevant, high-quality content will be one of the most important SEO trends this year.
The AI can to figure out how relevant the content is to its heading. Posting content that doesn’t add value and is different from the heading can lead to penalties.
Additionally, your content should be relevant to your target keywords and shouldn’t be overstuffed with them. Make sure that you write for the readers and not for the search engines. If the readers find it relevant, they are more likely to recommend it to others as well.
To find relevant keywords, you can use keyword research tools such as the Google Keyword Planner. You can even spy on your competitors’ keywords by using tools such as SpyFu. This way, you can see which keywords your competitors are ranking for and target those to beat them.
Image via Google Keyword Planner
SpyFu even has a rank tracking tool that allows you to keep track of the ranks of your pages on the SERPs.
Search engines want to show users exactly what they are looking for. This is why the relevancy of the content has become one of the most important SEO trends for 2021.
5. Machine Learning
Machine learning is particularly useful for SEO, and you’ll probably see it among the biggest SEO trends this year and in the following years. Using machine learning concepts and web analytics tools, you can figure out your user behavior. Google too uses this to showcase search results.
It can help you discover keyword ranking opportunities, ranking predictions, site crawling, and more. All of these factors can affect your SEO. This way, using machine learning, you can build your entire content strategy with your targeted keywords.
6. Going Beyond Google
Google may be the largest driver of traffic today. However, with the increasing dominance of Amazon and Apple, there are good chances that SEO may matter for those too. After all, SEO is all about showing up wherever people are searching for you; not just on Google.
For instance, if you have an app, you need to ensure that you not only rank on Google but even in the app stores. Videos need to rank on their own websites too apart from Google itself. A multi-faceted approach is needed in SEO to rank in every single place possible.
Thinking beyond Google is one of the key SEO trends for 2021. You should focus on how you can increase your visibility apart from reaching the coveted #1 spot on the SERPs. Your goal shouldn’t be to just drive traffic. It should be to optimize the entire search experience of the users. Make sure that your website’s offerings meet your user’s needs.
7. Increasing Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness
You may have come across the acronym, “EAT.” This stands for Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness, and is one of the key SEO trends for this year. The EAT guidelines are mentioned in Google’s search quality guidelines and give us an idea of what Google is looking for in the short term.
This, again, brings us back to the quality aspect of content. You cannot become an authority in a particular subject unless you have written quality content on it. Similarly, content is the only thing that will show your expertise and trustworthiness to the search engines.
8. On-Page Optimization
On-page optimization is an important aspect of SEO and is one of the key SEO trends for 2021. Just by doing simple on-page SEO, you can rank higher in search results. While off-page optimization in the form of links is necessary, you need to pay attention to the on-page SEO too. The main reason for this is that it’s a continuous process and not just a set-it-and-forget-it tactic.
Some factors you should take care of are:
- High-quality relevant content that answers the queries of the users
- Short conversion process
- Efficient internal site search
- Effective customer support in the form of live chat or chatbots
- Ease of navigation
9. Optimize For Other SERP Features
Changes that Google makes to the SERP are making answers clearer and faster for searchers. With SERP features such as featured snippets, knowledge graphs, carousels, and answer boxes, your organic traffic may take a hit as more searches end up with zero clicks. That makes SEO about clicks first, but with added emphasis on visibility.
You need to optimize for not just position #1 but for position zero, a.k.a. featured snippets. These are visible over the first rank and can give you better visibility and traffic. This makes it one of the most important SEO trends for 2021.
However, digital marketing strategists at Effective Spend offer further insight into a bigger wrinkle:
Recently, Google made a drastic change to how feature snippets are treated, further revealing Google’s priorities. Sites that show up as the featured snippet now no longer show up as a standard search result on page one.
This could have a positive impact on a site’s rankings as it shows that Google believes featured snippets are the future of their platform and only the best information should be hosted there.
In Google’s eyes, achieving the ranking of a SERP’s featured snippet is more valuable than the first organic position. On the negative side, click-through rates could see a drop as the relevant information is presented in the featured snippet without having to click in. Also, without an organic presence on page one for the SERP, websites lose that additional real estate.
That being said, these are all short-term effects of Google’s shift and the long term implications are that Google is moving towards utilizing featured snippets whenever possible on the SERP. This is a mobile-focused move (which aligns with other moves they’ve made recently) aimed to most efficiently get users the information they are looking for.
Looking at how Google’s moves are trending, SEO experts need to adapt as soon as possible. By prioritizing featured snippets and providing relevant information on the SERP, Google is creating an environment where users won’t need to scroll through search results and click through to other sites. This means achieving the status of featured snippet content is the most important ranking to achieve and should be the goal of any applicable content produced.
If a piece of content answers a question users search for, that content should be structured in a clear and concise manner, optimized for featured snippet selection. While a generally high ranking is still important, more emphasis should be dedicated to creating content better than what is currently occupying the featured snippet or discovering opportunities to fill new featured snippets.
Search engine optimization is modernizing. SEO trends such as voice searches and mobile-friendliness are catching steam and may soon surpass traditional searches. Additionally, it is more important than ever to create relevant high-quality content which offers value to the readers.
You must also embrace new technologies like machine learning. These can help you up your SEO game. Make sure that you don’t just rely on Google but go beyond it to rank higher in as many places as possible.