The year 2020 has thrown unprecedented challenges globally, even changing how businesses are conducted now and in the foreseeable future. To date, thousands of companies continue to work remotely in response to COVID-19.
COVID-19 has also dramatically changed the way people use the internet to conduct business. Even SEO best practices have to evolve to keep up with the ever-changing times—an SEO option now may be mandatory by tomorrow.
However, even if not during a global pandemic, the SEO landscape changes continuously, especially with new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), voice assistants, and mobile marketing strategy.
To ensure you can keep up with the volatile SEO landscape, we have listed some of the SEO trends to watch out for in 2021 and some of the necessary action items you can work on today to stay ahead of the SEO game come 2021.
User Experience (UX) Will Continue to Take Center Stage
A Google Webmaster Central blog post published last May 2020 indicated that Google Search now considers a handful of UX signals in their rankings, including the Core Web Vitals. According to Google, Core Web Vitals "are a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience."
With this most recent update to their search algorithm, Google highlights the importance of delightful web experiences for online visitors—on sites loading fast, things being easy to find and use, and everything being accessible across all platforms and devices.
Your site's ability to deliver this high user experience level will be rewarded with better search visibility.
Getting a low grade in any of the user-centered metrics will not only degrade the UX for your site visitors, but it can also hurt your search rankings. To ensure you always provide site visitors with a great user experience, keep the following essentials in mind:
Ensure your site loads lightning-fast. To date, pages should not take more than 3 seconds to load.
Ensure your site is free from annoying full-screen pop-ups. Marketers who want to generate more leads and expand their reach love pop-ups. Unfortunately, most users can't stand them. That said, your site is better off without those annoying pop-ups.
Ensure your site is mobile-friendly and responsive across various platforms and devices. This includes desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This also includes Android, iOS, and Windows operating systems.
Search Intent Will Become More Important than Keywords
Since Google rolled out its BERT update last 2019, the search engine has become more "conversational." In other words, Google's algorithm is now able to interpret intent (for instance, if you want to find a location nearby or buy something), even from long queries that make use of natural language.
The current focus on search intent is a clear signal that users now prefer to search as they speak, and Google is adapting to ensure this need is met.
Since Google is becoming better at pinpointing relevant content based on the user's intent, focusing on short-tail and top-of-the-funnel keywords just won't cut it anymore. Nowadays, people search with four different core intents:
Make a purchase
Get to a specific site.
Compare products and shop.
With the above mentioned things in mind, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of your target audience's intent and how your content can fulfill those needs. It is also recommended that you write content clearly and concisely, using natural language (the way people usually talk).
COVID-19 Will Have a Lasting Impact
Since the Google search algorithm is all about signals, the search engine behemoth had sent some strong ones when the COVID-19 pandemic started to unfold in March of 2020. For instance, they quickly put a halt to Google reviews for a short period to protect businesses at a time when many are going under.
If anything, this is a clear indication of Google's willingness to shape results in response to global issues. It would also be safe to assume they would adopt the same stance the next time another global issue rears its ugly head.
Nobody knows for sure if there will be a "post-COVID-19" world. What this challenge has done, however, is reveal the general unpreparedness of most organizations alongside other blind spots.
Moving forward, consider the following elements when it comes to your SEO strategy:
Create a crisis communication strategy. Ensure that you can get timely, useful, and urgent content in front of your audiences each time they need it.
Always be prepared to update your web properties. Are you still open? How has the pandemic affected your business? Have any of your offerings changed? Get essential information up on your site before your customers decide to look someplace else.
It is safe to assume that people and their experiences will be at the core of most SEO trends in the coming year. Creating high-quality content, identifying well-defined buyer personas and user intent, and creating a great user experience are the right places to start. From there, it's all a matter of tinkering, refining, optimizing, and improving based on what the data provides. Also, one of the best ways to generate do-follow backlinks is by manually reaching out to other relevant blogs and seeing if they accept guest posts.