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  • Writer's pictureDiarmuid O'Loughlin

SEO Trends for 2021. Get Ready for Change!

Articles you might come across about the next trends in eCommerce, UX or digital marketing sometimes all sing from the hymn sheet, replicating trends from the year before. This doesn't mean that the same topics have become static. As the old saying goes “if something works, don’t fix it! This also applies to SEO.

I’ve listed some Key SEO Trends for 2021. These don’t take precedence over any others you might come across, they are however, very relevant to changes in consumer search behaviour and updates from Google that will impact SEO in 2021.

#1. No Change at No.1 - Content is Still King of SEO for 2021.

Google loves fresh, useful, relevant content, so keep that in mind! It's no surprise that content is still the No.1 SEO trend for 2021. Since the launch of the ‘Panda’ algorithm by Google, nearly ten years ago, stagnant, content spammy websites have become delisted and plunged into the darkest corners of search results. Google used this opportunity to provide users with only the best quality content in their search queries. So keep your webpage content precise, factual and relevant to your business offering.

Don’t try and take Google for granted, only publish high quality content, you won’t fool Google by keyword stuffing and writing short content pieces. Make sure you only use your primary keyword twice for every 2oo words you write. Use H1 tags for main titles only, for subheadings use h2,h3,h4 and so on…

**Don’t forget Schema Markup, it’s not a new concept by any means but it’s in a constant state of evolution. If you are in a highly competitive search environment, like eCommerce and have similar product pages to your competitors, it’s often other factors like your schema markup that will allow search engines to crawl your site easier and rank your website high in search results.

Content Pillars & Clusters. I thought it was best to include Content Architecture as a subsection here. As quality content is the number 1. ranking factor determined by Google, the way you create that content and link it to other relevant pieces ‘you write’ is just as important. Content Pillars and Clusters are not a new strategy in content marketing but they will become evermore important next year. The main reason is linked to E.A.T. which is explained further on. ‘Content Pillars’ are focused articles on what industry or niche you operate in whilst ‘Content Clusters’ are related pieces of content that have relevance to your niche or industry. Combining these content pieces is vital to building a strong, linkable content structure which surrounds your brand website.

#2. Be ready for Google’s ‘New Experience Update’ to be rolled out in 2021.

This is an update due to be rolled out early next year. It’s a set of signals Google has devised to measure what users think of your website beyond it’s natural information. They are mainly formed around a set of metrics from Google Search Console called Core Web Vitals which measure real world user experiences for website speed performance, user session engagement, secure domain/https usage and mobile responsiveness.

At the moment Google considers over 200 signals when considering a website's ranking. The metrics from the Core Web Vitals will also be used to assess how users experience a website and what value it offers to them. Content will always be Google’s cornerstone metric for search rankings. But, if you are competing in a highly competitive search topic area with similar content, then page experience will be a determining factor in ranking higher than your competitors.

#3. Be Aware of E.A.T. (Expertise, Authority & Trust)

The Acronym E.A.T. stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust and the reason it’s so important to SEO Trends for 2021 is because it’s the Three Factors that Google uses to measure how much authenticity is in a brand or website. Google’s objective is to provide its customers with the best experience possible so it will only promote websites that it trusts the most and allocate higher rankings to them.

Companies that can project their brands authenticity in the best way will ultimately convince Google that they meet these three criteria. This should also be reflected in how their customers perceive their brand or website with an improved experience and sense of loyalty.

The Acronym E.A.T. originally comes from a set of guidelines published by Google as ‘Search Quality Raters’. These allow Google to establish whether they should trust a domain and allocate higher rank authority to it or choose another that will satisfy the users search intent more.

Simply if Google finds a website that provides a better user experience than yours, it will promote it. The knock-on effect is lost rankings, lost traffic, resulting in lost sales.

How to Improve your E.A.T. for SEO.

  • Reach out to your target audience, get feedback from them, stop using AI software to assess your content. Brand authority - what are people saying about your brand? Ask them through surveys how they think you could improve your website experience.

  • Your Homepage strategy is vital to get right! How much of an expert are you in your field, do you have accreditations and awards to back up your experience? Is the messaging on your website clear and transparent?

  • What makes you different from the rest of your competitors? Your USP’s are one of your major selling assets, it could be you or what you sell or do for others. Gather testimonials from previous clients to help you boost your trustworthiness. Don’t forget your track record is vital in establishing how long you are in business and the experience you come with.

For a full strategy breakdown on how E.A.T. can help your SEO please reach out to us for a chat!!

#4. Omni-channel SEO.

SEO has been ignored as a functional marketing activity for years, but more recently it has made a comeback in terms of recognition and mainly due to search engine optimisation. Search engines like Google are more aware of websites that don’t offer value to a user. (as previously mentioned with the E.A.T. guidelines & criteria). As many other digital marketing elements have changed over time so has SEO, search engines are more intelligent and look for more ways to project a brand in search results. Consumers have also changed, they’re far more familiar with sales methodologies through online advertising and search further for brand authenticity.

Many B2C brands recognise that today’s consumer expects to see six to eight touchpoints before they will become a sales lead. In order for these brands to reach customers on these various touchpoints, they need to provide an omni-channel marketing strategy.

Omni-channel & SEO are very much aligned to the same purpose, Onmi-channel aims to provide a seamless user experience across all channels, whilst SEO provides the coverage & visibility for these channels in search results. So executing an Omni-channel marketing strategy will allow users to jump into the customer journey at any touchpoint on search.

As the goal of Omni-channel is to allow for a seamless user experience from one channel to another, it can be complicated for marketers to monitor every transition on every touchpoint. This is why SEO is important, as over 70% of users start their online experiences with a search engine.

#5. Utilise Local SEO to the Change in Business Operations.

If you have a Bricks and Mortar operation and due to COVID-19 building your online presence, then this next piece mainly applies to you.

Assuming you have a Google My Business listing (if you don’t please reach out to us!) the best way to leverage its features to your new way of doing business is by optimising more of the platform. Many local retailers who have now opened online stores are still unaware of how powerful this free Google product is and how it can be leveraged to boost search engine rankings.

Populating features like ‘Product Listings’ or ‘Services’ options on your GMB account can help project your best selling items or main areas of expertise on your business listing, search results. Utilising more of your Local SEO profile can have a big impact for your physical stores visibility on Google Maps. Customer Reviews, Business Descriptions, Interior & Exterior imagery, Team photos and Brand logos all contribute to your brands trust rating on Local SEO. Again whatever Google sees as a touchpoint that drives authenticity in your brand or website is Kudos for you, So make sure to maximise your efforts!

#6. Time to re-evaluate your traffic source and quality.

Data is the most important tool you have to make decisions in the digital space. Reviewing your users website traffic sources is a key activity to evaluate your marketing strategy. You could well have thousands of users on your website over the course of any given day of the week. But what proportion of them fulfill your marketing goals through ecommerce conversions or webform enquiries? With the average website conversion rate at just over 2%, how can you justify the other 98% coming to your site and not fulfilling any of your conversion goals? You need to re-evaluate your traffic sources, as the above scenario will have an impact on your SEO.

Analyse your traffic source using Google Analytics. If you have conversion goals setup on your GA. account you can then analyse the traffic source that provides the highest quality numbers in terms of conversions. This might be an obvious one but sometimes marketers think that volume is better than quality, all good if you’re not spending money generating traffic. If you are, then it’s a must, to look at your conversion rate optimisation and re-channel your marketing efforts towards the most engaging high quality traffic sources.

#7. Javascript SEO will have an even greater impact in 2021.

Javascript code has traditionally conflicted with SEO, mainly due to the fact that it slows search engines from crawling a website's code, contributing to speed performance issues. Javascript or JS is used to develop dynamic web pages to improve the overall web experience.

Javascript SEO is a form of technical SEO that makes Javascript websites easy for search engines to crawl them. They also allow users with older browsers to still enjoy the same web experience, they also load faster, as they separate the JS code within the webpage framework.

As JS is extremely popular on most eCommerce websites, it would be very difficult to make it defunct, so in order to make it more SEO compatible there are three main areas to look at.

  1. Crawlability - Google should be able to easily crawl your website fully so all the valuable content can be indexed.

  2. Rendering - Google should be able to process all your collateral, imagery etc. for web browsers to display.

  3. Crawl Budget. - How much time does it take Google to crawl and render your website? When using JS code, crawl budgets can be affected and delayed.

Some tIps on how to check if your Javascript is indexable by Google.

1. Check if Google can render your website using the ‘Live Test’ feature in Google Search Console’s URL inspection tool kit. If it can, it will provide a very clear screenshot of how Google will display your website in Google Chrome. You can go a step further to inspect the screenshot for text & image alignment and other important design elements.

If the ‘Live Test’ tool doesn’t have a feature to display a screenshot, then use this Mobile Friendly Test Tool instead and you should get a report like the one below.

2. Check if all your website pages are indexed correctly on Google. Sometimes submitting a sitemap is not enough. It’s always a good practice (slower but more accurate) to ensure all URLs from your website are properly listed within Google’s Indexing framework. To do this, login to Google Search Console (GSC) and by using the URL inspection tool on the LHS tab, manually paste all the URLs you want to check Google has indexed. See the screenshot below to give you an idea. If there are any other issues with Javascript indexing in Google they will be highlighted in GSC, this will allow you to develop an action plan to resolve them with your developers.

3. If Google Search Console is a bit too deep into the technical side, then you can simply check what Google has indexed by typing the following into Google Search Command any URLs linked directly to your websites domain and indexed with Google will appear in search results. If there are Javascript issues identified by Google then they won’t show up in these focused searches as the webpages will be blocked from being indexed.

To look to next year and SEO trends, Javascript will still pose issues for many website owners and front-end developers, as design and SEO will continue to collide. However, it’s possible to see more advances being made in delivering dynamic web page content whilst adhering to Google’s search ranking signals.

It's fair enough to say that user experiences will be a core focus in all SEO trends for 2021. The ones we’ve mentioned here are across a range of areas, but all have a common goal, which is to satisfy user search intent and experience. Google plays a large role in deciphering how your SEO efforts will be rewarded. With over 200 ranking signals used by Google it’s a big challenge for marketers to balance webpage experiences with search visibility. However, with such a large proportion of online experiences starting with a search engine along with SEO now becoming the most valuable marketing channel, it’s hard not to accept that without SEO your brand will quickly become invisible online.

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