SEO is a constantly evolving digital marketing technique because it’s main components, user search behavior and search algorithms, are always changing.
With constant change it can be difficult to keep up with the updates or understand which ones will have the biggest impact on your SEO strategy. That’s why we put together this list of the top seven SEO trends of 2021.
Here we’ll discuss the trends and how they influence your website’s search performance so you can update your strategy to keep up with the 2021 SEO trends that are most impactful for your business & outrank your competition.
Note: If you want an overview of SEO first, check out this article What Is SEO?
SEO Trend #1: Page Experience Signals AKA User Experience
In May 2020, Google announced an update to their search ranking factors called Core Web Vitals. The goal of these Core Web Vitals is to help Google determine which websites provide users with the best possible experience by measuring certain functionalities of a website.
These new Core Web Vitals include how fast a page loads (First Contentful Paint), how quickly a site is interactive (First Input Delay), and how stable a page is (Cumulative Layout Shift).
Core Web Vitals are being added to a group of existing user experience signals, which include measurements of intrusive interstitials (read: pop ups), HTTPS, safe browsing, and mobile friendliness. Collectively these page experience signals will all help Google to understand the post-click user experience and will be used in search rankings.
Why is this important for SEO in 2021? 2021 is the first year that all of these technical aspects of a user’s experience will be factored into Google’s core search algorithm. Google announced in November 2020 that Core Web Vitals will become a ranking factor in May 2021.
Bottom Line: This introduction of additional page experience signals as known SEO ranking factors puts even greater emphasis on positive user experience.
Pro Tip: Add this chrome extension to measure your core web vitals or monitor your Core Web Vitals in your Google Search Console account.
SEO Trend #2: Relevant Content is King
Quality content is not one of the new trends in SEO for 2021. It’s been the best way to improve search rankings and drive traffic to your website since SEO was a tactic.
What’s important to understand for SEO in 2021 is that content is becoming more specific and therefore creating quality content that is also relevant to your users is increasingly important.
High-quality content should match the search intent of your customers. If someone searches “most affordable wedding flowers,” they have a different intent than someone searching “affordable wedding flowers near me”. Both searches focus on affordable wedding flowers; however, the intent is different.
In the first search, someone is likely looking for ideas and is in the research phase of the buying cycle, while in the second search, the searcher is likely ready to buy or contact a florist to get more information or place an order.
Matching your content to user intent is where SEO is headed in 2021 and beyond because it improves the user experience.
Ultimately, serving the best content to its users is the goal for any search engine, so anything the search algorithms can do to improve the overall user experience, i.e. serve up the most relevant, helpful content for each search query, the more people will come back to and rely on those search engines.
Bottom Line: To beat your competition with content in 2021 your content needs to not only be useful, but it also needs to better match user search intent in order to be more relevant.
Pro Tip: Check out E-A-T on page 19 from the Search Quality Rating guidelines directly from Google to ensure your content can be understood.
SEO Trend #3: Zero Click Searches & Rich Results
Zero Click Searches are those searches which end without a user clicking through to another website from the search engine results page. The rise of zero click searches is an indicator that more users are finding the results they need right on the search engine results page due to new features beyond the traditional “10 blue links”.
Here’s an example: you search for the cost of tires for your specific vehicle and the search results returned give you a list of the top three tires without having to leave the search engine results page.
Now you are curious how much those top tires cost so you do another search for the cost of the recommended Michelin tires.
Again, you have your answer right on the search engine results page. The tires should range from $126 to $286 at Discount Tire or you can see that Michelin prices the tire between $155.99 to $287.99.
In this example you’re able to get both the answers you need without leaving the search engine results page.
Now on your third search you may look for a Discount Tire near you and find the phone number on the SERP, which you then use to call and speak with an associate to learn more about the tires or schedule an appointment.
With the continued rise of Rich Results, search engines are creating opportunities for more zero click searches and we don’t expect this trend to end anytime soon.
What are Rich Results?
Rich Results include any search engine results beyond the standard Title and page description. Rich Results can include reviews, sitelinks, people also ask, featured snippets, knowledge panels and more.
In fact, in July 2020 Google unveiled a new tool built specifically to help website owners and developers understand their website’s rich result eligibility, or if any errors existed that would prevent rich result opportunities.
The creation of this new tool is a sign Google plans to continue this trend to provide more information right on the search engine results page via Rich Results. We expect the continuation of Rich Results to increase the number of zero click searches.
What do zero click results mean for SEO in 2021, it means that businesses may see a decline in click through rates where Rich Results are appearing on the search engine results page. This makes it even more important to measure the success of your marketing using real business results instead of just clicks, users, or sessions.
Bottom Line: A decline in click through rate isn’t necessarily negative; however, it does mean businesses should adapt their SEO strategies to create opportunities to appear in more Rich Results in 2021.
SEO Trend #4: Schema Markup & Structured Data
How can websites create additional opportunities for Rich Result appearances? With Schema markup!
Using Schema markup and structured data is a trend that’s been on many SEO trend lists for the past few years and it isn’t going away anytime soon. If anything, Schema markup continues to become one of the more important SEO trends as we move into 2021.
What is Schema markup?
Schema markup is a type of structured data that allows web developers and website owners to provide search engine bots with more detail about what information is on a website in a language that is easily understood by those search engine bots.
In order for a website to appear in Rich Results, there is specific information that search engines need to know in order to populate that Rich Result information. This information is often pulled from the structured data on a webpage.
In 2020, several new types of Schema markup became available for web developers to use. New markup included: event information for canceled or postponed events, Covid-19 announcements, image licensing information, & retailer shipping details.
There are several other structured data types currently in beta. You can view Google’s full list of supported Rich Results here (including those in beta). And, check out Bing’s list of supported structured data markup here.
Beyond providing websites with greater opportunity to appear in Rich Results on the search engine results page, structured data can also provide opportunities for websites to improve their voice search results. Voice search devices can use structured data like speakable structured data to read answers to search queries.
Bottom Line: With voice search continuing to grow and the continued introduction and testing of new structured data types, it’s important that site owners, developers, and SEOs keep up with the changes and continue to use the available Schema markup that applies to their businesses in 2021.
Pro Tip: Not sure you got the structured data code right? You can use the structured data testing tool to check if your code has any errors. Please note: this tool will be migrating to a new location on schema.org in spring 2021.
SEO Trend #5: Local Search – Google My Business Becomes More Important
According to HubSpot, 46% of all Google searches are for local information. 🤯 If you think about your own Google search habits, this might not seem so surprising.
What IS surprising is that 88% of searches for local businesses on a mobile device end with either a call or visit to the business within 24 hours. (Source: HubSpot) That’s like having an 88% conversion rate which is something we think everyone can get behind.
One of the most important free SEO tools local businesses have at their disposal is their Google My Business (GMB) listing.
In 2020, Google used the GMB listing to help local businesses keep their customers up-to-date. They introduced features like health & safety attributes, delivery information, & drive through and pick up hours. (If you are interested you can view all of the Google My Business updates here.)
Combine these new features with the rise of Rich Results like the local map pack, and we expect Google My Business listing importance to continue to grow in 2021.
Bottom Line: Optimizing GMB is an easy win for local businesses. We expect Google to continue to incorporate local business information more often on the search engine results pages to improve local search results. If you want more information on how to optimize your GMB we recommend reading about the GMB fields that impact ranking on Moz.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget about Bing Places for Business. This is Bing’s version of Google My Business. It’s easy to set up and can give your business the same type of local exposure on Bing.
SEO Trend #6: Mobile First Indexing
In March 2020, Google announced it would make the switch to mobile-first indexing for all websites in September 2020. Due to the worldwide pandemic, this switch was delayed from September 2020 to March 2021.
What is mobile first indexing?
Mobile first indexing means that the mobile version of a website will be the indexed version in 2021 and any information including structured data, meta information, or any content that does not appear on the mobile version of a website, won’t be indexed. The indexed version of a website is what search engine’s use to rank and show results on the search engine results page.
You can use Google Search Console coverage report to check if the primary crawler on your website is desktop or mobile.
As mobile search continues to grow, it’s important to make sure that the mobile experience for your website users is the same as the experience they’ll have on a tablet or desktop.
Bottom Line: Make sure that the information on the mobile version of your website matches the information on your desktop version. As we talked about in our first SEO trend of 2021 – site speed is also important, so make sure your website speed is functioning well on mobile devices. You can use PageSpeed Insights to understand how your site performs on mobile vs desktop.
SEO Trend #7: Better Language Processing & Understanding
With most of these SEO trends 2021, the focus is on the website – how can it be faster, more relevant, work well on mobile & desktop, etc. This last trend is focused on how search engines will improve.
As is always the case, search engine’s are continually working toward improving their search algorithms so that they can better categorize and understand content & context. This understanding allows for better, more useful search results, which then brings more use.
In 2020, we heard about SMITH, a Google algorithm in testing. This algorithm may not be in use currently or in the future; however, the research points to SMITH outperforming BERT (which was already “one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search”) when it comes to longer strings of text aka longer documents and longer search queries.
Along these same lines, there has also been an increase in AI powered tools that provide better suggestions and are even writing content automatically.
Bottom Line: Search engines are getting better at understanding the real meaning and value of content and how the content all fits together. The better we can understand and play nicely with these AI algorithm updates, the better long term results you are likely to see from your SEO efforts.
In 2021, Search engines are increasingly rewarding websites that put their users first with more relevant content, information that can be found without a click, updated local business information, fast load times, & mobile friendly experiences.
As we see it, the overall theme of SEO trends in 2021 is to make sure your website experience focuses on your user. This isn’t a new trend in SEO; however, we’re seeing the signs of greater emphasis on exceptional user experience going into 2021 & beyond.
What SEO trends do you think will grow in 2021? Let us know in the comments below!
Intigress is an Oregon-based digital advertising & search engine optimization agency dedicated to helping businesses grow. Learn more about our SEO services or contact us to schedule a free SEO consultation today!