10 2021 SEO Predictions From the Experts

January 28, 2021 - 6  min reading time - by Devin Partida
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2020 has been a landmark year for SEO marketers. As the world faced an unprecedented period of dramatic cultural change, consumers’ web searches reflected these shifts. Amid the uncertainty and turmoil of 2020, not only did some topics have a surge of interest, but the way people search has shifted, too.

Search engines themselves introduced changes to their operations and preferences to combat misinformation and appeal to changing user habits. All of these changes mean that SEO best practices in 2021 could represent a considerable departure from the past.

While 2020 has proved that the future is always uncertain, some strong web search trends have emerged. Here’s what 10 SEO experts have to say about these trends in 2021.

1. Landing Page UX Is More Crucial Than Ever

Lily Ray, SEO Director at Path Interactive, emphasized the importance of user experiences in 2021: “Google announced details around its Core Web Vitals update, which will be rolling out in March 2021. This impacts how a site is evaluated, and includes speed, interactivity and whether things move around too much on the page. It will be a crucial UX and SEO trend to watch.”

Keywords alone won’t be enough to appear at the top of SERPs in 2021. Google will give more preference to landing pages with better UX, so websites need to focus on improving their accessibility on top of content.

2. A Strong E-Commerce Focus Could Harm Performance

According to Stephanie LeVonne, Account Director at Conductor, “historically, when companies had to respond to an algorithm change, they could either focus on improving their content or do a dive deep on their backlink strategy. But sites that have an e-commerce focus and blogs focused on ‘your money, your life’ content are having a hard time recovering. Google wants to serve the most unbiased content and the e-commerce association is just not good overall.”

In a bid to combat biased information, Google may rank content with obvious e-commerce ties lower. Keeping these links and associations as inconspicuous as possible could help make more sales in the end.

3. Instagram Is Becoming More SEO-Friendly

The The founder of BOSSGRAM Academy, Vanessa Lau, points out how Instagram is becoming a new landscape for SEO marketing. She says, “In November 2020, it was officially announced that Instagram would become more search-friendly. Now, without the use of hashtags, if you search for a keyword in the search bar, relevant videos, profiles and posts should populate.”

Lau goes on, saying, “My recommendation to take early advantage of this update is to make sure your captions include relevant keywords that will help Instagram identify what’s being shown or talked about in your post.” With these changes, marketers can apply SEO practices to Instagram, not just search engines, and see considerable results.

4. Content That Answers a Question Will Perform Better

Duane Forrester, VP of Industry Insights at Yext, says, “Google is doubling down on answering questions, whether it’s through a link or a video embed. AI and machine learning power these systems. Even if you don’t understand how these things work today, you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t understand where engines are investing when optimizing and building content.”

Once again, keywords alone won’t be sufficient in 2021. Content should understand what questions users have and answer them.

5. Conversational Keywords and Phrases Will Be Preferable

Voice search will be crucial in 2021, as Jessica Rhoades, owner of Create IT Designs, explains: “In 2019, over 25% of all searches conducted on Google were voice searches. When users talk into their device, they use keywords that are conversational. Consumers are asking questions on Google and looking for answers. They are not looking for long-tail keywords.”

With voice searches rising, websites should consider more conversational content. If your tone is too formal, it won’t appeal to these searches.

6. Video Continues to Be Crucial

Nate Nead, the CEO of Seo.co, says that “For SEO, 2021 will be the year of site speed and video. Google has intimated mobile first and mobile site speed will both be more heavily weighted in coming months. If you want to rank in 2021, include more video in your on-page elements and make sure it loads in under three seconds.”

Video has been a critical part of SEO for a while, and that trend will continue into 2021. You don’t have to pivot to video exclusively, but including videos in your other content will help your rankings.

7. It’s Time to Refurbish Old Content

New content isn’t all you should be concerned about, as Johannes Larsson, founder and CEO of Financer.com, points out: “Content used to be king. Now, refurbishing content is king. We removed approximately 50 articles from our website, and refurbished around 35 articles. This skyrocketed our traffic the coming months and the total growth was 273%.”

Having a lot of content on your site won’t necessarily translate into clicks in 2021. You need to trim the edges and update your content, too.

8. Websites Need to Optimize for Mobile

The founder of Inbound Marketing Agency, Adam Rowles, remarks that “50% of web traffic in the world comes from mobile users. This percentage is increasing. The device doesn’t matter, the experience does! Give responsive website layouts, quick website loading experiences, quick query solutions, mobile websites and more.”

Web traffic is becoming increasingly mobile, so in 2021, you need to optimize for these users. Sites without comfortable, fast mobile user experiences won’t perform as well.

9. Web Stories Provide New Opportunities for SEO Marketers

This year, Google introduced Web Stories, and Julia Enthoven, founder and CEO of Kapwing, believes they’ll impact SEO. “One up-and-coming SEO trend is Web Stories, the new visual media format for the web that Google recently introduced. This new launch will shift more publishers to AMP and to vertical videos.”

Whether or not Web Stories become the next big thing for SEO marketers is uncertain. Still, you shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to incorporate this new medium into your SEO strategy.

10. Zero-Click Searches Will Continue to Grow

Mark Reynolds, founder and Marketing Consultant at ProfitReach, notes that “Zero-click searches aren’t new, but they are growing with Google constantly improving the user experience. Zero-click searches still don’t play a big enough role in many SEO strategies, so in 2021 it’s critical that you’re focusing on improving SERP visibility.”

Many SEO professionals shy away from zero-click since they don’t directly translate into increased web traffic. Given their continued growth, though, if you don’t aim for them in 2021, you won’t perform in SERPs as well as you could.

Start Your 2021 SEO Strategy Today

2020 has been a period of tremendous change. If SEO professionals don’t take advantage of these shifts, then they’ll quickly fall behind. These expert predictions can give you the guidance you need to shape your 2021 SEO strategy today.

Despite the chaos of 2020, many of the changes in 2021 aren’t radical departures, but accelerated growth of previous trends. SEO professionals most likely don’t need to rework their entire strategy, but rather, consider some new elements and make small adjustments. As you go into 2021, keep and eye on these trends and adapt to the changes you see. Act early, act cautiously and listen to the experts.

Devin Partida writes about digital technologies and online strategies. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
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