Nearly 30 SEO professionals share the top Google ranking factors they are paying attention to in 2021.
SEO | Jul 14
Masooma Memon on April 28, 2021 (last modified on May 3, 2021) • 13 minute read
Keeping up with SEO trends can be tough.
You’d subscribe to a bunch of newsletters, follow dozens of industry influencers and blogs, and even join community after community.
At the end of the day though, you pay attention to none of the resources due to their sheer volume. And when an SEO update comes up, you’d be taken aback – figuring out your next steps in panic.
To help prevent this sort of ‘panic’ and to ensure you’re updated with the future SEO trends, we decided to ask marketers about the latest SEO trends and techniques they’re following. We also polled them on their best resources to learn SEO trends.
Let’s give you the details in two broad sections:
We asked 83 marketers about this.
And, it turns out industry blogs/news are the most popular source for identifying emerging SEO trends for the majority of the respondents, approximately 49%, of them.
SEO tools and communities/forums come in second and third with less than 10% also gleaning information from social media to piece together future SEO trends.
Some leading SEO industry blogs you can follow include the Search Engine Journal and blogs run by teams behind prominent SEO tools such as Ahrefs and Moz. Get a full list of these blogs as well as industry influencers and SEO communities to join here.
You can also follow SEO-specific hashtags on social media. These could be as simple as #SEO or something along the lines of #searchengineoptimization or #seotips. Or, you could simply follow influencers in the SEO realm on social to stay updated and informed.
Either way, SERP’s Devin Schumacher points out “there are a number of groups online consisting of individuals that are invested in studying SEO. These people monitor changes to the algorithm that Google uses to evaluate your website. It’s super helpful to keep an eye on what marketers are saying, and to engage in these discussions to further your own understanding of SEO.”
Want a pro tip? Create a Twitter list of all the SEO influencers to make it easy to stay on top of their insights, updates, and trending discussions.
Now, for what we promised: top SEO trends that are currently rocking the SEO industry.
1. Page speed is as important as ever
2. Local SEO trend has been on the rise
3. Partnerships over cold outreach link building are surfacing
4. Focus on user experience is increasing
5. Meaningful content will help you win
6. Content freshness is also essential
7. Video optimization is important too
8. Voice search is on the rise
9. Brand consistency is huge
Truth bomb: one in four visitors leave a site if it takes longer than four seconds to load. That’s four seconds!
This stat alone sets the need for working on your page load speed. Miguel González from Dealers League adds to the background though.
González points out the trend of improving page load speed has been around for about a year now. However, folks are paying special attention to it since the last month: “due to the fact that Google will start paying more attention to the speed of our webpage starting May 2021.”
“Previously, page load speed was measured simply by the amount of time it takes to load the page,” Breezeful’s Anthony De Guzman quips. “In 2021, it’s split into three categories: largest contentful paint, first input delay and cumulative layout shift.”
In this context, De Guzman suggests, “it’s more important than ever for SEO specialists and web developers to work together to identify and optimize these speed categories to help rank higher in the search engines.”
A good starting point? Use a free tool to test your website load speed. Then, work your way to improving it.
Editor’s note: Keep tabs on your page load speed with this free Google Analytics (Site Speed Overview) dashboard template. It displays your average page load time, page load time per device, bounce rate, and pageviews on one dashboard – giving you a complete picture of how the load speed is affecting incoming traffic.
“Local SEO is one trend that other marketers should know,” writes Ryan Gamilla. Why? Because the “pandemic pushed small businesses to transition from a physical business to an online store. This is where digital marketing and local SEO has become really important,” opines Gamilla.
To this end, Gamilla suggests you pay attention to local keywords such as “’near me’ and other business type/product/service in local area formatted KWs.”
We’ve all received cold emails asking for inserting links. Occasionally, there’s also an email that is so poorly written, the sender forgets to change the name from the template they’re using!
However, Omniscient Digital’s Alex Birkett observes such “link building outreach, done with cold emailing, is dying out,” For the simple reason that “people have noticed it’s ineffective, so they’re replacing it with two tactics.”
👉 “First, I call the ‘surround sound strategy.’ Brands are looking to monopolize comparison shopping terms like ‘best live chat software’ and are seeking to appear on all lists, whether written by bloggers, affiliate sites, review sites, etc. So there’s more of a ‘partnership’ angle with these pitches.
👉 Second, ‘relationship link building’ is all the rage. There are groups of marketers sharing guest post spots and linking to each other from guest posts. This is both effective because of the potential for scale as well as the avoidance of direct link reciprocity.”
You can easily find such link swapping groups on social media and Slack groups. You can even start one yourself by identifying regular guest posters and reaching out to them, explaining your partnership plan. For maximum success, build your relationship with the target guest poster first (say on social media) and then share your plan to partner up.
Making sure your site visitor has a lovely time on your page is crucial. Best way to do so? Keep things simple, clutter-free, and easy to navigate and find in case they’re looking for something such as a blog post. Not to forget, site load speed adds to good user experience too.
“Over the last few months we’ve seen page experience become more and more important,” Elizabeth Weatherby from A.H. Management Group notes.
“With the Google Algorithm Page Experience Update in May 2021, SEOs will want to ensure their websites are ready for this update to hit.”
Weatherby makes suggestions on improving page experience based on what others accomplish for delivering a smooth user experience. “SEOs can do this by ensuring site speed and image/video load time are optimized. They can also ensure the website is user friendly, and effectively pushes users through the buying process, answers questions, and provides the right, valuable information to the user.”
That said, you can’t afford to not pay attention to this SEO trend. Why? Because it’s part of the Core Web Vitals update, enrolling in May 2021.
“This means that anyone who’s interested in securing or maintaining those coveted top-ranking links need to ensure that their website is hitting these benchmarks” according to Tenant Inc’s Burton Lash:
“Failure to meet these might mean your website loses its spot to another similarly ranked webpage when Core Web Vitals ends up being the tiebreaker in determining the better user experience,” Lash explains.
However, focus on useful content is increasing now more than ever. Andy Kolodgie of SEO Meets Real Estate Investors explains, “Natural Language Processing (NLP) is Google’s way of understanding the true intent of an article. As Google aims to please its users, your content should be meaningful and provide value to your audience more than ever before.”
Elaborating on this, Kolodgie writes “NLP combined with algorithms allows Google to understand individual sentences, paragraphs, and the sentiment behind the content. Marketers should pay attention to the strides being made with NLP, and create content for a positive user experience because Google continues to adapt its algorithms with user experience as a top priority.”
Here are some action steps you can take to write for NLP that Kolodgie recommends:
Want to learn how to improve your content for NLP further? Study how Google auto highlights the information when you search for a query. Kolodgie suggests “Google tends to highlight the most accurate and straightforward answer to the search query.” Replicate this in your writing.
Not only do you need to create premium quality content, but you also need to work on updating old content for better ranking.
Greenice’s Kateryna Reshetilo shares, “We’ve noticed that content updates have a huge impact on our organic traffic growth.”
“We’ve seen how our articles that once ranked well in Google have lost their positions with time. Also, as our old content piled up on our website it started to weigh down the new content we produced,” Reshetilo explains.
In response, Reshetilo says, “we audited the entire website to determine what content is outdated and prioritized our updates. Over the course of 6 months, we’ve updated the entire website.”
The result? “Over the subsequent 4 months, our traffic has grown by 30%. So we decided to make content updates a regular practice.”
Editor’s note: Track how your SEO performance improves after refreshing your blog content and making necessary SEO updates with this Blog Post Performance After SEO Update dashboard.
Video content has been all the rage lately given that it communicates information 60,000 times faster than text. With a strong hook at the beginning, you can hold your audience’s attention pretty quickly and effectively.
And, it turns out video is also playing a useful role in helping improve ranking by keeping your visitors on your page. Here’s how: “People spend longer on your post when they watch your video. This improves your bounce rate since visitors don’t leave as fast. The improved bounce rate tells Google to boost your content in the SERPs” Janice Wald from Mostly Blogging elaborates.
Wald also opines that “people have gotten used to watching videos during lockdown. People are more likely to buy from people they see in a video since trust is increased when they see the marketer. You can put customer testimonials in videos as well. Clearly, one video has many SEO benefits.”
The team at Hurrdat Marketing, for example, has seen ranking improve due to video content.
Aaron Mackel share their experience: “we’ve seen a lot of success using a comprehensive video strategy that includes creating video around high search volume terms when we have a page or post where that video content can be embedded, publishing on YouTube, embedding on our website, and optimizing with VideoObject schema.”
“This approach has helped us grow our YouTube presence, has resulted in a major lift in video traffic directly to our website from Google, and has boosted SERP optimization efforts since videos are often being displayed next to our links in search results and making us stand out from competitors,’ adds Mackel.
The takeaway? Create more video content. And it doesn’t have to be very fancy. To begin with, pick a DIY design tool and use the available templates to create videos. Don’t forget to track how adding videos to your pages improves relevant metrics such as the dwell time.
“One important SEO trend fast rising is the use of Google voice search,” notes Lily Ugbaja of Finding Balance.
“Users these days are finding it easier to do a search via google voice especially if it is on something they aren’t so sure about.” Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray adds, “More and more people around the world are using Siri, Alexa and similar tools to search on the Internet.”
So how do you optimize your content for voice search? Here’s how:
To this end, use conversational keywords as Aufray advises. “Start writing content the way people speak rather than the way people write and you will start ranking higher on search engines and increase your organic traffic.”
Ugbaja suggests you also “provide succinct answers and leverage long keyword tail phrases.” Why? Because these are the keywords people use to voice search their queries.
Know what a rhetorical question is? It’s a question that I just asked – one that doesn’t require a direct response but makes your content conversational. Bonus points for framing rhetorical questions around long-tail keywords.
“I’d say the biggest SEO trend I’ve noticed over the past year is the focus on brand consistency across all channels, both digital and physical,” WellPCB’s Abby Ha observes.
“This means that businesses with brick and mortar locations are making sure their online content mirrors their offline appearance, including images, colors, fonts, and messaging. They’re also creating a cohesive company brand across all social media platforms.”
Brand consistency adds to transparency too. “Customers want to know that a company they are shopping from or interacting with is trustworthy and they’re willing to do their research to make sure it is. For example, your online store can have an amazing brand on Facebook, but if you have 1-star reviews left on your Yelp page or WellPCB My Business page, your social media presence won’t be enough to win consumers over.”
To ensure brand consistency, follow these tips:
With this overview of new SEO trends, we’re sure you’re feeling fired up to rank better by following the latest trends. Remember, high-quality conversational content that’s written with the reader in mind and a good user experience including optimized page load speed will always help you win.
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