What will 2021 bring for Search and SEO? With the Core Web Vitals’ announcement and the further development of artificial intelligence, Google is already setting the tone.
What significant (and minor) changes can we expect in the coming year?
I have listed 7 important trends with which your website becomes and remains SEO-proof.
SEO-proof in 2021
Last year I wrote about the SEO trends of 2020, and I will continue this year. SEO is a field that is always on the move. But first, the basics. Google indexes the web and aims to provide its users with the best results when they place a search query.
In addition to the text you write, it also concerns readability, user experience, security, and expertise of the page or website. For example, Google is getting smarter every year, and SEO is less and less about tricks and ways to manipulate the algorithm.
To (continue to) score high in Google, it is good to keep an eye on what the algorithm pays attention to. The three pillars of SEO are still technology, content, and authority. Within these pillars, the necessary changes take place every year to provide users with even better results. By responding to these trends, you ensure that your website remains SEO-proof in 2021!
Core Web Vitals
In May, a new official ranking factor was announced for 2021. If Google reports an update so far in advance, then you know it is serious! The so-called Core Web Vitals are, therefore, the most important development for 2021.
The Core Web Vitals are a collection of different UX standards that a web page must meet according to Google in order to be ranked high in the search results.
In addition to the content’s quality and relevance on a page, Google will now also assess pages on user experience. By offering a nice UX, your web pages will rank higher in the search results.
Nice user experience?
But what is a great user experience, and how does Google measure this? It does this based on three components:
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) – LCP is about loading speed. Not of the entire page, but the most important content. For example, if an article’s text has already been loaded, while the images and video are still loading, the visitor can already start reading. A good LCP reading is 2.5 seconds or faster.
- FID (First Input Delay) – This measures the time it takes for a web page to become interactive. A good FID reading is less than 100 ms.
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) – Measures the number of unexpected layout shifts on a web page. For example, because advertisements or images are loaded late. A good CLS measurement is less than 0.1.
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The update will be implemented in the algorithm from May 2021, but you can already see how your website scores in this area. This way, you still have plenty of time to make any changes.
Want to know how your website is doing? This can be done in 2 ways:
- Via the PageSpeed Insights Tool, you can see exactly how the page scores in the three areas.
- And in Google Search Console, you will see an overview of the pages with CLS problems under the heading ‘Site vitality.’
The EAT principle has been around for some time in SEO land, but in 2021 I expect it to play an even more important role. EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. These are important pillars to assess the quality and reliability of the content on a page.
Why Google wants to measure a web page’s quality is understandable: anyone can write content and put it online. Whether true or not. But of course, Google prefers to provide its users with reliable information in the search results.
Certainly, due to important events in the world where fake news and reliable information are an important benchmark, this will become more important than ever in the coming years. Think of (the fight against) the coronavirus and the problems surrounding the elections in the US.
To score high on a certain keyword, a page must therefore be reliable. And the writer must be an expert in the field he/she is writing about. But how do you demonstrate that? That can be done in different ways:
- Use reliable sources to substantiate certain claims. For example, link to scientific studies or web pages of authorities within your industry and not too shady websites.
- Try to link trusted domains to your content. For example, a link from a .edu or .gov domain is really a stamp of approval for Google.
- Be transparent about who you are. Please share your contact information, create and link a Google My Business profile and make it clear who is responsible for the website’s content.
Especially for websites that fall into the so-called YMYL (‘Your money or your life’) category, EAT is of particular importance. Think of websites in the financial sector or healthcare.
Focus on topics, not keywords
A common SEO strategy is still to choose one focus keyword, create a web page on this topic, and ‘optimize’ is based on this keyword. Optimizing often consists of using the keyword at strategic points such as the H1, in the URL, as an alt tag, and so on.
This is just pretty outdated these days. Google is getting smarter and understands that one page is not necessarily better than another because an image happens to have a certain keyword as an alt tag. No, a single web page can now be found on dozens of keywords.
This has to do with the so-called ‘ semantic search intention.’ That’s the way it is: people searching for ‘red boots,’ for example, are probably helped with the same results as someone typing ‘boots red.’ For that reason, you don’t have to create two different web pages for these two keywords. Google understands that it is the same search intent.
Therefore, rather focus on topics than keywords. A practical tip is to choose the keyword with the highest volume as the focus keyword but to include the additional keywords that people (possibly) use in the text on the web page.
Longer content (often) scores better
Long content generally scores better. The research of SEMrush shows generates articles from more than 3,000 words as much as three times as much traffic. And also generate an average of 3.5 times more backlinks compared to content between 900 and 1200 words.
Do you have to write extra-long sentences so that the piece becomes longer? No, users are not helped with that. It means that you need to add more relevant content and additional information.
For example, if you’re writing an article on how to learn how to fish as a beginner, don’t just share the basic steps and spread out on different types of rods, which fish are attracted to of bait, and so on. Make sure your piece is the ‘most complete’ and offers even more information compared to articles that now score high on a certain keyword.
Of course, the following applies: don’t make your content unnecessarily long! If there really isn’t more to tell than a few paragraphs, leave it at that and spend your time and attention elsewhere.
Smartphone use is still increasing every year. Since 2018, search engines have been searched more via mobile devices than via desktops. Because Google likes to provide its users with the best result, it rolled out mobile-first indexing in 2019. This means that the search engine first looks at the mobile version of a website and only then assesses the desktop version. More important than ever to have a responsive website!
But responsiveness alone will probably not be enough in the future. Google already distinguishes between loading speed and Core Web Vitals on mobile versus desktop. And in Google Search Console, you will now even find a separate tab to assess the mobile health of a page.
Therefore, it is important to really (initially) design your website for a mobile user experience and not just add a responsive version for mobile users to your ‘normal’ website.
We may even go from mobile-first to mobile-only in 2021, whereby Google no longer looks at the desktop version of a website to determine the ranking. It wouldn’t surprise me!
Developments of artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) has long ceased to be a sci-fi term and is now widely used in many technologies. Similarly, on search!
Google Discover is one of how Google uses to present users with content that they may be interested in. And because of artificial intelligence and the data behind it, things are getting better at this.
And the degree of personalization in the SERP (search results page) is also becoming increasingly refined. For example, different users will no longer see the same SERP.
But the biggest clue can be found in Google Analytics 4, which was recently rolled out. The main difference from older versions of Analytics is the way it measures the website. Namely, no longer based on how the user navigates between pages, but how a user behaves on a web page. The data collected with this can provide interesting predictions.
Read on here:
I expect the developments in AI to be further developed in the coming years and take a dominant SEO position.
In the field of SEO, we often talk about absolute numbers for an entire country.
For this reason, I expect a greater emphasis on local search. By this, we mean the local results that are shown using a map. The past year has already shown that more and more information is being added to the local results. For example, we have recently also been able to see which restaurants pick up and/or deliver immediately.
Quality of content is key
Exciting things are going to happen for SEO again in the coming year! Google will try to standardize user experience with the Core Web Vitals, and we can expect new developments in the field of personalization and local search.
But a trend that has been continuously important for years is the quality of the content. Here too, Google seems to be taking steps to continue serving users the very best result. Logical, too: good search results make users happy. And happy users keep coming back. And so, Google retains the overwhelming market share over competitors. Also, in 2021…