Google continues to improve its search function, which aligns with its mission to organise the world’s information. The search engine giant regularly implements algorithm changes to provide users with accurate, relevant answers to their queries.
The year 2020 has been incredibly frantic for the SEO landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic brought many anxieties and uncertainties to consumers, resulting in new questions and search topics that weren’t popularly searched for before. In short, the pandemic caused changes to consumers’ search behaviour.
What do these algorithm updates and new search behaviours mean? These mean that brands and SEO specialists must be ready to realign their SEO strategies to continue delighting search engines and their target audience.
As we enter the latter part of 2021, industry experts continue making predictions on crucial SEO trends that will shape the SEO landscape for the remainder of the year. In this article, PurpleClick discusses 5 SEO trends to keep an eye on for the second half of 2021.
Table of Contents
5 SEO Trends to Adopt This 2021
1. Mobile-first indexing will become unavoidable
Google first announced its mobile-first indexing back in 2016. The goal is to make sure websites perform on mobile just as well as they do on desktops. However, the transition has been slow. Some old-timey websites still fail in their mobile performance.
The search engine giant is finally putting its foot down. Earlier this year, it had enabled mobile-first indexing for all websites. It means that Googlenow only uses the mobile version of your website for crawling and indexing, and it has been doing this since March.
How do you optimise for mobile-first indexing? One of the easiest ways is to adopt a responsive web design. With this kind of design, your website automatically adjusts to the screen size of whatever device the user has.
Website speed is another critical aspect of a mobile-first strategy. Make sure your pages load quickly on mobile and other devices. Other than failing Google’s mobile-first index, slow-loading websites also disappoint users. A global study found that slow websites frustrate consumers, forcing them to click out and find a site with better design and speed performance.
2. High-quality, user-focused content remains king in SEO
In late 2019, Google included the BERT algorithm in its major search update. The goal of BERT is to prioritise the intent behind users’ queries over the keywords or search terms they use. Your content must do more than just target the top keywords; it must also provide accurate, relevant and timely answers to your consumers’ questions.
The emergence of BERT doesn’t mean that keywords will be useless. Effective keyword research is still necessary to make sure you’re speaking the language that your audience uses. It also helps you find lexical variations of top keywords, so you can choose search terms that naturally blend with your content.
Additionally, the pandemic has placed greater importance on content. Consumers have plenty of questions and uncertainties about community lockdowns, travel restrictions, virus transmission and other COVID-related topics.
These coronavirus search trends can help you direct traffic to your website. However, it may not be easy to know which topic to cover if you’re relying on keywords. Top keywords change all the time, especially now that the world is in flux. What you can do is uncover the intent behind the search and use this as a guide for your content pieces.
3. Local SEO will grow more complex
Local SEO has always been crucial for brick-and-mortar stores. But because of the pandemic, it will become more valuable for every business. For one, consumers are looking to support local small businesses. You can leverage this mindset to increase your revenues during this unprecedented situation.
The community lockdowns and travel restrictions also contribute to the importance of local SEO. Consumers need to know if your store is open, if you’re offering delivery or curbside pick-up services, and what they need to bring if they want to visit your store. You can provide this information through the right local SEO strategies.
These things are possible with Google My Business. GMB, formerly a simple, free tool for entrepreneurs to list their businesses online, has continuously evolved by adding more features that help local SEO efforts.
For one, GMB now lets users create custom short URLs called Shortnames. More than an update about vanity (a custom URL is better than a string of random numbers), Shortnames make it easier for businesses to promote their GMB listing and solicit reviews from customers.
Speaking of reviews, GMB now also allows businesses to reply to them. This feature offers you a chance to hold a two-way conversation with customers and shape the image of your business not just in front of your audience, but Google itself.
GMB Posts is another feature that improves local SEO rankings. A GMB Post has micro-blogging elements, allowing you to publish short articles about your products, services, and other news related to your brand. These posts can come with photos, videos, URLs and CTAs that lead to your website.
4. User experience will hold even more weight
The quality of user experience has always been one of the driving factors behind Google’s search signals.
But user experience itself is made up of various factors, from the quality of the information users get from a website to how users perceive the experience of interacting with that website beyond its informational value. The latter is what you call page experience.
In Google’s latest Page Experience Update, developers explained that Google still ranks pages with the best information. But with plenty of pages having similar content and relevance to users, page experience can boost a website’s visibility in search results.
As such, when Google finished the rollout of the update in July of 2021, it’s become more important for webmasters to optimise for the four categories of page experience:
- Core Web Vitals
To provide a good user experience, Google says websites must focus on factors like loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
Loading speed is measured using LCP or Largest Contentful Paint. Google says LCP must occur within the first 2.5 seconds of loading the page for a good user experience.
First Input Display or FID is what measures interactivity. According to Google, a good user experience occurs in websites that have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
Finally, cumulative Layout Shift or CLS is used to measure a website’s visual stability. With a CLS score of less than 0.1, you can provide a good user experience.
As previously mentioned, Google is continuously moving toward a mobile-first experience, indexing only mobile pages. Provide a great page experience for your users with a well-optimised, mobile-friendly website.
Security is paramount to internet users, especially when interacting with websites that take their personal information, including credit card details. If your website still isn’t served over HTTPS, now is the time to secure it.
- Non-intrusive interstitials
Interstitials or website pop-ups that drive action, such as sign-ups and sale offers, can make more relevant content less accessible.
According to Google, you can keep vital interstitials, such as cookie settings, if used responsibly. To do so, interstitials must use a reasonable amount of screen space and not block access to relevant content.
With these factors in mind, you can adjust your SEO practices and give your visitors a positive experience on every step of interacting with your website.
5. Get better insights from Google Analytics 4
Want better insights on how users behave on your website? Google Analytics 4 is a powerful tool that can help you achieve that.
Traditional Google Analytics has been an essential tool in SEO webmasters’ jobs. It aids in data collection and web traffic analysis, giving them a clearer picture of how users interact with a website and helping them make informed improvements.
In October of last year, Google announced the most significant changes in Google Analytics—Google Analytics 4. With this update comes key features that make data analytics better, especially with the help of artificial intelligence.
The biggest change Google made with GA4 is the introduction of “events.” Instead of the traditional sessions, this events-based model processes user interaction as a standalone event. Doing so allows marketers to perform better cross-platform analysis and user behaviour prediction.
In addition, GA4 organises reports in customer-centric measurements instead of platform or device-based reports in traditional Google Analytics. With a focus on how users engage with your website across different channels and devices, you get a better understanding of what pushes them to make certain actions across their entire lifecycle.
The machine-learning processing in GA4 uses a model that can make assumptions about site traffic and user behaviour and extrapolate from existing data.
This is important as the AI-assisted feature can fill the gaps where businesses cannot see the full picture of their customer base because of users who opt-out of cookie usage and data collection.
GA4 works without the need for data from cookies, making it the perfect solution for compliance with new privacy protection laws like the GDPR. This makes GA4 a future-proof tool that will help your business moving forward.
These trends – mobile-first indexing, intent-focused content, local SEO, page experience and GA4 – all aim to improve your digital user experience. They help your target audience navigate the internet and your website, making sure they find the information they need.
Now, more than ever, addressing consumers’ needs for easy-to-find, relevant content should be one of your primary goals. Search optimisation doesn’t stop with merely driving more visitors to your website. It also helps you convert your traffic into leads, and leads into paying customers. And you can achieve this by leveraging trends and staying attuned to the needs of your target audience.
If you want to learn about more advanced SEO and digital marketing techniques, PurpleClick is always open for consultation. We’ll answer all your queries, whether they’re about our process or SEO in general.
Get in touch with us to find out how our local SEO services can gear you up for online success.