Making SEO Powerful in 2021: What You Need to Know

Posted On: December 24, 2020 by Steve Condit

Insights from Marketing Metrics Corp.

The fresh start that a new year represents is more compelling as the calendar turns to 2021. Most people are understandably eager to leave 2020 behind with its painful challenges, unexpected losses, and seemingly unending struggles. But the events of 2020 affected go-to-market tactics as customers shifted to new ways of doing business, and the year’s lessons warrant review.  Notably, 2020 shaped customer expectations about products and services and, in a Zoom-meeting-filled world, affected how they learn about and connect with you.

You’ve probably pivoted to meet evolving needs, and some of the changes you implemented in 2020 will likely extend into 2021. If you haven’t adjusted your digital marketing strategy, now’s the time to review your playbook and design approaches that resonate with customers in the current landscape.

Search engine optimization (SEO) remains a fundamental tactic in digital marketing. While SEO elements like keywords, content, and on-page optimization, remain essential, the perspectives learned in 2020 will affect SEO execution in 2021.  The Marketing Metrics team compiled leading SEO trends to consider in the new year.

User Experience is a Top Priority

Having a website that’s easy to find and loads quickly is vital in 2021. But with more than half of searches now occurring on mobile devices, optimizing your site to delight consumers across ALL platforms is critical in 2021. Forecasts show mobile will be the primary way three-fourths of the online users access the internet by 2025.

MMC’s 2 quick tips for great UX:

  • Use consistent tags on mobile and desktop sites
  • Speed up page performance by timing any ‘lazy-loading’ content like images or video to show up when and where customers need to see it

Search Engines Can Now Consider User Intent

Keywords aren’t going away in 2021, but search engine algorithms are quickly evolving to incorporate customer intentions. You may notice that Google or Bing still return search results even if you’ve misspelled words or structured your question awkwardly. Google’s BERT model can now consider a keyword’s context by looking at the terms before and after it to help searchers find useful information.

MMC’s 2 quick tips for addressing user intent:

  • Build your webpage content to align with the signals that customers send during their buying journey. Search intentions usually center around:
    • Getting information
    • Making a purchase
    • Finding your site
    • Comparing available solutions

Shift your thinking away from keywords to addressing topic clusters of questions your customers ask.

With Intent Now Measurable, Semantics Matter

Semantic search isn’t new, but it’s not widely understood. Although semantic search is a complex concept, its end goal is straightforward:

  • to clearly explain the structure and purpose of the content to search engines.

Semantic search goes beyond matching keywords to consider the relationships between words, the distinctiveness of an idea or object, and personal interests and trends.  For example, if you search for ‘movie about magic where a kid has a scar on his forehead,’ Google’s top search result is ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.’ Semantic search linked the words movie, magic, kid, and scar to generate accurate results.

MMC’s 2 quick tips for aligning your solutions with semantic search:

  • Use tools that identify how your customers link key search terms, then structure your website content to deliver relevant answers.

Write for your customers, not search engines, but incorporate structured content like lists, ratings, or answers to questions to increase understanding (and earn you a ‘featured snippet.’)

Content Quality Will Earn You Higher Rankings

Marketers have long recommended creating expert, authoritative, and trustworthy digital content, but only after Google’s 2018 ‘Medic’ algorithm update did the E-A-T acronym get widespread attention.  The algorithm’s nickname reflected the ranking penalty many medical or health-focused sites felt after implementation, but the revision also affected websites dealing with YMYL (your money, your life). Google’s update reflected an interest in delivering search results that were both relevant and accurate.

Laying the SEO lens over content means creating websites, blogs, and other digital resources that share reliable, fact-based, current information that will help customers during the buying process.

MMC’s 2 quick tips about content:

  • Knowing your audience is becoming more critical as the internet continues to expand. Google gets 3.5 billion searches Standing out in a noisy landscape requires a deep understanding of what your customers need.

Balance relevance with substance. You’ll find recommendations online telling you to write long-form content (3,000 words or more) to get more traffic and more shares. But if you write an engaging, useful blog that’s 1,000 words, or less, customers will click on, share, and use your content to help with buying decisions.

Add Video to Your SEO Tactics

Think about how often you flip to YouTube to watch a video or scroll through search results, looking for something to watch instead of reading. Zenith Media research predicts people will watch, on average, 100 minutes of video daily in 2021. Video is a powerful marketing tool for building engagement, a key SEO metric. If you’ve avoided adding video to your digital marketing effort, 2021 is the year to change course.

Fortunately, technological advancements in mobile phone cameras make it easy to create a high-quality video with minimal training. And video formats are versatile, allowing you to add them to your emails, website, or digital advertising campaigns.

MMC’s 2 quick tips about video:

  • As with any digital content, make sure your video content supports specific goals. Are you trying to build links/social shares? Do you want to increase conversions and get more people to visit your website? Your goals will drive the type of content and its placement.
  • Video content can range from short testimonials to 45-minute videos. If each video delivers relevant content your customers value, you’ll get great SEO results.

Getting Past Zero Clicks is a New Challenge in 2021

Google strives to satisfy searchers by delivering complete answers to questions. Sometimes, search results are so comprehensive that the user doesn’t need to click on any additional links since feature snippets, pricing, and video are available. That’s an excellent result for people looking for information but tough for companies striving to get website traffic.

Recently, Search Engine Journal reported that more than 50 percent of searches end without a click. You can mitigate lost search volume by focusing on long-tail keywords and providing content that’s more robust than what Google features in zero-click searches.

MMC’s 2 quick tips about zero-click searches:

  • Develop a tactic for maximizing your presence on search engine results pages. When searching for ‘welding and sheet metal fabrication’ points to your company, make sure you have content to fill most of the first page of results. Include elements like lists, tables, and videos to ensure you get a featured snippet and compel the searcher to click on your content.
  • Connect search phrases (long-tail keywords) to unique landing pages that deliver a personalized experience to searchers. Someone searching for ‘robotics automation solutions’ could see content tailored to the topic, leading to a phone call or email for additional information.

Set Your Company Up for SEO Success in 2021

The Marketing Metrics team can help your prospects and customers easily find your website with a smart, targeted SEO strategy in 2021. We’ll collaborate with you to understand your goals, then use best practices to implement tactics that produce the results you need to succeed.

Contact us to set up a convenient time to talk. Let’s make 2021 a year to remember for all the right reasons.