8 SEO trends that will continue in 2021
Everyone knows SEO is a fast moving industry. Google is constantly introducing new technologies and updating old ones to improve the quality of its search results.
In the past, some of these updates changed that massively SEO Game. However, things are unlikely to head in that direction in 2021. It's more likely that existing trends will continue and Google will continue to refine the search landscape rather than redefining it.
Given that prediction, here are some SEO Trends to consider in 2021:
- Zero-click search will continue to grow
- Voice search is becoming increasingly popular
- Providing a good user experience becomes even more critical
- Cell phone friendliness will be vital for everyone
- Google will be better able to identify E-A-T
- Google Discover drives more traffic
- Image search will gain even more potential
- Search intent remains king
1. The zero-click search continues to grow
Between 2016 and 2019, the number of zero-click searches increased from 43.9% to 49%.
This is hardly surprising. Google is answering more and more questions in SERP There's no need to click on a result when the answer is right there.
In the future, zero-click searches will only increase as the knowledge graph grows and Google's algorithms are better at retrieving responses from web pages to selected snippets.
What to do?
Nothing you can do will change the percentage of zero-click searches. However, you should keep them in mind when doing keyword research. If you are considering a keyword and most searches don't get clicks, it might not be your best target.
For example, if we set the click distribution in Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer to "What does SEO stand for?" Review, an estimated 71% of searches result in no clicks.
This is likely because Google asked the question in the SERP.
Now look at "SEO Tips "where only 26% of searches have no clicks.
In this case, most searchers will likely click, even though Google tries to answer the query with a featured snippet, as they need more detail and graphics to put the tips into practice.
Does that mean there is absolutely no point in targeting the first keyword?
No. Zero click does not mean zero chance. Showing in search results has other advantages:
- Increased brand awareness. Because your domain name and favicon are shown in the SERP.
- Improved brand awareness. If Google regularly gets helpful responses from your pages, searchers can rate your brand as helpful.
- Reach more people. Not everything is about traffic. If you work for a nonprofit or have a hobby website, it may be worth reaching out to more people SEO KPI.
2. Voice search is becoming increasingly popular
In 2019, Adobe found that 48% of consumers use language for general web searches.
That number is now likely to be even higher, and smart speakers are expected to hit 55% US Households by 2022, voice search will only grow in popularity.
With humans performing natural language voice searches, its surge in popularity is no doubt partly why Google is investing in technologies like RankBrain. BERTand the knowledge diagram.
These technologies are complex, but the short version is:
- RankBrain and BERT help to better understand the meaning of search queries.
- The knowledge diagram helps to understand the relationships between entities such as people, places, and things.
What to do?
Although technologies like RankBrain, BERTand the knowledge diagram support voice search. There is no way to optimize this directly.
However, there are a few simple ways you can optimize your voice search:
- Get one Google My Business profile. Answers to questions directly related to your business, such as directions and hours of operation, are usually retrieved from here.
- Make sure your page loads quickly. Voice search results load 52% faster than the average page. And while this is just correlation data, we know that page speed is a ranking factor in organic search.
- Get more backlinks. Backlinks help rankings, and this study found that Google is more likely to pull voice search results from high-ranking pages.
- Add Schema markup. This is crucial when tweaking certain types of content like recipe pages.
- Be concise. The average voice search result is 29 words. Again, this is correlation data, but who would want their voice assistant to respond with a novel?
- Answer questions people ask. Google cannot rate your page for a query if the question is not answered.
To find questions asked by others, check the ask Report in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.
For example, here are the most popular questions about the iPhone.
If you're new to Ahrefs, try our free keyword generator, which has up to 50 suggestions.
3. Providing a good user experience becomes even more critical
Google wants to rate content that offers a positive user experience. They say this on their side about how the search works:
Google already uses signals like HTTPS, intrusive ads and mobile friendliness for it, but Core Web Vitals will be added to the mix in May 2021.
What to do?
Google uses three metrics to determine whether your page passes the Core Web Vitals rating:
- Largest content color (LCP) How fast the largest element loads over the fold. It should be 2.5 s or less.
- First entry delay (FID) How long does it take for your page to respond after a user interacts with it? It should be 100 ms or less.
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS) How much things move while charging. It should be 0.1 or less.
Use Pagespeed Insights to review these metrics for a page.
Use the Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console to see all the pages on your website that need improvement.
If any of your pages fail the Core Web Vitals rating, check out our guide to improving page speed or speak to your developer.
4. Cell phone friendliness is vital for everyone
Mobile phone friendliness has long been important. Google officially made it a ranking factor in 2015 and switched to mobile-first indexing for new websites in July 2019.
Google defines mobile-first indexing as using the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Currently, 70% of websites are already being used for mobile-first indexing. Google plans to switch the remaining sites before March 2021.
What to do?
First, check to see if Google has switched your website to mobile indexing. You can do this in the Google Search Console. Just go to Settings> Indexing Crawler
If you see "Google Smartphone", Google has already switched your website.
If the switch has not yet happened, make sure you are prepared.
Usually there isn't much to do if your website is responding. However, if you have an M-Dot or complex website, you need to make sure that there are no critical differences between your desktop and mobile website. To do this, crawl your website using a desktop user agent using Site Audit in Ahrefs Webmaster Tools and repeat the process using a mobile user agent. Differences between the two crawls are shown as "Changes".
You should also check robots.txt for alternative rules, page speed issues, and consistent navigation and internal linking.
Recommended literature: Mobile-First Indexing: What You Need To Know
5. Google can better identify E-A-T
E-A-T stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Google talks a lot about this in its Search Quality Rater Guidelines (SQRGs) – a document used by search quality evaluators to rate the quality of Google results.
Despite what many people believe E-A-T is not a direct one Ranking factor.
It works something like this:
- Human search quality evaluators regularly rate the E-A-T of search results.
- Google uses their feedback to identify tangible signals that match E-A-T.
- Google optimizes its search algorithms accordingly.
Ben Gomes, Vice President of Search at Google, sums it up:
You can view the Rater Guidelines (which talk heavily about E-A-T) as the place the search algorithm should go. They don't tell you how the algorithm scores the results, but they basically show you what the algorithm should do.
What to do?
E-A-T is nothing new. SEO Professionals have been raving about its importance for some time. Improving and demonstrating E-A-T may sound complicated, but there are a few specific things you can do:
- Update your content regularly. Google's SQRGs talk about this as part of medical advice, but this is likely to apply to other topics as well.
- Check your content. Google talks about the importance of being factually correct in the context of scientific topics. But again, it's probably important for other topics. At the very least, linking to reputable sources is useful for visitors.
- Stick with what you know. Nobody can be an expert on everything.
- Receive more reviews. Google speaks of low ratings as evidence of a negative reputation.
- Receive additional links and mentions. Google's Gary Ilyes once said that E-A-T is largely based on links and mentions from authoritative websites.
Recommended literature: What is E-A-T? Why it matters to SEO
6. Google Discover drives more traffic
Google Discover is a personalized mobile feed that contains content about the things that interest you. This uses activity data from Google products (search, YouTube, etc.), location data and topics that you follow.
Nobody knows exactly how many people will be using Discover in 2021, but Google officially announced 800 million users in 2018 – so it's probably much higher now.
In fact, Discover sent more than twice as much traffic to our blog in the second half of 2020 than it did in the first half.
What to do?
Unless you're well into yours SEO It probably isn't worth spending too much time tracking clicks from Google Discover. However, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your chances of getting a show.
- Get to know Discover Content guidelines.Unless your content is indexed and meets these requirements, it will not appear in Google Discover.
- Have a fast, mobile-friendly website. Discover is a mobile-only feed, so the mobile user experience is important.
- Use convincingly title. Make sure you describe your content accurately. No clickbait.
- Publish content on popular topics. Either evergreen or trendy.
- Add large, compelling pictures. Google shows one of these in the Discover feed.
- Demonstrate E-A-T. Google is talking about this specifically in the context of Discover here.
7. Image search gains even more potential
Everyone knows that ranking in google images can send traffic your way. In fact we got over 16K Visits from Image Search in the past three months.
However, image search is constantly evolving and so is the potential.
Take Google Lens, for example. Introduced in 2017, Google Lens lets you search for what you see. Just point your smartphone camera and Google will search for similar images and products.
What to do?
image SEO Best practices haven't really changed, but they become increasingly important as image search evolves and usage increases.
For example, the results for a Google Lens search are images. When someone points their smartphone at a product that you sell, they may see images from your product page in the results. If you decide to buy it, all you have to do is click through it.
Google often calls up images from product pages during its regular image search – also for information searches.
For example, search for “wedding dress with a detachable skirt”. Provided there is an image package at the top of the image SERPand the top pages are all lists. It is clear that this is primarily an information search where seekers want inspiration.
However, as you click through the image results, you will see many images of product pages.
An image is used SEO Best practices such as descriptive filenames, alt text, and product schema markup that can help these pages rank when searching images for such queries.
8. Search intent remains king
Search intent relates to the reason for a search. Do people want to buy something, learn something, or find a specific website?
For example, a person who types "buy iPhone 12" in Google is in purchase mode, while a person who types "reset iPhone" is in learning mode.
Google describes understanding the intent behind queries as a "critical aspect of search" and continues to invest heavily in technology to help, like RankBrain. BERTand the knowledge diagram. We've already covered these in the voice search section, but they also help with regular searches.
What to do?
Make sure your content matches the search intent. If you don't, your chances of ranking are virtually zero. If you read the blog regularly, you will know that we've been banging this gong for a while – because it's really that important.
Google's search results are the best proxy for search intent.
For example, all results for Beats Solo 3 are product pages.
For "Best Beats Headphones" the results are blog posts.
These search results indicate what type of content seeker is being searched for. However, matching the search intent is more than matching the content type. You should also align your content with the format and angle that searchers expect.
For more information, see our complete guide to search intent.
It is important to know where the search landscape is going. It helps you understand the bigger picture and optimize it in the long term and in the short term.
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