Wow, what a year it’s been so far in terms of SEO (search engine optimization), and we’re not even near the end yet. From organizing search results around the pandemic to avoid misinformation to Google’s Featured Snippets updates, there’s been plenty of changes to keep marketers on high alert.
Of course, this is nothing new. The constant with SEO is it’s always changing, and we can expect more of the same as we look forward to SEO changes in 2021.
Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the next calendar year, so you can get ready for it over the few months that remain.
Google Page Experience Update
One of the biggest announcements about SEO changes to come out of Google this year, the Page Experience Update essentially confirms user experience will become an SEO ranking signal at some point in 2021.
The Page Experience Update is based on what Google is calling Core Web Vitals, which measure the speed and usability of a web page. Core Web Vitals look at metrics like page load speed, the responsiveness of the page, interactivity, and whether or not the content layout shifts as the page loads.
In a nutshell, this update emphasizes Google’s commitment to displaying only high-quality links in its search results. The better the user experience of the web page, the more likely it receives weight from the search algorithm.
How you can prepare for this SEO change in 2021: Improve the page load speed, reduce the bounce rate, and eliminate unexpected layout shifts for any pages of your website experiencing these issues. To see if any of these are influencing your web pages, you can perform a website audit.
Aside from the performance signals measured in the Page Experience Update, Google also wants to measure the strength of your brand as we move into the new year. While the search giant introduced this initiative as E-A-T (expertise, authority, trustworthiness) back in the 2018 algorithm update, the importance of these signals will continue to grow in the new year.
What does E-A-T have to do with your brand, and why does it matter for SEO? Well, Google wants to look at the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness associated with your brand, and rank your web pages in the search results accordingly.
Google looks at your own website, as well as what others are saying about or indicating about your brand, to determine the brand strength. If you think about it, much of this is what we look for in off-page SEO, which means the activity happens on other websites.
How You Can Prepare for SEO Changes in 2021
Learn more about your audience, and then create great content your audience wants to consume. Establish author bios for all of the content creators on your website, which detail their expertise and link out to authoritative sites for definitive proof. Useful, high-quality content can lead to other people and influencers sharing your content, which boosts your brand strength. Finally, monitor reviews of your brand across the internet, and address negative ones right away.
It’s been a little while since voice search was on the radar in terms of SEO, due in part to the state of technology. Since then, Google has been architecting its search results pages to accommodate shorter answers, mainly in the form of Featured Snippets and Answer Boxes. It’s done so with the help of AI and the BERT algorithm, which was introduced in late 2019.
Since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, voice search in the home has skyrocketed as people spend more time there. Increasingly, users are depending on their smart home devices to provide quick answers to in-the-moment questions, and Google is working to be there with the information.
How you can prepare your SEO for 2021: Evaluate existing content for places where you can provide short answers to questions your audience is asking. Do keyword research to figure this out. In addition, consider voice search as you develop new content, which may present new opportunities to answer questions like how-to, when, where, why, what, etc. Engage with digital tools or marketing experts to see where your content is showing up for short answers like Featured Snippets.
User experience, brand strength, and voice search are focal points as we look toward SEO changes in 2021. Ultimately, your success with the search will be determined by how well your content serves your audience. Invest in that content - and how well the audience can access it - now to ensure you reap the benefits in the coming year.
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