“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean
There is no question that Jimmy’s words are true for every successful SEO. Due to the ever-changing nature of the Google SERPs, an SEO has to constantly adjust their sails.
In the interest of helping you adjust your SEO sails this year, here is this month’s episode of SEO Trends for 2021.
In case you missed part one and part two of the SEO Trends for 2021, rather than distracting you here, I’ll be linking to them at the conclusion of this post.
This month’s SEO trends post features some stellar content that you can take action on.
In this post you will find:
- How to understand user intent by doing manual searches and looking at SERP feature data
- Why you should be leveraging video content in your business
- How to quickly identify the best quality sites for your link building campaigns
- Why you need to do SERP feature and SERP competitor analysis to win on today’s SERPs
Let’s get started…
Imogen Davies – A Focus On Intent and Answering Audience Needs
Imogen Davies is the Head of Marketing at performance marketing agency found.co.uk who specialize in SEO and PPC, and disruptmarketing.co – a specialized Influencer Marketing agency that prides itself on its data-driven approaches. Having been in the industry for nearly 7 years, Imogen’s background is in SEO so despite her far-reaching duties across broader marketing now, you’ll still be able to find her contributing to and participating in a variety of SEO events, webinars, and industry blogs, with a big focus on understanding the psychology and semantics behind search intent and behavioral changes.
For all marketers, 2021 is going to be filled with a series of challenges to overcome. Not least understanding the impact of activity YoY and how shifts in user behaviors are impacting the results being shown. We know that Google is placing more emphasis on intent and the relevance of content ranking to meet user expectations, so we need to know how that changed through 2020 and what we can expect to come in 2021.
How Intent and Expectations Changed in 2020
2020 saw the SERPs change considerably, with some industries particularly in the travel and lifestyle spaces seeing huge shifts in how Google understood the intent behind keywords throughout the pandemic.
Pre-March 2020, travel and lifestyle SERPs were a mix of informational and commercial results, with commercial pages tending to outperform the informational ones. For queries like “london musicals” or “flight tracker”, you’d see commercial websites ranking with Google’s understanding being that people searching for these terms would want to purchase as a result.
To cover bases, informational sites featuring list-based articles like “the top musicals to see” or “best holiday destinations in 2020” would rank as well to provide an additional research element to the results while still being largely commercially driven.
Post-March 2020, however, we saw a significant shift in intent and how Google perceived the information users wanted to see, with the same queries then returning much more informational results.
Content like “when will theatres return?”, “can I go to the theatre still?”, “what shows are still running?”, was being returned for the same “london musicals” search. Content like “flight delay information”, “flight cancellations report”, and “which flights are still operating?” was being served for “flight tracker” queries.
And this isn’t just evident from what we were seeing in manual searches.
Using the data collected in our proprietary search intelligence platform, SERPR, we can see how the frequency of different SERP features changed over time, providing insight into how intent and results were shifting in line with user behavior.
Below is an example for one of our clients in the lifestyle space, showing the makeup of the first page of results on google.co.uk and how that changed throughout 2020.
Some key things stand out here.
Firstly, unsurprisingly, the frequency of ads appearing at the top and bottom of the page decreased as the year went on – normally this would be an indication that results are shifting to a more informational standing than commercial, so investment in ads is reduced. Through 2020 however, a lot of businesses chose to cut their marketing spend to save on costs during financial uncertainty, so we couldn’t draw a conclusion on that alone.
Instead, we can also see how features like Answer Boxes, Top Stories, and Related Questions changed. These are all by default much more informationally led features.
Looking at February, March, and April 2020, we can see shifts in how the first page of results was changing for this client, with the frequency of standard organic listings increasing from 51% in February to 61% of the make up in April. We can also see more commercial features like Events go from making up 1.98% in February to 2.23% in March, before ceasing to appear in April. Related Questions increased in frequency from 2.73% in February to 3.18% in March, while Answer boxes fluctuated from 2.73% in February to 2.91% in March before dropping back to 2.62% in April.
These changes in how the first page of the search results is made up, and the number of features that appear for searches throughout the month, is a good indication to use for informing what you should be focusing on.
The shifts in frequency point to shifts in how Google is interpreting the intent behind a query, giving you pointers on where the opportunities are that you should be exploring.
The increased frequency of related questions points to more in-depth information being required by users on related topics and is backed up by the decrease of answer boxes whereby instant answers aren’t available because of the complexity of the situation.
So, with that information you know you should be looking at expanding on content themes, FAQs, and creating knowledge hubs around broader topics to capture more of the available listings in the results and see the benefits in standard organic listing rankings as well.
How Can I Make This Work in 2021?
- Track your keywords, SERPs, and competitors.
- Monitor changes in your industry and annotate these in your analytics platform and keyword platforms.
- Determine how intent is changing for your target queries.
- If intent is becoming more informational, look to expand and update content around the topical themes to incorporate new, relevant information for your audience.
- If intent is becoming more commercial, look at how that applies to categories, subcategories, or filter options on the website; make sure these are optimized and indexable.
- Look to intent to inform your optimization and content creation approaches; baking intent into the strategy from the start to capture it at every stage.
Tracking your keywords is important, but tracking the SERPs is better.
Use a tool to monitor and understand how the SERP results themselves are changing – which features are appearing or disappearing, what types of results are showing, and what kind of websites are ranking.
These are all questions you should be looking to answer to inform your strategy.
We’re anticipating a much bigger shift towards really understanding the “why” behind a query and what your audience expects to see after they’ve clicked through. Really getting to grips with what is appearing and, more importantly, what isn’t will give you a breakdown of where the opportunities are from both a content creation and optimization perspective.
This can, and should, then be fed back into your strategies, with changes in intent opening new opportunities to explore as well as existing opportunities to capitalize on.
Lukasz Zelezny, UK search awards judge, founder of SEO London and former director of organic performance at Zoopla. Previously leading his team he is responsible for the uSwitch.com, Zoopla.co.uk, and PrimeLocation organic visibility. Lukasz started his career in 2005 and has since been responsible for the organic performance of a number of companies including HomeAway, Thomson Reuters, The Digital Property Group, and Fleetway Travel.
A website can be considered as the face of the company and should therefore establish a strong online presence. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process to establish a stronger online presence through eminent strategies.
Therefore, although you have a website, getting the right web traffic can be sometimes challenging and SEO is the resolution to meet this challenge.
Due to the digital revolution in recent years, many firms are planning to opt for channelizing their business digitally.
This means some of the eCommerce giants as well as new events will find it tough due to the increased competition.
Hence, it is necessary to walk you through the right trends in 2021 and surpass the competition in the B2B SEO process.
Here are the top SEO trends to keep up with in 2021:
1. Page Speed Will Be More Important
There is no denying the overall importance of page speed for the overall website experience. Page speed is important for the users as faster pages help create an efficient user experience while boosting the credibility of the website.
Page Speed turns out to be a complex factor. There are several metrics linked to the concept of page speed.
- Load time
- Page size
- TTFB or Time to First Byte
- RTT or Round Trip Time
If you wish to analyze the overall speed of your website or page loading speed, PageSpeed Insights by Google is your go-to destination. The given dashboard allows you to see the load speed score of your page along with providing reasons why your page might not be loading quickly enough.
2. Keyword Research Should Be Defter Than Ever
The keywords are the breadcrumbs for the blog which eventually lead a potential client to a website. You can understand how crucial keywords are in the SEO process. Regardless of the number of blogs and articles you have linked to your website if the keywords are irrelevant or outdated then there will be virtually no benefit from the SEO process.
Hence, in-depth keyword research is important for ensuring to keep the search relevant for potential customers. Given the number of companies opting for SEO, Google as the most prominent search engine service provider will have stricter criteria for analyzing the query context.
This means that the more relevant the provided information, the better it gets. The relevance of the information is through the logically related primary and secondary keywords.
3. Data and Analytics Should Be Emphasized
Data analysis enables an SEO expert to attain a competitive edge over visitors. Your in-house or in-sourcing SEO team can even create targeted messages with the help of the available data.
The analytics can also be useful in knowing:
- Which URLs are being crawled
- The page loading time
- The referring sources
They can also help you know indexing, response errors, bounce rates, and redirects.
The analyzed data can also help identify pages that you do not wish to be indexed by crawlers. This way, you can separate and block unusual traffic sources like spam sites.
4. More Emphasis Should Be on Local Search Engine Listing
The internet was synonymous with the world-wide web in the previous decade. However, people nowadays are also using it for local searches like a close-by restaurant or a cinema.
Google as the most prominent search engine service provider knows the sad stories of un-clicked links. It has vouched to go along with the trend of fetching local search results. Hence, there will be an emphasis on local search results’ retrievability.
Due to this trend, there are also tools available that will help you check the type of backlinks your competitors get and capitalize on this aspect.
Keywords usually consist of the city name; keywords like ‘The best … in Dallas, TX’, are the ways to look up a particular product or service. However, there is a shift in the trend now. Most potential clients have learned that looking up ‘The best … near me’ or simply ‘The best …’ can still fetch them relevant results.
5. Image Search Will Be a Major Researched Area
Keyword search is the most important but yet the most basic way of running a search. The search engine giants want to evolve and incorporate better and simpler ways of expanding their search engine’s capability manifold.
Image search is one of the most researched topics by many search engine firms. Although it may seem like a far-fetched idea for local firms it is going to be a trendsetter in the way people shop online. It may only be adopted by the big eCommerce firms at first; nevertheless, other eCommerce firms will eventually have to get along with the trend.
Sooner or later, we strongly advise you to work on the visual search aspect.
6. Video Content Will Dominate SEO
Reading articles online is not desirable for many people. Even in B2B communication modes, potential clients want a simplified and streamlined way of referring to information. Using pictures and images can be highly illustrative and intriguing for a reader. They’ve become an integral part of the content industry.
As it’s often said, video content is far easier to refer to than reading articles and blogs. Many firms have learned this fact and have capitalized on it. Having intriguing videos can be pivotal in getting contracts from new clients.
7. Predictive Search Will Be in Full Swing
Typing keywords can be the easiest way of retrieving the right search results. However, the search engines’ ability to predict keywords can add another step in finding the right information in a matter of a few clicks.
Search engines like Google have been working on this aspect for a while. The advent of data science has simplified the task greatly and has made it available for aspiring firms too.
8. Most Companies Will Work on Snippets as a Part of SEO
The search results are retrieved with links and meta-descriptions. It may be a concise way of giving information that is relevant and attractive enough for the potential client. It may be adequate for firms that solely offer services without any products being offered.
However, choosing a good snippet can be a better way of making your products presentable. Even for firms that do not deal with products but sell services, having visual illustrations in the search results can be highly persuasive to potential clients.
9. Google Algorithm Update in May 2021
Google Page Experience is going to be launched in July 2021 featuring new labels as well as several advanced features. The given update is going to take into consideration the overall user experience for ranking in the respective search results. Google will also be testing the visual indicator for highlighting pages in the respective search results having improved page experiences.
Alexandra is a frequent speaker and founder of the digital marketing conference, DigitalOlympus.net. She also helps clients with digital PR, content marketing, and link building. Besides that, she regularly contributes to leading digital marketing blogs, including Moz, SEJ, Salesforce, SMExaminer, and many others.
While SEO has tons of sub-disciplines, I want to talk about the one I know inside-out: link building. Believe it or not, Google still relies heavily on links. They bring you the power to outrank your competition, but more importantly, they prove that you’re a trustworthy brand that deserves to be more visible in SERPs.
Building links is similar to choosing a neighborhood. If you live in a nice-looking neighborhood, your reputation improves, you gain credibility, and your property grows in value. The same goes with links; if you get links from relevant and trustworthy sources, they help you stand out and grow your SEO visibility. If you give in to the temptation to build the wrong links — maybe because that sounds easier or faster — it’s nearly impossible to fix them. Sadly, the best remedy is to start everything over from scratch. While some experts claim that the disavow tool can fix everything in a minute, in reality, the history of low-quality links will continue to affect your site’s negative SEO performance. The bottom line is to think twice before getting any links since, depending on your situation, it might not be worth your time and effort!
The biggest trend I see for 2021-2022 is acquiring links that combine both SEO and PR value instead of just getting links for SEO purposes alone. If you’re not sure what kind of sites you need to target to create those types of links, then here’s your cheat sheet:
- Sites should be relevant to your niche and represent a real brand (one that sells goods or services). Also, if you go to their organic traffic report, you’ll see that they receive a good portion of traffic via branded keywords.
- Domains should have a positive trend in the growth of referring domains and organic traffic. Also, in the list of referring domains, you should see a good number of sites from your industry.
- Always look at the site’s anchor cloud. Does the anchor cloud look organic and make sense? These days, too many sites are purchasing expired domains and redirecting all the links blindly to their sites. Personally, I don’t feel that getting links from such sites is beneficial because it doesn’t create any true or lasting value.
- Finally, try to get links from leading industry blogs and sites. Even if it might take ages to get them, I’m confident those links will always pay off for you and your site.
Quentin Aisbett – SERP Analysis
Quentin is an SEO consultant based in Australia. As the owner and founder of the agency OnQ Marketing, he works with businesses both in Australia and internationally.
Understanding SERP Analysis
SEO is no longer a one-trick pony. But there are definitely trends to focus on. Take Core Web Vitals for example. I don’t think many SEOs are expecting it to have a huge influence on results in the short term, yet it’s consuming a lot of our time in the lead-up to its release.
Another trend that is by no means over-hyped is SERP Analysis.
There are two specific aspects to SERP Analysis that I see as being important in 2021 and beyond.
SERP Competition Analysis
Understanding the intent that a searcher has is a big part of what we do as SEOs. The theory of course is that if we produce quality content that best matches their intent, then we’ve got a great chance of ranking prominently.
The emergence of BERT in 2019 played an instrumental role in this. It meant Google took great strides in better understanding search intent. And with this, what better research could we do than analyze the top-performing search results for the search terms we want to rank for.
At first, we analyzed:
- Domain Authority
- Keyword and backlink gaps
- Popular questions
- Semantically related keywords
Now we’re looking at the placement of keywords in passages, word counts, content freshness, sentiment analysis, the number of heading tags, and more.
SERP Feature Analysis
The Google SERP has of course evolved significantly. It’s been much publicized.
Analyzing the current landscape is a key task of an SEO. We want to understand what features are being displayed so we have a better understanding of what is available.
Is there a Featured Snippet to optimize for? People Also Ask? Does your target search term trigger a local pack, video, or news listing? Without analyzing the SERP you won’t know how to optimize your visibility.
We don’t know all the herbs and spices. But it’s hard to argue that Google is not really good at understanding search intent, so analyzing the SERPs should be and will be a tactic that will continue throughout 2021 and beyond.
Reading the Tea Leaves
There is no question that understanding user intent is one of the most important SEO skills to master. Google is consistently improving its ability to understand language patterns and user behavior.
This means it should be at the top of your priority list.
The trick to getting this right is not to simply follow what you think is the user intent from your human perspective, but to read the Google tea leaves.
In other words, what does Google think the user intent is?
This is where SERP analysis comes in handy.
As you have seen in the post above, don’t just look at organic rankings, look at SERP features as well.
I hope you’ve found some great insights and strategies in this post and more importantly, I hope you take action on what you’ve learned.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, check out SEO Trends for 2021 part 1 and part 2.