The world has changed because of COVID-19. This change is not limited to the offline world, it has changed online infrastructure as well, SEO is no exception to that. Consumers around the world have changed ranging from change in consumption habits & methods to adapting or switching to new technology. In this article we will discuss trends which pertain to changes in the SEO world in 2021 and ways you can maneuver it for success.
Core web vitals – User experience really does matter
Earlier in may 2020, Google said they are including page experience signals to google search rankings. What this means is that SEO for website pages is not going to be limited to factors like mobile friendly, safe browsing, HTTPS & intrusive interstitials. Google is adding loading(LCP), interactivity(FID) & visual stability(CLS) as factors to be considered while ranking your pages.
To explain it even further, let’s talk about the stars of this whole change
(LCP) – largest contentful paint – The amount of time a page needs to load. The ideal time is 2.5 secs to 4 secs.
(FID) First input delay – The amount of time needed for a page to load its first interactive feature. Ideal time is 100 ms to 300 ms.
(CLS) Cumulative layout shift – The volume of shift occurring in interactive parts of a page, while the page loads. The ideal is supposed to be 0.1 to 0.25.
BERT – Understanding the intent of searches.
Search habits have changed over time, year after year. People who search, usually look for an answer to their questions. Google has constantly been trying to improve & enhance their efforts towards the betterment of the search engine, overall. Hence, Google has developed BERT- Bidirectional Encoder Representations of Transformers, which is a network-based technique for language processing. What it does is, it understands your search queries better, taking into consideration the words before & after the keyword to better understand the context. Like in this example
For SEO, it means to keep in mind the context & intent of your keywords. Before choosing your keywords, we suggest you do some research, for e.g., when you search for the keyword on google what result do you obtain, check them for the context as well. Let’s say your choice of keyword is ‘Video games’, conduct a search and see what type of result you get. Do you get video games on sale? Video games near me? Or top video games in the market and so on. So, for your 2021 SEO strategy keep in mind the context or intent of your keywords to achieve success.
Voice Search SEO
If someone told me that I would be able to ask questions to a device just using your voice 15 years ago, I might not have taken them seriously. Voice search has come a long way and is something which will continue to improve and grow in the coming years as well. According to Google, 27% of the world online population uses voice search.
Understanding how voice search works is also important. Individuals ask queries in a conversation format, i.e., they do not ask just one word they rather ask a question. One would ask ‘Hey Google, what is the meaning of SEO’ rather than ‘Hey Google, SEO’. The results you obtain are usually from the Top 5 results & majority of them are from snippets. Now optimizing based on voice search algorithms is still a work in progress, but there are certain actions you can take, like reviewing what kind of questions you customers ask in a voice search, optimize pages based on those questions & answering them. Targeted & long-tail keywords are key, as they would help you narrow down your niche for a particular page.
In 2020, 86% of businesses used video as a marketing tool in 2020. (HubSpot) It is predicted to grow even more in 2021. With changing consumer habits and increased screen times due to covid-19. Marketers have started adapting to the landscape of video. According to HubSpot’s research, 99% of the marketers, surveyed by them are going to maintain or increase their video marketing efforts.
In 2018, 87% of the consumers said they wanted to see more videos from brands as well. It is highly likely to have increased in 2021. (HubSpot) With increased consumption, brands focusing on video will likely achieve success in 2021. To optimize videos, making sure that the title is on point with your keywords or even using YouTube suggestions is a good idea. Also adding a thorough description of the video describing the questions it is meant to answer and explaining what the video is about. Keep in mind, that your description should not be filled with a bunch of keywords, just focus on the relevant keywords.
Artificial Intelligence – the future is here.
With the growing popularity of AI & machine learning, Google has revolutionized search with AI. They have focused mainly on the end-consumer and what benefits them the most. These AI algorithms are very complex, understanding them would take years and building SEO strategies around them would take even more time.
AI, as said, is very complex but super-efficient. You can use this to your advantage with the help of companies like MarketMuse, who have explained how they use their algorithm to leverage Google search’s AI functionality to aid you & your company with your SEO efforts.
Divert your SEO efforts towards the E-A-T principle
EAT stands for ‘Expertise’, Authoritativeness’ & Trustworthiness. EAT has been an important part of the process of understanding how Google search engine works since 2016. Their significance can be determined based on just their names.
Expertise is gauging the main content by the creator, their expertise on a particular topic, do they have the credentials to back it up.
Authoritativeness is exactly as it sounds. Having authority means that people know you, your background, etc. and accept you as a good source of information.
Trustworthiness refers to people having trust in you to provide honest & true information. (SEMrush)
For your SEO efforts, focus on strengthening your brand to the core. Having it obtain these three qualities will help your business rank higher. Increasing brand awareness, engaging your customers, and answering their questions will help you gain their trust & develop relations with your customers & also to enhance your overall SEO strategy.
You must have noticed how everything has become customer focused. Google has changed its algorithm to the level where the centre of everything is the customer. If you have not gotten the hint yet, now’s the time to open your eyes. All the trends we have spoken about have a connection to customer centricity. Core web Vitals focusing on end-user experience, BERT application to understand customer’s search context, better AI algorithm to give the customer the best possible result and I can go on.
Diverting your SEO efforts to best serving your customer or potential customer is key to a successful SEO strategy in 2021. Understanding your customer from a psychographic point of view is very important.
Covid-19 – The thing that changed the world!
The pandemic has changed a lot in everyone’s life. (Mckinsey) Globally we have been facing new challenges one after the other. People were used to a certain way of living and the pandemic has changed it. Now, speaking from a marketing point of view your customers have changed. They have adapted various new habits. Consumer behaviour has changed to certain extent through all consumer categories. If you are following the same consumer behavioral pattern as pre-pandemic, it’s time to take another look at it. Your target audience has changed, whether they are teens, office going population, stay-at-home moms or dads or seniors. They have adapted to different habits with change in psychology as well.
Before initializing your SEO strategy, you should examine your target audience and thoroughly study them. After analyzing you will be able to determine numerous factors considered in the buying decision process of these consumers, post pandemic. If you can understand your customer better, it will in-turn help you with the updates in SERP regarding customer experience in your SEO strategy.
To sum up, the consumer is the king as usual. Direct your SEO efforts towards building an excellent strategy, starting from understanding your customer to understanding the algorithm deeper to finally extensively optimizing your pages by continually enhancing user experience.