Search engine optimization (SEO) is an excellent tool to bring traffic to your website … if you’re doing it right. With how quickly algorithms and optimization changes, it’s challenging to stay on top of every update. That being said, the effort to optimize content is well worth the challenge. It’s predicted that70 to 80% of searchers focus their attention on organic search results rather than top-ranking paid advertisements.
Truly utilizing SEO to its greatest potential involves reviewing multiple various metrics including backlinks, keywords, and traffic, among others. With the ever-changing nature of SEO, we’re spelling out thetop predicted trends for the new year to help you plan out your 2021 SEO strategy.
1. Artificial Intelligence Will Play a Larger Role in SEO
Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the name of the game with regards to how people use the internet. Particularly, Google’s AI algorithm, RankBrain, plays a critical role in how it arranges search engine results pages (SERPs).
Greg Corrado, a senior Google scientist says, “the other signals, they’re all based on discoveries and insights that people in information retrieval have had, but there’s no learning.” He continues to mention that the AI algorithm has become “better than we would have expected,” which goes to show that we can expect it to continue getting better over time.
All this begs the question of how we can optimize content to appeal both to the humans we actually want to reach and to the AI algorithms that will help us reach them. The challenge here is that it’s still a bit of a question mark. The rapidly changing nature of artificial intelligence makes it difficult to keep up with and adapt to. What we do know, however, is that SEO can be optimized by utilizing tools like an on-page SEO checker and optimizing your site’s backlinks, readability, and keywords. It is important to keep in mind who you’re talking to… not a bot but a human and write your content for humans but optimize it for SEO. In this regard, some agencies reverse the order and lose the end-game in the process.
2. Alexa and Siri are Joining the Party in a Big Way
“Hey Siri, what time are the Eagles playing?” “Hey Alexa, order me a bottle of chardonnay.” In recent years the technology behind voice search technology has boomed. As such, it’s become crucial to optimize content to appeal to the use of voice search. SEO guru Neil Patel predicts that by next year, over 50% of searches will be via voice search.
The main aspect to consider when optimizing for voice search is your keywords. It’s important to think about more natural-sounding long-tail keywords rather than shorter one to two-word terms. For example, the likelihood of someone asking Alexa “what is the weather in San Diego today?” is much more likely than them simply saying “Alexa, weather in San Diego, California?” When optimizing keywords for voice search, focus on the natural way that you would expect someone to speak when making a search. Again, writing for humans is the way of the future if you’re trying to write for AI.. which is trying to be, well, you know, human…
3. Emphasis on Mobile-Friendliness
By 2025, nearly73% of people will access the web solely by their smartphones. This prediction makes sense given Google’s 2019 change tomobile-first indexing which uses the mobile version of a site as the primary version rather than the desktop view.
To ensure that your site is properly optimized for mobile it’s best to utilize Google’smobile-friendly testing tool. This tool allows you to input your site’s URL to assess the ease of use of your page on mobile devices. This helpful tool is an excellent starting point when looking into optimizing your site for mobile use. Adding easy to navigate buttons on long-scrolling pages is a great way to up your mobile usability.
4. Concentrate on Google’s EAT Principle (no, this isn’t “eat your feelings”)
We know that quality content is more valuable than the quantity of content when ranking on Google, but what exactly determines quality? The most efficient way to create quality content is to refer to the EAT principle: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. This principle is particularly relevant in B2B situations when potential customers are assessing the relevancy and quality of various companies to choose a professional partner.
The best ways to ensure quality content are to create buyer personas based on significant market research. Once you have conducted applicable research to understand who your target market is, you want to determine what their most commonly utilized channels are. For example, if your target demographic is retired seniors looking for financial support, it’s probably not worth your time to be filming TikToks and Instagram Reels to build traffic to your site.
5. Long-Form Content Will Help Improve SERPs
According to SEMRush’s2020 State of Content Marketing report, the longer your content, the better it’s likely to perform. More specifically, articles of 3,000 or more words get three times more traffic and four times more shares. Pretty good stats if you ask us …
While long-form content is seen to perform better than shorter content, it’s still important to recognize quality over quantity. Investing the time to write a longer article or blog post is useless if you’re simply packing it with fluff. When writing long-form content it’s critical to utilize the length to dive deeper into your topic and provide your readers with additional details on the subject.
For example, if I were to tell you the story of my mother on Broadway with Sir Lawrence Olivier at this point in the article just to fluff out the length of the article, that would not add to the EAT- ability of the content. It might, however, appeal to your very human desire to know more about the culture behind the company writing the article you’re reading. Maybe I will tell you that story… in another article.
Using an SEO Content tool such as those offered bySEMRush orFrase can help you build out content that is not only longer and more in-depth but also provides quality information for readers.
6. Your SEO Strategy Needs to Include Video If It Doesn’t Already
If you aren’t already creating video content, you’re running from the back of the pack. But don’t panic, there’s still time to catch up. According to SEM Rush’s recent The State of Content Marketing webinar, posts without videos get 92% less traffic and 24% fewer shares than posts with at least one video included in them.
As is the case with any piece of content, sharing videos needs to be more than just making any random video and dropping it into your content, (don’t tell our CEO that – he makes Chardonnay reviews that have NOTHING to do with marketing). No different than a blog post, article, or social media post, videos should be well optimized to target your audience’s needs.
The best way to optimize video content is by optimizing your video channel name and description. As is the case with all content types, keywords should be reasonably sprinkled, not crammed. Think of keywords like chocolate chips in a cookie … too many and you just end up with a chocolatey blob that is hardly a cookie, but not enough and all you’ve got is a sugar cookie. Find a balance between incorporating top keywords, but only as many as make logical sense if a viewer is reading it.
7. Image Optimization
Similar to the case with video, we are naturally drawn to pay closer attention to photos than we are large chunks of text. I think back to the high school days of flipping open a textbook and crossing my fingers that the assigned reading was mostly pictures and shorter text. Content today is no different. With the inclusion of photos, however, comes the need for optimization.
When including photos in your content it’s important to remember the following:
Choose relevant images
Utilizing relevant images is important both with regards to the SEO of your content, but also to keep you in line with yourbrand voice. If your content includes updates regarding real estate tax implications but your chosen image is of elephants in the desert, your alt tags and image description probably aren’t going to correspond with the image itself. We suppose anything is possible but featuring various animals in accompaniment with real estate tips may not seem relevant to your readers.
Customize the file name
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never searched Google for IMG_852.png. Your image file name has the potential to bring in traffic but only if it’s searchable by a relevant label such as “woman holding a glass of white wine.”
Use alt tags
Crawlers use alt tags to search for images. Similar to updating your file name, adding alt tags will make the image searchable and bring additional traffic to your content.
8. Increased Importance of Semantically Related Keywords
Over time, you’ve likely noticed that Google has gotten better at understanding what you’re searching for. This is due to semantic search.Semantic search was created to better understand search intent through a search query’s contextual meaning.
As smart as it may seem, Google is hardly perfect. As it stands,15% of searches have never been searched before. One of the best ways to optimize semantic search keywords is to create content that focuses on answering a question. Additionally, content should be focused on a topic cluster rather than a specific keyword(s).
This list of “How do I …” questions is a great place to start. “How do I …
Optimize my website for search?
Make a video for my marketing channels?
Outsource my company’s marketing?
Make an amaretto sour? ← that’s really a question.
9. Local Search Listings Will Play a Larger Role in SEO Strategies
Local SEO is gaining importance as “zero-click searches” continue to grow. Zero click searches are when a searcher’s question is answered by the SERP page without having to click on any links. Between knowledge graph panels, featured snippets, and meta descriptions, oftentimes users don’t need to click through a link to gain the information they’re searching for.
Creating a FAQs page with 54-word answers is a place where you can optimize your site for its ability to appear in the search box.
Many zero-click searches are also due to the increase in what’s called a “local pack” which offers local business results related to your search. You can get your business into a local pack by first establishing aGoogle My Business account. Having strong backlinks will help increase your local presence as well and should be targeted in conjunction with the establishment of your Google My Business page.
10. Data and Analytics Should Become Your Priority
Data and analytics should always be at the forefront of your marketing strategy. They can help you better understand the behaviors of your buyers and clients and basically serve as a compass pointing you in the right direction of where to go next. Data and analytics can tell you how long people are staying on your site pages, which pages they’re visiting most often, what links they’re clicking, and more.
It may seem overwhelming to try to stay on top of all of the trackable information that you want to analyze but there are various industry tools, such as SEM Rush, that help do the heavy lifting for you. Staying on top of analyzing the data available to you will help point out the strengths and weaknesses of your business and help determine how to adjust your strategy accordingly.
Search engine optimization continues to grow ever more complex as time goes on. With metrics constantly changing it’s critically important to stay on top of your metrics and ongoing strategy. Constant adjustments are necessary for the ongoing success of your marketing strategy.
As you optimize and research, gather data, and learn about the AI and algorithms, remember who it is that you’re writing for in the end. Like a conversation with a stranger, you can ascertain certain things about your target audience but one thing you know for sure is who you are, what you believe in, and how you talk about your chosen subject expertise. Clearly defining your brand voice is the first step to human-centric content. Data analytics and optimization is the next level of work to ensure that your well-written content actually makes it to the people who are searching for you.