Every marketer working with SEO keeps a diligent eye on Google's algorithm changes and the new features and opportunities they introduce. Optimization techniques that worked two years ago don't work anymore. For example, Citations used to be a significant ranking factor for local SEO, but recent studies show that this is no longer the case. In this blog, we walk through how you can leverage SEO to make it more impactful in 2021 and beyond.
Google Now Ranks Web Pages Based on Passages
Google addressed all their latest updates in a blog post published in October 2020. In a bid to enhance search results, Google is expanding natural language processing to "passage indexing," ranking individual sentences or phrases within a page. This is one more reason why content should be optimized for long-tail searches, articles, how-to guides, and long-form content, which are all likely to benefit from this enhancement.
Until now, an FAQ page with 15 frequently asked questions might have trouble hitting the top spot in Google as bots have a hard time understanding the page's intent. With passage indexing, Google can match a page's specific section to users' search queries and rank it.
E-A-T Principle: Should You Consider It or Not?
Are we giving too much importance to E-A-T as it is coming straight from Google's Quality Rater Guidelines? While Google confirmed that E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust) doesn't directly influence ranking, YMYL ( “your money or your life”) websites can't rank without some level of expertise, authority and trust.
In a nutshell, E-A-T is not something that every site owner needs to focus heavily on. However, if your websites fall under finance, health, law, or e-commerce, concentrating on E-A-T will add value and yield results.
The benefits of increasing E-A-T extend beyond just SEO. E-A-T updates can enhance user experience as users feel more convinced that they can trust your website, authors, and brand.
User Experience Is a Ranking Factor
User experience (UX) is vital for any site's success and has traditionally been a subjective measure. To quantify UX, Google introduced Core Web Vitals, a program to give integrated guidance for quality signals specific to user experience. Since user experience will be a ranking factor in 2021, it is important for SEOs to integrate UX as a part of their strategy.
The Core Web Vitals report will show you three metrics we briefly discussed under "Focus on Mobile." You can assess your site's performance and derive a page-by-page breakdown of issues using the Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console. This report shows you how your page performs based on real-world usage data or field data. Here are some of the key metrics you’ll find:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - How fast a page loads
- First Input Delay (FID) - How quickly a page interacts
- Cumulative Layout Shifts (CLS) - How fast a page gets visually stable
You can easily use this number to benchmark and work towards a better UX experience.
Focus on Mobile Should Be Your Priority
Mobile-first indexing will be enabled for all websites starting July 2021. Core Web Vitals are going to be the ranking factor for mobile search queries in May 2021.
Mobile-first indexing will become the default for all websites, beginning in July 2021. Ensuring all content you serve is also available on mobile is critical.
Page experience will be another ranking factor from May 2021, where mobile-friendliness and core web vitals are part of this. Safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial are other signals that determine the “Page Experience.” Core web vital factors (LCP, FID, CLS) will be considered for mobile devices when they become an inclusive ranking factor in the algorithm.
Search Intent More Critical than Keywords
Google is excellent at isolating relevant content based on a person's search intent. From an SEO perspective, this means concentrating on top-of-the-funnel, and short-tail keywords alone will no longer work.
As Google points out, search intent is redefining the marketing funnel and content creation altogether. Here's an excerpt from Think With Google: "Stop marketing to the average: Be useful. People respond to brands that understand their needs. So, it's important to optimize your media for both relevance to the consumer and lifetime value for the brand."
Content creation should start with a clear understanding of the audience's intent and how it might satisfy that need. Exploring top keywords you want to rank for as a brand or that your target audience tends to use isn't good enough. Instead, dig deeper into the needs of your audience. Do people want to buy from you? Find your contact information? Get pricing information or a quote? Is there a particular question that people think you can answer? Start with a close examination of those typical customer journeys to understand that no two journeys are the same.
From there, we recommend that you:
- Create content that supports your target audience's intent
- Write content around natural search queries (question-based)
- Examine the types of content (Q&A, guides, how-tos) your users want
Brand Optimization: Knowledge Panels, Entities and Beyond
Optimizing your brand's entire digital presence will be critical in 2021. Brands with a higher presence organically get greater visibility. Claiming your knowledge panel and creating/optimizing entities will be vital in 2021. The Google Knowledge Graph is one way Google tries to recognize searcher intent and the connection between real-world entities and this process revolutionized search forever—for searchers, brands, and businesses.
Trust also plays a key role in brand optimization. It is becoming one of the most essential and underlying optimization factors for SEO.
We predict that entities might replace backlinks when Google collects enough data around them. We also see entities as a more real-world model than backlinks to connect a business/person. This model will tell Google which companies are trustworthy, which authors are experts, and what content truly deserves to be ranked higher.
You can start by:
- Implementing a complete and accurate organizational schema markup
- Creating a presence in relevant knowledge bases such as Wikidata/Wikipedia
- Claiming your knowledge panel to use posts by Google features
- Setting up your Google My Business profile for physical businesses
Don't ignore opportunities like Video SEO (YouTube SEO), Image SEO, Amazon SEO, and like avenues to organically reach a wider audience.
Search algorithms are evolving, and users' search adoption is changing. SEO is not as simple as it used to be. Start with great content first and then employ SEO to make sure that Google takes notice. As we advance, SEO will grow increasingly complex, particularly since rich elements are becoming more common in SERP (Search Engine Results Pages), and it becomes more about being featured than being ranked.
Are you ready for 2021? At Position2, we can help you understand SEO trends and techniques to meet complex SEO requirements. Contact us today to learn how we can help you take your SEO strategy to the next level.