What Changes Should You Make to Your 2021 SEO Strategy?

21 December 2020
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
What Changes Should You Make to Your 2021 SEO Strategy?

As 2020 comes to a close, it has never been more important to make sure that you have your 2021 SEO strategy ready. The next year is going to bring some big changes in the search landscape, and it will be vital to get ahead of them if you want your business to prosper. This article looks at some of the most significant changes ahead, why they’re happening and what you can do about them.

Search engines are getting smarter

We’ve seen year by year that machine learning algorithms are improving, and it’s becoming more and more important to understand how they work. It’s no longer about understanding a simple set of rules – it’s much more like understanding another person.

Search engines are getting better at understanding users and working out the intent behind their queries. This means that they can usually tell if, for instance, a user wants to buy a product straight away or simply compare products with a view to buying something later.

By profiling users individually over time, they can also work out when they’re just trying to get to a specific website. One of the key ways that search engines are following up on this kind of query processing is by paying a lot more attention to associated words on a site. Optimising content for semantic search now matters more than ever.

It’s all about users

At the core of this is a much more intense focus of user experience (popularly known among marketers as UX). Search engines are focusing much more on the core web vitals that affect the way visitors feel about a site. At present these are defined as follows:-

  • Largest Contentful Paint – the time it takes to load what the user wants to see.
  • First Input Delay – the time it takes before a user can scroll through, click through from, or otherwise interact with a page.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift – the extent to which content moves around during the loading process, potentially confusing a user who has already started reading it.

At some point in the next few months, Google plans to start factoring these considerations into its ranking algorithm. This could have serious adverse effects on pages which have a lot of great content but haven’t arranged it very well.

So for your SEO strategy in 2021, we recommend not only analysing these factors directly but using behavioural analytics to explore the way that users interact with your site and then work backwards to improve your UX. Creating customer personas can be a useful aid to this because different groups of visitors will have differing priorities.

Images and videos will get you seen

In 2021, great text will no longer be enough. Google plans to start paying a lot more attention to images, so make sure that all the images on your site are fully optimised, have alt tags and can be found on your site map (the first place that web crawlers will go to index them). Similarly, if you’re forming publishing partnerships with other blogs to build links, make sure your posts are being headed with images and not merely a page of text.

Videos are equally important. A Wyzowl survey recently found that 96% of people have watched explainer videos about products or services and 84% say that videos have contributed to their decision to make a purchase, so think about how you could use them to promote your business. Once you’ve created them, don’t just use them on the site itself – get them out there as part of your link building strategy.

According to Statista, YouTube has over two billion unique users per month. Fully optimising your videos, thereby filling out all the meta fields can help you to generate a lot of traffic. You can also encourage related businesses to embed your videos on their sites.

Long-form content will matter more

As any outreach services professional can tell you, site owners are increasingly on the lookout for long-form content. Why? Because it attracts up to 77.2% more links than shorter articles. Articles with word counts over 2,500 are the most successful in this regard, and they also attract the most organic traffic.

Won’t longer articles put off readers? Ideas about that are changing too, as studies show that users are more likely to share it and will read all or most of a piece that succeeds in capturing their attention.

Key to this is the same thing search engines are looking for – humans want something remarkably similar to Google’s EAT acronym – expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. These should be a vital part of the content creation part of your SEO strategy.

You’ll need to be smart about site management

As always when you’re contemplating a lot of changes at once, it’s important to pace yourself. Don’t jump in feet first – do your analysis and work out which changes are likely to bring you the biggest results. You can then establish a sensible set of priorities before you start implementing them.

Bear in mind that the ideal strategy will be slightly different for each site, depending on factors like size, budget and target demographics. By making changes one at a time and analysing the results, you’ll be in a better position to determine what’s working for you and where it might be useful to change your approach.

There are a lot of unknowns in the year ahead, but improving your SEO strategy will never be a bad investment. Taking account of the factors discussed above will give you the edge and help to make your 2021 a success. If in doubt, don’t feel you have to push ahead blindly – contact us today and our SEO experts can help you make the right choices.

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